Democracy is a powerful thing, and it’s because of you guys that I present the following car feature.
Late last year when we did our Speedhunters Awards, we included a category for Reader Cars of the Year – a group that included a huge selection vehicles from across the world. We asked our loyal readers to select their favorite, and when the voting finished a 1973 Datsun 240Z out of Northern California had emerged as the winner.
We figured you guys would want to see more on this old Datsun that you had chosen, so I made plans to meet up with its owner Sunny Liang to shoot a full feature.
So that’s how I found myself in Sunny’s hometown of Oakland, California a few weeks ago. We met up near downtown Oakland at a shop called Performance Options. It’s a very cool little garage, and I’ll be sharing more from my visit next week.
For now though, let’s focus on Sunny’s Z. At first glance it’s obvious that this S30 is by no means a show car – and that’s not a bad thing.
Sunny drives the Z nearly every day – and the car shows all the signs of being a real daily driver – from the scrapes and dings to the multiple shades of silver on the body. Sunny actually owns a newer Honda Civic in addition to the Z, but it’s the Z that gets used for the bulk of his driving duties.
After meeting up with Sunny at the shop, I hopped in the shotgun seat and we set out to the shoot location. Even though the Z sits mere inches off the ground, I was very surprised at how civilized the ride was.
It’s not Cadillac smooth of course, and Sunny has to constantly keep his eye out for speed bumps and other obstructions that would hit the frame – but overall the car seemed very adept at cruising the streets of Oakland.
From there it was through the underwater tunnel and on to the island of Alameda. Ah yes, there’s nothing quite like the sound of a floored L-series motor in a long tunnel…
Our destination was the old Alameda Naval Base, which provides some amazing views of the San Francisco Bay and a perfect location to photograph cars.
When I asked Sunny how he acquired the 240Z, he told me that his uncle actually gave him the car around the time he graduated high school. It’s hard to think of a cooler graduation gift than a vintage Datsun. I personally can’t even remember what I got when I graduated high school, probably money that I blew on video games.
Over the past few years since acquiring the car, Sunny has been working hard to transform the Z into his ideal street machine.
The first thing you notice about Sunny’s car is likely the slammed ride height. It’s got a stance makes my own stock 240Z look like Grave Digger or Big Foot. Unlike modern cars, getting proper suspension for a 240Z is a bit more involved than jumping on Ebay, waiting for postman to show up and bolting on some badass coilovers.
To outfit a Z like Sunny’s, you have to piece together a suspension kit which requires both welding and shortening the factory struts. In this case Sunny went with AE86 Tokico HTS short stroke shots along with weld-on Ground Control coilovers from T3. He has also equipped the car with T3 weld-in camber plates.
Sunny rounded out his suspension setup with lower control arms, roll center adjusters, and tension control rods from T3, plus a set of sway bars from Suspension Techniques.
Under the hood of a Sunny’s Z is an original L24 inline six. The motor itself is largely stock with the exception of a ported and polished head.
On the induction side, the stock SU carbs have been replaced with a long cannon intake manifold and a set of triple Weber 45 DCOE side draft carburetors. While the naturally aspirated setup with the screaming Webers makes the Z plenty of fun to drive, Sunny is actually in the process of a building a new motor for the car – a turbocharged L28.
The difficulty of picking the right set of wheels is something every car enthusiast can relate to, and Sunny spent a lot of time trying to figure out what sort of wheels he wanted for his Z. When he saw the special Star Road edition Work Equip 03s in Tokyo Auto Salon coverage online, he knew he had to have them.
Sunny placed an order through Work Wheels, and a couple months later he had his custom-finished set of Equip 03s, 15x9J -16 for the front and 15x10J -28 for the rear.
The custom-ordered black barrels and the aggressive sizes ensure they nobody will mistake his legit Equips for the numerous cheap knockoffs that have flooded the market over the last few years. The wheels didn’t come cheap, and the wait was long, but Sunny can rest assured he did things right the first time.
The interior of the Z is full of functional upgrades for both hard driving and urban cruising.
