Car Builder>> Ta Auto

With this month being dedicated to builds and previews there is one place I knew I had to visit for you guys. You wouldn't be able to find it if you tried, nestled deep in the Chiba-ken countryside, a stone-throw away from the new Sodegaura Forest Raceway. This is where magic happens, you feel it the instant you set foot inside one of the garages where restoration projects are underway. Thanks to people like Ando-san rare Japanese classics are brought back to life here, often starting off from nothing more than a rusted up shell.  

Welcome to T.A. Auto.

Ando-san has been in this game for many years, building a reputation as one of the most gifted restorers in the country. Over the years he has brought all sorts of classics back to their original glory, manly Nissans, specializing particularly in the Fairlady Z and the Skyline 2000 GT-R. Hearing I wanted to come for a visit to shoot for Speedhunters Ando-san was kind enough to organize a very special visit from some of his friends in the classic Fairlady world. While I waited for them all to arrive I took a quick stroll through the premises checking out some of the cars that he has lying around…

…like this yellow S30, which is his own personal car he hopes to find some time to restore in the future. He used to drive this back in the day but after the business picked up it had to take an almost permanent spot in the garage!

The yard around the workshop is littered with old Zeds…

…everywhere you look there is one sitting, waiting to be used for parts or for a potential owner to come and snap it up and have Ando-san restore it.

It's a pity to see such great historical rides crumble away but they are in the right place to be brought back to life.

The donor car lineup is joined by…

…an endless storage of parts that can serve as templates when making one-off bits and pieces.

As I finish shooting at the back of the shop Ando-san, seen here, calls me over to begin the introduction of some very special guests…

…starting with Tamura-san, the designer of the original S30 Fairlady Z. He had come all the way to T.A. Auto to explain to me how the Z came to be, armed with all sorts of original documents, drawing and books following each step of the design process. We moved into the small office and began chatting about cars and the history behind the Z. Needless to say, I was in heaven!

The actual Z project, known in Japan as the "Circle Z," started off in 1965, four years before the S30 went on sale in Japan and the US. Nissan wanted to create a sports car that would appeal to the US market, as well as in the home ground. As Tamura-san explains a lot of discussions were needed to come to an agreement on what the S30 needed to look like, with top brass at Nissan wanting a sleek 2-seater fastback. Subsequent talks led to the initial dimensions of the car being slightly increased, especially the width, with the body being lowered by 20 mm to give it a more appealing profile. It was also decided that the US cars would get a 2.4L engine, unlike the 2L JDM versions.

With the dimensions set it was then on to the design stage and Tamura-san got to work with his pencil. Here is a shot of some of the original sketches showing that unmistakable side window kink.

The design stage was followed with full scale modeling, which is when Abe-san, pictured here in the middle of an explanation, got to work. He was the chief clay modeler overseeing the clay rendering of Tamura's design proposal.

Tamura-san and Abe-san can be seen here working on their model, a picture taken in 1966 inside the Nissan design studio.

There were a lot of proposals submitted but their creation was the one chosen for the final production car.

They even brought the original custom made curve rulers for measuring the surfaces on the clay model with the layout machine! Once the final design was decided it was then on to insert the surface data and measurements into the computer. The S30 was the first model Nissan started using computers on to speed up development and productions times. 

Tamura-san was kind enough to give me these two copies of the original sketch he made of the Z in 1969. They are now framed and hanging in my office wall!

And talking of hanging stuff on the wall! This is the inside of the Ando-san's office, that is a S20 head cover from a KPGC10!  

More memorabilia in the form of Fairlady and Skyline model car boxes. The silver Hakosuka in the picture on the top right is a car he restored for Nissan, now kept in the massive Zama storage facility I'm trying my best to get access to!

Tamura-san proceeded to explain how smaller design features of the S30 came to be, pointing at the sharp chrome headlight surrounds, something that just couldn't be done into today's safety-obsessed world.

