In about the same amount of time it takes you to browse your Instagram feed and finally settle on what color to paint your wheels, Dominic Le's already gone on to buy, build, and ship off something like an old Datsun 240Z to Las Vegas' yearly SEMA show—a car that wasn't his first foray into the big-time trade event and definitely won't be his last.
Super Street's archives—or Instagram, for that matter—will tell you the same thing, and Dominic's latest creation—a '71 Datsun 240Z—will prove it. Contrary to some of Dominic's most recent creations, though, this one is all his. "I've never [had] an older Z car in my personal collection," he says, giving a nod to the handful of cars he and his company, Chasing Js, have turned out for customers. "I've built them for clients but never really owned one. Last year, we built a Z for a client that got me thinking, it's time I build one for myself."
Dominic building a car and the rims, exhaust, and lowering springs that you think make up an accomplished build are two very different concepts. Not unlike any of Dominic's past projects, this one started with an engine. "I wanted an SR20DET-swapped Z before I planned to build this car," he says about the archetype Nissan engine and the classic Datsun. "We've put RBs and JZs into Zs, [but] the SR gives the Z a perfect balance. Also, the SR20 is one of my favorite engines. I put that shit in everything."
Putting that shit into this particular Z resulted in 428 hp at the wheels, none of which happened, though, without turning that 2.0L Nissan engine inside out. Lift off the head and you'll find the usual forged suspects along with a Garrett turbo hanging off of a Doc Race exhaust manifold that all seem to follow the SR power-building recipe that was perfected before you were born.
What doesn't follow any sort of playbook is Dominic's use of titanium. Titanium for the intercooler piping. Titanium for the coolant delivery lines. Titanium for the exhaust tubing. Titanium hardware in most places you'll find a need for hardware. The wonder of all this titanium goes beyond its cost, though, of which parallels the price of a gently used Accord. "The hardest part was fabbing all the titanium and carbon fiber at home," Dominic says. "I couldn't weld [it] so I had my buddy Chris from Wise Fab do [it] while I cut, bent, and formed [it] at home."
There's more to that SR engine swap, though, than its ability to approach quadrupling the Z's output. According to Dominic, it changes everything. "The SR gives the Z a perfect balance, and it gave me the ability to move the engine back behind the strut tower," he explains. "This makes the Z more of a mid-engine vehicle now." Or, in other words, it makes it more fun.
Also on the list of fun and that isn't on anybody's Z-building playbook are the TRD front brakes, the Subaru rear differential, and the Porsche axles. According to Dominic, this was all devised during the car's paint-shop hiatus. "During paint, I built the SR, planned the suspension, and made the interior carbon-fiber bits." Carbon-fiber bits like custom Chasing Js seats and door panels, a dashboard, and a center console, also all made of the same lightweight composite.
For Dominic's first few weeks with the Z, it was all business between himself and the Datsun classic. "Most of the work was done by me and in my personal home garage," he says. "I have two young kids, so this gave me a chance to hang out with [them] and still work on the car." It started with a two-week-long teardown followed by Dominic welding up the chassis, cutting and replacing half of the rusted-out rear, and then having it all shipped off to the body shop where its fender flares and one-off carbon-fiber bumpers were added on. Six months later and it was back home.
"Out of all the classics I've built in the past," Dominic says, "the Z is my favorite body style—and this one is an early 240Z, [which] are getting harder to find." He speaks the truth. Dominic's Datsun represents the model's second year in North America. After being introduced around 48 years ago, most of these models have been engine-swapped, crashed, blown up, rusted to pieces, or just plain beaten down.
Today, a proper restoration such as this is almost standard issue for the Z, and if you're lucky enough to own one, you'd better do it the courtesy of driving it. "This thing is fun as heck to drive," Dominic wants you to know. "[I don't drive it] as much as I want to, but I do take her out more than most of my other builds."
DOM'S EXCELLENT RESUME
'71 Datsun 510
SR20 in everything he says... Dom's first SR-swapped car featured in Super Street was this 510, mind you it was non-turbo, stroked 2.2 liter.
'74 Datsun Sunny
The Hakotora is perhaps Dom's biggest claim to fame. It sported the carbon-fiber Hakosuka conversion from 09racing as well as a custom carbon trunk bed, tailgate, and fenders. Oh yeah, it was also rockin' a SR20DET.
'74 Datsun 260Z
Big and bad was the name of the game for this Z. Massive fenders, a Gnose front-end, 18" Work wheels, and a potent 2JZ swap made this 260Z one for the books.