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240Z to Savour

One of Australia's best Datsun Zeds - its attention to detail is astounding!

Words by Michael Knowling, Pix by Julian Edgar

Click on pics to view larger images

At a glance...

  • 1971 240Z
  • Turbocharged L28
  • Immaculate body with subtle custom mods
  • High quality leather interior trim
  • Incredible attention to detail everywhere
  • One of Australia's best!
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This article was first published in 2006.
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After five days working on your car you might expect to get that new engine up an’ running and maybe dyno tuned. Well, in those same five days Simon X focused his efforts customising just the rear bumper of his Datto 240Z. With this never-ending patience and commitment you can begin to appreciate how this Zed – which, amazingly, was purchased as an AUD$800 wreck! – has been created.

Simon previously modified an old Volkswagen with a Subaru flat-four engine but, having fallen in love with the 240Z many years ago, he was keen on breathing life into one of Datsun’s most elegant coupes. More than four years in the build - and with modifications ongoing - it’s probably best to give you the run-down on the vehicle as you see it.

Simon recalls that the body had a lot of rust when acquired. A previous owner had fitted wheel arch flares and the original rear arch lips had been cut and crammed with bog. Unfortunately, these bodgied guards were too far gone to repair so new guards were blended in and Zed aficionados may notice the rear arch lips are now about 20mm wider than standard. In addition to the significant rust repair effort, Simon installed new rubbers, badges and glass everywhere except for the rear quarter windows. A new pair of quarter windows (which have been very difficult to source) are soon to be installed.

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That five-days-in-the-creation rear bumper has been fully smoothed with the removal of the factory over-riders, sealed holes, removal of joins and revised mounting system that eliminates the risk of bumper distortion. Three Datsun bumpers were used to make the item you see in these pics. The bonnet is also a combination of different model Zed parts – it’s the standard 240Z front section with a vented 260Z rear section TIG’d on. It’s a seamless job. The front spoiler is an aftermarket fibreglass job which Simon has modified to incorporate a single air intake opening to feed the radiator and intercooler (intercooler?! we’ll get to that...) The only other body mods are Ford XW GT alloy replica mirrors which maintain a contemporary look. Wheels are Australian classic Simmons 17s wearing 225/45 rubber. And the paint? An eye-catching Porsche pastel yellow that dramatically changes character depending on light conditions. Simon says the yellow paint was a bit of a risk but it has certainly paid off.

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So what’s the deal with that intercooler we mentioned? Well, the Datsun L-series six is very well suited for fitment of a huffer – and that’s the way Simon went. The standard 2.4-litre six has been replaced with a big-banger 2.8-litre L28 which is rebuilt to suit forced induction – it boasts an O-ringed, deburred and bored block and a P90 cylinder head (as used in overseas market 280Z Turbos). The P90 head has been cc’d and flowed, equipped with ceramic coated valves, upgrade valve springs and a Tighe ‘turbo’ camshaft. Modifications to the block deck and head achieve a static compression ratio around 7.5:1. Pistons are dished L20 items combined with shot-peened and polished rods running stronger bolts. Engine life is assured by a high volume oil pump, custom 7-litre sump, modified oil ways, Mazda RX-7 oil cooler and a V8 Torana radiator which is modified to suit and equipped with two thermo fans.

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The intake comprises a ported and flowed L28 EFI manifold which has been equipped with an adapter to fit a Ford XF Falcon throttle body. All holes are welded up and there’s plenty of bling from the HPC ceramic coating and polished surfaces.

Simon didn’t see any need to spend mega-bucks on the turbo system – instead, he relies on a hybrid T4 turbocharger which is built from two turbos he picked up at a swap meet. Boost pressure is typically set to 15 psi and associated heat is relieved by a truck-based intercooler core with custom end-tanks and mounts. Two Bosch blow-off valves are incorporated in the mandrel bent intercooler plumbing and you’ll find an over-boost relief valve which opens at around 20 psi. Good insurance.

