Drive Your Dream
It’s Really Happening This Time

Team sports have never really been my forte. I was always the clumsy kid who got picked last for team games, and then I’d end up running away from the ball when it flew towards me. That’s such a stereotype, right? But if people-watching could be a sport, now that’s something I’ve always been good at. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a weirdo stalker or anything. I just enjoy observing people and trying to figure them out; what their personality type is, what they’re all about. Sometimes I’ll see someone and randomly start imagining what their life story might be like. But recently I started thinking, what do other people think when they see me?

If you’re a car person, you’ll know. You’ll know that my Chuck Taylors are scuffed and ruined from running around at so many car events. You’ll know that my jeans are usually patchy and worn from kneeling or lying on the ground taking photos of cars, and you’ll know that I can’t afford to buy nice clothes because I already spend everything I earn on the one thing I love most. That is, old Japanese cars. 

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Well, it’s actually just one old Japanese car: a 1975 Datsun S30 280Z. And for the last two and a half years it’s what my life has revolved around. In my last project car update I got the Datsun ready to drive to the 4&Rotary Nationals show, only to have it break down in spectacular fashion and have to be transported to and from the show on the back of a truck. It wasn’t exactly the maiden voyage I’d been dreaming of, but we were so close to getting the car running properly and I wasn’t about to give up hope. With winter in New Zealand fast approaching, there wasn’t much time left…

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We were having some major teething problems with the Mikuni Solex carburettors. No matter what we tried, when we balanced the carbs and then applied the throttle, they wouldn’t return back to balance. We knew we needed to get it sorted once and for all, and we suspected there might be bigger issues than just the throttle linkages playing up. So we took the Z down to carb guru Bob Homewood at Hitech Motorsport. Having worked on Datsun race cars for over 30 years, amongst every other type of car imaginable, we knew that Bob and his team would know what to do.

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After a good look over, Bob confirmed our suspicions – all three carbs would require a rebuild. We needed new gaskets, mains jets, idle jets and emulsion tubes. Of course, if the carbs were Weber or Dellorto it would have been no big deal – Bob would have had the parts on the shelf. Unfortunately, Mikuni is a whole different story, as the Japanese company no longer produce or support these side draughts. For a second, I considered scrapping the old Mikunis and buying a set of brand new Webers to solve the problem, but in the end, too much time and effort had gone into our carbs to ditch them. Thankfully, local Z enthusiasts pointed us in the direction of Wolf Creek Racing in the States, who were extremely helpful and had a good selection of Mikuni NOS parts available.

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The new throttle system we’d just had fabricated also had to be completely replaced in favour of a brand new Redline linkage kit. In theory this all should have solved the balancing issues, but when Hitech tested it out, the carbs still weren’t syncing when the throttle returned back to idle. Bob figured out that the carbs needed the original Mikuni throttle arms that they would’ve originally come with, as when we bought them second-hand they had been changed for custom items to work with the old throttle system.

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To make matters worse, it turned out that nobody could source the throttle arms anymore – Wolf Creek Racing included. It felt like we’d hit a big brick wall. On the off-chance that the guy we’d bought the Mikunis off in the first place still had the original throttle arms laying around somewhere, we decided to get in contact with him. And guess what? He did! ‘No worries mate, I’ll pop them on a courier for you first thing tomorrow’. It felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. That was until the courier arrived and we excitedly opened the package, only to discover that he’d sent us just ONE throttle arm! At this point, we just had to laugh. On the upside, we had one throttle arm to use as a template so that Bob could fabricate two more.

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With the three arms now installed, the Z was bolted onto the dyno for the first time. But Bob could only get it up to 4,500rpm before vibrations started shaking the car violently and he had to abort the run. Our first concern was that there might be something wrong with the driveshaft, but after taking it out and having a specialist look over it, it turned out to be in perfect working order.