Here is another tool of the trade, a Contour Gauge, used to scrape away bigger quantities of clay. One of Ando-san's customers kindly came over to show us his recently restored 432Z version of the S30, a JDM-only model powered by the same S20 2L straight-six engine found in the GT-Rs.

Sawano-san of Club S30 accompanied Tamura-san and Abe-san to T.A. Auto, himself a die hard fan of the Z. He founded the S30 owners club back in 1996.

Another look at this rare machine…

…and of course the very special motor that propels it.

The owner preferred to keep everything stock for sake of authenticity, even the airbox is the original item. A masterpiece!

On top of Ando-san's 432Z R in the opening picture, an even rarer race version of the yon-san-ni (432), there was a third one at the shop, currently in the middle of what is a major restoration project. The car belongs to Arai-san, a friend of mine that originally introduced me to this very special classic Z-scene here in Japan. His S20 motor is already built up and ready to go, but Ando-san has more than one year of work in front of him before he can complete this particular car. In the picture above you can see how he is recreating rusted out areas of the body piece by piece, this rear fender having been quite a nightmare to get right.

Next step is the engine bay…

…as well as the front part of the chassis which, as Arai-san told me today, is proving to be a bit of a problem with more custom parts being needed than was originally thought.

I really love places like T.A. Auto, the cars sitting outside, the parts laying around, you can really soak in the atmosphere of an era that has well and truly passed.

I spotted this KPGC10 front grille hanging in the workshop.

Needless to say once Arai-san's 432Z is done it will be getting shot and featured, but the wait will be quite a long one, so in the mean time I will make sure I show you some other cool cars that Ando-san has restored, kind of like that impressive 240Z I drove a few months back. 

I'd like to thank Tamura-san, Abe-san, Sawano-san, Arai-san and Nakatsu-san for coming over to meet with me, Hori-san and Ishi-san for letting me sample their cars, and for Ando-san for having us at T.A. Auto! All a great bunch of car-obsessed people.

- Dino Dalle Carbonare



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Sweetness right there. Love those Zs


When you see such cars, you don't need big wings and turbos, but just a sweeping hill road with nature and sun around...


Amazing story tx Dino!


Probably this is the most awesome Z article I've came across. Good info and read!


Thank God for those 240Z lovers.


wow amazing article :D ur such a lucky guy


Awesome story and great pics, what a priceless journey and such great cars, wow. Thanks so much!


Great article! Really cool to see stuff like this.


The 240Z is my favourite car of all time, and this article is pure porn!


epic. that would have been an insane event for you, i cant believe he just gave u the drawings!


thanks Dino


Oh my Dino, you outdid yourself on this one mate!


Excellent article! i love S30 Z's, and this is by far the most enlightening read i've had in a while!


Wow, this was a truly epic post. You have a good job, to which I am slightly eNVious :)


Wow! What an amazing feature, to see those old drawings and pictures of the designs and models. Man! Thanks for sharing. I LOVE THE JAPANESE!!!


Excellent article and photography! This is why I visit Speedhunters every day.


Amazing day ! you lucky b... haha man how cool is that ! thanks for sharing


Very lucky day indeed. Thanks for sharing, even if making us a little jealous while doing it. ;)


Epic! one of my Fav cars for sure. Thanks Dino!!!


aww who says you cant find love in the materialistics type of thimgs....its always cool to hear what the old timers have to say..thanks dino,great write up


Awesome article! Nice to see the original designers are still enthusiastic about their creations.


One of the best features so far on Speedhunters!

Well done!


R.I.P Nujabes


best post ever 4 badasses the generals of datsun


nice the guy in the green sparkin up a bowl lol..gettin ready 4 work


MY FIRST CAR WAS 1973 240Z AWWWWW! I miss that car. Gotta get another z car before life ends!!!!!!


BEST POST EVER!!!!!!!!!!!



My favorite story to date from speedhunters. Tamura-san is a true badass, he created one of the most iconic cars of all time.

Im just said that there wasnt more to read!


