This article was first published in August 2001.
What stands out like the proverbial, goes like brown stuff off a chrome shovel, sticks to the road like glue and has the braking ability to almost tear shreds out of the tarmac? Okay, okay, the pics give it away; it's our featured Datto 240Z, which just so happens to be the apple of Jack Kuzior's eye. But more on this in a minute.
Life for this most sought-after Datsun started in 1969, an interesting time it seems for a new breed of Japanese sports car. As a matter of fact, only 400 of this particular body shape made it through production - and Jack's is one of a select number remaining intact. Mind you, bringing it back to this condition required some contributions from a second Z shell.
Interestingly, Nissan's first serious attempt at producing a sports car (the open 2000 Fairlady was really an MGB-style copy of English cars) quickly changed the minds of the masses to believing that the Japanese could in fact successfully build a car with sporting pretensions. Incredibly, thirty years on and the performance of the old Z car doesn't even compare with a 2001 model mild hatch. Not that this has stopped Jack from creating a vehicle delivering a level of performance far in advance of many of its contemporary peers. In fact, it's the culmination of a six-year love affair with the marque.
"As a kid I admired cars, but it wasn't until I was old enough to score my licence that I paid serious interest," Jack explained. Kicking off with a rough all-he-could-afford HQ Holden, it wasn't long before the jam tin contained enough folding for Jack to afford his dream car, the Datsun 240Z. Over the ensuing two years the daily driver reaped the benefit of a mild cam, exhaust, lowered suspension, wheels and so forth - but then some numb nut decided to miss a red and T-bone the Datto.
Car written off, Jack again set his sights on obtaining a 240Z. "I had always thought of the Z as a good performing car with decent handling and braking, they're different and relatively cheap to run, however these days with the number of imports coming in things are different. Not that this has changed my mind at all!"
Having become a bit of a Z car aficionado, Jack set his sights on building a rare and unique version based on an $800 1969 240Z shell. Turns out that the previous owner had set about converting the car for rally use before losing interest, meaning the shell was fully seam welded, set up for non power boosted braking, was fitted with an adjustable brake proportioning valve, custom rally struts, lower control arms and polyurethane steering bushes.
"Although painted, the body was quite rough, so I purchased a 1970 shell for parts. As my plans called for turbocharging, I bought a 260Z bonnet for the vents, and while the car was at the panel beaters I search for a genuine 'G' nose." A 12-month hunt reaped the results Jack was after; a pristine nose cone as originally exclusively fitted to the Fairlady Z 432 (four valves, three carbies, two cams), with a mere 400 made. Anyway, back at the beaters, strong brackets were created to secure the nose, and all tin work topped in Peugeot yellow PPG two-pack.
Jack's ingenuity came to the fore with his decision to fabricate a custom rear wing. "I produced a cross piece from a fibreglass mould I took off a helicopter blade, to which I added two aluminium rods to facilitate mounting and end-piece acceptance." The icing on the cake for the adjustable wing is black powder coating.
For vehicle reassembly, good mate Steve Newing of Speed Technologies provided Jack with some factory space, while providing intellectual assistance thanks to a vast knowledge of the Datsun product. Yep, Steve's a Datto guru, having rallied and developed more Zeds than you could poke a stick at.
Together the pair penned a design that would ensure both road practicality and racetrack ability. To this end significant emphasis was placed on a suspension package of 50mm shortened struts containing re-valved Koni inserts, topped with adjustable spring platforms and 60mm King springs rated at 325 and 350 pounds/inch for the front and rear respectively. Steve's radical package includes revised bump stops, revised lower control arm pivot points, and rear-mounted spacers designed to deliver increased negative camber. Front tower reinforcement comes with a Speed Technologies strut brace, while adjustable 22 and 20mm bars of the same manufacture ensure a flat cornering attitude. Negative camber is set at 2.2 degrees front and 1.8 degrees rear.
Group A Celica rotors measuring 317mm x 32mm mounted on custom alloy hats kick off the braking package. Support for these rotors comes with 300ZX four-pot rotors with Endless pads, there's the aforementioned proportioning valve and XF Falcon rear disc brakes chosen for their ability to accept the original Datsun hand brake. Ultimate pads round out the rear. Accommodating the large brakes are 18 x 7.5 inch ALT AT-180 rims wrapped in 225/40 Falken rubber - plus there's a second set fitted with race tyres.
Old technology, modern day grunt is the engine's theme; a package consisting of an 'old' L28 (280Z) engine wrapped in hi-po hardware and controlled by an Autronic SMC management system. The bottom end of this 260 plus kW engine revolves around a prepped block containing a Nismo competition oil pump mounted in a custom-made High Energy seven litre sump. Quality oil makes its way to a prepped crank topped with shot-peened and beam-polished 240K rods and ARP bolts, plus a full complement of GTR pistons and rings for a static compression of 7.3:1.
Cylinder head enhancements sees minor runner porting and bowl shaping, in particular behind the valves and seats. Mounted between the block and head is an HKS steel gasket while a custom turbo grind Wade cam works with an adjustable wheel to provide optimum fuel and air timing. Interesting is a trick custom external water manifold and cylinder head plumbing designed to remove 'hot spots'. A modified water pump, competition dual pass alloy radiator, and 10- and 9-inch thermo fans are also there for the ride.
Bolt-ons include an impressive T3/TO4 sourced from a genuine Gibson Motorsport HR31 Skyline Group A car. The same applies to an intercooler measuring 85cm x 45cm x 7.5cm, an electronic boost controller works with the Autronic to control boost to the nth degree while also offering anti-lag and data-logging facilities. The induction package is of a match-ported original manifold, 65mm throttle body mounted on a 25mm alloy adapter and finally a pod-style K&N filter. The exhaust - man what a masterpiece! The spaghetti combo is the work of Barny's Exhaust Braeside, which leads to a full-length three-inch mandrel bent system incorporating two mufflers. For the record, changing from the old headers to the new system resulted in a massive power increase of over 20kW!
Fuel makes its way from a stock tank through oversize line and a Facet electric pump to a Speed Technologies one litre surge tank. A hi-flow Bosch pump is next, there's a Malpassi boot sensitive regulator, custom fuel rail and 500cc Bosch injectors.
Backing the powerhouse is a Nismo competition Skyline clutch and lightened original flywheel, heavily internally modified late model FJ20T gearbox and modified R200 arse-end with 3.7 LSD. Thanks to the car's previous ability to spit out half-shafts out with monotonous regularity, much beefier 280ZX Turbo parts now support the rear end.
'Practical' is perhaps the best way to describe the interior with its 'wrecker' seats, owner trimmed doors, and re-skinned dash pad. But hey, don't think we're talking poor quality here - far from it. Jack's done a power of work to the interior, including converting the gauges from black to white face, and from imperial to metric! Likewise there's neat blue gauge lighting and an AutoMeter boost gauge mounted in the original clock position. Jack replaced the hood lining, and has employed a Speed Technology shift light set to flash at 6200 rpm, with the Autronic cutting out at 6500 rpm. Boost is set at 18 psi, there's a Momo steering wheel, pedals and gear knob.
What's fantastic about Jack's Z - apart from its awesome visual impact, wonderful brakes, suspension and driveline - is its ability to regularly achieve better than 11.8 litres per 100km! As you'd expect, he's pretty happy with the whole thing, too. But that's not to say this talented web design student isn't interested in doing more. Yep, first on the agenda is a Porsche GT3 front brake upgrade which will be followed by minor turbo enhancements. Umm, an RB26DETT GT-R engine may even be on the cards...