This S30 is a car that Sara and I came across late last year during ZCON Atlanta, which was a complete beast of an event. Not being able to attend this year, I looked back through my photos as I knew I had a couple of stories still lurking in the dark and dusty corners of my hard drive.
Among the other features which I’ll need to get to shortly, I found a collection of images I took of Gary Savage’s Datsun, a car he calls Project 280Z-06. I’m sure you can see where this is going, but more on the elephant in the room — or rather, under the hood — in a moment.
Externally, Gary’s 280Z seems fairly reserved, although it really isn’t. A quick look tells you just about everything has been modified, but it all works together to deliver a clean and cohesive, modernized, OEM+ sort of look.
The car features a California rear wing, a Skillard splitter, and 17×8-inch Motegi Racing Traklite 2.0 forged wheels wrapped up in Falken Azenis RT-615K tires. Here, the end result is surely greater than the sum of its parts, while not seeming over the top.
I like to imagine that this would be the exact car that rolled off the assembly line if Nissan had teamed up with Chevrolet in the early 2000s with the concept of reworking an S30 rather than going on to produce the Z33 on their own. Obviously this is a very hypothetical scenario, but given the level of execution and features, like the very fitting Chevrolet ‘Quicksilver’ paint — an OEM option on the 2002 Corvette — I think it almost makes sense.
I can dream, anyway…
Inside the car you’ll find a pair of Sparco R100 seats paired with Schroth Rallye harnesses, and a Grant steering wheel fitted with a ‘Z’ horn button. There’s air conditioning, too.
The best bit inside is the custom dash with an integrated C5 Z06 instrument cluster which furthers the seamless 280Z-06 concept.
On that note, the 400hp+ Chevy V8 was also transplanted from a Z06-spec Corvette, and it looks right at home in the engine bay.
With plenty of power on tap from the factory, the engine itself is lightly modified with a tune and a one-off cold air intake which makes use of a K&N filter. Ceramic-coated headers feed a custom dual 2.5-inch exhaust system that shouts through an x-pipe and out a single MagnaFlow muffler. The result is roughly 400hp and 400lb-ft of torque at the wheels, numbers which are a bit hard to argue with.
The one bit that doesn’t sit well with me is the use of an automatic 4L60-E transmission. But again, this is exactly what GM was doing in the early 2000s with their own cars, so I can give it a pass with that in mind.
Furthering that pass, while extremely well-sorted with Wilwood disc brakes and Techno Toy Tuning adjustable coilovers paired with Tokico five-way adjustable Illumina shocks all around, the automatic gearbox points this car down the path of a laid back canyon carver or an enjoyable cruiser, rather than just an all-out track monster. It’s rare that I’ll ever support an automatic transmission over a manual one, but on a day-to-day basis or a cross-country trip it may actually do very well in this car.
Perhaps the icing on the cake is that this car was first owned by Gary’s brother back in the ’90s, and it was fitted with a small block Chevy V8 even back then. Eventually it was sold to a friend in Oregon who started a restoration and then left the car sitting for years. Gary picked it up himself, and a job that was originally slated to take six months took a little bit longer than planned. Approximately 14 and a half years longer, starting in Oregon and ending in Florida.
But that’s okay because Gary’s goal, in his words, of “building a modern take on import tuner meets American muscle” has been executed to a T. And beyond the paint, a bit of welding and the alignment, Gary did all of the work on this car in his garage with a small tool box, a jack, and a set of trusty jack stands.
In the climate of car manufacturers teaming up to continue to produce interesting cars, I’d frankly be far more interested in seeing OEMs come together to revive their classics. Since a factory mash-up like this would never happen in a million years, I’m glad we have guys like Gary who will do it for us.
Trevor Yale Ryan