Sometimes all it takes to light the spark that will consume the rest of your life is an unexpected, chance encounter with a fleeting image. When Rahail Tariq first came across a magazine advertisement for the original Datsun Z in 2001, it would kick off a quest that would see him not only pick up his first S30 but also open up a shop that would transform how the rest of the world sees this most classic of Japanese sports cars.
"Our family business had always been automotive," Rahail explains. "My father was a mechanic when he first came to the UK in the '60s, and it's been in our DNA for a long time. My brother, my brother-in-law, and I are living proof that once you become a petrolhead, that's it."
Of course, Rahail has taken things a little further than the average automotive obsessive. It might have started with a picture on a page, but it was when he began to investigate how to modify his newly acquired 240Z that he encountered Martin Ryland. Martin would solve many of the issues Rahail was dealing with on his path to building the perfect Z, and he eventually became his business partner.
"The first time Martin came and picked up my car, it kicked off a conversation that quickly got very, very deep as to how far we could go in improving the S30," Rahail says. "Ryland is quite technical-minded, and, as we began to work out a long-term game plan for the vehicle, we realized we were on the same page in terms of taste and philosophy—and MZR Roadsports was born."
That shared outlook would shape the very specific concept that came to define MZR vehicles: a devotion to preserving the beauty of the original sheetmetal while working fastidiously to upgrade the cars wherever possible without compromising on one of the most captivating designs ever to emerge from Japan.
"We always want to be sympathetic to the gorgeous lines the car came with, while at the same time putting our on mark on it," Rahail continues. "Even the luggage strap we put in the car pays homage to what came from the factory, but it's our own design—the same as our custom Watanabe-style wheels, and, of course our gauges." The end result is a cross between a restomod and a loving, 100-point restoration.
Starting with cars sourced exclusively from the western United States (where rust is unheard of), each Z is taken down to bare metal, treated extensively against corrosion, and brought back to better-than-new status, including strengthening of any known weak areas, as well as modifications made according to what the buyer has requested. There's no off-the-shelf gear used here. Everything at MZR is custom-made for each vehicle that rolls through the shop.
"The majority of our customers want a classic car they can drive regularly—something that can handle the terrible roads we have here in the UK, and something that's reliable and comfortable yet still recognizably a Z," Rahail says. "What Singer is doing for Porsche, we're doing for Datsun."
As a general rule, then, most of the cars that emerge from MZR Roadsports aren't intended for the show circuit but instead pack upgraded drivetrains and bespoke suspension bits that shape the driving experience to the owner's tastes. For some, this could mean track-ready horsepower, whereas others are keen on cruising capability and versatility.
The two vehicles for this feature represent the bookends of what MZR brings to the table. The '72 240ZG "G-nose" car is unrestored yet features a number of discrete upgrades, including an RFactory airbox, electric fuel pump, oil cooler, Koni adjustable shocks, and beefier sway bars. A Datsun Spirit twin-stack exhaust helps the 2.4L L-series six-cylinder breathe, as does a factory sport exhaust manifold, while MK63 calipers and vented discs slow the car down when things get too spirited. Inside sits a period-correct roll bar, a set of OEM Competition bucket seats, and a Competition steering wheel. The entire setup rolls on RS Watanabes and 15-inch Michelin tires.
The widebody car, while also a '72 model 240, lies at the very edge of what MZR is comfortable building. "It's definitely an expression of both us as a brand and the client's desires, but we made sure it stayed within the aesthetic we've established for the company in terms of both how it looks and drives," Rahail explains "The owner wanted something different that hadn't been done before in Europe, like the Rocket Bunny kits seen in America or Japan, but through our lens. This is how we ended up doing handcrafted steel arches with the wheels pre-fit to ensure a perfect stance and visual formula. I mean, how many times have you seen a body kit bolted on where the wheels just don't work? We weren't going to take any chances with this car."
In addition to a fully bespoke interior to match its attention-grabbing, all-steel widebody, the 240Z also shows off a carbon-fiber front splitter, air duct tray, rear taillight panel, and race mirrors, with the bumpers staying stainless. All the glass has been replaced, and the exhaust has moved to a unique center exit.
Under the long, long, hood, the Z features a punched-out 3.1L stroker L6 with forged internals and a multi-map fuel injection system, fed from a baffled fuel cell. An aluminum rad keeps things cool, and a completely custom exhaust is found from manifold to tailpipe. The rear suspension arms are also built in-house, 30-way adjustable coilovers let you dial in exactly the right road response, and an adjustable speed-sensitive power steering system makes it easier to guide the coupe's wide track. Out back, a CV axle conversion and 3.9 gearing in the LSD help control the power fed by a five-speed sports transmission, and aluminum brakes keep unsprung weight to a minimum.
"We're getting clients worldwide now who are serious collectors, and the 240Z is part of that serious conversation when it comes to classic sports cars," Rahail states. "It's not just Porsches and Jaguars anymore."
With cars like these streaming out of MZR Roadsports' shop, it's not hard to see the validity behind such a bold statement.