Finding a pair of restomods as clean and well-executed as this 1973 Datsun 240Z and 1967 Roadster combo is a rare thing. Finding a father and son that have spent countless hours working side-by-side to complete said combo is even less likely, but that's exactly what you're looking at.
The mechanically inclined father passing his knowledge and garage tricks down to his son is really nothing new. For decades, hot rod culture flourished as this sort of coming-of-age scenario played out in garages across the nation. In more recent years, however, much of that tradition has deteriorated as the digital age has taken hold, and whether it's the kid that would rather be online than getting their hands dirty or the father that's consumed by the marathon work hours that were once unheard of, there's been an undeniable decline in the coveted father-son passing of the torch.
Francis Jr. - 1973 Datsun 240Z
Francis Anand, Jr. wasn't obsessed with video games or spending his weekends at a team sports outing and instead just wanted time in the garage to help his father wrench. Good parenting would involve insisting that a child just concentrate on school, while great parenting would use that child's obvious passion to help bolster their performance in class. Junior adds, "My parents had made a deal with me that if I was to get all A's and B's my eighth-grade year in school, they would get me a project car of my choice. I ended up completing eighth-grade with all A's and B's so the hunt for a 240Z had begun."
Having a dedicated Datsun enthusiast father meant that it wasn't long before junior had some options. Presented with three potential project cars, he wasted no time in taking a closer look in order to find the right one. The first was aggressively modified and certainly a big project, while the second showed far too much rust for him to feel comfortable with. The final vehicle, the '73 240Z you see pictured, had been used as a daily driver for years and was in decent condition. As a bonus, it already had an L28 and 5-speed from a 280Z—a swap that junior had already planned on tackling—and was by far the best option of the bunch.
The initial plan called for combing the engine to figure out what was needed and to get it running before anything else, but a reality check and a mature outlook on overall timing changed the direction entirely. The younger Francis adds, "My goal was to get it running then pull out the motor to go through it. As far as body work and paint, I was going to keep the original paint with a ratty look and drive it around for a while after I got my driver's license." Being that he wasn't even of legal age to take his driving test, there was plenty of time to spare. "Due to the fact that I had a lot of time on my hands, I ended up tearing the motor apart and rebuilding it with my dad and at the same time, saving as much money as I could to get it into my uncle's body shop for body work and paint."
Senior and Junior wasted no time and did what they do best—joining forces to work together on tearing down the L28 powerplant. The rebuild included a ported and polished E31 head with a mild cam and Weber 32/36 carbs. Custom 2.5-inch exhaust piping leads spent gases to a GReddy TIC muffler and one-off exhaust tip. On the cooling end, the ancient radiator was tossed for a modern Mishimoto aluminum version.
With enough money in his account, junior brought the car to his uncle's autobody shop where it was completely freshened up before bidding farewell to the weathered orange paint in lieu of a custom gunmetal mix. A BRE front air dam and hatch extension help accentuate the factory lines.
Once the car was returned home, the two reinstalled the engine and transmission along with a set of Techno Toy Tuning coilovers, which offered Francis Jr. the ability to dial in his ideal ride height—one that's both functional and tasteful, especially supporting iconic 15-inch Watanabe wheels with Falken RT615K.
The final steps of the build involved reviving the interior with fresh surfaces and aftermarket upgrades like Recaro LX seats and Peyton Racing steering wheel. Then of course, the moment of truth under the hood. Junior recalls, "It's a bit nerve-wracking after rebuilding a motor and its first time firing up because you don't know what to expect, but this one went smooth."
Francis Sr. - 1967 Datsun Roadster
Compared to his son, Francis Sr. had a healthy head start on his automotive journey and much of that can be attributed to his days back home in Fiji, where he'd cut his teeth working with his cousins on his uncle's fleet of taxis. That fleet, comprised entirely of Datsun and Nissan, fed senior plenty of hands-on knowledge, but his first encounter with Datsun's sporty Roadster wouldn't happen until much later.
