Nigel's Stunning 1973 Datsun 240z
When I turned 19, I decided that the 1980 Brown Sigma Station Wagon I was driving had to go. I began searching for a car with decent styling. I only had a couple of thousand dollars, so I knew it had to be an older car. I considered Ford Escorts (RS2000), Cortina, Torana, Ford Capri etc etc.
I didn’t mind these cars, but one thing bothered me; everyone had one! I then had a friend recommend the Datsun 240Z; I had no idea what he was talking about, but I knew that he owned one. I started researching the car on the web, and through magazines, and liked what I saw!. The car had great looks, and it apparently could be modified quite easy. The other reason I liked it was because not many people either had one, or knew that much about them.
After making my decision, I naively assumed that it would be a piece of cake to find one. How wrong I was, even in 1996/1997 it was very hard to locate a good 240Z, I spent months searching, then stumbled on a near original Green 240Z hiding unused for 7 years in a garage. 1 week later it was home.
The car was purchased in January 1997 for $3350. Came complete with 2 sets of mag wheels, rear louver, tow bar, 2 sets of headlight covers, and 1 box of miscellaneous nuts and bolts relating to the car. Registration at the time was LSG 295 (most probably the original). The car was Green metallic 113, with a Tan interior. The previous owner was Denis Blanchard who currently owns Australian Garage Equipment in Bayswater; I believe he used to own a Nissan wreckers in Bayswater. The good thing about the car was that it was original and untouched, everything was there.
The car was unfit for road use. Worn brakes, rusted exhaust, and worn bushes throughout. It also had minor floor rust on the passenger side. I had the floor repaired first and a set of headers and exhaust fitted. I completely gutted the inside of the car, cleaned up the floors and sealed them. Being the age I was at the time, I had to have a black interior (In retrospect, I wish I had left the car in its original colours, but when you are 19 years old, black just seems to be the colour). I had new carpets and hood lining made, as well as the rear strut towers re-covered in black vinyl. I used vinyl dye to re-colour the remaining trim inside the car.
Next I had the brakes overhauled, new rotors, calipers, and pads. I had just about all items re-conditioned, alternator, starter motor, radiator etc, and renewed all rubber hoses and seals. I gave it a good clean up with degreaser and a pressure washer and it was looking reasonable. The engine only needed an oil change and it was running fine. At the same time, I had the 3 speed Auto swapped for a reco 280zx gearbox.
This all took about 1 year; I suppose it was money holding me back on the most part. By 1998 I was driving the car to uni. Friends and contacts gave me the usual, "it’s just a phase", don't waste your money, it will never get finished etc, or the classic line "You will never get your money back"! I am glad that I didn’t listen to these people, because they are the same one’s who are now commenting on how good the car is and that they wish they owned one. Anyone who is restoring an older car eventually has to make tough decisions when purchasing parts or deciding on what to modify. Cost plays a big part in this process. My advice is; if you really want that part on your car, don’t worry about justifying it to yourself or anyone else, just go and buy it because you want it.
A few years passed, I finished university and landed a job. I still had a passion for the Z, so I began planning my modifications. After reading many books and searching magazines. I decided that I liked Yellow as a colour on Zeds. I also knew that it needed bigger wheels, better seats, interior etc etc. I began sourcing new parts from Japan, Console, interior trim, ball joints, tie rod ends, and all of those small switches, grommets, and brackets that you thought you would never find. I parted with way too much money for these bits, but I suppose you get a bit blinded when you are in this phase. I had to make a decision regarding speaker placement in the car. My interior panels were all in very good condition, the last thing I wanted to do was cut holes in them. I went back to the internet to see what others had done. I stumbled upon a “Rear speaker Panel” sold by Motorsport Auto in California, it looked good, and most importantly was a direct replacement for the rear taillight trim panel. I purchased the panel and can thoroughly recommend it. My goal with the car, was to get it looking as clean as possible inside and out; I decided that major performance modifications could wait. I suppose I was going for more show than go at the time.
During 2001, when the bodywork was being performed. I received a phone call saying, your doors are rusted, and I can’t fix them. Well, somehow I knew this call was coming. I began phoning companies in the USA, and searched high and low, and found nothing suitable, only small bottom sections of the doors, I needed almost ¾ or full skins as the rust extended very high. Finally, I had no option but to approach a panel maker and have them fabricated. It was a great solution, given the extent of the rust. The doors are near perfect, and most importantly rust free.
A few months later, the car was home. Then came the massive and delicate task of reassembly. This is either the worst part, or the best part, it depends how optimistic you are. On the one hand, its satisfying to reassemble parts, but you are always worried that you are going to drop a screwdriver on you paintwork, or scratch a panel. This ended up taking 6-8 months, obviously work commitments got in the way here. Then came wheel selection. I quickly learned that you can’t get much for a 30 year old car, unless it’s the timeless classics in 14 or 15”. I decided on Simmons 17” OM design 3 piece wheels.
I had the front and rear bars re-chromed, and fitted a deep front spoiler. I chose Sparco “Torino” reclinable seats, with Sabelt 3 way harnesses. I had front and rear strut braces fabricated and powder-coated in black.
The car was finished around 2002. It came first in class 2003 NDSOC Concourse, "Classic 240Z Modified". I am very happy with the end result, and enjoy driving the car.
I must admit, I have become somewhat less motivated with further modifying the car, preferring to enjoy its use more at the moment. I have no intentions of selling the car, as I enjoy it way too much. One of the observations I have made during this restoration is that it seemed that the actual process of restoring the car over the years, actually seemed more enjoyable than the end result. It seems quite weird, but I guess it has something to do with the fact that during a restoration the car can take a number of paths dependant on your decisions; i.e. It could be red or blue, original or modified etc. I believe that making these decisions is the fun part, once the car is finished there are no more decisions to make; this probably explains why most people in the situation start another project car.
|Vehicle Category||Details and Modifications|
|Year of Manufacture:||1973|
|Body Style:||2 Seater|
|Colour:||Gran Turismo Yellow (Maserati 3200GT)|
|Power HP / KW:||160 HP|
Suppliers/Contacts that I used and found valuable were:
- Mike Joseph: Wantirna Auto Spares
- Toperformance (Koni suspension products) Vermont
- Datparts/Nispares Bayswater
- Supertrim (Interior, carpets etc) Vermont
- Brown Davis (Front and Rear Strut Braces) Bayswater
- ZWorx (Formerly Z restoration factory, for parts) Mordialloc
- Wayne Couacard. Vice President NDSOC. (Knows just about everything there is to know re: Datsuns/Nissans, esp 240Z) NDSOC
- Peter Tomaceeny (Hand Fabricated Door Skins)
- Joe: Panelwork and Paint
- The Mag Wheel Centre. (Richmond)
- Traction Tyre and Suspension Centre: (Rowville)
- Speed Technology (Mitcham)
- Revolution Racegear (Mitcham)
Books and Literature found valuable:
- Datsun Z: The Complete Story. David G. Styles
- How to Restore your Datsun Z Car. Wick Humble
- Essential Datsun Z. Colin Shipway
- Datsun Z: Fairlady to 280Z. Brian Long
- Datsun 240Z, 1970-1973. Road and Track comparison tests. Brookland Books.
- Haynes Workshop manual.
If you don’t own a 240Z get one while you still can; I have enjoyed every minute of owning this car, and look forward to catching up with you at our next club meet.