My favorite story to date from speedhunters. Tamura-san is a true badass, he created one of the most iconic cars of all time.

Im just sad that there wasnt more to read!


I love these posts on vintage Japanese cars. Very well written, thanks for sharing this!


One of best story so far on sh. WOW thank you for sharing.


Awesome article, always hear about the designer that did the original Z but never read an article about him.

btw, just want to say that the hairbrush thing is called a contour gauge, it's not used to scrape clay away, it's a tool that you use to record the section of one side of the clay model, and then transfer it to the other side of the clay.


great read

i think this is my favorite post on speedhunters. excellent feature.


Best. Post. Ever. THANK YOU DINO!


I've been waiting a while to see another Fairlady Z post and this definitely whet my appetite. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for more 240z's because my next project car is a shady grass green Z!


Great pics as always!! And don't tease us with KPGC10 grille please!



I love posts like these! It was a real treat to read :D


wow really nice post. i'd love to be involved with restoring significant classic cars like this!


Great stuff Dino


Looks like some good ol' bench racing went on! Great story!


Dino, you must have Mafia/Yakuza-deep ties to the scene out there, for the access to things you get. Simply awe-inspiring. You must SERIOUSLY be getting known there.


This post was mentioned on Twitter by SPEEDHUNTERS: CAR BUILDER>> TA AUTO


It's such a pity they won't make cars like those again. Now many cars are boring boxes with everything focused on safety...

Awesome post, as always!


Great story Dino!


that last pic needs to be a wallpaper

truly a great shot


really really cool post... I own a 260Z.... wish to get a 240Z soon too... you will never be enough of this.:)


Wow! Meeting the designer of an icon!


Holly shit this is awesome!

Such nostalgia, so great to finally know who created the Z = Tamura-san!

I really need a Z car again.


congratulations dino !!!!!


It's post like these that Speedhunters is all about ain't it?


makes me miss my S30.

btw, that "hairbrush" tool is not used to scrape away bigger quantities of clay. It's use to press onto an original panel to inherit it's profile for transferring to the other side of the car or another car altogether.


Insane, cant believe how awesome that must have been... lucky.


i envy just get all the fun


definitely awesome coverage//


Wow incredible stuff! Shop visit are always something I like to see on SpeedHunters.

As usual, great pictures Dino!!


Great story!


Can you clarify something??? Was that Gantt chart with the pink highlighter really from the production of the car, or was it made up after to document history? Hard to believe that one that detailed and clean existed in the late 60's.


Thank you!


After my 1st gen rx7 is done being restored I have to get a Z.


Wow, 3 out of the 32 432-R's in one shop? Very impressive indeed.



That Gantt chart was first published in the February 1970 issue of Car Graphic magazine in Japan ( issue no.101 ) and the small booklet that you can see Tamura san and Abe san pointing to in the article is the Car Graphic 'Fairlady' book of magazine article reprints ( first published in October 1981 ).

I'm a little sad to see Tamura san being referred to as "the" designer, when he was actually a member of a TEAM. Many of the members of that TEAM working under the leadership of Yoshihiko Matsuo had design and styling input, and the 'design' / 'styling' of the S30-series Z range was not the work of any one particular individual.

And for the record, I don't think any of the 432s featured in this article is a real 432R. The '68' numbered car is a normal production 432 modified to look a little bit like Nissan's first works 432R race car, which was destroyed in a crash on its first race outing......


What an epic post. This is really great to see. Thanks for getting this stuff up!


wow, this makes me glad i have a rust free california car. i would kiil to trade z parts with dat guy...i want mine RHD!


This is probably the coolest article I've ever read on Speedhunters. Really nice Dino!


This makes it worth sifting through all the shit on here.



This past Sunday I was up at 4 am to shoot a car on location at a nice little spot across the Tokyo Bay


How do i get in contact with TA AUTOS, i am looking to buy a Z car?


I too am trying to get in touch with Ando sama....
need parts and some resto' work on my 140Z.