Right now, it feels like fixing up old cars is more popular than it’s ever been. If you take a walk around the SEMA Show or any other global auto event that focuses on modified and custom cars, you’re guaranteed to see lots of heavily modified vintage machinery.
But how ‘vintage’ are these cars actually? Is a ’69 Camaro with advanced coil-over suspension, steam roller tires, giant brakes and a high-tech fuel injected engine under the hood actually a ’69 Camaro? Or is it just a modern car with an old body on top? With the exception of the basic body shape, there’s nothing really ‘old’ about those sort of cars.
Don’t get me wrong, I love high-end restomod builds as much as anyone, but there’s always something to be said for the actual old cars. The ones with carburetors, small wheels and of course that lovely smell that only time can provide.
And that brings me to a 1971 KGC10 Nissan Skyline owned by Gary Stephenson and built by our friends at Z Car Garage in San Jose. Gary, as you might remember, is also the owner of the OS Giken TC24 240Z we featured recently, as well as other several other Japanese performance cars.
But the black Hakosuka you see here is all about the joy of driving; a unique and stylish automobile built purely in a 1970s style. Gary first started looking for a C10 chassis Skyline to bring to the US back in 2010, and he found this car in Japan in 2011.
Like many Hakosukas that have been imported stateside, the Skyline was a good base car; slightly rough around the edges, but able to be improved upon without having to be completely rebuilt.The Spirit of ‘L’
Under the hood sat a well-used L28 engine with a triple carb setup. It made a respectable 160 horsepower to the wheels on the Z Car Garage dyno, but Gary wanted to improve the power output without foregoing the character and sound of the naturally aspirated L-series engine.
The solution then was to fully rebuild the L-motor. Massaged by the engine masters at Rebello Racing, the inline six now displaces 3.1 liters and breathes through a trio of Solex Mikuni 44mm side-draft carburetors.
There’s also a Fujitsubo FGK exhaust manifold and a full FGK exhaust system that gives the Skyline an absolutely beautiful sound; from the aggressive, lopey idle, to the intoxicating wail at full throttle as it’s joined by the sound of the carbs sucking air.
On the dyno the new motor put down a very impressive 272 horsepower to the rear wheels along with 249 pound-foot of torque. That’s an improvement of over 100 horsepower from when the car first arrived from Japan.
Elsewhere on the car you’ll find a set of Ground Control adjustable coilovers to keep the Skyline stiff and sitting nicely, and up front the guys have also fitted a set of the 4-piston brakes that were used on Skyline race cars of the ’70s era.
The car came from Japan wearing a staggered set of 14-inch RS Watanabe wheels, and rather than swapping them out for something else, Gary had the wheels completely refinished in gray with polished lips. How can you not love that fat tire look?Sketchy, In A Good Way
As for the body, the Hakosuka remains largely as it was when it arrived from Japan. Soon after it got to California, the grille, bumpers, and other trim pieces were pulled off the car and re-chromed, and the engine bay was also cleaned up and simplified for better presentation.
You certainly don’t see too many black Hakosuka Skylines out there; it has to be said that the hardtop body style looks great in the dark color with the subtle fenders and tires gently protruding from the wheel wells.
Inside, the interior has also been refreshed but not fully restored. Most of the stuff was on the car when it arrived, including the lovely period steering wheel and set of old Clarion shelf speakers in the rear which Gary has restored to keep the vintage look.
And don’t forget the overtly ’70s eight-track stereo system either, and the very fitting rock album that stays loaded at all times.
Having a chance to go for a ride in the car, I can say that it’s absolutely great – and also a little sketchy. Sketchy in that special way that only old cars with a lot of power can be. It’s basically a Japanese hot rod.
Sure, you could very easily set up the car with giant grippy tires and huge brakes like Gary’s S30 has, but there’s also something fun about feeling the little 14-inch tires break loose as the L-motor hits its power band, and then getting hard on the 1970s-era brake setup to bring it to a stop – all while the guy in the Prius next to you looks over in total confusion.
Is this a perfect fully-restored Hakosuka, or a build that completely transforms a vintage Skyline into something more like a modern car? Nope. And it’s not supposed to be on either count.
This a driver through and through, and a vehicle that reminds us just how fun, visceral – and yes, even sketchy – an old car can be.
Long live the old school.
