The People’s Choice: Sunny’s 240z

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.

-Mike Garrett

Specs -

1973 Datsun 240z

Engine/Drivetrain:
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

Suspension:
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

Exterior:
Rolled + Pulled fenders
Dapper Lighting Classic Style HID projectors
Front air dam
Rear spoiler

Interior & Audio:
Recaro “Renoma” seats
Crow Enterprizes 4-point harness
Autopower rollbar (custom powdercoated candy purple)
Momo Hub
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

More Datsun Stories on Speedhunters

More Stories by Mike Garrett


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82 comments
280z
280z

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!

Matt kaczmarczyk
Matt kaczmarczyk

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?

JamesCox
JamesCox

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

USDM Fail
USDM Fail

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.

 

Kolbotn
Kolbotn

While i love the old Z cars, i cant see why this one won... 

RickNice
RickNice

get Rid of that L24 and throw in an RB3.0 ..............Great car though

stevepai
stevepai

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.

MARVIS NICEVIBE
MARVIS NICEVIBE

what a waste my celica owns this. This thing may aswell run Rotas

TougeDrifting86
TougeDrifting86

Oooh! Oooh! I saw this Z at the parking lot at ToyotaFest!! :D It looked really nice.. took some photos too :3

KietaPhillips
KietaPhillips

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.

Corey K
Corey K

Too low, needs paint, love it otherwise. Nice street driven non-show Z.

Kidargok
Kidargok

Sexy, fucking sexy. I love the interior.

missile
missile

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.

RBZ
RBZ

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. 

jack
jack

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.

Rü$╫
Rü$╫

 @Jmag I never ran into a unfriendly person at the track...everyone is open and accepting of each others cars.  These people clearly are more used to car shows and the "IM BETTER THAN YOU...or I HAVE SOMETHING BETTER THAN YOU" mentality. Its pointless arguing with these types.  They claim to go to track days but only have pictures of booths and cars parked.  They make up stories and say stupid things like "Because race car"  http://assets.diylol.com/hfs/ac3/0e0/a7e/resized/because-race-car-meme-generator-why-more-than-you-can-afford-pal-because-race-car-32ce69.jpg?1312552327.jpg .

Rü$╫
Rü$╫

@USDM Fail Spelling and grammar = FAIL. Go back to school.

KavinskyLoveFoxx
KavinskyLoveFoxx

and you may as well jump off a bridge, because no one gives a shit about your pos celica.

Rü$╫
Rü$╫

 @KietaPhillips Much love I totally agree.  I cant understand why someone would hate so hard on this car.  I think ive met the guy at a few drift events up at thunder hill.  He's a hella cool guy.  Aside from him being cool his car is great looking and DRIVES DAILY.

 

People with newer cars dont realize how hard it is to keep a 20-40 year old car running on a daily basis.  Let alone be brave enough to rock it all the time back and forth to the track.  Speed bump...FUCK IT here we go!  Its just a car...but a car with value and hardship to the owner and people WHO HAVE RESPECT for his accomplishments. 

 

Id love to visit your shop sometime Sunny and take pics.  Cheers for keepin it real.

dom
dom

 @missile I agree with you there, I wouldn't call it a knock off of Yuta's Z either. It is obviously inspired by it, just like several S30s that I can think of as of late. What worries me is that if enough people see this car and think, "I want to do that", then this style will define what an S30 "should" be and there will be dozens of these frame rail ruined, ratted out, hipster Z cars. Everyone has their own unique tastes, and hurray for that, but there are some things you don't do. 45s on a stock L24? Work centers on replica wheels? Roll bar and harnesses for what can't be more than 130hp?

 

You want to call me some bad words? Go for it. The S30 is the ultimate car for me and it horrifies me to see people wreck these cars for the sake of being "different".

 

Whatever, in the end it's just a car right? 

Tenku
Tenku

Because the owner likes it? plus he tracks his car, what's the problem? 

