You know how there’s some combinations of numbers that seem to just end up in too many places? Like, they have too many jobs to do? A good example of this is 911: It’s the phone number used to call in emergencies, the date the World Trade Center was destroyed, and the model number of a legendary Porsche sports car. That’s a lot of significant shit for one set of numbers to shoulder. Another set of numbers doing a lot of work, though this time more strictly automotive, is the number 240. There are at least five significant cars, all named some version of 240 with maybe a few appended letters, and I think it’s about time we figure out which one is the Autopian Favorite. Clear your calendars, because this is important, people!
The 240s we’ll be deciding between are what seems to be the most significant 240 players: the Volvo 240, the Mercedes-Benz 240D, the Datsun 240Z, the BMW M240i, and the Nissan 240SX. I also may throw in a couple other 240s, too. I don’t think I’m going to include the Chevrolet Bel Air, which did have sub-models with numerical parts of the name, like 150 or 210 or 240, but I think the model is really a Bel Air, so I’m not including it. TS.
So, before we vote, let’s meet our contestants!
Mercedes-Benz has had cars named 240 for quite a while; while there was a C-class C240 in the 2000s, I want to focus on a particular Benz 240 that feels like the iconic member of the club: the 1970s-era 240D. Yes, the slow one! In 1974, the Mercedes-Benz 240D became the first truly mass-produced car to have a five cylinder engine, the 3-liter diesel that made 80 horsepower and gradually dragged the 240D from a stop to 60 mph in an eventual 20 seconds or so, which was still enough to make it one of the fastest diesels around at the time.
Sure, they were slow, but they were dignified, comfortable machines that got great fuel economy and proved to be just about bulletproof. Plus, the early Euro-spec ones had that fabulous upright-oblong headlight/indicator light integrated unit design. Oh, and if you want to think of the later C240 instead(or even an E240), that’s fine, I guess, but I’m not making a separate category!
I think the Volvo 240 is likely the first automotive 240 that people think of when someone grabs them and bellows “240! CAR!” in their face. There’s good reason for that; the brick-like 240 is a true icon, an absolutely stereotypical Jungian archetype of “car” made real, an unashamed and literal three-box design that’s somehow handsome and practical and even engaging to drive.
Roomy, reliable, easy to work on, at home in rallies or grocery store parking lots, safe, built like a bank vault, fresh air vent knobs that look like Oreos, the 240 has it all. I had a wagon version, but that was technically a 245, so we can’t count it. But we all know the Volvo 240.
Known as the Fairlady Z in its native Japan, Datsun realized that American sports car buyers were not remotely secure enough to drive something called a Fairlady, so it became the 240Z instead. The 240Z offered a potent straight-six under that long hood and styling that evoked a Jaguar E-Type, but with Japanese reliability.
The start of a line of Z cars that continues to this day, the 240Z showed that Japanese cars were more than economy cars, that they could produce a world-class fast GT car, with great looks and real performance, at a reasonable price. It’s a 240Z! You know why you like them!
This is sort of the second Datsun on the list, because as we know, Datsun became Nissan, and then Nissan gave us yet another 240, this time the 240SX. Introduced in 1990, the 240SX was like the old Datsun 240Z in that it was a front engine/rear drive sports car, but the 240SX was a bit more practical, with more interior room, a back seat, and a larger hatch. It only had inline-fours instead of the Z’s inline-six, but the 240SX was light and handled great and was a really appealing package.
They’re adored by drifters because of their great handling, and it’s tough to find one today that hasn’t had its doors hooned and/or drifted off.
This fast member of the 2-series isn’t a car I know all that much about, though I believe I have driven the basic 2-Series and enjoyed it a lot. These are modern, fast sports coupés making 380+ horsepower and they handle extremely well. Plus, you can get them in purple.
Two Jaguar XK120s
Okay just for funsicles, let’s open this up just a hair and try two Jaguar XK120s to make our 240. These Jags are, of course, absolute legends, with sensual, swoopy styling and swoopy performance to match. While these were made between 1948 and 1954, they were some of the fastest cars anyone could buy. Absolutely lovely.
Twenty Renault 12s
Okay, maybe not the most thrilling car ever, but the longitudinal front engine/front drive Renault 12 is a respectable, kinda-attractive workhorse, moving people and stuff all over the world, throughout Europe as not just a Renault, but as a Dacia, and also in South America where it was also badged as a Ford Corcel. Even if you’re not excited by a single Renault 12, think what you could do with the 20 you need to get to 240! A spec racing series! A whole ride-sharing company! A fantastic night of demolition derbying! Shut down a city center! The possibilities are limitless!
Okay! There are our 240 contenders! Time to vote!
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How is this even a contest. The 240z all the way. I’ve dealt with volvo’s and mercedes from this era and man, the z-car is a better car in nearly every way.
I like Duster 340s.
Can I take 240 2012 BMW 1M coupes? I’d take those any day.
Kidding aside, I would vote for the Datsun, only because it was one of my dream cars as a kid, and I would never want to disappoint my kid self. I still kick myself for not pouncing on the ’73 dark green version that was for sale in the little town I was living in about 12 years ago. the sign on it read about $4,000, and I wanted it so badly. unfortunately having 4 small children and no $ for an extra car meant that a 2 seater was not an option.
For me it’s the Volvo. The Datsun & subsequent Nissans were commonly referred to as “Z” cars. Volvo was always 240. Plus We’re rehabbing an 87 245 5 speed right now.
Excuse me, but how could you leave out the Sachsenring 240??? Start over, Jason.
Maybe there is something to the number 240. Better consult your local numerologist.
It is impressive that there’s not a single bad car on this list, each is great in it’s own way. Clearly 240 is a magic number.
420 is better…