The Datsun Shop ZA is a Datsun/Nissan car collection in South Africa owned by our family – dad Rudi, me Thinus, and Riaan my younger brother.
It all started in the ’80s when dad bought his first Nissan – a stunning Skyline 2.8 GTX in Shark Blue. We basically grew up in that Nissan, and it’s where our passion for fast cars and racing started.
Dad got involved with oval racing in the ’90s, and as a family we all helped prep the cars and traveled to events together. We just lived racing.
Naturally, when Riaan and I were old enough, we started racing too. This gave our poor mother many sleepless nights, as all three of us were competing in the same class and therefore were on track at the same time .
Not long after, it was time for our first road cars. There was only one natural choice for me – a little Datsun 1200 Coupe. This was basically the car we learned to work on ourselves, but as it was also my main transport to varsity and back, it needed to be reliable.
As we had become familiar with the platform, when Riaan went looking for a car he also chose a 1200 Coupe. Like my car, his 1200 ended up being fully restored too, ready for varsity duty.
Around this time, we were shown a Datsun 140Z (B210) for sale, and not long after Riaan swapped his mint 1200 for it. Since that day it’s been a slippery slope of wheeling and dealing – with many struggles and sacrifices made along the way – to get our collection to the stage it’s at now. We’ve had almost 90 cars through our shop in order to be able to afford some of the special cars in the collection. Some we really did not want to sell.
While collecting cars started as a bit of fun, over time it’s grown into a full side business. The goal has always been to get the hobby paying for itself, which is why we now do select builds for clients who share our passion. We have full-time jobs elsewhere, and both Riaan and I are young fathers with families and the responsibilities that come with that, so it’s a real juggling act.
Over the years we have accumulated many rare items, including wheels, stickers, posters and race memorabilia. These items decorate our workshop, and are also massive conversation starters when friends visit. Even though we are way younger than most think, these older cars are a massive part of our lives; they really speak to our souls.
Conserving and protecting the heritage of our beloved brand and its rich history is of utmost importance to us, and we’re always amazed by the stories that older generations of racers tell us.
South Africa has a rich Datsun and Nissan racing history, and so many great cars were locally developed and campaigned. We have been welcomed in by the community, and I think it’s our passion that’s led to being trusted with so many unique cars and parts of value over the years. With that has come in-depth knowledge of the history.
We are constantly tracing the missing cars, sourcing info on surviving cars and those lost over the years while we still have the chance to meet some of our Datsun and Nissan heroes of yesteryear. The greatest thing is always how humble most racing guys. So many are willing to share info if you make the time to ask.
Let’s take a look at some of the collection’s highlights…
1977 Datsun 140Z Road Car
This South African homologation special is one 306 cars built by Alconi Developments for Datsun South Africa. It’s powered by an L14 Datsun engine making 85kW (114hp) in standard form, and features a black interior, rally seats, unique front spoiler and rubber ducktail rear spoiler. It was also lowered 40mm all round and fitted with 180U front brakes.
These cars are very rare today with only 18 still in the local system according to their model code and VIN plate identification number. This particular 140Z has only 15,000km (9,320mi) on the clock, and has all it’s original documents including the bill of sale and first insurance policy. It underwent a full restoration in 2010, but we plan on bringing it back to its original silver next year.
1977 Datsun 140Z Brian Cook Tribute Race Car
This is a tribute to the legendary winner from the 1978 Wynn’s 1,000km race at Kyalami. After its success as a circuit racer, the 140Z became a drag car, but we managed to find it and purchase the original body kit, KS (Kobe Seiko) wheels, cosmetic parts and some of the mechanicals. A race-spec L14 engine has already been built using parts from the era.
So far it’s taken eight years of sourcing and manufacturing all the unique items for the car to get to where we are now. Hopefully, it will be fully completed in the next year.
1970 Datsun 510 2-Door Sedan Bobby Allison BRE SCCA Tribute Car
While it was purchased as an oval track project, we only ever had one thing in mind for this 510 – a 2-door sedan BRE tribute. The 2-door sedan was never sold in South Africa though, so long story short, a donor body was required and a few cutting discs, some welding and a lot of patience later, we had our car. We are building this 510 to period specification, helped along by images found online of the car racing stateside in the SCCA championship back in the day. The livery is all hand-painted.
We’re nearing the three-year mark with this build now, and she only needs a few more items before we’re done, including American Racing Libre wheels to complete the look.
1973 Datsun 510 1600 SSS Road Car
We swapped our trusty 720ST shop truck for this 510 SSS. She’s an original car that just needs a bit of love, so is currently undergoing a soft restoration. We won’t be racing this one, but it will be used as a family weekend cruiser.
1974 Datsun 1200 GX Sedan Sergio de Oliveira Race Car
Originally built by South Africa’s master tuner Hennie van der Linde, this 1200 GX was raced until 1976 when it was sold to the owner of Auto Quip, George Santana. In George’s hands it achieved major success, twice winning the index of performance in the Wynn’s 1,000km race, and taking 3rd overall in the 1978 event. The car was subsequently sold to Sergio de Oliveira in the early ’80s and raced in the Star Modified series. After being re-shelled in 1984 due to a roll over, Sergio too had great success with the car, winning multiple championships until it was parked in 2002. We purchased the car 12 months ago and are currently busy doing a mechanical restoration.