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Thankfully, we solved the issue pretty quickly. It turned out to be the right-hand axle universal joint which was completely worn out – an easy fix. We got the Z back to Hitech for a final dyno run, which revealed 180hp at the wheels at 5000rpm. This was just about bang-on what we’d been expecting for a 10:1 compression, street-cammed L28 on 40mm triples. Of course, that sort of power isn’t exactly mind-blowing compared to most of the cars you see here on Speedhunters, but it’s exactly what I was after though. I think the smooth, easy power delivered by the straight-six is a perfect match for the chassis, and it makes for a very quick and hilariously fun point-to-point street car. This build to me is about enjoying the Z as a whole experience and I’d rather drive an old classic rich with history and character, than an over-powered car lacking those things.

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The rebuilt L28 provides plenty of torque, and it sounds so damn good screaming all the way up to 7000rpm! The new dropper bars allow the carbs to stay perfectly in sync, eliminating the previous idle issues, and with the addition of some new PiperCross air filters, the Z was given a clean bill of health and was ready to take home.

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We then stopped in to get a fresh wheel alignment at Tyre Tech on the North Shore of Auckland. It was something the car was in dire need of considering it hadn’t had one since the entire front end had been pulled apart.

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We also took the time to correct the excessive toe-in on the rear end – a common problem with an extremely low S30, but an easy fix now thanks to the rose-jointed lower control arms.

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As you can see, I also got sensible with a set of C-spanners and raised the car up to a more drivable ride height in pure anticipation. Could this be it? Was I finally going to be able to enjoy driving the Z without any problems? After 28 months of things constantly going wrong, it simply felt too good to be true…

Hanging With The Z Club
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But it wasn’t. When the weekend finally came around and it was time for our first ‘official’ outing, I was bursting with nervous excitement. With a quick turn of the key and a few pumps on the gas pedal, it roared to life without complaint. It was surprisingly easy to drive; so nimble and light to pilot when compared to the loud, heavy breathing of the triple sidedrafts. The gear ratios weren’t ideal, and shifting up to third and fifth felt a bit laborious, but the adjustment to being on the left-hand side of the car was almost instant, especially in such a small car. In fact, I think I almost prefer driving from that side now.

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As I pulled out onto the motorway and prolonged the change up to fourth, the carbs were gasping so violently it was almost like they were tearing through the air in front of me. And as the revs climbed higher I just couldn’t get enough of their malevolent melody. After completely taking the car apart and knowing what every little piece, every component, even every bolt was doing right at that moment while I was in command was the strangest sensation. It was like I could feel every part of the car through my body. Finally we were one, and it was just us and the road.

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As we passed other cars on the motorway I could see their occupants looking and smiling when they saw me driving. Now they know, I thought to myself.

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My moment of feeling like a total badass quickly vanished though. As when we drove through a light rain shower and I fumbled to find the switch for the wipers I realised that I’d put them on backwards! And yes, they did scratch the paint on the cowling – but only very lightly. I was bummed out at first, but looking back on it now it was actually pretty hilarious. What a rookie move!

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As we drove through the countryside and the gold and auburn autumn colours flashed past us, I couldn’t help but feel a strong sense of adoration for my home country. We have so many great driving roads in New Zealand, and compared with a lot of other places around the world our laws on modified vehicles are actually quite lenient. Oh, in case you were wondering, it wasn’t a coincidence that we were following another 280Z. We actually had a particular destination in mind for this first outing…

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We’d been invited to a special get together at the Whenuapai Air Force base, hosted by the Z Club of New Zealand. There’s a huge knowledge base within the club’s online community that has played a huge part in helping us complete Project Z, so we weren’t going to miss the opportunity to meet some of the faces behind it.

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One of my favourite cars was this immaculate 240Z in perfect restored condition. It even had the original wheels which I don’t think I’ve ever seen on an S30 here in New Zealand! The above image reminds me of those ‘spot the difference’ challenges in children’s books where you had to count how many differences you could find between two pictures. How many can you spot?

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Here’s a better image of the 280Z we were following before. That’s right, it’s an American import as well, (although it’s been converted to RHD), and it’s quite possibly the only other S30 in the country with a 280Z badge. Interestingly enough, this 280 has also undergone a full motor rebuild and has been converted to carbs – although with 44mm Dellorto carburettors instead of Mikunis. I’m really digging the contrast of the flat black front air dam, flares and bootlid spoiler against the pearlescent pale bronze paint.

