Shooting Jun Imai’s 260Z From The Sky
Hot Wheels In Real Life

It all started with a simple offer from a friend: ‘Come and shoot a car for Speedhunters in my hanger, and then we can get some extra shots from the sky.’ It was years ago that Dave Vernick, owner of ICON Helicopters, made the proposition, but I’ve always kept it in the back of my mind, waiting for the right car.

This is where Jun Imai’s recently reworked Kaido House/Imai Works Datsun 260Z comes in.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_002

My job allows me to fly in helicopters quite often, and when I do that it’s almost always with ICON. When I shoot the Mint 400 or King of the Hammers from up in the sky, Dave’s the pilot; film work and off-road racing is his speciality.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_003

For this shoot the plan was simple: Get a few overall shots of Jun’s car in the ICON hangar at Palomar Airport in Carlsbad, California among Dave’s big boy toys, and then shoot the Datsun from the air on the iconic San Diego-Coronado Bridge.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_004
Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_007

When I arrived at the hangar, Dave was already moving the props around for me. I knew it was going to be a great day of shooting.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_008

As for the main subject, you’ll likely be familiar with Jun’s Z. Jun, who heads up the Hot Wheels studio at Mattel’s design center in the El Segundo district of Los Angeles, is no stranger to Speedhunters.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_009

His Datsun was featured on the site four years ago, but since then it’s evolved greatly. As a Z guy myself, I can really appreciate all of Jun’s personal design touches, so it was time to revisit the car again.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_010

There seems to be a real resurgence of interest in ’70s Datsun Z-cars right now, something that becomes quickly evident when you try to find one for sale. Asking prices are through the roof, too. Just like with air-cooled Porsche 911s, it seems people are falling in love with these cars all over again.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_013
Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_012

The most obvious change to Jun’s car is the Rocket Bunny Pandem kit, which has completely altered the look of the Datsun. While the original fender flares were very tasteful, I think the overfenders and new livery go amazingly well together.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_015

For wheels, Jun has gone with CCW Classics in 16×10-inch at all four corners, the only difference between them being the offset: -60 for the front wheels and -85 for the rear. The centers have a shot-peened finish and the huge lips are hard anodized for a classic racing look.

I love massive wheel lips on classic cars, especially when there are overfenders in the mix. Jun is obsessed with the smallest of details, and you can find little easter eggs all over his prized build.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_019

The more I look at this car, the more it reminds of my own build. That said, there are both similarities and differences between the two old Zs.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_020

For example, this plug that Jun used for the original radio antenna hole is very similar to mine. His, however, seems well planned out with some sort of clock design; I just used a cap from a plastic milk jug.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_021

Under the hood, things remains relatively unchanged from the car’s previous spec. Why fix it if it’s not broken?

Over the years, Jun has acquired a few more badges of honor, though. These are the signatures of John Morton and Peter Brock from BRE.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_026

Although the L28 itself remains unchanged, the way it sounds has been enhanced through a custom 2.5-inch header-back exhaust from Borla. The system uses Borla’s S-Type CrateMuffler with a 4-inch carbon fiber ‘intercooled’ tip.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_027

The interior has been treated to a little bit of a refresh too, a MOMO Heritage Grand Prix steering wheel now taking center-stage.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_029

A MOMO Super Cup seat has also been added on the passenger side, but Jun has retained the original race bucket for himself.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_030

It’s been perfectly worn in over a long period of time, and has acquired a number of stickers, too. Included is the Speedhunters one I gave him when I first featured the car.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_028

Jun and a few of his car-mad colleagues in the design department are directly responsible for so many interesting Hot Wheels diecasts making it into production these days. Of course, that includes Jun’s Z in 1/64th scale form. Who has this one in their collection?

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_039

I love the fact that you can go into a store and pick up a cool scale model of this very car for less money than a cup a coffee.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_031

Behind the shifter is an interesting little button that glows. This actually controls the KW Suspensions Hydraulic Lift System (HLS).