What makes this car so special is the spare parts package; every component used in its lifetime was kept. That includes nine sets of wheels, two spare race engines, seats, safety belts, the original suspension and more.
1969 Datsun 2000 Fairlady Roadster BRE Tribute Car
We purchased this ’69 Fairlady car in an extremely bad condition about six years ago, and quickly decided to build a BRE tribute car. The Datsun received a ground-up restoration finished with a hand-painted livery. The project has currently been halted due to eligibility in our local historic racing series. We do not have the original U20 OHC engine, so finding a suitable replacement engine within the regulations will be key to work starting back up again.
1969 Datsun 510 E.G Herman East African Safari Tribute Car
This 510 was originally built by Willey Harrington, the legendary navigator for Cassie Coetzee, with its vision and spirit inspired by their rallying exploits in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s driving for the factory Nissan and Datsun teams. The car is built with numerous hard-to-find factory competition parts, many of which were found sitting unused in storerooms.
When we purchased the car, three sets of of period competition wheels were ordered. We have a set of 13-inch Enkei Compe 8 rally wheels, the original 13-inch KS wheels and a set of 14-inch Enkei Compe 8 (ribbed) rally wheels. We’ve since sourced and built an original rally-spec L16 OHC motor that was used in the ’80s. For carburation, there are 40mm Dellorto side draughts mated to a 140Z competition manifold.
The car is still under development with minor cosmetic details needing to be completed in order to achieve the look we’re after.
1977 Datsun 140Z Martin Richards Race Car
Dubbed the ‘Red Baron’, this 140Z is probably the most well-known South African Datsun race car. She has been featured a number of times, including right here on Speedhunters.
1979 Datsun 160Z Road/Race Car
This 160Z, known as ‘Smurfette’ to many, was bought from a friend in a pretty unrecognisable shape. With no original parts left, building a race-look car for the road seemed like the best idea. We initially added flares, a bolt-in cage and swapped in a KA24DE engine, but then a fire at the workshop caused a lot damage to the car. It was at this point that we decided to rebuild it as a true representation of our abilities as a workshop – a proper restomod.
She received a rare works Datsun kit pieced together over many years and featuring lightweight panels for the bonnet, fenders and boot, plus a full weld-in cage and polycarbonate windows all round. The suspension was completely redone with custom tubular arms and rose joints, and Vari Racing brakes were installed. The motor received a set of individual throttle bodies and full engine management, plus a whole lot more. Finally, the body was completely stripped and repainted in Polestar Rebel Blue, and 3-piece Compomotive wheels – 10-inches wide at the front and 13-inches wide at the rear – were added. No shortcuts have been taken with this build; we’ve obsessed over every last detail regardless of whether you can see it or not.
The motor sadly experienced some oil pressure issues during its first dyno session, so is currently back out. However, we are very excited to get this long-term project finished so we can truly enjoy it.
1984 Nissan Stanza 1800 SSS Dick Sorensen/Barry Flowers Castrol 1000 Tribute Car
This Stanza is a tribute to the 1984 class-wining 1800 SSS driven By Dick Sorensen and Barry Flowers in the Castrol 1000 at Kyalami. We purchased the car three years ago and started the transformation, fortunately with a bunch of period parts and wheels that came off the Nico van Rensburg 1800 Stanza. We also have the original engine, which will be rebuilt to ensure it’s all period correct.
1986 Nissan R30 Skyline Larry Wilford Race Car
This is an original race car built by Keaven Greaves in 1989 for the Wesbank Modified series. Larry Wilford purchased the car after his two-door GTX was destroyed in an accident, and campaigned it in the Wesbank championship until 1994 when it was sold on. We purchased the car two years ago, and it’s currently undergoing a full restoration.
1989 Nissan Sentra Coupe George Bezuidenhout Wesbank Modified Race Car
I think this is the only Sentra coupe race car in the entire world. It was originally built and raced by George Bezuidenhout, a developmental engineer for Nissan Motorsport South Africa, and was campaigned in Class C of the Wesbank championship. The Sentra never won a championship, but was runner up for two years. Despite having had multiple owners over the years, it’s thankfully remained in original condition. I’d say this is one of the prettiest cars in the collection.
From cars to parts, this is a special Works Type D Datsun LZ engine. As far as we know, there were only ever around 100 of these motors built, and all were destined for competition use, coming via Nissan’s race department. Nissan has some good information on this engine here.
And finally, here’s a works rally engine from the ’80s, and not used since then. We bought this a while ago, complete with a close-ratio gearbox, and will be opening it up soon to see what its internal condition is like. It features Cosworth pistons and 50mm Mikuni carbs.
We continue to learn every day, improve our skills and keep pushing the boundaries of what we are capable of at The Datsun Shop ZA. The goal is always to keep things as close to original as we can. Currently, we are in the process of finishing a few cars that have been off track for a while, and hope to one day show them to the public and share our passion.
Photos by Stefan Kotzé