Project Z: L-series Inspiration

A project car can seem like a huge commitment sometimes. I don’t know about other people, but I definitely have those days where I look at my bank balance and think to myself, ‘What the heck am I doing?’ Perhaps there are a few other people reading this that share my feelings, but sometimes I just find it frustrating having to accept that I have to sacrifice some of the nicer things in life in order to scrape together the funds I need each month to buy necessary car parts. There’s no doubt that it’s not a lifestyle choice for everyone.

Perhaps some people are reading this thinking, ‘You’ve already got an S30, what other ‘nicer’ things could you need!?’ Well, for example, my lounge chairs have a lovely floral pattern and are old and worn, and my second-hand fridge has a rusty door and leaks continuously. I screw up my nose when I see that one of my friends are getting their monthly salon or spa treatment, and I can’t even try to hide my jealousy when I see Facebook photos of people going on tropical island holidays or splurging on jewellery or some other kind of self-indulgent luxury. After spending night after night out in the cold garage covered in grit and dust from sanding my engine bay this past month, I could feel myself starting to develop a minor case of what I can only describe as ‘the project car blues’.

With the Z all huddled up in the garage, dusty and dismantled and looking extremely sorry for itself, I just felt like it was going to be so long until I’d finally get to hear it again, let alone drive it. Patience has never really been one of my stronger qualities.

However, the other day something caught the corner of my eye – a black shopping bag with shiny Kanji characters on it slightly sticking out from underneath my crappy flowery couch. And there just so happened to be a few things in there that were about to snap me out of my unmotivated mid-winter slump. I’d completely forgotten about this whole bag of souvenirs that I’d acquired during my recent trip to Japan, and as I reached in I felt the cold touch of something small and metallic. It was a Z-emblem key-chain I’d bought at the gift shop inside the Nissan head office building in Yokohama.

But that wasn’t all. My face lit up even further when I remembered I’d bought this magazine at the Nagoya Exciting Car Showdown. I’d only briefly browsed through it at the time, but as I sat down and had a proper look through it I felt an overwhelming sense of excitement. The jumbo-sized G-Works magazine is completely 100 percent devoted to all things S30, and it has quickly become one of my newest sources of Z inspiration.

One peek inside and you can see why – page after page of pure L-series goodness. Unfortunately I can only read the parts that are written in katakana, but the photos do most of the talking anyway.

I thought I’d quickly share a few quick close-up photos from the magazine of some of my favourite pages, starting off with this particular set-up, because, quite frankly, it’s just absolutely beautiful. I’m surprised at how much I love the black engine bay too as I usually prefer engine bays being painted in the same colour as the body. But the black really seems to frame the beautifully polished L28 – which has been stroked out to 3.1L (swoon!) – and making it really stand out. The de-loom makes such a huge difference – and that exhaust manifold – ahh!

This maroon G-nose Z has a more classic look on the outside with the light covers and Watanabes, but everything under the hood is far from stock with a 3.0L L28 swap.

With yet another super clean and de-loomed engine bay, this S30 is the same colour as my own Project Z and has the L28 motor too. This one made me feel an overwhelming urge to buy a strut brace.

This monster L32 looks tidy enough to eat a meal off. Perhaps a bit too much chrome for my tastes, but neverless so impressive to drool over, as the detailing is truly stunning. The most exciting part about nerding out over these pictures though was knowing that soon Project Z’s engine bay could potentially look as amazing as one of these.

After being completely brainwashed by my new S30Z bible I realised that there was definitely one thing quite obviously missing from my own L28 setup – a set of triple carburetors. That’s where this set of 40mm Mikuni Solex R Type carbs come into the picture.

I actually picked these up around six months ago when I spotted them for sale at a very reasonable price. I had a feeling they would come in handy one day, and with that day fast approaching last weekend we had our friend Ricky (an experienced Mikuni carb guy who also owns a very badass Z race car) have a proper look over them to make sure they were all working correctly and still in good condition.

