When I attended Buttonwillow Raceway a couple of weekends ago for the VTEC Club USA event, Hondas weren’t the only cars taking to the track over the course of the day.
Other sessions included a more traditional group of vehicles, with plenty of Miatas, M3s, WRXs and other track day favorites. While my primary plan was to cover the Hondas, I couldn’t help but be distracted by one of these other attendees – a super-clean and largely original looking Datsun 240Z.
The familiar shape of the orange S30 was unmistakable, especially when contrasted against the far newer cars it was sharing the track with. Then I noticed it was moving at a clip much quicker than its stock looks could ever suggest. I headed to its spot in the paddock for a closer inspection…
The 1972 240Z is owned by gentleman named Mario who originally hails from Oregon but has since relocated to Central California. He was out at Buttonwillow to enjoy the track day with some of his classic car-loving buddies.
After seeing how quick the car looked, I was very interested to learn what it was running in the engine department. I thought I’d heard the note of a turbo straight-six, and when Mario popped the hood I was expecting an RB or a JZ swap of some sort. But my assumption was wrong.
What I had actaully heard was indeed a turbocharged I6, but it was an L28ET motor originally pulled out of an ’82 280ZX Turbo. At one point these were popular swaps for early Z cars as they dropped right in with factory mounts, but you don’t see too many L28ET-powered S30s these days.
While the turbo SOHC inline-six makes a decent amount of power in stock form, Mario’s motor has been upgraded for an output of around 300 horsepower.
If there’s anything that suggests this Z is packing a bit more heat than a standard S30, then it has to be the 17-inch wheel and tire combo. The wheels are Grenade GX01s, a discontinued Japanese aftermarket wheel that was based on the design of the factory R34 Skyline GT-R item. Seventeens were a necessary upgrade to clear the big Porsche disc brakes that Mario has fitted.
The interior is just as clean as the exterior; additions here include a basic roll bar, Momo steering wheel and aftermarket bucket seats for track duty.
Is Mario’s Z the fastest or most exotic S30 we’ve featured? Nope. But I just love its simplicity.
There are no outrageous flares or crazy aero parts, and no 800hp motor under the hood. Instead, Mario’s built a car that fully retains the original beauty of the S30 while injecting just the right upgrades to make it perform at a modern level. In my books, it doesn’t get much better than that.
At first glance I thought it had stock R34 wheels, but those Grenade reps are pretty cool. Definitely a breath of fresh air compared to all the steroid flared, four-digit horsepower cars we see. Wish we could hear how she sounds! =)
Sorry those aren't replicas wheels there the real thing. I know because my uncle Mario told me he got them straight from Japan.
I...don't understand the intercooler piping. I thought at first it was a supercharger setup with the blower mounted on the passenger side, but if it is an L28et it has both the exhaust and intake manifold on the same side. You can clearly see the intake intercooler pipe on the driver side, but then you see a blow off valve on the passenger side?
Is it snaking all the way around and the turbo is hooked up directly to the driver side inlet and the intake manifold is snaking all the way around to hook up to the passenger side of the intercooler?
Beautiful car regardless. You don't see too many people running the stock front valence especially with the lift characteristics. Should make the car pretty interesting around 125mph.
@seattlejester On the very bottom of the first engine shot you can just see what looks like a bit of polished pipe (directly to the left of the coil). I suspect that the piping is going around the front underneath the fan and then comes around the side of the motor towards the firewall a ways before being rerouted in a very large U back up to the intercooler inlet. This way the piping doesn't need to make super sharp turns which would make it flow less efficiently.
@MTDatsun @seattlejester My goodness, I can't believe you spotted that down there in the shadow. So most likely the turbo is feeding the driver side of the intercooler and the intake is being routed from the passenger side underneath the frame rail and back up to the driver side. I've seen similar setups, but I guess the blow off valve is what threw me off.
Im delighted with this build,very nice. engine choice is very simple solution, In sea of 2JZ,RB26,VQ35,SR20DETs, and LS1 conversions in s30 I have forgot that there was early 300ZX turbo wich engine would fit niceley into it.
Do you know what was done suspension-wise?
@BozoMotosport It looked to be mostly original, coilovers and sway bars most likely.
My buddy and I saw this at the Pismo Z Day last year parked on the street. It was really fun to look at since it originally seemed so stock (especially considering the three V8 S30s in the show).
The best part was that we just kept finding little things on it, like the wheels (my buddy had an R32 GT-R at the time, so he was all over the wheels trying to figure out what they were). Then we saw the brakes, then the roll bar. Then we made clowns out of ourselves when we saw the intercooler. After determining that the transmission appeared to be in stock position based on the shifter, he decided it must be a 280ZX turbo motor (he has an S30 with an L28et back up in Oregon shacked up waiting for some much needed attention). I made a bet with him that it wasn't, since so few people do the swap. After about five or ten minutes of rolling and crawling around on the ground in the street we decided the pan was definitely L-Series shaped.
Best street sighting I've had in a long time... I'm sure everyone else got a kick watching a couple of college kids get dirty trying to get a peek under a car twice their age...
@MTDatsun I feel proud when young kids stares at my car. Most of them does not have a clue what are they looking at.
@MTDatsun I know that feeling all too well!
@MTDatsun did you drop a quarter on the ground next to the car and casually sneak a glance at the undercarriage when you picked is back up???
@jay8393 I def thought of Larry's car when I saw it haha.
@Twitch_6 Yes. Well-played Mario.
@StreetStatik You just can't beat them!