Like most of you Speedhunters out there, I am in love with cars. It’s an overwhelming obsession. On my 21st birthday I didn’t go out to party. Instead, I went out and bought a 1970 240Z. This one in particular was number 2,868 off the production line. The original owner laughed at the fact that he had owned the car longer than I had been on this earth. The car had been in his family since it was brand new, and he had his fair share of fun in it. At 75 years of age, it was time for him to give up the little orange sportscar and pass it onto someone who will continue its legacy. That person would be me.
I couldn’t wait to drive it to one of my favorite hang-out spots: Neptunes Net. As much as I hate to admit, I grew up on The Fast And The Furious, and my friends and I would always go on weekly cruises up the Southern California coastline, constantly recreating the famous Supra and Ferrari scene.
The odometer on the 240Z was only five digits, so who knows how many times it has rolled over, because it only showed that it had 25,000 miles. For all I know, it could have gone to the moon and back, but I loved everything about the car. It was 100% stock. It had no rust whatsoever. It even had the four-speed transmission. On the highway, I would have to cruise at 5,000rpm just to keep up with the flow of traffic. I just liked the fact that this was what Nissan intended the car to be like from the factory: noisy and super fun to drive.
The shocks were blown in the rear, so it would bottom out on speed bumps. On the way back down the coast, the motor cut out about five miles away from my house. It made a loud bang as it backfired and rolled to a stop. From then on my nickname for this car was Ole Orange Bang.
My endless project began with replacing the fuel gauge sending unit. Next were the blown shocks, which I finished replacing at 3am in the morning before my first trackday.
While I was at the track, I was soon tired of my friends making fun of my stock hood. They were afraid an alien would pop out of it because the paint was peeling so badly from sun damage. I also had to constantly shoo people away, as for some reason they had the urge to peel back the paint. They must have been those kids that ate lead paint chips.
So out went the 50lb stock hood and in went a 15lb fiberglass/carbon piece. I remember that day: a spider egg hatched in my car, so there were literally thousands of spiders near the rear hatch. I spent an entire day killing them off.
I vowed never to wash my car with water and never to drive it in the rain to prevent it from rusting. I was officially a ricer at this point, but I was far from done.
I was already making new Z car friends. It’s weird how you can make certain friends just from the kind of car you own, isn’t it? It’s funny because I have always been bad with names, but for some reason I can remember what car they drive. But if everyone drove an orange 240z, I would be totally screwed.
The more I drove my car, the more I wanted to modify it. The first go-fast mods I did were cams, header and a full exhaust.
I got the stock SU carbs cleaned and rebuilt as well.
Out with the old and in with the new. I dynoed it and was making 138 wheel horsepower. Much more than I expected. At 2,225lbs, it was pretty quick.
This coffee-looking drink was what came out of my radiator. The coolant had turned a doo-doo brown color.
So I replaced the radiator with a nice aluminum one from Arizona Z Car. I also cut open the intake, which gave me a dyno-proven 1hp increase.
Needless to say, I gave it a thorough tune-up and replaced as much as I could.
It was slowly coming together, as I was starting to get serious. I found a 1975 280Z five-speed transmission and swapped it in immediately.
I started to go to car meets and I started meeting people in the aftermarket industry.
The more car meets I went to, the more I started to shoot photos.
Eventually my friends and I formed a crew. We all grew up together and we loved our cars. This was one of our first photo shoots together. Since we all had such a wide variety of cars, we figured the only thing that our cars had in common were the lugnuts. So we named ourselves Team Lugnuts.
During the week, we would go up to the mountain pass and cruise around the Southern California Nürburgring.
On the weekends, we would head to the track or the autocross.
That is where I met guys with unhealthy obsessions like mine.
I never knew the Z-car racing scene was so strong.
I fell in love with auto-crossing, as it was super fun and was relatively cheap. With the little power I had, I would go through one set of slicks a year!
On top of that, I got to compete with cars that were very similar to mine.
Sometimes there were eight of us out there on the same day, ranging from 1970 to ’73.
I knew I had to get serious if I wanted to become more competitive.
So I got some custom coil-overs made by Beta Motorsports. They sectioned my shocks and modified my stub axles to fit a brand new 1.5 way Nismo LSD.
I replaced my entire braking and clutch system.
I got some fancy new rotors and race pads. To hold myself in place, I got some nice Sparco seats at their open-house sale.
Of course, every ricer needs proper strut tower bars.
It was slowly coming together. I removed my radio and heater as both were not working anyways.
I got new shift boots and other little nick-nacks that didn’t make the car any faster but they sure did look great. I left the wood-effect steering wheel for that really old school look.
