The idea of fate is a very interesting concept. The idea that some sort of higher power controls how our lives pan out can be comforting at times. Logically it may not make sense, but sometimes things come together in a way that just works in "the grand scheme of things". Perhaps this illusion of fate can be credited to your own persistence and hard work, a factor that is easy to overlook from a first person perspective. As the saying goes: "Fortune favors the brave." The events leading up to the purchase and build of this breathtaking '73 Datsun 240Z might just be considered destiny.
As a young boy growing up in San Gabriel Valley, CA, Andrew Wong was surrounded by cars. Living in the very heart of where the exciting new import car culture was taking off, seeing fixed-up Civics, Integras, and Eclipses was a daily occurrence for him. Somehow this wasn't as exciting to him as it was to his friends, these cars just weren't for him. His mild interest for cars didn't show any signs of developing until he joined a racing team in high school, which sounds typical enough for a California resident in the mid '90s-except this racing didn't involve engines. Andrew had joined his high school's solar-powered car racing team. As a part of this team, he helped design and build an electric solar-powered car that would go on to compete in a national championship. During his time with the team, his passion for all things mechanical blossomed, guided by his teacher's emphasis on the importance of light weight and handling being an advantage over brute power.
One day, while driving with his father, Andrew spotted a small, sleek coupe sharing the road with them. He immediately asked his father what kind of car it was. It was the original Nissan Z car. It was at that moment Andrew decided he absolutely needed to own one. Now a full-fledged car enthusiast, Andrew frequented racing events in the area. Coincidentally, it was around this time that Auto Club Speedway (then California Speedway) in Fontana hosted Super GT. There was no way he was going to miss the historical event. While walking along the vendor area, he noticed an S30 Z at the Vildini Motorsports booth, still very much infatuated with the platform he took a closer look-he was surprised to find that the original carbureted straight-six L-series engine had been replaced with a fuel-injected turbocharged inline-four. Although this swap was still uncommon then, it made perfect sense to Andrew; a smaller, lighter engine would improve the weight balance of the car while providing more power and the added reliability and efficiency of fuel injection. The gears started turning in his head, the insatiable need for this car growing by the minute. He was absolutely convinced that he would own his very own Z car, and have Vildini perform the engine transplant.
Around the time Andrew graduated from The Culinary Institute of America, his father's health had been declining. His family decided to make the move to Northern California to be closer to a doctor who specialized in his father's illness. From the day he first saw the 240Z on the road, Andrew knew that he wanted to share the experience of owning and building the Datsun with his father. After countless nights of searching the Internet together for more information and photos, the hunt for their own 240Z was on. When it comes to purchasing a classic car, NorCal is one of the best places to start looking, however, in a twist of irony, Andrew found exactly what he had been looking for in SoCal. The car in question had stayed in the same family its whole life; at the time belonging to a young man whose uncle had purchased it brand new in 1972. The car was still mostly original down to the orange paint but had an SR20DET installed by Vildini Motorsports, just as Andrew had envisioned. Realizing that the chances of finding the car that he had been searching for with the engine swap already performed by the shop that he planned on going to was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, he made his decision. He contacted the seller and made arrangements to see the car in person.
Usually buying a car 400 miles away is something that most people try to "get over with" as quickly and efficiently as possible, but Andrew wanted his father to share the experience of finally purchasing his dream car with him. They decided to make a family trip out for the occasion. When they reached Los Angeles the day before the meeting with the seller Andrew's father became sick. They spent the next two days in the hospital. Andrew contacted the seller to explain the situation, but (understandably) the seller assumed that Andrew was simply flaking on the deal; at this point the car was the furthest thing from Andrew's concerns. Once his father's condition stabilized he told Andrew that as they were already in SoCal it might be worthwhile to at least see the car. The car was exactly as it had been described, well taken care of with a quality engine transplant, a perfect starting point. The sale was finalized.
