The Pursuit of Happiness:</br>A Datsun Roadster With a Turbo Twist
The long road

As I’m sure anyone who’s ever found themselves in a similar situation will attest, unexpected surprises are something that come with the territory of old school restoration projects. Surprises then – they really shouldn’t be, but no matter how prepared you are for the inevitable, that call from the body shop telling you that you better come in, or that tiny piece of surface rust that just turned into a fist-sized abyss after a couple of light taps with a screwdriver, always seems to come as a shock.

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At one end of the spectrum there’s minimal heartbreak and financial cost. At the other, you might be required to cut your losses altogether. But even if that happens, it’s not all bad news, and often dire situations open the door to much better things. Just ask Willy Izaguirre – the proud owner of a very sweet 1968 Datsun 2000 Roadster.

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Like many others that have travelled the nostalgic car rebuild road before him, the car that Larry shot at Formula D’s Wall Speedway stop in New Jersey is not the same car that he started this project with.

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The first –a 1969 example and therefore one of the last Roadsters produced before the model was superseded by the Z car – had its rust-weakened frame twisted out of shape by the SR20DET that had found its way into the engine bay, prompting a chassis swap. That never happened though, because once the Roadster’s body was pried apart from its underpinnings, it too revealed its true colours. It was bad – so bad in fact that Willy had no choice but to salvage the bits he could, scrap the rest, and go on the hunt for an entirely new car.

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After finding a suitable candidate in this ’68 SR311, I’d like to say that’s where the troubles ended for Willy. It reality, there’s been two rounds of panel and paint to get the replacement into the condition it is today. But I think you might agree though: his perseverance has well and truly paid off.

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Right from the moment Willy embarked on the original build, he had a clear intention of what he wanted to achieve. On the back of a number of quick turbo Nissans, an SR20DET was always going to power the car, as would a host of supporting modifications around the driveline, suspension and brakes, to give the old Datsun a modern twist.

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Marrying new school thinking with old school tradition doesn’t sit well with everyone, but when a nice balance is struck, the result can be rather spectacular. Take the custom carbon fibre bolt-on fender extensions at each corner for instance. I love the contrast between the deep gloss, and the matte finish of the Mercedes-AMG Designo Magno Alanite Grey that’s been liberally applied all over the exterior.

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Although the car is mostly driven topless, the custom carbon hardtop is a pretty cool addition too.

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The one thing Willy hasn’t done is rid the Roadster of all the things that help shape its identity. While some brightwork around the body has been deleted, or re-coated flat black, the shiny bits at the rear remain intact. That might sound like a bit of a mishmash of ideas, but collectively it works.

Turbo tuning
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The other thing you need to know is, despite its inch-perfect panels and flawless paint, Willy built the car to be used – not parked up in the garage every other day of the year or even worse, trailered around.

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That becomes quite apparent the moment you avert your eyes into the engine room; despite the JDM chassis plate telling you a twin carburettor-fed U20 engine still lives there.

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While it’s still retaining the baby blue paint hue from the first paint job – the same colour as Willy’s original car – the Datsun’s compact engine bay is home to a S15-spec Nissan SR20DET.

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Although the 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo engine features a factory-spec block fit-out, it’s been the receiving end of numerous aftermarket performance parts, including Tomei and Crower valve train components and a pair of Toda 264-degree camshafts. You have to love the wood-grained valve cover too: a cool and somewhat fitting effect that was achieved through hydrographic coating.

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On the power-making side of the equation you’ll find a suitably-sized Garrett GT2871R turbocharger perched upon a custom high-mount exhaust manifold and fitted with an HKS wastegate actuator. The set-up benefits from a front-mounted Spearco intercooler plumbed in place by custom aluminium pipes and a Nitrous Express N-tercooler CO2-spraying system with a bottle that’s been wood-grained too.

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With supporting fuel and ignition modifications, tuning through its A’PEXi Power FC engine management has realised more than 350hp at the Datsun’s back wheels, which is a plentiful amount considering the car’s light kerb weight.

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It comes as no surprise that the driveline has been built tough too. An S14 Silvia five-speed gearbox is used, with an ACT Xtreme clutch and custom driveshaft running out to a Mazda RX-7 GSL-SE (Series 2) LSD-equipped rear end that utilises 4.11 gears and heavy duty axles.

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With 225/50R15 Falken tyres wrapped around 15×10.5-inch SSR XR4 Longchamp wheels, there’s some decent rubber out the back, which is good, because it needs all the help it can get. The matte black finish dealt to the classic XR4s is a winner, don’t you think?

Fast and fresh
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It might look innocent enough, but that’s definitely not the case. Couple the powertrain with a Datsun Competition-spec suspension set-up and four-wheel disc brakes featuring Z32 300ZX gear on the front end, and I only imagine how many bags of fun the little Roadster must be to drive.

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The interior re-fit certainly serves to enhance that experience. Being of face-lifted ’68 vintage, the Datsun was originally fitted with a padded dashboard and safety switches. Willy’s taken it back to the old school by retrofitting a much simpler ’67 dash complete with toggles. More of that faux wood-graining completes the picture.

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I like what he’s done with the Roadster’s original low-back bucket seats – a fresh lease on life with a Bride gradation fabric re-trim and strapped with Takata harnesses.

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That’s a theme carried over to the door panels too.

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A much better idea than trying to get the original dials to integrate with the new engine set-up, the full collection of modern, yet retro-flavored gauges – including a GPS-metered speedo – are a cool touch.

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There are plenty of little details in the cabin too; like the Corona bottle shifter, and custom wood-grained console that’s been modified to take an iPhone, which when clipped into position doubles as the audio system’s head unit.

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Reinventing a classic is tough work at the the best of times, so considering the start he got off to with this project, Willy must be commended for seeing it all the way through to completion.