I got the carbs tuned and the car was corner weighted. It had a bias of 49.9 in the front and 50.1 in the rear: near perfect weight distribution. I ran 225lbs springs up front and 275lbs springs in the rear. For some reason that is just what the Z likes.
I never cared about how the car looked, I just wanted to go faster, so I got rid of the 5.5 inch wide American Racing Libre wheels as they were actually quite heavy. Not to mention they were not self centering, so on the freeway they would make the car vibrate like crazy. I went with some 15 inch Konig Rewinds.
I installed an electronic ignition as there was no rev limiter. I was afraid of blowing up this motor with unknown mileage.
Those were they days where I did not have a care in the world besides making sure my car was ready to run on the weekends.
We started competing in team autocross competitions, where we would have to drive each others cars. I learned so much driving my teammates’ front-wheel and all-wheel drive cars.
It was some of the best times of my life. Sometimes we would win, but the competition was always really fierce.
The S30 was so easy to drive fast. I was very happy with how the car handled. Even when the car was completely stock with an open diff, it was super easy to steer the car with the throttle.
I even took it drifting a few times, but out of fear of crashing it I never really did much other than mess around on the skid pad in second gear. I was already getting much hate from the Z-car community for ‘hot rodding’ an early 1970.
After gathering all these photos for this article, I realized how much I miss driving. I made the decision to quit racing after pursuing automotive journalism full time back in 2008.
We would meet up on occasion, but the group was eventually disbanded and we all went our separate ways.
Some of the guys went on to compete on a national level. I still drove the occasional track day here and there when time permitted.
You guys can laugh, but this was before GoPros existed. I still have so many tapes from trackdays and car meets.
Eventually the motor gave away and Ole Orange Bang sat in my garage for years. My friends and family were telling me that I didn’t drive it any more, so I even tried selling it at one point.
I’ve had the car for eight years now, and I think it’s time to inject some new life into this beast. Boost perhaps? Stay tuned as I continue my journey with this 43-year-old Z-car.
I follow your articles with pleasure although (shamefully) I've only just realised that you do in fact have a 240 - Good choice - had my first one at 24, only car (couldn't afford another) and drove it to work every day in London ! Now on my second currently being restored - hopefully with good taste but ultimately to mine !
Don't current-trend your Z and lose its' soul by swapping or losing the N/A feel - there are plenty of great engine builders in the States for al budgets, tech specs and performance and then they're numerous smaller workshops that could build you something to your needs - the parts are out there !
But think about changing that rather rudimentary exhaust - I mean header (to improve your torque already and power if you go further with the engine) and all the way back because that great big pigeon-rooster hanging uner the rear is g-damn ugly, ruining the flow of the S30 lines....either go classic or JDM (and yes, the twin rear exit WAS an option on ordinary JDM Zs - not just standard on the Z432 !).
Just food for thought - keep it up !
ps I've got some great videos on some European circuits - a well-sorted Z is just so easy :-) !
Yes I agree it is a great story. We need an update after a couple years, what have you done? I too have an Orange Z that I started to open track last year. Made a couple of YouTube videos. These cars are fast with a little work and a few parts. Last weekend I was running with V-8 Mustangs and a Corvette and my experience is limited to 6 track days now. Check out my channel at " sac cyclone" and look for 240Z at Thunderhill Raceway. Anyway, good luck with your build and hope to see you out on the road course circuit.
Hi, great story. These cars get under your skin, don't they? Looking for an orange Z myself ... Any info on any, please let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org
Stuck home sick and this write up made my day, amazing story with great pictures. i cant wait to see where you go with it.
P.S. kudos to you for keeping the stock chrome bumpers with the bumper'ets nothing looks better to me!
The smart money would be on a basic VQ35 transplant. Low weight, 2x the power while still remaining NA and alreafy with transmission. To be a bit more troublesome, but cooler, would be a vh45de with ITBS and a MOTEC(the ecu...not the 'exhaust') ... ;)
How about SR20DET? No no no.. That's too tame. LS7? 1JZ? RB26? Damn.. Just go rotary then. Yo MadMike! LOL
Sweet ride Larry. Always want one classic Z. But here in Indonesia, it's like tryin' to find a needle in the desert.
Vintage purists gave you a hard time for THIS?Sure, it's a very early car, but none of these mods are really irreversible, and it was a bit rough around the edges to begin with anyway.I'll bet you even kept the original hood.
Based on the last pic, did you change rims again? Anyway nice ride you have there. I hope my friends and I can make a little team like you did with your friends. Unfortunately my place isn't actually 'encouraging' for car enthusiasts like us.