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This 260Z on RS Watanabe wheels was just another of the many clean S30 examples that showed up. I’m such a sucker for the raw ZG-style flare treatment, and how rad is that retro factory trim?

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It was so great getting to meet some of the Z Club members and it was even cooler that we were all from different generations. Remember what I was saying before taking part in team sports? Well, I still suck at those, but at least now I can say that I belong to a team of rad old school Japanese muscle car enthusiasts. I wish I could’ve somehow told my eight year-old self that when I was getting teased for not being able to catch a softball!

Saying Goodbye
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Shortly after that weekend I had to jet off to Sweden for a quick Speedhunting trip, and while I was away I received some startling news. The boss of one of my close friends had made my husband an offer to buy our ’67 Chevrolet Impala, and even though we weren’t considering selling it at the time, it was still an offer that we couldn’t turn down. Ten days after I got back to New Zealand, the car was gone. We’d had the Impala in our ownership for more than four years, but that didn’t feel like nearly enough time. Worst of all, I was left heartbroken by the fact that we never got to drive both of our cars together at once.

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We rebuilt these cars together, restored them to their former glory when they would’ve otherwise been left for rusting scrap. They’ve left us out of pocket, stranded on the side of the motorway many times, and drenched in freezing water and paint with gearbox oil all through my hair. But the moments I’ve spent working on these cars with my partner have been some of the most special moments of my life, and I wouldn’t have things any other way.

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Those that aren’t ‘car people’ probably won’t get it. My friends and family members that aren’t petrol-heads still smile and support me, but I know they don’t understand me like you Speedhunters readers do. Saying goodbye to a beloved project car isn’t easy, but for us it was a sign that helped us make a decision that we’d thinking about for a long time. At the end of last month we packed up all of our belongings, moved out of our flat, and reluctantly put the Datsun into storage with a trusted friend.

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New Zealand has been good to me, and I love it more than anything. But the automotive wanderlust bug had already bitten me, and there were new and exciting automotive worlds out there, just waiting to be discovered. I knew that if we didn’t leave right then at that moment, I might never get to experience them. We’ve been in Tokyo for a month now, and in two week’s time we’ll be covering the much anticipated Gatebil Rudskogen festival in Norway. After that, who knows… Maybe a trip to Switzerland to shoot some epic hill climb action? Or perhaps a trip to a certain 20.8km race track in Germany…

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To be honest, I’m not sure when – or even if – I’ll return to New Zealand to live. But I’m confident that wherever my travels take me, eventually the Datsun will be coming along with me for the ride. Watch this space…

Taryn Croucher
Instagram: taryncroucher
Twitter: @taryncroucher
taryn@speedhunters.com

Additional Photos by Peter Kelly
Instagram: @pedey_kenmeri_creative

Cutting Room Floor
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59 comments

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1

I really wish I was that "trusted friend". The car looks great, and I bet it sounds even better!

2

Warm fuzzy

3

You know, your articles always cause problems for me. Got a Miata in the driveway and a 240Z in the backyard. The miata gets all the love these days, but your articles make me start thinking about how I could get the 240 back on the road... Great write up, congrats on the Z finally being complete! Mine will never be as clean as yours, it's been parked for close to 30 years(it's been in my ownership a mere 6). I started digging in when I first got it but quickly realized how much work it would take and so it's been waiting for a new house with a garage to put it in. Every time one of your articles comes up I look in the backyard and think "well, maybe if I..."


Thanks again! Great article!

4

Wow must be anti-climatic to get it right and then have to put it in storage.

5

d3c0y I had about a month to enjoy driving it, which was nice. But yeah it does suck! I wish I had it here with me more than anything.

6
deleted_51281200_SOLOMON85

I need to get the picture off of my computer correct?

7

Happy Speedhunting! With love from San Francisco <3 Perfect Zeto!

8

incredible car !