Gary Stephenson’s 1971 Nissan Skyline 2000 GT
Max Power: 272rwhp, Max Torque: 249lb-ft
Rebello-built 3.1-liter Nissan L-series inline-six, triple Solex 44mm side-draft carberators, Fujitsubo FGK exhaust manifold, Fujitsubo FGK exhaust system, MSD coil
Nissan 5-speed manual gearbox, R180 LSD rear differential
Suspension & Brakes
Ground Control adjustable coilovers, front strut tower bar, Nissan MK63 front brake upgrade
Wheels & Tires
Refinished 14-inch RS Watanabe wheels, Bridgestone/BFGoodrich tires
Stock body, re-chromed grille, bumpers & trim, aftermarket front chin spoiler, rear spoiler, retrofitted H4 headlights
Reupholstered stock seats, Prince horn button, vintage Clarion shelf speakers, eight-track tape deck
Anyone know what the blue pouch in the Engine Bay is behind the passenger strut tower next to the 2 intakes by the firewall?! Photo 10/28
@shiftyXTI Washer fluid pouch
"Under the hood sat a well-used L28 engine with a triple carb setup. It made a respectable 160 horsepower to the wheels on the Z Car Garage dyno"
Im so glad that he didnt do an engine swap because doing so will ruin the character of the actual car.
Swapping an engine is like putting one person's soul into the body of an other.
Beautiful with just enough patina to not feel any guilt in taking it out for a drive at any time. Where's the vid?
@CharlesChris15 I have a '76 Celica GT and the windows are tinted blue.
@TylerHorne 14in tires, especially mildly decent ones are not the easiest to find. Especially if you are trying to get 225/60/14 in the back and 205/60/14 in the front (I think that's what they are), the options aren't great for decent tires. It's not like buying normal 225/45/17 or something like that where you have a wide variety.
@TylerHorne as long as matched on axle it's kool. + some cars actually suit different brands front/rear - the different characteristics used as a way of adjusting handling/road holding to suit your driving
HiDef images are the only way I could see one of these beauties, we don't have any in the country. Thanks Mike! This owner did a great job. I can actually see how 'small' this car is.
@RacingPast The size of a Hakosuka is pretty deceiving until you see one person.
There is a wrong alignment on the rear right corner, may be this is a clue about an old accident . But I should have fix it in the first place if I had that car.
@Putextinguishersinit well first of all I build vintage cars also. I try to do all the work myself. Perfection is not a must if you are trying to build a track car , but on a car this much beautiful the imperfection can easily be seen. So have to be careful+the last bonus image makes it more and more visible. Test fitting the panels and fine tuning the lines takes too much time but regarding the time and work done on this car that rear right corner does not deserve that. Yes I am serious , that corner needs some tlc.
@shiftyXTI @dr770 @Putextinguishersinit No I am not takling about that. there is radius turning to the center line of the car at the end on the read fender and that radius mates a fillet on the deck lid. at that point there is mismacth. if you look above picture where you can see the whole rear of the car, I belive you can catch the asymetry betwwen 2 rear corners. Concentrate on the deck lid corner line mating with the fenders.
that misalignment looks more like the rubber stopper on the boot lid needs to be wound out to raise that corner of the boot... not an accident in my opinion... not that it maters anyway pretty Gnarly Build Love these dudes for these kind of builds!!
so much fun to read, Cheers
@dr770 @Putextinguishersinit I think it's probably just the rubber seal for the trunklid perished or stops perished or need adjusting - I see this a lot on older cars. You've a keen eye to spot that and in theory you could be right but I think the guys at Z-Car Garage would have paid careful attention to things like that - looking at various cars they have built and worked on they have a really great attention to detail so hopefully it's fine :)
Gorgeous car. I'm sad that CA changed their grey import laws that basically exclude any 1972 cars from being imported and registered. The existing grandfathered cars in CA are special!
@Chris Nuggets Could you elaborate? What is it about 72? I thought all pre 76 car were smog exempt and anything 25 years old could be imported and registered if it either passed smog or was pre 76.
@Chris Nuggets I think anything '75 and older is doable. It's after that when you start having to deal with the CARB BS.
this build is the absolute epitome of how i build my car, i want to struggle to drive it some days, i want it to be hard to start on a cold morning, all these things and how cars used to be is being forgotten by everything electronic and turbo, this is to me how old cars should be built! Absolute perfection
If I ever had a chance to build a Hakosuka, I think this is the route I would take. Beautiful machine!
Sketchy fast is the best kind of fast!
This is a little random but I always loved how this car looked windows down. Love coupes without a B Pillar
Just a fan of these guys :)
Here are a few videos of the hako from their webpage:
Mike you are a hero amongst Datsun-lovers world-wide, thank you.
ps I see what you did there tying in the Back in Black them with 3 elements :)
@Speedhunters perfect. Proper old skool cool