Francis Sr. migrated to the U.S. in 1989 and in 1993, by chance, he found himself infatuated with the car he would eventually own. "I spotted my 1967 Datsun roadster sitting in a driveway in Stockton, Calif. It belonged to this lady's daughter who no longer lived with her. I passed by that house a few times and every time I went by, that car would catch my attention." On a whim, he decided to knock on the door to at least ask if the owner might be interested in letting it go. "She said yes she would be willing to sell the car. A few guys had already come by with batteries and tried to start it, but they had no success." Further investigation revealed that the car had $375 worth of back fees and after discussing it with the seller, Francis Sr. ended up purchasing the car for just $125.
This is where that hands-on experience goes a long way. After tying the car to a pick-up truck and pulling it home, senior filled up a beer bottle with fuel, pulled the main feed line from the carburetor to feed it directly from the bottle and like magic, the car immediately fired up.
Tearing the roadster down and restoring it was the main goal and over time Francis Sr. was able to give the car a whole new lease on life. A reconditioned body, sprayed by a Stockton paint shop that once specialized in lowriders, laid a paint foundation that's certainly stood the test of time. Under the hood, the original R16 engine and 4-speed trans were revitalized, and for over 20 years he enjoyed the car just like that. "I drove it with that setup to multiple car shows out of the area such as the annual Datsun Roadster meet in Mt. Shasta and the annual Solvang Meet. That engine and transmission setup did not skip a beat."
That could have been the end of the Francis Sr. Roadster story, but certainly isn't. Having owned a 2000 Roadster along the way that he eventually sold as well as KA24DE 510 that he still currently owns, that little R16 just wasn't enough, and in 2014 it was time to bump the power.
"I was going to settle for a non-turbo SR20DE, but my friend offered me an S13 red top SR20DET that had a spun bearing." The perfect subject to tear down and rebuild with his son, Francis Sr. jumped at the offer and the father and son duo got started. That bearing incident caused a score across a cylinder wall so a bit of machine work was applied and that necessitated a new set of Supertech pistons, which as you know, usually results in a "well, if I'm already in there, I might as well do this, too" scenario. Additional upgrades included Tomei Pon Cams, Mazworx DIY turbo manifold to support the Garrett GT28R, CX Racing intake manifold, 720 injectors and more—all packed into the featherlight roadster.
It's not a common build platform and swaps aren't as user-friendly as other Nissan/Datsun chassis, as senior notes, "Compared to the Datsun 510 or the 240Z, when it comes to swaps there are not many options out there for parts, so you either have to pay someone to custom build parts for you or buy them from the few people who build roadster parts." Then there's the skilled few who can just make those parts on their own, and Francis Sr. happens to be one of them. "I am a machinist/fabricator by profession, so all of the custom work done on the car was done by me."
With that said, even an experienced Datsun savant like senior had to think through some of the processes on a chassis that was born years before the SR20 was even a concept. He adds, "In the 1967 Datsun Roadster, the firewall is flat, so when the master cylinder goes on, it's super close to a top mounted turbo. Therefore, I had to cut the firewall and push the master cylinder in a bit like the late model Datsun roadsters." Though some choose to run a bottom mount turbo, Francis Sr. notes you can often run into interference issues with the steering shaft. The custom machining and fabrication didn't stop under the hood, as even the wheel hardware is one-off and necessary to fit the retro style Work Equip 40 wheels under the Roadster's fenders.
Where many restomods skimp on the interior details, Francis Sr. 's Roadster shines. Reupholstered by Sr. himself along with friend Mark Dameral, the fit and finish is show quality while remaining completely functional. Modern touches include a Momo tiller and discreet wideband gauge but the majority of the space maintains a classic '60s feel.
With Francis Sr. having multiple Datsuns to tinker with, it's only fitting that junior do the same. Just a few years ago he purchased a 510 and is in the midst of a complete, frame-off build. In addition, he's acquired all of the parts necessary to stroke the 240Z powerplant to 3.2L—a process he intends to embark on once the 510 is complete. His father's influence was apparent from the very beginning, and whether intentional or not, he's bred a bona fide Datsun fanatic like himself.