9

Damn Taryn...you should be incredibly proud. You have pulled a build that is the dream of mine and many other readers. I have enjoyed reading your story.

10

St Ursanne!!! YES

11

I got an idea: transport it here and you can drive all you want, summers just starting!

12
BiTurbo from oppo

I must say that I absolutely love the new ride-height. I know people like it low, but I much prefer functional. Yours finds an excellent happy medium between the two I think :)

13

Oompa how did you know…? :P

14

I_AM_DAVE_COX Cheers Dave!

15

I'll keep it warm for you. Just have to transport it to the UK haha!

16

Good luck Taryn. Don't worry, cars will come and go. To people you wanna take care, and yourself. God speed!

17
TarmacTerrorist

Do some work on the side and import it to Europe and drive your dream further.
It's the only logical solution.

18

I've been following the project Z progress from the beginning and what a result it turned out to be! 
Looks good, sits just right with all the right amount of power that you need for an everyday car... It's too bad you have to leave the Z in NZ.. 
However, i bet it'll bring more joy and smile when you finally got to drive her (is it a he or a she? lol) again in the future.. Imagine all the great  feelings that you'll feel when you first turn the ignition again!

19

Epic post, epic car, epic girl :)
Speedhunters should arrange a meet at the ring. I'd be there and offer you guys a ride in my RB30 GTR

20

Love this car and feature!!! keep up the good work. Cant wait till I get my Z close to completion.

21

Pretty good dyno numbers!  Truly has been an emotional journey eh?  I know dat feel.  Sometimes it gives you such heart wrenching moments haha

22

Wow - to get the car finally where you want it, and then to have to store it and go travel... Tough decision, but a bucket list is a bucket list...

Does the friend have the keys to ensure the car keeps running smoothly... ie, a track day or two?

23

what an article... i felt like I was reading the story of me and my car... I'm in the process of rebuilding the engine and this article gave me a lot of motivation! I'm so happy to see that someone so passionate about cars is going to get this kind of dream life! you deserved it! keep up the good work

24

I see you got rid of those fatlace tires? Engine bay looks flawless!

I have had many problems with mine as well. I had issues with my webers not wanting to always pop back up so my idle was never right. HATED it... I have since corrected the issue with a new setup. I also had many problems plaguing my build, and after 2 years myself, Im almost at the point where I hope Im through the woods. Poor engine builder caused me more problems and had to basically have a brand new engine rebuilt. The new motor showed up yesterday and I plan on starting the process of installing this weekend.

25

I had a good chuckle at the wipers! I remember being in such a rush to button everything up after the first time I fired my first build that it is so easy to do something like that and not think anything of it. Great write up, Enjoy your Dream Car

26

Wahooo - great to see the closure and the enjoyment.   And of course cool to see the Z club cars including mine on Speedhunters.   Kinda envious of the adventures you are having - well deserved and enjoy!

27

hey Taryn,
you can be proud of haveing acomplished such a built.The car Looks so amazing.Your articles really push me to get another Project started!I did a full MR2 MKII built with an engine from a Toyota Caldina Turbo and it wasa the greatest time and experience i had.
ist cool to feel your enthusiasm through your text.The wiper mistake is soo epic - and iam happy you postet it!
ist one of those things that belong to such built isnt it?
if your man and you get to Germany - let me know - id say hello to you guys at the Nordschleife!
Were aleways happy to have guys like you over here!
peace

28

This car is so sexy. The Japanese were at the top of their game and its been great watching this thing come together through the various updates on the site. Well done.

29

Taryn Croucher Oompa It's on the bucket list!! May as well do Bergrennen as well eh? Go see the world and enjoy the ride so jelly...

30

Always the best thing on Speedhunters!

31

Great stuff as usual keep the stories and pics flowing like u always do .. You never disappoint !! ..... Always look forward to reading your stuff here on speedhunters glad u a team member that makes a difference ....

32

Congrats on getting everything sorted Taryn!  Wish the best to you and your hubby enjoying the Z to the fullest.  There's a practical sense of reality about your writing that's refreshing amongst the over-hyped gibberish clogging the online automotive culture.