All the jets and emulsion tubes were functioning properly, but there were a few little things that were messed up and needed addressing. It turned out that one of the idle jets was the wrong size, for example. No big deal, but it’s something that will need to be sorted before they are put to use.

The carbs were in really good condition, and coincidentally the previous owner had already set them up fairly close to how we needed it to be according to the specs in the Mikuni manual.

After purchasing a new intake manifold and having a look at it next to the new carbs, Ricky pointed out that they would need some slight modifications to fit properly. From his experience, although the carbs can run with the soft mounts that were supplied, they’re not worth the hassle as they run the risk of air leaks and other niggly problems. Phenolic spacers would be a better option.

They reduce intake temps as well, so I decided to go with the spacers. They are currently being made up and should arrive any day now. The next step will be to get the polish out and give these babies a good clean. Not only will they look super rad but I know that the sound the L28 is going to make – coming out of my own engine bay – is going to blow my mind!

Speaking of blowing minds, this is Ricky’s 240Z which he races in a few different classic Japanese race classes in New Zealand. Although my engine won’t be as highly strung as his, hearing the high compression (12:1) 2.9-litre L28 stroker motor start up when I first met him a few months ago was definitely one of the reasons behind me wanting to keep the L28 in Project Z.

It sounds so angry and awesome!

Last time we were at Ricky’s place he casually mentioned, “By the way, would you like to check out my neighbour’s car?” His buddy next door also happens to own a race-spec Z, with an equally mouth-watering 13:1 ratio L28, albeit converted to 2.9-litre and running triple sidedrafts too. I think I need to move into this neighbourhood.

After complete L28 overload, my excitement levels were reaching maximum #joyofmachine and I was almost ready to spontaneously combust by the time it came around for my L28 to get rebored. We took the block over to Wade Automotive, where the work was carried out…

… and the crankshaft was checked out too. We originally weren’t going to take the crank out, but because we had to do the rebore it had to come out anyway so we decided to get it looked at. Lucky we did too, as it turned out there were a few issues with it. Firstly, it was ever so slightly bent, so we had it corrected. Secondly the front seal surface was badly corroded and needed to be welded and resurfaced. And finally, the main bearing journal surface – which was not in the best condition either – had to be resurfaced too.

Back in the block, the cylinders had to be enlarged by half a millimetre to get rid of the nasty gouge caused by the broken piston ring…

… and just in time to make way for these flat-top, 1mm oversized (87mm) cast pistons which had just arrived from America. I decided there wasn’t much point in getting forged pistons, as it’s not like I plan on competitively racing the Z; although pulling the forged ones out to put cast ones in did seem a bit weird. But these will certainly do their job, and will be way more suitable for the compression we need in comparison to the old dished pistons.

The pistons were balanced…

… and then rods were connected.

Finally the cylinders were finished off with the honing machine…

… to achieve a cross-hatched finish. Observing this whole process really made me see how people can get so easily carried away with modifying a car. Prior to Project Z, I’d never reached the stage of modifying a vehicle to the point of having an engine rebuilt before, but the whole process is just so exciting that I don’t want it to stop. I know its not the craziest or most expensive motor rebuild, but seeing everything being improved and coming together is so interesting and is already giving me an immense sense of achievement.

I might have experienced a brief moment of weakness recently, but all it took was to find a bit of inspiration to remind me about the driving force behind my passion, and to once again show me the true joy in my hobby. While other girls might have photographs of them at a nice beach somewhere, the leftover receipts from their beauty appointments or an aging (and depreciating) designer handbag to look at on their bedroom floor, I have a bad ass S30Z patiently waiting for me in my garage, and it’s not going anywhere. The moment the engine turns over and it comes to life once again, there’s no doubt in my mind that it’ll be worth the time and money spent.

I think that’s cooler than a handbag anyway… right?

Taryn Croucher
Instagram: taryncroucher
Twitter: taryncroucher

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yes definitely , there will be days or months of doubt in a project car, but you just have to hold still once you surpass it. There will be light and nirvana.