There is a build style in the domestic world known as the ‘resto-mod’ where you take a classic car, like say a ’69 Camaro, and build it to look like a restoration but add in new or better parts like you would in a modified build. It combines the taste and attention to detail of a full restoration while still giving the car a unique character. Chris Forsberg’s 1975 Datsun 280Z is an excellent adaptation to that in the world of Japanese classics.
The car maintains the look and lines of the iconic Z but you can still tell it’s a street car that only Chris could dream up. Compared to his Formula Drift 370Z, it’s certainly not radically powered, but it’s still impressive all the same.
“I bought the car as a street car,” says Chris when he was asked about the build. You can see that just by looking at the body itself. It’s wider, lower, and features improvements from the Dapper Lighting headlights and taillights to the CarbonSignal G-nose-style body kit.
It’s still faithful to the original lines of the 280Z, and even the color matches what could have been but is actually a paint code from an early ‘70s Pontiac Trans Am. It’s not a show car which we’ve seen proof of when he first showed it off to the world and it was still white. However, it’s not a full-on track car either.Sitting Pretty
Sitting inside the Z, you’ll not find a roll cage or even a roll bar. You will, however, find a pair of seats by CarbonSignal that look the part of an older racing design with modern touches that keep you planted during hard turns and slides. The carbon/suede door cards and center console mimic the original interior but also gives that vibe of modernization. Of course, there is a hydraulic handbrake. We’re talking about a three-time Formula Drift champion, but at the same time, you’ll find the original handbrake. Remember: street car not show or race car. He still must park it.
It would have also been very easy to convert the gauges to a full set of digital units with LCD or LED displays, but instead Chris used a set of Speedhut meters featuring a speedometer that takes its speed and odometer readings by GPS. The sweeping needles keep with a restoration theme but come with modern, programmable touches.
However, there are some modern parts that you will recognize right away, like the Clarion navigation unit and the Techno Toy Tuning harness bar, which the Takata Racing 4-point harnesses’ shoulder straps are guided through.
There is one thing that you won’t see under the hood or even the chassis but it’s one you’ll feel when you turn the steering wheel. There is no power steering pump on the engine nor is there a remote pump. Like many modern cars coming off showroom floors today, there’s an electric motor that acts as a power steering assist built into the column.
Once you look under the hood you soon realize it’s more than just a show car, too.Skyline Powered
The original 2.8-liter is long gone; “The actual swap was the only thing that was done before I purchased the car,” admits Chris. “Other than that it was a stripped Datsun on stock suspension and everything.” That’s not to say the engine remained stock, though. The RB25DET and matching Nissan transmission were modified for reliability and additional power.
Internally, the pistons, rods, and crankshaft were untouched as the RB25 is proven to take the abuse required to make 500 horsepower.
Outside, however, is another story that starts with the TiAL Xona Rotor 3071 turbo with an OCD Works ‘T51R Turbo’ mod to give it that true jet intake sound that everyone loves. The compressor intake features an AEM 4-inch intake filter while the boost side is connected to a set of AEM custom charge pipes, a Mishimoto M-Line intercooler, and a Custom Plenum Creations carbon/billet intake manifold.
On the turbine side, a DOC Race v-band exhaust manifold mounts the turbo with a TiAL QRJ blow-off valve also employed to relieve pressure. With more boost comes the need for more fuel, and a set of Deatschwerks 650cc top-feed injectors mist out the fuel into the manifold, controlled along with ignition through an A’PEXi Power FC D-Jetro ECU. Along with increased fuel demand, you also get an increase in heat in the engine, which Mishimoto comes back with its dual-pass oil cooler and radiator.
With this much power, you also make that much more torque so you need to improve the drivetrain to handle the new power output. The FS5W71C internals are more than enough to take on the new power, but the clutch was changed over to an ACT 6-puck clutch kit. In the back, the differential was swapped from ‘long nose’ R180 to Nissan’s stronger R200, which required the use of Techno Toy Tuning’s complete R200 rear conversion. That package includes the mounts for the R200, a coilover conversion which also allow camber adjustment on the Koni shocks, new weld-on camber plates, and rebuilt axles to fit the differential.
We must talk about handling, because the Z was never designed with this much power in mind.Fancy Footwork
The brakes, the suspension, and the original skinny tires just won’t hold up for very long. The original rolling stock were replaced by a set of SSR MS-1 wheels in a 16×9-inch fitment for the front and 17×10-inch for the rear, and the tires are Hankook Ventus R-s3s in 225/50R16 and 255/40R17 sizing front and rear respectively.
