When someone pulls up to the lights next to you and says, “Never un-ratify it! I love it!” and then takes off, there is an odd sensation that you feel inside. A similar sensation to seeing a young boy point at your car and then look up at his dad as you cruise by. But the best sensation comes from being behind the wheel of a classic car twice your age that you have brought back to life from a rusty paddock basher with your own hands and determination.
Over the past 14 months, I’ve invested every moment of my time fixing, breaking and enjoying this iconic Japanese classic and whilst there has been an array of emotions across the time spent on it, there’s nothing more I’d like than to share the end result with you. Since taking possession, an entire story in itself, this car has arrived at its new home on the back of a trailer multiple times. Vague, naïve, and having never built a car in my life, this 1976 Datsun 260z was quickly named ‘The Golden Turd’ as I began to look past the initial eye-catching beauty of the body lines of the Z, and to realise all that needed to be done to get it back on the road.
One thing that I have come to appreciate with building a car, as opposed to modifying one, is that you end up knowing every nut, bolt and spring. From wiring in the fan unit, and fixing gauges, to swapping entire drivetrains, and fitting new suspension bushes (Yes this car has had three different engines after blowing the first two).
Showing its age, the body is all-original. From the 22kg hood all the way down to each individual door ding, acquired from various shopping carts and soccer mum car doors. The colour, “920 Safari Gold” is an early 240z factory colour, and although the 260z was never produced in this colour, it pays homage to the 240 while still maintaining its character.
Sometimes the most interesting features of a car come from the most unexpected situations. A rattle-can-home-job with colour-matched cans took a turn for the worst when the finish started to develop “crow’s feet”. At the time I thought that this was the worst thing that could have happened, but after a few days of seeing the finish both up close and from afar, it occurred to me that it matched the patina of the car perfectly. The paint job turns out to be one of the only things that EVERYONE I talk to asks me about!
Underneath the ratty exterior and patina-embraced body, hides a heart of gold. Although many people convert these cars to run RBs, or at least upgrade displacement with an L28, I personally believe that these cars came with the L26 and were based around it for a good reason. Refreshed and rebuilt, this L26 produces some the most glorious sounds – enough to make any enthusiast drool. With the added Triple 45mm Weber carbs, a heavy street cam accompanied by a port-matched head, manifold and exhaust, this inline-6 sings when it reaches 3000rpm and beyond!
With a few mod-cons to make this ‘70s sports car more reliable and comfortable, it has become my daily driver since having the engine installed. Electronic ignition from a 280zx, as well as the change from a mechanical fuel pump to electronic make cold starts a breeze! Thank god for advancements in technology, because without them, I don’t think that I would have ever made it to work on time once in the past two months!
A set of digital gauges and a SONY double-din head unit, accompanied with a Nardi Classic woodgrain steering wheel, make cruising that much easier. This makes for a balanced mix of old and new, keeping a car with character in touch with modern society.
A road this Datsun has became all too familiar with is the Royal National Park or “Nasho” for the locals. Transferring the refreshed power down to the roads is a set of TOYO R888’s, the last of the production run for this size and series, wrapped around a set of rare 15” XR4 longchamps shipped in straight from japan. This combination continues the balance between modern and period correct elements. One phrase I’ve heard too many times now is that a wheel and tyre combo can make or break the look of a car, and by no means does this fall short!
Since owning the car, it’s become an extension of my character. Of who I am, what I’m known for and just about every sentence that I speak. I’ve come to realize what it’s really like to not just own, but build an iconic car. The process of fixing one issue, only for it to cause another, has taught me a lot about patience. Then there are the times where you’re going through 5L of oil a week or cruising down the highway and a heater hose in the cabin blows apart, showering your legs with boiling coolant. Perhaps when you’ve spent hours fitting a new engine and can’t get the box to engage, only to find out you ordered the wrong clutch part number is all part of the restoration and learning process. All after the engine seized on the way home whilst doing 110km/h!
All-in-all, I could not ask for anything more. The 260Z is perfectly ratty, drives like an absolute monster, and at times, has the ability to leave me scared stiff. This car turns more heads than the laughing clown game with the ping-pong balls at carnivals, and above all, I enjoy driving it each and every time. Of course, there is always that enjoyment of meeting those people at the service stations who keep wanting to buy it from me as well and those brief conversations I have at traffic lights about “what it’s got in it”. It’s all part of the experience.
Car: Datsun 260z
Engine: Nissan L26 2.6L, Triple 45mm Weber Performance carbs, aftermarket headers, custom 2.5” exhaust, Alloy rad, 280ZX distro, heavy street ground camshaft, flat top pistons, E88 head ported and polished
Wheels: SSR Longchamps 15×6.5 +13
Tyres: TOYO R888 – 235/50ZR15
Interior: Nardi Classic woodgrain steering wheel, Takata 4 point harness, custom rear strut brace, Autogauge Electronic gauges, SONY XAV-68BT Head unit, KICKER Subwoofer and 4ch amp.
Exterior: Otomoto front air dam, rear bumper delete.
Thanks: MIA Engines Sydney