Great post, one of those slowly upcoming builds many of us can relate too. I once too had taken some tires out of storage to see white balls in the tire tread, deciding to pop them was the worst idea ever. Spiders were everywhere.
You spent all that effort on the car, a great effort. Car probably feels amazing. But you may as well paint the hood to match the rest of the car. So many people don't paint their hood "because it's carbon fiber". But yet they will paint their stainless DeLoreans. It really does show laziness in my opinion to see a hood that isn't painted just because of the material it's made from.
Larry Chen, although life may steer us away from certain things we have previously had more time for, we dont get rid of it. Especially a 1970 Z!!! Haha. I currently have a 75 s30 and have not been able to really touch it lately but i have not forgotten my goals for it. I personally love the old inline 6. Its power and sound is amazing!!! I have an l28et waiting to go in. Keep that jewel and update your readers with what you do. I often find motivation by looking at finished s30 projects and going to JCCS annually. :) good luck.
I was just browsing some old bookmarks i had when i realized i had seen this car before.
Check out that hair. Oh and nice driving Spaceboy.
You should ask Brad Lord to find the guy with the supercharged S30 here in NZ. Has a blower on it and puts down 700+hp. He races it in Targa NZ. Same colour as yours too!
You're making me miss my 240Z, Larry! I sold my '73 this past fall as I hadn't driven it in 5 years. I accumulated a lot of nice parts like a Z32 trans, Z31 clutch-type LSD, L28ET engine, LS1 coil packs, AZC oil pan and radiator, blah blah blah. Never got around to completing it though. I'll tell ya, a stroked L30ET with triple carbs would sure sound mean and keep your retro flavor intact. Thanks for posting that pic of the MR2 - my friends always joked about doing that but no one had the stones to climb in the frunk and do it!
Your story reminds me a lot of my friends and I. We had a team called "Club 23" and we used to all get together and do auto-x, drift, drag racing and backroad cruises. Then life got in the way... shame, but we all still have our cars and get together when we can.
i envy you larry! Glad to hear that your starting to restore it!
im planning on getting a Volvo P1800 as a project car...
Man it is great to see a souped-up Datsun get some love. Shame when you just see one rusting away in one of those <a href="http://www.teamnissannh.com/new-inventory/index.htm?reset=InventoryListing">nissan car dealers</a> that concentrate more on the newer models. Thanks for the post
So... Jealous! If I thought there was the slightest chance that owning a car like this in the UK would be even slightly viable I'd do it in a flash, as it is the roads are so salty and the weather so unpredictable it'd probably end up living in my garage 358 days a year. Even an AW11 is a risky proposition due to the rot. Which sucks because I love AW11s.
keep it L series, but with a nice L28. Don't stuff some massive amount of horses under it, only to total the Z.
Very nice read though.
That was great. I can't wait to show what I got brewing: 73 240z, 73 toyota Celica, 74 260z, 75 280z vintage racer
Lugnuts was probably that group of guys that would giggle (in a very manly fashion) at the sight of Paul Walker and Vin Diesel.
When i read the title I thought you were gonna refer to the common loud bang s30's get when going in reverse. People go nuts trying to get rid of that. "its play in the U joints.. no its that your diff backlash isnt properly set up... no its because you havent torqued down the bolts to the right spec under a full moon while listening to a Bee Gees Gold 8 track"
The great thing about a s30 is there are virtually unlimited options for engine choices. You would be hard pressed to find a engine thats has not ended up in the bay of a s30. If you do end up swapping out the engine make sure you look at getting a good LSD in there if you already havent. You might want to hit up John at Beta for some of his side axles to swap in a STi diff which come in a lot of different ratios that work well with that 5 speed you got. A hell of a lot cheaper than those Datsun Comp LSD's.
Thanks for the story Larry. You have one beautiful Z there. Hope you end up getting her back on the road soon. Gotta keep them running.
Argh, good to know I should now stay away from the "Southern California Nürburgring" for the next 6 months...
Still, Nice car. Glad you didn't sell it. She'll keep you out of trouble.
Whatever you do with the car, I would try to keep this stock, vintage personality it has: chunky tires, orange paint, bumpers etc.. I don't know much about Nissan engines, but I would try to keep a good weight distribution. Great article.
larry, you gotta lose those SUs and move on to some weber's or OER's. also, check out Rebello Racing. they're based up here in the bay area and, if i remember correctly, i saw a trophy on their wall: "NASA Engine Builder of the Decade." they are probably best known for nissan/datsun motors and i think they've won at the SCCA run-offs several times too. they did two motors for me (KA24e/z24 hyrbrid both) and that was money well spent. give them a ring.
Awesome post! Here's mine, Disco Lemonade:
Mine is also sitting in the garage with a worn out motor.