Rü$╫
Rü$╫

Like what?  Does anyone make suspension for it anymore?  Find something that would work in place that would still be logical to put on a 40 year old car.  I dont understand why so many people are hating on this car.  Maybe its because he can drive his daily and still get chosen.  When others have garage queens that sit on jack stands and move 10ft out of the garage on saturdays and sundays and back in on mondays.

MARVIS NICEVIBE
MARVIS NICEVIBE

Like I'm going to listen to people like you who. Lets face it, this car is only popular because of the Fitment bandwagon all the US guys are riding. If this car had normal wheels and plump tyres noone who give a rats ass but hey chuck on some works and you've apparently got one of the greatest cars made by man. The Helaflush scene is a joke, the owner spent money that would of went a long way to preserving and repairing the rust and paintjob on 3grand worth of rims and then slap some generic stickers and your on your way to a photo shoot and a feature.

 

Might i also add, this is practically a lesser CLONE on yutas Z back in its ghetto form. Someone is trying a bit to hard to get noticed.

s30zgt
s30zgt

 @dom

 Having a s30 myself i understand your feelings but besides the slammed suspension, what this guy has done isnt all that bad. most of the stuff he has done engine wise are pretty much the standard mods barring the webers. Wheels are legit work equips but i am guessing star road japan made a special edition that were no longer available so he had them customized to look like the star road ones. as for the roll bar and harness, if he does track the car then i dont see the problem. If i took my DD yaris to the track enough i would definitely make sure it was outfitted with all the safety equipment it needed for my 100hp four doors of fury. everything else is personal flair.

 

Rust happens, Frame rails are easily replaced, and almost everything he has done can be reversed. As long as swiss cheezing isnt the next big fad (Calling it now just in case) i say let them do what they want with their car. If it is truly what they want then they will stick with it, if its just some hipster scene kid then they will get bored of it, sell the car and move on to the next big hipster fad. Then i will buy the car, reverse what ever the kid did and sell off the parts to some other kid who wants "super dorifto mad jdm tyte stance 86 suspension fo yo 240z. bolt on kit"

jack
jack

yes its a 40 year old car and your telling me you cant get things thats made for it thats logical?lol i geuss super camber and so called DD is logical. kinda funny that i live in oakland i havent seen it around 

Rü$╫
Rü$╫

 @JDMized  as far as your tacoma build goes thats an expensive truck.  Looks like a GIGANTIC money pit.  And in the end its still not a mclaren.  Tell me this...why in the world did you dump that much work and time on a 2-3RZ-FE?  Thats what motor is in there right "correct me if Im wrong".  What will does it run in a quarter? 

 

Ill give you this much...your the first person state side that ive seen do it.  But people in Australia have been doing it way longer than you.  Whats your intentions with it?  Drift truck, work truck, show truck?  It certainly wont pass smog with the modifications youve done to it.

Tenku
Tenku

 @JDMized No you dunce, Button-willow Raceway if you read the actual post instead of just openly criticizing  an honest mans jewel.

m4x
m4x

 @Rü$╫  @r129s215 

Just myths, nothing more. The only head that can be swapped onto the smaller L20 (4 bangers) is a ka24 head (with modifications) and the only head that can be swapped onto an L24/6/8+ is 3 ka24 heads, cut apart, and frankensteined together (1fastz on hbz built it, amazingly reliable head too, amazing power)

other than that there's the legendary OS Giken heads as well.

 

Also, any coil over kit for the Z use Z struts, with custom springs and threaded collars. You cut the strut housings down and weld the collar to the strut. You don't use any non-Z parts except the spring/collar.