I’d never seen a set of “Renoma” seatsbefore, but it turns out they are actually a specially branded piece that Recaro made back in the ’80s. Matched with purple Crow Enterprizes four-point harnesses, the retro seats add a very cool look to the Z’s cockpit.
Sunny also added an Autopower roll bar custom painted in candy purple. This is something that comes in handy when Sunny takes the car to Buttonwillow Raceway with his friends.
Sunny also outfitted the car with a fully upgraded audio system with speakers, subs, amps, and a Clarion double DIN head unit.
I’m sure the improved sounds from the stereo are a necessity for Sunny when drives the Z all over the Bay Area.
Going down the road, the slammed Z looks absolutely bitchin’. Just don’t mind the occasional scrape as the frame makes contact with the ground. I’m sure there’s been some serious weight savings with all the metal chips this car has left on the streets of Oakland.
Sunny also likes to take the Z on long road trips, whether it’s to the aforementioned track days at Buttonwillow, or a journey down to Long Beach for the Japanese Classic Car Show.
Is Sunny’s S30 the most immaculate Z around? No. Is it the fastest? No. Regardless of that, Sunny loves his car and and uses it regularly. That’s the important thing.
So, was Sunny’s Z a worthy choice for 2011 Speedhunters Reader Car of the Year?
After spending an afternoon with him and his car I’m, gonna have to go ahead and say yes.
1973 Datsun 240z
Stock L24 + Port/Polish Head
3x Weber Carburetors 45 DCOE
“Long” Cannon Manifold
MSA aluminum radiator + Dual electric fans
MSD Ignition box + coil + wires
Pertronix Electronic Igniton
5 speed transmission
R200 welded differential
T3 front + rear weld in camber plates
T3 front + rear LCA
T3 roll center adjusters
T3/ Ground Control full weld on coilovers
Eibach Springs: F – 350lbs / R – 300lbs
T3 tension control rods
Tokico HTS AE86 (HTS112F) cartridge short stroke shocks
Energy Suspension Polyurethane bushings
Suspension Techniques front + rear sway bar
Wheels and Tires:
“StarRoad Replica” Work Equip 03
Front – 15×9 -16 Yokohama S-Drive 195/55R15 -5 Camber
Rear – 15×10 -28 Falken Ziex 912 205/55R15 -6 Camber
Rolled + Pulled fenders
Dapper Lighting Classic Style HID projectors
Front air dam
Interior & Audio:
Recaro “Renoma” seats
Crow Enterprizes 4-point harness
Autopower rollbar (custom powdercoated candy purple)
Works Bell quick release + flipper
Nardi Deepcorn 350mm leather steering wheel
Boston Acoustics SC55 5 1/4″ Speakers
Boston Acoustics SC95 6×9 Speakers
Alpine SWR-1043D 10″Subwoofer
Alpine MRX-M100 Amplifier
Alpine MRX-F30 Amplifier
Clarion VX401 Double-Din Headunit
Monster Cable RCA/Speaker Wires
WARNING, please do not install a 4 or 5 point harness in your street cars. Unless you also wear a helmet with a HANS device, you are setting yourself up to break your neck in an accident. Please!
@280z how so? Isn't it the exact same design as a baby seat?
When you used the ae86 short stroke absorber , did the galant nut match the 280z strut housing ? So that once you section it bolts in ? And how much did you have to section?
I really like just about everything about this car but that ride hight while nice looking I dont think I could live with for more then a day (maybe 15 mins if it were driven in the UK) I'd be interested in seeing a followup once the new engine is in
http://lifeblasters.com/awesome/2011/7341/bobs-at-buttonwillow/ Eh... Just saying
Rollcage + too low for track or twisties = FAILRide hieght to low for track duties + seat harness for daily duties = FAIL
Seems we've got a hardparker here.
Hahaha, Rü$╫'s comments are priceless. He's so eager to defend Sunny's honor. I respect that, man. It's cute that you play Ken+Barbie with your car.
I do like the car very much. It has a certain rat-rod cool factor. The wear and tear tells a story. Thumbs up to the owner for daily driving it and taking it to track. That said, this car would need roll center adjusters forged from the hand of God to fix his geometry. There is no way it handles optimally at this height. Plus at BW, have a bit of travel wouldn't hurt. Its a rough track :)
But perhaps that's not the point. Either way, great post.
