Following on from our intro to MZR Roadsports last week, the team kindly let me delve around behind the scenes at their Bradford workshop to gain a little insight into the process behind their meticulous builds.
As with many successful businesses, MZR’s story started as a passion and a hobby. Co-founder Rahail lusted after, and then finally owned the model that would eventually become MZR’s sole focus: the Datsun 240Z.
Wet winters, plus road salt in abundance means that there’s probably not a UK 240Z out there that hasn’t had some form of life-saving surgery at some point.
Rahail picked up a UK car and before long found himself fighting a losing battle keeping the dreaded rust at bay, whilst struggling to find any reliable UK-based companies who specialised in parts and maintenance of this amicable classic.
But the 240Z had gotten under his skin. Rahail soon stumbled upon the recipe that would become the basis for how MZR approach the 240Z – rather than continually chasing his tail and continually making good a not-so-good example, he imported a fresh 240Z from the lovely, dry, sunny and – mostly importantly – salt-free West Coast of the USA.
He then made contact with Martin Ryland, a 240Z specialist operating in France at the time. Rahail commissioned Martin to restore his new-to-him 240Z.
Martin brought engineering knowledge and expertise in the Datsun chassis to the table, whilst Rahail provided the design lead on how he wanted his 240Z to look and feel.
The aim for his 240Z was a classic car, with classic car charm and looks, but with modern technology. The best from both worlds, effectively.
The collaboration worked. It worked so well, in fact, that Martin moved back from France and him and Rahail went into business together.
MZR Roadsports was born.Back To Metal
Operating out of a nondescript industrial estate in Bradford, MZR Roadsports is staring down the barrel of its fourth birthday, and has well and truly found its place in the market.
The restomodding industry is in a period of boom, but rather than say ‘yes’ to each and every project they’re approached with, they only really do one thing: They offer bespoke, turn-key restomodded 240Z to discerning clients.
To be fair, the term ‘restomodding’ doesn’t do MZR’s approach justice. Their process is far more fastidious and methodical – they’re essentially building new 240Zs, combining Datsun’s foundation with their own recipe.
Currently, MZR offers three options on their menu – the Sport Design, the Sport Edition, and the MZR 50th Anniversary. Each is similar, but with subtle differences based on end goal, and budget. MZR aren’t building JDM-style 240Zs, as is the norm – they’re putting their own British-built-and-proud take on the Datsun with some obvious outside design influences, too. For starters, there’s a clear Porsche ‘outlaw’ vibe going on.
Once the client has chosen their base model, they are then free to specify almost any detail, from engine configuration to colour, interior trim, suspension, wheels and so forth.
If you can imagine it, MZR can build it, within reason, and within their own desire to stay reasonably true to the Z’s original design.
The process starts with MZR’s stock of chassis, most of which come from California. The customer chooses whether the car remains left-hand drive or is converted to right-hand drive, and the fabrication process begins.
Before any basic metal repairs are undertaken, each shell is first acid-dipped back to bare metal.
For the Sport Design and Sport Edition models this mostly comprises of cosmetic work – the benefits of MZR hand-picking only dry-state cars – however for their new 50th Anniversary model, MZR completely rebuild the front and rear fenders using a combination of old school craft coach work and latest in carbon fibre technology, making the cars subtly wider whilst keeping with the 240Z’s gorgeous original lines.
During my visit, the team were working on the bodywork of the first of their 50th Anniversary orders. It’s one thing seeing the design in render form, but you can appreciate the wider body in the metal, probably more due to its raw form and scribbled on with notes and numbers.
I anticipate once this is coated in paint and all one colour, the untrained eye would not even notice how much wider it is than a stock 240Z.
There’s something truly special about seeing skilled professionals working with metal rather than moulding, filing and sanding down fibreglass and filler. Metalworking is a hand craft that has to be appreciated.
Elsewhere in the fabrication shop, there are shells in various stages of completion. Stacks upon stacks of prepped 240Z parts are stashed against walls and in storage areas awaiting their new life.
I’m not sure if it was for my benefit, perhaps partly, but everywhere is tidy and organised. The workspace is a reflection on the product that they’re putting out.
Carefully curated and perfected jigs and templates adorn the walls – the team have explored every aspect of the 240Z, and have an ingredient on the shelf to make it better somehow.Assembly
The other half of MZR’s premises is comprised of a paint booth, wiring, interior and assembly areas and ramps for the more mechanical jobs.
Each car is undersealed in a polyurethane two-component waterproof and scratch-resistant product tinted to match the body colour of each car. All internal areas, cavities and inner panels are coated with Dinitrol wax. In short, MZR are building these cars to last.
Each car is rewired using a state-of-the-art motorsport-spec bespoke wiring loom. This is made to incorporate the modern touches that MZR adds, such as its own electronic fuel injection system and modern ECU, as well as each customer’s choice of specification – PAS, central locking, alarm, push-to-start, modern air conditioning, LED lights, auxiliary and USB inputs, DAB, Bluetooth and so forth.
Every single component that goes back onto each car is brand new, or completely reconditioned and, after building enough 240Zs to know what they’re doing, the materials and components used have been carefully selected for durability, quality and finish.
Even the wheels on offer are custom made for MZR, in a choice of 16 or 17-inch variations.
Of course all of this is nothing if they don’t drive any good. A choice of 2.9-litre or 3.1-litre stroked L28 engine is available, mated to a 6-speed gearbox, driving an uprated motorsport LSD and beefed-up rear axle.
Underneath all suspension components are brand new, complemented by elastomer bushes wherever needed, and fully adjustable.
The drivetrain and suspension components offered allow MZR to dictate how the car will drive to a degree, depending on where and how the customer wants to use it – from a torquey GT cruiser to explore Europe in, to a B-road screamer or casual weekend road car.
MZR’s usual clients aren’t your typical classic car owners, you see. These wonderfully restored and reimagined Datsuns are increasingly being snapped up by people who wouldn’t usually buy, own or run classic cars. Let’s face it; it’s not a lifestyle for everyone.
As I mentioned in my previous introduction to MZR, the notion of driving a classic car is lovely and romantic, but the reality is often far from that. MZR’s customers are seeking cars that they are ready to drive straight out of the workshop, and can be run and maintained like a modern car, as much as possible.
There will be some out there that are irked by this approach, and I’m sure some will argue that their customers aren’t true car enthusiasts. I’m also sure someone will mention ‘bought not built’. They’d be right in the latter – but is there anything wrong with this? Should we begrudge someone owning and using a car that has taken their eye just because they don’t want to roll up their sleeves and build it themselves?
I don’t think that’s fair. MZR are opening up these cars to a whole new audience, all the while making something that us enthusiasts can appreciate, too. They’re not taking away from the classic car community any more than Singer are doing with old 911s.
It’s a different kind of customer, and in my eyes the more people interested and doing cool things in cool cars, the better for all of us.
Enjoy the rest of the gallery below. To round off our visit to MZR, we’re going to take a closer look at one of their more extreme customer creations very soon – this one of one wide-body 240Z.
It’s a little bit different to their standard packages, but built to the same exacting standards.