86 struts may look similar and be similarly sized, but trust me, those are Z struts beta uses. (and every Z guy for the most part)

 

earlier you mentioned how difficult it is to maintain a 20-40 year old car for daily use. I had a 78 280z, ressurected out of a towing yard, hadn't been registered in over 10 years. I had the head rebuilt because it had a burnt valve, replaced the starter, radiator, alternator, brake master, clutch slave, injectors, fuel pump, fuel regulator, and gave it a good tune up. Ran it HARD every day for 3 almost 4 years. with zero problems. It never stranded me except one time when i had a tire go flat. Traded it to my gf's uncle and he's currently rebuilding the engine (for no reason to be honest. that thing ran like the day it was built)

 

So sometimes you actually can get lucky, and find a dusty old car that baked in the sun for a decade and have it turn out to be rock solid reliable.

 

I just wish my integra was like that...

Rü$╫
Rü$╫

 @r129s215 Ive heard storys "myths" of people swaping cylinder heads.  Not sure if its true.  But yeah.  Would be an interesting engineering feat.

s30zgt
s30zgt

 @r129s215  @s30zgt  @enorym

haha ill give you that one. prince was licensed engine designs from mercedes but by the time the L16 rolled around the design had been changed and refined so that licensing was no longer needed. The L24/6/8 series can claim it roots more from the L16 than the Mercedes engine. They do look very similar but then again many engines of that era looked the same.

Rü$╫
Rü$╫

@s30zgt @enorym I was thinking on more of the lines of a preticular Mercedes engine that you could pull the head off of and see very very close simularitys. Kinda like squinting ;)

s30zgt
s30zgt

 @enorym

 do you mean the genesis of the L gata which started with the L16 , or how its a l24 with a longer stroke crank (that was carried on to the l28 plus increasing the bore), flat top hitachi carbs that cut performance and were often swapped out for earlier SU carbs?

Rü$╫
Rü$╫

Out of curiosity since your a 240z guy...what motor was the l26 designed off of?

s30zgt
s30zgt

 @enorym or looks like (is) a 240z strut. its like one of those magic eye photos that changes if you squint in just the right angle haha.  /s

Rü$╫
Rü$╫

 @enorym I never said I knew everything...But I can tell you the kit that is being sold by beta sure looks like an ae86 strut.  Even the angle that its welded on. 

s30zgt
s30zgt

 @enorym  280z =/= 240z .

This is a 280z strut: http://www.nicoclub.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Picture042.jpg .

 

This is a 240z strut http://240z.jeromio.com/strutsection/images/UnCutStrut_JPG.jpg .

 

Notice the BrAKE line bracket? Not sure what proof you can deduct from that low quality image but heres a better one http://www.betamotorsports.com/services/images/projectcarimages/73240ZRB/FrontStruts-1.jpg .  I actually work on Z's. Thats why I know this. Sorry for bursting your "I work on 86's, i know things" front suspension bubble.

Rü$╫
Rü$╫

and I know from experience the cartridges from the 240z have a way longer stroke then the ae86's and are slightly skinnier.

Rü$╫
Rü$╫

They probably used the cartilages from the 240z after they cut them down to weld on the perches for the coilovers.  That way they didnt have to cut up the shock towers. 

Rü$╫
Rü$╫

Look closely

 

AE86:  http://i31.tinypic.com/1zqvomt.jpg

 

240z:  http://www.nicoclub.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Picture042.jpg

 

Now look at the strut kit link and see what they used to section. 

here; http://www.betamotorsports.com/images/products/240StrutKit1.jpg

 

Notice the break line bracket.  There's the proof you can also tell by the angle the spindle is welded on.  I actually work on cars.  Thats why I know this.  Sorry for bursting your non-ae86 front suspension bubble.

Rü$╫
Rü$╫

@s30zgt If you ever built an 86 you'd know them struts are 86 struts and spindles, that obviously have been modified. But I stand corrected. Somebody builds them out of 86 parts.

Rü$╫
Rü$╫

I know your type thats why I said it.  "Buy it from eBay "made to fit the car" with no fabrication."  Maybe if your car wasnt in your garage all the time you'd be getting out more often and you would have more of a chance seeing it.  NAME a suspension kit that is still around for the car that he could go buy.  GO do your eBay homework and post me a link when you find one.


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