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The T4 ‘charger is mounted on a tubular exhaust manifold which was attached to a thrashed-out Japanese import engine that Simon picked up for a song. The 1 5/8 inch stainless manifold was originally equipped with a T28 turbo so Simon had to fit an adaptor plate to step up to the bigger T4. Other than that, the manifold has been re-welded, ported and high-temperature coated to match the turbine housing. A Sigma external wastegate (which came on the import engine) regulates turbine speed and feeds back into a 3 inch exhaust. Simon and a friend, Harry, custom built a pair of mufflers to achieve the right exhaust note.

The L28 is fed fuel from an all-new system that uses Mazda Series 5 RX-7 injectors with a custom rail, Malpassi pressure regulator (with under-bonnet pressure gauge), new steel and braided steel lines and a Bosch Motorsport pump. Interestingly, Simon had a look at the internals of the standard 240Z fuel tank and deemed it fit for use without modification – the original fuel drain plug fitting is now the fuel pick-up location.

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The ignition system is built from scratch. Forget the standard dizzy and point setup – this engine runs triple MSD coils which are driven by a MoTeC M48 Clubman management system complete with optional ignition expander. The MoTeC receives an input from crank and camshaft sensors and a MAP sensor. With boost pressure set to 15 psi, the car currently turns a Dyno Dynamics chassis dyno to the tune of 230kW at the wheels. More than enough to give power oversteer and on-demand tyre smoke.

The driveline is suitably beefed up with a 9.5 inch pressure plate and Skyline GT-R type clutch, Nissan S14 Silvia turbo five-speed ‘box and a custom heavy-duty tailshaft. The rear-end is an R200 LSD with R31 Skyline axles modified to suit.

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The 240Z’s sweet handling is enhanced by slicing 2 inches off the front struts, adding adjustable spring platforms, King progressive springs and Koni adjustable dampers from a Volkswagen Golf Sport. Interestingly, Simon was also able to fit 2 inch cut 240Z front struts to the rear of the vehicle. This gives identical suspension travel front and rear and you’ll find Koni adjustable dampers and slightly lighter rate King progressive springs. The lower control arms have also been rebuilt to provide adjustable geometry and pick-up points were relocated to eliminate bump steer. All bushes have been replaced with low compliance aftermarket parts.

OE Datsun/Nissan parts were seen as the best way to upgrade the brakes and Simon’s Zed runs R30 Skyline front discs and, at the rear, 240K hubs teamed with Honda Legend discs and Hilux 4-pot calipers. A 260Z auto booster and 260C one-inch master cylinder head the system. A Wilwood adjustable bias valve is installed but Simon says it stops very well without any major adjustment.

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The interior is comprehensively brought into the modern era while also maintaining the feel of the ‘70s. R&R Upholsterers have decked it out with high quality leather and vinyl and Simon opted for an OE-style diamond stitch pattern over the transmission tunnel – a few people thought this was a bit of a strange move but, after seeing it, it gets the full thumbs-up. The Datsun dashboard has been brought back to as-new, the plastic chrome trim is rejuvenated, there’s an ex-Porsche Becker CD/tuner and a tasteful dark timber wheel and gearknob add visual contrast. A custom 260Z badge is also inset into the top of the knob. Simon also spent countless hours integrating a host of AutoMeter gauges into the factory gauge provisions. Aftermarket aluminium pedals and reshaped SAAS seats hold Simon and passenger in place. Simon also modified the seats to incorporate stainless trims which accommodate the harness straps that pass through to the rear strut tower brace.

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The front strut tower brace it typical of the time and effort invested in every part of this car. Simon and a mate custom made the front strut bar and notice the gradual curve that had to be adopted to clear the valve cover – there’s plenty of time spent achieving that perfect curve! The engine bay is also free of exposed wiring, the factory welds are tidied up, all brackets are beautified and everything is HPC’d or polished stainless. A stainless radiator header tank, battery trim and catch-can are added for even more shine - and note that rolled lip along the edges of the catch can (seen in this pic). This rolled edge was achieved using a special tool – and, again, plenty of patience!

Take the time to click-and-enlarge the photos of Simon’s 240Z and you will certainly see where much of his time has been spent... This is one superb car.

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