Back in San Francisco, Andrew resumed his daily routine as a chef for a high-end restaurant and the 240Z became his daily driver. Working long hours prevented him from doing any real work to the car. Still, while the car was a blast to drive even on stock suspension, Andrew caught the modification bug and sourced new parts for the car. While browsing local listings and Z forums, he came across a set of Watanabe R-Types that would suit his needs perfectly. When purchasing the wheels the seller identified himself as the owner of Vildini Motorsports; these were the exact set that he had seen at Super GT. At this point there was no turning back. Now that he owned the wheels from the car that had set him on this path years ago, he was determined to see the car that he had envisioned take form before his eyes. It's no secret that one of the most important additions to a project car is another car, a daily driver. Andrew understood this completely and started his search for a suitable commuter, finally deciding on a first-generation Mazda Miata. Now that the Z was relieved of its daily driver duties, it was dropped off at the body shop for a fresh coat of Dodge Candy Red paint. As soon as the car was back from the body shop, Andrew relocated back to SoCal for work.
In a horrible display of Murphy's Law, the car was rearended only two months after moving back. Any collision can be devastating to older cars. Luckily, in this case, there was no frame damage. Seeing the bright side of the situation, Andrew took this opportunity to replace the floorpan, an area commonly susceptible to rust in these cars, replacing the framerails as well as cutting and welding the wheel arches to accept ZG flares during the operation. While the car was off the ground, Andrew ordered every applicable suspension arm from the Arizona Z Car catalog, supplementing the suspension with spherical bearing-equipped billet aluminum components. Also from Arizona Z Car are the damping and height adjustable coilovers and Wilwood brakes. Every bit of rust was removed from the car, the underside of the body was sprayed with an insulated coating, and the rest of the car was resprayed. After one year away from his car, Andrew was finally back in the driver seat of his prized 240Z. A stock SR20DET is more than enough power in a 2,000-pound car, but the hunger for power is one that is rarely satisfied. To feed this desire, Andrew replaced the original exhaust manifold with a Tomei piece and the intake manifold with a Greddy part, improving flow and response. A Greddy turbo elbow directs exhaust gases out of the turbine into a custom stainless steel turbo-back exhaust system crafted by Vildini Motorsports.
Andrew grew up in a family who drove only Nissans. He shared with us that his father had a very strong influence on his automotive tastes, so it comes as no surprise that he chose the S30 Z platform as the canvas for his masterpiece. Despite facing hardships in his life, Andrew saw the potential of this car and made a commitment to complete it. The decision to start the project when he did stemmed from the fact that Andrew knew he wanted his father to be as involved as possible in the build before he died. This has led to his strong connection with the car, which was essentially built to honor the memory of his father. Andrew considered parting ways with the car at times when the emotional connection may have become too much, but now it serves as a reminder of what his father taught him. Andrew plans to continue building the car, because as we all know, a true project car is never completely finished.
Behind The Build
Cooking, fishing, billiards, and cars.
"I wanted a lightweight classic FR with modern performance."
1973 Datsun 240Z (S30)
Engine SR20DET; K&N intake; Greddy intake manifold, turbo elbow, blow-off valve, boost controller; Tomei exhaust manifold; McKinney intercooler; Vildini custom 3-inch exhaust
Drivetrain Custom transmission crossmember, driveshaft, axles; Nismo 4.34:1 differential; Exedy clutch, flywheel; Greddy shifter
Suspension Arizona Z car big piston coilovers, adjustable front lower control arms, rear lower control arms, roll center adjusters, billet steering knuckles; Motorsports auto floorpans, framerails; Bad Dog framerail connectors; Energy bushings; Autopower rollbar
Wheels/Tires RS Watanabe R-type 16x9 -13, 16x9.5 -19, lug nuts; BFGoodrich Sport Comp 2 245/50/15, 255/50/16; Riken mesh 16x7 +0 (spare)
Brakes Wilwood 4-piston calipers, pads, proportioning valve; Arizona Z Car brake lines
Exterior Carbon-fiber ZG flares, BRE rear spoiler, taillight panel; Motorsports Auto polyurethane front air dam with brake ducts; Beta Motorsports carbon-fiber hood; Dodge PR3 red base, Red Candy, clearcoat; Rhino Liner applied to floor
Interior NRG steering hub; Nardi 360mm black/walnut steering wheel; Greddy shift knob; Auto Meter tachometer, speedometer, boost gauge
Gratitude "Vildini Motorsports, KNW Autobody, Dave Chan, and Memoryfab"