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_040

With a press of the button, the HLS kicks into action, raising the car up 1.5-inches within a couple of seconds. Now Jun can actually pull in and out of driveways and go over speed bumps without destroying his front lip.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_032

The HLS works alongside KW Clubsport coilovers which feature 2-way independent adjustment of compression and rebound. In addition to the coilovers, Jun has fitted ST Suspensions sway bars to fully complement the setup.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_034

Jun’s Datsun is the first Z car in the world to receive a set of KW Clubsports which makes me very jealous. This, of course, is in line with KWs commitment to offer coilover solutions for older vehicles via their fast-growing KW Classic line. Last year at SEMA they entered the classic air-cooled Porsche market, and now it’s the Datsun Z car’s turn.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_033

The hydraulic pump and reservoir for the HLS was mounted behind the passenger seat. I actually just had this system fitted in Project 996 Turbo, and it was installed inside the battery box, so stay tuned for an update on that.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_036

As I finished up shooting inside the hanger, Dave started to prep our ride for a sunset flight to San Diego.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_038

Sidney Hoffmann of Sidney Industries came along for the ride to film the process of me shooting a car feature for Speedhunters. He thought it would be a good idea to install a set of coilovers on Dave’s Eurocopter.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_044

After my original shoot of Jun’s Z, he converted the front end of his car to the popular 240ZG spec, aka G-nose, but for this latest build the S30 was reverted back to the original front end look.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_041

I love the G-nose look, as does Jun, as it’s very rare to see in the States. The car will eventually go back to that guise once the Pandem kit is modified to fit with the G’s elongated nose.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_042

Because of the square wheel setup, the same size tires can be found at each corner, specifically Yokohama Advan A052s in a 225/45R16 fitment.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_043

Since Jun’s 260Z has a few hits of the Blue Devil Z and a few added elements of a Wangan racer from the ’70s, I thought the Coronado Bridge setting would work well.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_045

Because we’d get to the location a lot quicker in the air, Jun needed a 1.5-hour head start for the short journey in Southern California afternoon traffic.

With our flight just taking 15 minutes to downtown San Diego from Carlsbad, we suited up and towed Dave’s bird onto the runway. This was honestly a dream shoot for me. I am just too spoiled I guess, but every time I fly to take pictures I need to take a moment to fully comprehend what is happening.

Taking Flight
Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_050

Within moments we were in the air and on the way to our shooting location. The sun was setting and lighting conditions couldn’t have been any better.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_051

Sidney and his camera guy were having a blast, but I had a million things going through my head… What if I couldn’t find the car on the ground? Or worse, what if Jun had mechanical issues on the way down from LA; it’s an almost 50-year-old car after all.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_052

As we got closer to San Diego I could see the bridge to the right of downtown. It was such a nice day, and Mexico was visible off in the distance as well. Beautiful.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_053

I keep saying this, but moments like these make all the long nights of planning, editing and writing worth it. I just love shooting from the air.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_054

The German TV personality seemed to enjoy it as well. He quickly drained his phone battery snapping photos.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_055

What a great view of downtown San Diego with the baseball stadium, Petco Park, nestled inside.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_056

As amazing as the cityscape was, my focus was on the bridge. Not only does it have real Tokyo Bay feel to it, it was one of the few places I’d be able to single out Jun’s 260Z.

For this location, we needed to fly in military airspace, with destroyers and Navy ships below. Dave was in contact with Navy air traffic control the entire time so they knew that we were doing a photoshoot and not just flying around the bridge at low altitude for no reason. It was so cool to see Blackhawk helicopters and F18s flying around as we hovered.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_059

Although, I was getting worried as the sun was setting fast; there was no sign of Jun and he was not picking up his phone. Yes, there is great cell phone reception in the air.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_060

Sidney and Dave helped me look on the ground to try to spot the tiny spec of blue.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_061

Then I heard a faint signal from over the walkie talkies from the chase car – Jun was on the bridge. And just like that the Kaido House Datsun appeared.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_062

Is this real life? It was just too cool.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_063

The Datsun almost looked like a scale diecast going over an orange track, which is fitting for a real Hot Wheels car.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_064

It’s easy to forget how hard it is to actually shoot from a helicopter, especially hanging out the door and working with slow shutter speeds. By now the sun had long dipped below the horizon.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_065

There was some intense traffic to deal with too, but luckily there were a few breaks that allowed for some nice imagery.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_066

This is one of my favorite shots: Downtown San Diego in the background and a tiny little toy Datsun in the foreground.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_067

It felt like a police helicopter following a high speed pursuit; wherever Jun went we were right there with him as he made two passes over the bridge. By now, I was shooting slower and slower shutter speeds due to the rapidly dimming light.

We hovered around for a bit longer to take in the last bit of light over the Coronado Bridge. What an epic sight and and equally epic day. While we were severely restricted in terms of how low we could fly due to it being military airspace, we made the most of it.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_071

Dave decided to take a slightly longer way home, which allowed for a nice top-down view of Petco Park, as well as a great low altitude view of San Diego International Airport. Everything was so clear; you could even see planes taking off and landing, one by one.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_073

Jun and the boys on the ground were stuck in heavy traffic while we enjoyed what little light was left on the ride home.

Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_074

I want to thank my Dave for the ride, and Sidney for tagging along to film the whole thing, which you can check out in the video above.

I also want to thank Jun for building a car with so much texture and so much emotion. Sure, it’s not the fastest Datsun and it’s certainly not the most polished, but I would go as far to say that it’s probably one of the most famous Z cars of our generation.

Larry Chen
Instagram: larry_chen_foto
larry@speedhunters.com

SEMA 2017 on Speedhunters

Cutting Room Floor
Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_075
Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_076
Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_011
Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_077
Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_078
Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_079
Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_080
Larry_Chen_2017_Speedhunters_Kaido_House_Jun_Imai_260z_081
ADVERTISEMENT

Comments

Add comment

E-mail is already registered on the site. Please use the Login form or enter another.

You entered an incorrect username or password

Sorry, you must be logged in to post a comment.

33 comments

by Oldest
by Best by Newest by Oldest
1

Wow, the quality of photos from up in the air are just so breathtaking. You should take more aerial shots tbh, but I can imagine how expensive that could get.

And regarding the car, is it still street legal? or not?

2

I think the photos of it driving on the street answer that question :)

3

Whoops forgot about that XD but how did he even pass emissions with a header back? since CA loves to bitch about emissions.

4

That I don't have an answer for. At least in Ireland cars of this vintage are exempt from emissions testings.

5

Oh yeah forgot vintage cars before 197x (i forgot the exact year) can be exempt. But it's still strict compared to other states where vintage cars as new as 1990 can be exempt.

6

Yea Cali smog sucks! but 75 and below are exempt, we almost got 76-80 exempt the bill passed last year, but there was no activity with it so it died, :(

7

1975 and earlier. It was originally supposed to be a rolling-year thing, but that never happened.

8

That must be a Customs lot, because those cars are all impossibly well-parked.

Author9

I am pretty sure it's just that. That entire harbor is so busy with movement.

10

There are some epic favorites features of Speedhunters on my 2017 list, now this feature is on that list!!!

I love every aspect of the car but i have wondered why to upgrade on a 300USD muffler and let´s not forgot the entire exhaust system and tip, and not doing it on ... i don´t know.. maybe 3 mikuni carbs with polished velocity stacks at the same time... for a Z porn scream!!!

anyways.. flawless pictures and awesome car

11

The triples are a well traveled path, for good reason. I'm not about that. We like unconventional, that's what this car is about.

Author12

That is the beauty of project cars. It's ever evolving. Who knows what Jun will do next.

13

I'm guessing the antenna plug is a Back to the Future souvenir (from Universal Studios?).
It reads 10:04 and looks like the clock tower from the movie.

Author14

I still like my milk jug cap.

15
ReallyForeverAlone

I like your theory better.

16
ReallyForeverAlone

I wonder if Jun's full name is Junichi because that antenna cap is pointing to X and I, じゅう(juu - 10) and いち(ichi - 1).

Author17

You guys are really taking this to the next level.

18
ReallyForeverAlone

Work is slow lol

19

That cap is 3D printed by my friend Manson, who owns a slammed DeLorean. I asked him to surprise me when he made that...him being a fan of watches and BTTF, he seized the opportunity...

Author20

Milk cap for the win.

21

first of all there are no words that can explain how great the photos are. Thank you as always Larry. And the way the post goes it feels like im in the helicopter too ^_^ the 260z is amazing.

22

Helicopters and a Devil's Z, 2 mechanical things that I love with a passion, stunning photos and words that make you feel you were along for the ride!

23

Larry,

what I love about your articles is, that you often describe your work, all the preparation before shooting the cars, all the difficulties while shooting and in general "behind the scenes" stuff. In my opinion this always makes it pretty thrilling to read through the article, awaiting the final pictures of the car. Totally love it.

Andy

Author24

For me that is always what it is about. Not just the pictures themselves, but how I got to that point.

25

Wangan Midnight

26

Holy crap Larry! I've seen pix of my city all my life, yet these shots blow away damn near any i've seen. Your talents are getting better and better man. Thank you for doing this shoot in SD :)

Author27

I love San Diego. I wish I could do more shoots down there.

28

If you ever took a day off, I would love to show you the deep SD places :)

29
JBfromSiliconValley

Steering wheel is best part of the build.

30

Larry Chen for President 2020, and this Z as a Presidential cab

Author31

haha, amazing.

32

This body kit is dreadful.

OFFICIAL SPEEDHUNTERS SUPPLIERS