Techno Toy Tuning GTX2 components replace the front control arms and caster rods to adjustable items, as well as convert the front to an adjustable coilover setup, big brake kit with Wilwood 4-piston calipers and rotors, and adjustable rear control arms.Best Of Both Worlds
“The overall build of the car is focused on adjustability and reliability,” says Chris, “This is not just a show car or a track car – it’s a street car. I wanted to make the car comfortable enough to drive on the street but also to have the ability to handle a serious day of thrashing around the track.”
By the time you’ve read all of this, you’re probably left with a question. In fact, it’s one that can easily be asked even before reading this article: Why not a 350Z or even a 370Z?
The answer is simple – you can do more with a retro car than a modern one. “I chose the 280Z for a street car over a late model 370Z as I am able to do a lot more custom modifications to the engine and chassis and still be street legal as a classic car,” Chris explained. Many states in the US have strict guidelines on what you can do to an engine or car for emissions. Just ask anyone from California, New York, and even Maryland where Chris is from.
However, many of these states have very relaxed regulations on cars built before 1980 as the pollution controls were either non-existent when new, or repairing and replacing them is too much of an unreasonable burden on owners.
That’s not to say it couldn’t have been done. We’ve seen Chris build a 370Z that could match this and beyond; he has an entire stable of them at his race shop.
That’s not the point, though. This is a car that checks all the boxes of a resto-mod, street car build – classic lines, modern touches, and decent power.
It’s as good as any 370Z Chris could build but it has the definitive look that the modern car tries to imitate but won’t ever duplicate. Why try to mimic the original when you could make an original even better?
With that in mind, you could very easily say that this 1975 Datsun 280Z will be better than any 370Z. Well, at least until that car becomes a classic.
Photos by Larry Chen
This thing is pretty cool. I have been wanting to do something like this for years.
Now he needs to do a 620 shop truck! Love how it doesn't look like every other S30, but still stays true.
"I heard the '64' is in reference to the size of... um eh... something in millimeters. (=2.51969") 'They' call him lugnut."
-Ryousuke Takahashi (高橋 涼介)
No photos of it being driven in fury?
Bro5 Not yet.
Saw it at SEMA. Drooled over it. '
The Carbon Signal guys in Dubai are killing it.
There has to be a better way to describe our beloved old-school Japanese rides than "resto-modded". I hear that phrase and it evokes images of a '69 Camaro with a Demon 850 carb, 19/20" Budnik wheels, Procar seats and no chrome trim.
edit: Why is the engine bay black? Party foul!
SeanW1 I kind of like the black, It focuses more on the engine itself. But then again I just like the black gold combo.
Larry Chen SeanW1 but but but the engine bay is GOLD on the S130 Back and Gold Edition!
ps love the rolling shots!
Larry Chen as always epic work bud hope my work can be half as good as yours over on Dodologic
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Looking at the pictures, the car looks like it was plucked from Star Road Japan. This is an incredible build.
SeanW1 "The Carbon Signal guys in Dubai are killing it"
Not sure I agree with you there. The dash looked like pretty poor upholstery work at sema. There were wrinkles around the gauges and what not where it didn't look like it fit together properly. Hard to tell in these new photos but it does look a lot better now.
I've just fallen in love with that. Nothing more to be said.
I've just fallen in love with that. Nothing more to be said.
Great pics as usual Larry, I love this car more and more every time I see it. I would be remiss, however, not to point out the time and effort that went into the billet valve, coil and timing covers by Scott at OCD Works. Grain of salt: he is my friend, but still, the behind the scenes to make those work and get them on the car in time for SEMA was nothing short of miraculous.
Similarly, however small a detail it may be, that rad shift knob was a thoughtful and generous creation by my buddy Willy at Nostalgic Grains. I understand there may be proverbial bigger fish to fry (and limited word count), but this is my personal diligence to shout-out two friends and their amazing work, whose parts contributed to the whole. =)
Larry Chen I was just thinking that a black hood and roof really would have made this build one of the all time greats.
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My goal is about the same with Chris. 71 240z with L28 and twin SUs. Street car that's fun to drive. But I am running on a budget that's a lot less than him and I'm working on it alone as a 16 years old idiot. lol.
Oh, and a pic. Sorry I copied the angle of shot that I saw here a couple of years ago.
This is just one of the best things I've ever seen
Where can I purchase this shift knob? The black and gold letters with NEVER LIFT?
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