It's rare to be in the presence of a legend. Most of the time, we only recognize its importance after the fact, after it's long gone, when we can only talk about it and wish we would've been there to grasp it personally. Thankfully, in the automotive world, being close to a legend is easy to realize, simply by having the right amount of money, luck, and time. Take, for example, legendary cars like the Toyota Corolla AE86 and the Datsun 510. These two cars are often restored and retrospectively appreciated years after they rolled out of the production line. One such car that should be added to this short list is the Datsun 240Z, an old-school favorite that started the entire Z craze.
The Datsun 240Z, available from the 1970 through the 1978 model year, was offered in a three-door hatchback body style and better known in Japan as the Fairlady Z. Yutaka Katayama, better known as Mr. K and the Father of the Z, was the idealist who brought the 240Z to the U.S. in 1970, when it immediately attracted the masses with its front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout, 2.4L SOHC inline six-cylinder engine, and of course, the stylish "240" badge placed on the B-pillar quarter panel. It was a hit with the American public, making it difficult to find at local dealerships, especially with its relatively cheap price tag. It was marked to sell for $3,526, while its direct competitors like the Corvette and Volvo 1800E were priced at $5,000 and $4,500 respectively. Its successors include the 280Z, 300ZX and most recently, the 350Z.
Its rich history as the foundation of an entire culture is what attracted Shaw Takahashi to purchase this 1972 Nissan 240Z. "I love these classic cars," Shaw explained. "I don't like the way they build Japanese cars today. They don't build them with heart like they used to back then." Shaw would know the automotive climate back in '72 and maybe beyond firsthand because he's probably older than your father and perhaps even older than your grandfather. At 58 years old, Shaw is what the gangstas call "O.G." or veterano, which means he was in the game from the start. He worked as a mechanical engineer for NGK spark plugs before starting his own company in Torrance, CA. As a young adult in Japan, he rally raced professionally, long before the advent of drifting. Despite all of his experience, he lives his life with the heart and mindset of a young tuner. All he wants to do is fix up vintage cars and race them on the streets and tracks.
Three years ago, he purchased this 240Z and left it in the garage untouched for two and a half years. During that time, he focused his time on another car, a different 240Z. He mounted it with an RB25 motor from a Nissan Skyline, entered it in car shows, and dipped around Torrance like a college kid searching for some Betties. But he never forgot about the 240Z collecting dust in the garage because he had even bigger plans for it, beginning in the engine bay. Inside sits an S13 SR20DET redtop engine with CP forged 8.5:1 pistons, Garrett GT3071R turbo, and a GReddy intake manifold.
Sure, one might think that dropping an SR20 in a 240Z isn't as dramatic as placing in a Skyline RB25 engine, until you realize that the 240Z's original motor is a 2.4L inline six cylinder, which means the RB25, also an inline six cylinder, was practically a perfect fit. The SR20 on the other hand is a 2.0L four cylinder engine, considerably smaller, especially inside the signature long engine bay of the 240Z. It's the proverbial case of throwing a pencil in the cave, without all the sexual connotations.
Shaw knew the dilemma a smaller engine would cause before mounting it; in fact, he knew how to work it to his advantage. He placed the SR20DET as close to the center of the car as possible, creating a weight shift that would optimize the turning and velocity of the car on the track. As a result, his 240Z became a sporty front midship car like the Mazda RX-7 with its small rotary engine. This makes it well-balanced and perfect for racing and even drifting.
The biggest problem with this kind of setup was the location of the custom hybrid intercooler. If he placed the intercooler right in front of the engine, it wouldn't get enough ambient air, but it would transfer the air in a shorter distance. If he placed it in front of the car near the bumper, it would get maximum ambient air, but it would take longer to get to the engine. Naturally, he flipped a coin and called it day. Actually, he used his expertise as a mechanical engineer and decided to put the intercooler near the bumper to get maximum airflow, which compensates.
Finishing up the rest of the car was relatively easy. Inside, Shaw reupholstered and reshaped the dashboard, installed a Recaro SBG bucket seat and opted for the Ferrari-style steering wheel. Outside, he modernized the shell with carbon fiber front and rear bumpers, added a carbon fiber BRE spoiler, and went JDM with the taillight lenses. He dropped it all on top of Ground Control coilovers, full polyurethane bushings, and a set of Cusco Type OS strut bars. To give it a classic finish, the car rolls on a set of 16x9 Watanabe R-Type Gunmetal wheels, locked up by some sticky Advan A048 race compound tires.
His creation, which took eight months to finish, is a trend he likes to call Newer Vintage, where he mixes the best from the old and new, reflecting his own life. Amid a culture where teens list out the parts they plan to buy before they even get a car, much less their driver's license, Shaw embraces it all, inspired by the untested new blood and mixing it with his worldly knowledge that transcends space and time. We can only be so lucky to be a veterano like him when we grow old.
'70 Datsun 240Z
OWNER Shaw Takahashi
HOMETOWN Torrance, Ca
DAILY GRIND President of DCM Hobbies Creations
UNDER THE HOOD S13 SR20DET redtop, overbore .020". CP forged pistons 8.5:1, Cometic 1.2mm headgasket, HKS Step 2 264/264 Cams, Peak Performance Gold Valve Springs, Garrett GT3071R Turbo, HKS Dual Port Internal Wastegate, Stainless Equal Length Manifold, Greddy Intake Manifold, Sard 850cc injectors, Sard Fuel Pressure Regulator, Custom Hybrid Intercooler. Greddy Type-S BOV, 3" Full Mandrel Exhaust with Megan GT Turbo Muffler, Carbonetic Twin Plate Carbon Clutch, Howe Racing Radiator, 14" Electric Fan with Thermostat Control, Walbro 255lph pump with surge tank
DRIVETRAIN 4.375 R180 Nismo LSD
STIFF STUFF Ground-Control Coilovers, 250lb/250lb Spring rates (F/R), Tokico illumina shocks, Full Polyurethane Bushings, Bump Steer Knuckles, Cusco Type OS Strut Bars (F/R)
ROLLERS Watanabe R-Type Gunmetal 16x9 w/ -13 offset (front), Watanabe R-Type Gunmetal 16x9.5 w/ -19 offset (rear), Advan A048 225/45/16 Race Compound
STOPPERS Modern Motorsport 13" Cobra Front Brake Kit, Modern Motorsport 240sx Rear Brake Kit, Stainless Steel lines
OUTSIDE Carbon Fiber Front and Rear Bumpers, Carbon Fiber ZG Flares, Carbon Fiber BRE Spoiler, Fiberglass Front Air Dam, JDM Taillight Lenses, Cusco Roll Cage
INSIDE Stock Dash Reupholstered and reshaped, Recaro SBG (Driver) Bucket Seats, Scroth Harnesses, Ferrari Style Steering Wheel, Razo Shift Knob, Completely Reupholstered Interior, Autometer Full sweep Ultralite gauges, AEM EMS w/ 3.5 bar MAP Sensor, Blitz Spec S Boost controller, HKS Turbo Timer
PROPS Carbonetic, DCM Hobbies Creations, Vildini Motorsport