We now need about a 5 minutes sound clip please.

33

Thanks for the update, I always find your adventures with the Zed as being a spectacular read! Keep up the great work!

34

AceAndrew2 I never managed to get a good video with sound! I have this one though… http://instagram.com/p/mY6HlINgtW/

35

AZGhost623 Nope, I still have both sets of wheels. I loved the FZeros but I had to put them into storage before I took these photos. Well, you know what they say about restoring old cars… if it were easy, everyone would do it! That's what I kept telling myself anyway haha. Good luck with your build!

36

Kirk_B Yes he has been taking it for the occasional drive, but I'd have to kill him if he took it to its first track day without me hehe!

37

AGR That sounds like fun :)

38

n_jakarta A 'she' I think? Oh trust me, I have been thinking about it since I left. I want to drive it on the Wangan SO bad!

39

TarmacTerrorist My parents are both from the UK, so I can get a British passport easily… #thinkingaboutit

40

i hope the paint was repairable on the hood of your car! great build and awesome ride.

41
mbretschneider

Great article, as always Taryn, godspeed on your travels!

42

So much envy! must've been a tough build but really looks like in the end it was all worth it taryn. ace job! congrats from holland :)

43

d_rav Cheers! Yeah it was only a small scratch, not as big as the one on the bumper though (someone reversed into it very slightly… the g-nose is so low, I doubt they would have even seen it or noticed they had done it). :'(

44

Great set of articles and probably my favourite car, got me keen for another project this time a one for myself! Good luck on your travels.

45

An adventurous journey to say the least. I love your stories!

46

Such a sweet car. I like the dark bumpers. Got some new wallpaper, the last shot is a nice one.

47

Hey Taryn, it's a tough call to make. My partner and I moved from canberra to vancouver 2 years ago and we made the decision to sell my mazda savanna wagon, and she sold her turbo mr2. Even though its nice to be financially liberated from the worry of having it "somewhere", you cant help but miss having it, just sitting there, waiting for your return patiently. trust me, from a car person who chose the other pill, you made the right decision. gosh i miss you butters, brap on buddy.

48

Sweet baby Jesus, those Miesters are nice!

49

You struck a chord in my heart with that article Taryn, thank you.

50

cooki_monsta Thank-you ^_^

51

Such an amazing car! Absolutely love it, so clean! Glad you decided to keep it. Seems like it would such a waste to sell it after working on it for so long and finally getting it all squared away. Good luck on your future endeavours!

52

There's something about the way that your write the articles on your own project car that just really gives off that personal feeling that fellow enthusiasts can really relate to. Thanks for your effort!

53
PrincetonWong

Outstanding to see her completed and looking so amazing! Congrats.
I reluctantly went through a similar situation 7 years ago when I left my hand built turbo 993 in storage to chase my (now) wife. Its been a great journey but I'm really looking forward to finally reuniting with the Porsche and my S2000 soon. They'll have to fight over garage space as I add the Hakosuka I've been driving in Japan to the mix but thats an issue I'll happily deal with.
Enjoy the adventures abroad.

54

love the z. what are the specs on the works and tires? they fit awesome. and do you have a vid of you driving it. id love to hear those carbs ripping

55
GripHooligan86

the car looks amazing. the works, the cage and the carbs great job

57

Taryn Croucher n_jakarta  'I want to drive it on the Wangan SO bad!' - this was all I was thinking about when I was in Tokyo last May!!!!!!!! I was stood by the Wangan in Odaiba and felt like crying I wanted my Z there that bad. Lifelong dream would be to take my Z over to Japan, would be so worried about the condition it would come out the other end after shipping though....


I love the Mikuni PHH40's - sound like a real vintage racer! Here are mine! :D

58

Taryn... I just can't stop coming back to this article. Having never owned a 240/260/280 and very rarely seeing one in the flesh it's articles like these that really keep me going! I feel like Itsuki in the first few Intial D books, I just have to have one!

59

I need a G-nose...

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