Oooh! Oooh! I saw this Z at the parking lot at ToyotaFest!! :D It looked really nice.. took some photos too :3
I just love all of the "expert" opinions in here on this mans car. He built it to be driven and isn't afraid to show the battle scars of the road. I dig the fact that he kept the L24 instead of squeezing a RB in there. I love the stance , no crazy camber or stretched setup.
You seem to forget the most important thing here; IT'S HIS CAR.
Not like he was building it to look gook for you "experts" and I'm sure you'd be the same way if it were your car.
I thought the whole concept of tuning was to express yourself not to follow the crowd and to the same exact thing and call it your own, hypocrites.
And to you haters, if you feel you have something better then please show us what you got.
haters gon hate. i love this car, not a knock off of yutas car. no zg flares, no bronze wheels, no primer paint, no ring dragging from the back, no red dot. it just happens to be another grey s30 dumped. deal with it dumb asses.
and rbz. wtf you talking about the car hardly has any camber.
I'm sorry, but when does well stanced become terrible offset choice and a stupid amount of camber. That car needs 4 degrees less camber and a set of ZG flares to run those wheels.
Whatever, different strokes for different folks.
another craptastic make a 86 suspension fit and go. common you got the money for hts shocks and top hat and half ass it ? atleast get something that is engineered to fully work with the car.
Yeah its kind of close to the Zombie Z, and yeah its a wee bit too low with tires a wee bit too stretched for my taste... but just look at that photo of it from behind at a set of traffic lights! How could you not think "badass" if you were pulled up next to that thing? How could you not want it???
Also... live and let live, no?
Having said all that, personally, i like JDMized. To coin a phrase "live and let moan". Peace.
lots of people hating on here, personally I love it. I relate with the build because it seems to be very budgeted like mine. Difference is he has a nice alternative to drive should he do something more time-intensive with the car, I don't. I also love the modern touches with the car. I think everyone that is so negative towards the car needs to just take a chill pill and enjoy all the cool cars that everyone has, and realize that not EVERY single feature needs to be a 1200hp supra or another $70-100k build of some new Evo or whatever. This is why I love Speedhunters, we get all the new and exciting expensive car builds, but we also get the simpler things in life like this Z.
missing trim, slammed on short-strokes, wires hanging out the dash... if it was missing a rear bumper and the dash was cracked to no end, I'd swear it was my celica, lol
I am jealous of that console with cupholders though....
-curious, is there a link to the other nominees?
People have to understand that this guy's car is not supposed to be flawless. It has character and flare that some cars lack. It has family background, rare rims, dings and dents that indicate a daily-driven car. Some of these things just aren't present in some cars we see today. We always look for the super clean/hellaflush/track day car or the super beat up/drift scarred/ drift beater car.
I love this car because it has things on it that I've never seen before. Even Mr. Auto-Otaku didn't know about the Renoma seats.
The fact that the owner drives this fourty year-old car on insanely long road trips just amuses me. My car currently has 136xxx miles on it and I wouldn't dare drive it to NorCal.
I don't know, ..... this car is just f*cking fabulously sexy and awesome.
No no no no, this S30 abuse has got to stop. I love a well stanced Z, but this is almost worse than Yuta's "zombie" Z. This chassis is attracting some people with bad taste and cravings for Internet fame. Maybe I'm coming across too strong, I'm glad the guy loves his Z, but how on earth is this car worthy of anything but a new owner? I live in the bay area, and I have an S30. I really hope I never see this poor car in person.
WOW...Speachless first car ive seen in a very long time on speed hunters that has so much character. Bay area love.
I love it, Wish i could find a good Z to build and if you don't like it then you're not a car appreciator.
It should win street beater of the year. It's kool cuz its an old skool Z. Has its own touches and quite rat rodded out. But SH Reader Car Of The Year? Don't really agree.
How does a car like this get people's choice? It doesn't have anything different than any of the Z's for sale on Craigslist