11.57 @ 130 mph
Just as Job suffered though trials and indignity yet kept his faith and was rewarded by God for his patience and vigilance, so similarly does Jim Biondo's sleek and swift Datsun finally appear on these pages. Jim holds the unofficial record for getting into Turbo as this feature is five years in the making. But don't allow our molasses-like reflexes in this matter deter from the legitimacy of Jim's sweet 1974 Datsun 260Z.
When laying down the mission statement for his project, Jim wanted, "a car that would outperform all current production cars and still be everyday comfortable. This meant the ideal platform would be a hardtop with independent suspension, lightweight yet capable of housing some major cubic inches. The Z fit the bill; I have always liked the looks and I knew of two other V8 powered Zs that generated 10.50-second e.t.s without so much as a roll bar for frame stiffening, so I knew it was a strong unibody."
The Z growls loudly thanks to a small-block Chevy V8 that relies on a siamesed bore two-bolt block with a bore of 4.158 inches, a Callies crank with a 3.75-inch stroke and six-inch Crower Sportsman rods to arrive at its 407-cubic-inch displacement. The rotating assembly is finished off by custom SRP forged flat-top pistons (10.2:1 compression) and has been internally balanced for added reliability at higher engine speeds.
The block is topped by a pair of Dart Sportsman heads that have been ported by Art Bachausen of Howell, Mich. The heads were flow tested and showed results of 280cfm/215cfm at .600 with only 207cc intake runner volume. The valves, which check in at 2.050 inches on the intake side and 1.60 inches on the exhaust side, are actuated by Crane Cams hardware. Atop the heads, a Holley Tunnel Ram manifold covers the valley.
The intake manifold was originally intended to house a Holley Dominator carb before it was converted to EFI specs. Jim is using a customized Lincoln Mark VIII throttle body to regulate airflow. On the spark side, we find Jim is using a Mallory Unilite distributor to act as a triggering mechanism for the Haltech E6 fuel injection controller. The remainder of the ignition system consists of a Nology coil, MSD wires and NGK plugs. Once the air/fuel mixture is fired off, spent gases are evacuated via 1-3/4-inch Sanderson Block Hugger headers with three-inch collectors that empty into a 3-inch exhaust system terminated by Dynomax Super Turbo mufflers.
The Z-car's driveline is great departure from stock. The transmission is a GM T-5 with modified internals and a custom bellhousing. The V8 spins a trick 16-pound billet flywheel and a custom 10.5-inch clutch disc that works with a 1991 Camaro pressure plate and QuarterMaster hydraulic throwout bearing. The whole shooting match delivers power to a Dynotech MMX aluminum driveshaft and finally a custom-built Datsun LSD rearend with fortified half shafts.
Commanding The Power
The Datsun rides on a suspension that has been advanced well beyond 1974 technology. The front lower control arms are located via Heim joints while the tubular chrome-moly rear lower control arms are located by Heim joints on the outside and bushings on the inside. Front and rear Jim Cook Racing sway bars add agility while Tokico/Eibach coilovers cushion the ride. Good brakes are key to getting through corners quickly and Jim has covered that base with four-piston Wilwoods. The front sports 11.75-inch rotors and the rear utilizes 11.50-inch rotors. In the wheel and tire department, the Datsun rolls on 17 inch WRD Euro three-piece, five-spoke wheels and Michelin Pilot SX MXX3 rubber.
The 260Z's body looks like it has cheated time-there are no signs of aging and, in fact, the sheetmetal appears to have evolved all by itself for the last quarter century. With a name like Biondo, you would expect to see some Bondo body filler used in the body prep-not here. The rear side marker lights, mirror mount holes, keyholes, gas filler door, Z emblem vent holes and the entire rear end were all welded and leaded. The car was fitted with Callaway 'Vette taillights, and a third-generation Camaro flip-down license plate frame. The license plate lights are from a 1996 Contour, the front blinkers are 1996 RX-7 units, the front side marker and headlamps are from a '96 Taurus and the mirrors are '96 Tercel pieces. Jim had the rain gutters removed and positioned the window glass outboard an additional 1/4 inch to give the '70s car a more flush '90s look.
The front end is a crazy one-piece affair. "When I started the project I had no intention of changing the car's appearance in any way," says Jim. "But when a wave of new styled headlights came out (Celica and Neon) I felt some changes were needed to modernize the classic Z. The Taurus lights were chosen after seeing an advanced copy of the dealer brochure. Through an unnamed source at Ford, I was able to acquire some early water test prototypes. Using some scrap Fiberglas, my father and I made a clay model of eight areas of modification, then Paul Langlois of Master Models & Molds in Canton, Mich. laid up the eight pieces and combined them with the scrap Fiberglas. From there my body man and family friend, Frenchy, surfaced out the front end using 17 gallons of Bondo. This finished model tipped the scales at well over 100 lbs and was used to make the mold for the final front clip. The top surface was done in carbon fiber while the curvy areas were made from fiberglass. The final piece weighs only 45 lbs.
Since the car's completion, it has seen the road on a regular basis; a quick weekend trip to the strip netted an impressive 11.57 at 130 mph with little real effort on Jim's part. With more passes and some suspension tweaks, Jim says, "who knows how fast it could be." Regardless, this muscle-bound Z-car is certainly a top-flight performer- so, why did it take so long to get it in the book?