Rocky Auto is a name that has been cemented into the world of Japanese classics. A wondrous place where things are done to the beat of a different drum, where there are no limitations or restrictions—a safe haven where ideas can flow to help turn out original vintage rides at any given moment. As Watanabe-san, the man behind it all says, “What’s the point of building something that has already been done before?” He certainly has a point, which is why we are here once again, this time with a car that was built to wow crowds at this year’s Tokyo Auto Salon, which is now up for sale for the modest sum of ¥13,545,000, or $176,745.
Not content with any regular Fairlady Z from Japan, Watanabe-san sourced a US-spec car, a left hand drive ‘72 Datsun 240Z for the truly unique project. After being on the road for nearly forty years, this S30 chassis underwent a full restoration job, stripped down to the bare metal and all its rust spots removed. Fresh paint soon followed, inside and out, along with refurbished chrome window trim and brand new OE rubber sealing. The body was treated to a few bespoke carbon-fiber items like the front lower lip spoiler, bumper and the hood. You can find more carbon accents around the taillights and the rear bumper while the custom twin exit exhaust has been made to pop out of the body work in true modern supercar style.
A car this old, one that has probably seen much better days cruising whatever streets it may have cruised when it was on American soil, is most likely going to need a lot of tuning up in the suspension department. Replacing old bushings with stiffer polyurethane, always a good idea. Rocky Auto found a way to also install a new set of specially-valved dampers and firmer lowering springs to help give the S30 a fresh feel on the road. Brakes on a car like this can be a bit of a letdown, but spice it up with 4-pot Brembo and Wilwood calipers and suddenly you get the bite and performance of a racecar. Can’t forget retro wheel styling either; the 15x7.5/8" Volk TE37Vs are perfect for this car.
So how about the engine work? Rather than the signature RB or SR swaps that Rocky Auto has so tastefully done to other projects the past few years, Watanabe wanted something a little more true to form. He replaced the stock L24 straight-six with a slightly bigger L28, stroked of course, to 3-liters using Kameari forged pistons, connecting rods and a Nissan LD crank. The single cam head was then ported, polished and fitted with a Rocky Auto 282° bump stick (that’s camshaft for those not in the know). A stroked L28 would be an optimal match for a relatively light S30 like this but Watanabe wanted to go a little further, which is where the supercharger comes into play. An Eaton blower would not only provide additional power but it would also give this 240Z the kind of character a Rocky Auto project is known for. It’s a tight fit, but it’s an in-house build that took some work to make it fit like a glove. This conservatively tuned L28 was dialed in with a MoTeC standalone ECU with custom mapping that makes it a very reliable and useable street cruiser, good for nearly 320hp. A 71-series 5-speed gear box, one of the strongest from the 70s/80s-generation Nissans was also installed and upgraded with a new clutch and a R200 limited-slip from a Z32 300ZX.
One look into the car and it’s clear as day: this S30 is pristine and virtually unmolested. Most of the carpeting and trim has been left untouched with very few places having been restored or replaced. If the seats hadn’t been reupholstered, you might’ve thought it just rolled off the factory line. There are a few odds and ends here, though, such as a billet shift knob, MOMO steering wheel and white-faced Auto Meter gauges.
With the car having had great response at all the major shows this year, it has further demonstrated the impressive work Rocky Auto can do. Watanabe tells us that with almost every trick in the book already used, it’s becoming harder to come up with original projects that will get people more excited than the last. But he’s already working on his next project; it’s something he thinks will shock us all. He motions toward a pair of VR38DETT engines sitting in Rocky Auto’s showroom. Any guesses?
1972 Datsun 240Z (HLS30)
Owner Rocky Auto
Hometown Okazaki, Aichi-Ken, Japan
Occupation tuner and engine swap masters for the old school
Power 320hp, 218lb-ft
Engine L28 base engine; Kameari 89mm forged pistons and connecting rods; LD 3.0L crank; Rocky Auto 282° camshaft, header, custom valve cover, cone filter, stainless steel exhaust system, and fuel rail; Eaton supercharger; custom intake pipe; FJ20 fuel pump; adjustable FPR; Skyline GT-R injectors; K&N breather filter; Optima battery
Drivetrain 71C 5-speed transmission, R200 LSD
Engine Management MoTeC ECU
Footwork & Chassis Rocky Auto suspension kit
Brakes Brembo 4-pot front calipers with 2-piece discs; Wilwood 4-pot rear calipers with cross drilled rotors
Wheels & Tires 16x7.5" and 16x8" Volk Racing TE37V; Toyo Proxes T1R 205/50R16 front, 225/45R16 rear
Exterior Rocky Auto front carbon bumper, front chin spoiler, carbon hood, carbon side LED mirrors, carbon rear bumper, carbon-fiber finisher panel, exhaust outlets and rear hatch spoiler; HID headlight conversion
Interior MOMO steering wheel; Rocky Auto billet shift knob and white-face gauge conversion; Auto Meter speedometer and tach; Sony CD head unit
www kameariusa.com; mackinindustries.com (Volk Racing); rockyauto.co.jp; toyotires.com