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Walking away would have absolutely been the easier option, but in that case we wouldn’t be here right now and Willy wouldn’t have one of the coolest Datsun Roadsters around to enjoy for many years to come. And that’s exactly what he’s planning to do with OLD JDM.

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47 comments

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1

That is a thing of beauty.  I'm a huge fan of the combination of vintage and modern JDM, with the well executed and tasteful personal touches.

2

... Wow.

4

I love Willy's car. You guys gotta see this thing rip! It scoots!

5

This looks scary to drive

6

This car is beautiful. You can see the passion and dedication that went onto this build. Great write up and photos as always!

7

Beautiful car and superb tricks on some of the parts and craftsmanship. I love that vintage Datsun roadster and hope to someday make a similar car in my own garage.  Excellent feature and pics!

8

One beautiful piece of work here!  Just speaks awesome by the volume.

9

Now that's a classic car!! what's the point in the in keeping it 100% old, slow and standard I've owned and driven a few old motors (oldest 2 wheeler 1954 BSA A10 oldest 4 wheeler Bristol 408?) and I can hand on hart say most of the time there horrible. But that little car has the best of both worlds, old school looks probably bit a hand full but looks so complete and sorted, I wish I'd  done that to my old triumph spitfire mk3 (instead of spending thousands to upgrade old rubbish)

10

Well done Willy.

11

That is one fun I can imagine!!!!  Curious how the traction is in 3rd with far more power than the original motor from the 60's.
perpetualroad.wordpress.com

12

this thing is wicked

13
StephonFazalKhan

WILLY!!! haha when Larry shoots your car you know you're a badass.  well done dude!

14

With shoots like this, I'm so happy to view/read it in presentation mode!

15

RensAdams i think presentation mode helps when your viewing it from a large screen... i use a tv i bought as my monitor =P

16

i love older cars with newer engines. well done. with such a small car i can't imagine the noise it makes from all that rumble from the s15 sr20. you probably get a lot of fun blasting through tunnels at WOT. I always wanted to drop an sr20 into an older model datsun. thanks for the inspiration. well done

18

I love this! I had an old S30Z a while back, didn't get to do what I wanted with it before I had to sell it...hopefully I'll get another try at one later on; but I always wanted to do something like this to the Fairlady Roadster. Very well done, and still classy. Inspirational work.

19

Love this car and the very idea of it, but please get rid of the windshield stickers. Just doesn't fit in any way. Everything else is bad to the bone.

20

d_rav It's actually very quiet. Most turbo cars are.

21

RensAdams d_rav  I am glad you guys are starting to like the new site.

22

StephonFazalKhan haha, It's a cool car for sure.

23

izzy_ortiz I had trouble keeping traction in 2nd gear with my 240z, this must be even crazier.

24

Adam R T That is pretty much why I built my S30 the way I did.

25

STOP shooting cars to make them look like models.. its rubbish.

26

Cool little car, must be fun to drive. Well balanced between modern and classic, great job.

27

speedhut gauges ftw !!

28

This car is so well done. I like the style of it: the carbon fiber roof and fender flares; and the woodgrain painted valve cover. This thing is classy well built and just 100% awesome.

29

JoshuaHaHa gotta agree with you there. love speedhut!

30

I never noticed it before, but with the hardtop and the flares, the silhouette is very similar to that of a C1 Corvette (especially evident in the final two pics).  Paint it baby blue and take the top off and you have the ultimate Cali roadster.

31

Damn, that is perfect, one of my all time favorite cars (I do prefer the shorter windshield, but having been in one, I appreciate the extra headroom), and a very clean swap. Thanks for sharing!

32

Simply P Actually never thought of it like that, give it the trademark white scoops and it does look like a mini corvette.

33

D1RGE  I have those stickers cause they my sponsors.

34

Thanks Everyone. Larry Thanks a lot for everything. I'm in love with the article.

35

StephonFazalKhan  I'm so happy  and honor to met him .

36

@Sensimasa thanks

37

kultivateblog  Is fun to drive….

38

Nic OSullivan  What the fuck are you talking about?

39
RalphScarabaggio

Dude I was there watching you guys shoot this car! I would have loved to meet you guys!

40

I don't know why, but it looks kinda weird with over fenders.
I rarely see Fairlady with over fenders, maybe that's why.

41

I don't know why, but it looks kinda weird with over fenders.
I rarely see Fairlady with over fenders, maybe that's why.

42

Very nice! The custom top is a great fit.

43

Hmm, First, nice work. Very stylish. The engineering itself is involved, and appears to be well executed, and this car deserves attention. So this is all about stance and how it looks which makes for a good article...with some nice trick parts included.

I am sure in a straight line the car is quick, around a corner, probably not so much...Looking at the rake on the car I am sure it is tail happy as the roll center is going to be very high....Lets compare it to a racing roadster, I will put my 67 2000 vintage racer up against this car at say Willow Springs, Button Willow or Cal Speedway and drive circles around this roadster...

That would make for an interesting article. So pack up your roadster and bring it to Solvang for the www.Solvangroadstershow.com and lets take a closer look. :-)

Happy Motoring!

45

Oh my goodness I'm in love with the hard top  where did you get it ? I've been looking for them for my 69 roadster.

46

I'm sorry Ron, with that much horsepower he could embarrass you all day at Willow. He could walk around the corners, then walk away from you in between. Yes he could re-arc the rear springs, but should install the Fiberglass ones from down under and get the best tunable shocks to dial it in. But barring any of that, your well tuned SCCA class rules limited car would be toast. Walt w/67 SPL311 sleeper that could take you as well....

47

Any details on the fuel tank/cell set up?  Well done on the car, I for one am a huge fan of combining old cars with new technology and parts!

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