When you've spent the better part of your car-building years working with "contemporary tuner cars," nothing says flip the script more than going the classic route. For Daniel Song, after 15 years of Hondas, Scions, and the occasional Lotus, it was time to go old school. "After competing in the Scion Tuner Challenge a few years ago, I found myself appreciating nostalgic vehicles because of their timeless qualities," Daniel says. The 240 Z became his first venture into modifying a Japanese classic, thanks to its unique side profile with an elongated nose, which reminded him of older Ferraris and Jaguars.
The Z is, rightfully, a perfect choice when it comes to the topic of nostalgia. During its initial release, it was considered an affordable sports car and helped catapult Datsun to its cult status. Daniel purchased his with the intention of restoring it himself—until he quickly realized two things: One, restoring a car isn't as easy as it looks, and two, unlike a new car in which bolt-ons can be purchased and installed with ease, an older Datsun requires more thoughtful attention. "I managed to strip the car down in my garage and got it painted," he says. "But after that, it sat untouched for over a year." A newborn son and business obligations took priority, however, knowing he couldn't do the engine work on his own, Daniel decided it was time to enlist the right shop to finish the job. Enter JDM Legends.
If the name sounds familiar, we've done our jobs correctly. We've featured their craftsmanship on these pages before; hell, we even have a television show with them! But Eric Bizek and his crew have built a fine reputation stateside for restoring the most sought-after vehicles to ever come from Japan. Ultimately, Daniel chose JDM Legends because they shared the same vision: to keep the Z as it should be, in a period-correct state. "As great as some suggestions were, I didn't want to swap in a newer, fuel-injected motor with turbos or add a Rocket Bunny kit," he explains. "After seeing one of [JDM Legends'] projects at JCCS up close, I knew I'd found a shop that could understand what I wanted to achieve." Eric picked up Daniel's Z at the following JCCS and began to work on it over the course of another year, which is where our Discovery show came into play.
Since this car was already roughly 40 percent completed by the time Daniel and Eric decided to put it into the show, everything had to be disassembled so the crew could film its assembly properly. "Not only was my car being built by artists, but I was fortunate enough to have it documented and immortalized for television," he says. Nothing is overstated on the build, nor is it heavily modified by Super Street standards, but it's just the way Daniel likes it, "a new but old-school car that looks like it came off the assembly line."
The original (numbers-matching) L24 was going to be rebuilt, but after some consideration (and persuasion from JDM Legends), choosing carburetors would be a true period-correct move, and so it was decided. From a cost standpoint, what could've been done with a 2.4L could instead yield even greater results with an L28 from the Datsun 280ZX. More power, no-brainer, and Daniel still has his original motor just in case. From a driver's perspective, the L28 with triple carbs retains the "smell, sound, and feel of a '70s-era car." It's analog, nothing's drive-by-wire, and it drives uniquely Z, although modern enhancements, like the coilover suspension, provide it with a different, safer type of comfort. And with adjustability, it can be set up for different types of driving that Daniel likes to do, which mainly involves long stretches of canyon roads on the weekends. But JDM Legends doesn't only modify the areas that can be seen in plain view; the company always goes above and beyond to replace hardware, spending extra time to get everything done right. You want perfection, they deliver it.
"You can't find a more passionate group of guys than JDM Legends," Daniel adds. "They know more about Japanese cars than many other self-proclaimed experts. Their deep understanding of tuning culture and everything that surrounds the essence of period correctness is what makes them so much more authentic." No cut corners, full documentation every step of the way, and precious time invested is what made Daniel's restomod dreams come true. "They told me that if they were to build a white Z for themselves, this is how they'd do it. That says a lot, and really is the best compliment I could get."