New Age Hot Rodding – Built For The Cones

The Goodguys Rod & Custom Association is a force to be reckoned with.

With their first event dating back to 1983 in Pleasanton, California – a small suburb an hour outside of San Francisco – founder Gary Meadors created a cult-like subculture within the world of American hot rodding. Goodguys’ National Summer Series events take place at fairgrounds and speedways from one coast of the country to the other, consisting of car shows, drag races, and a new crowd favorite – autocross.


Traditionally, autocross has seemed to be overlooked by the world of American motorsports. There are some exceptions, of course, but in era most classic American muscle cars weren’t engineered to take a turn at speed. It’s quite unfortunate actually, because when I really think about it, it would’ve been epic to see something like a ‘57 Nomad or a ‘64 Impala gutted and caged with some insane tub work and squared wheels pulling in sub-1:50 lap times at Laguna Seca.

Regardless of that matter though, modern-age tooling and engineering can make pretty much anything handle well enough to dominate the course nowadays. Which is primarily the reason why David Carroll took the high road and built a 1973 Chevy Vega to compete in the Goodguys AutoCross series.

LS All The Things

Before we dig deeper into the Vega, let’s talk about David’s Z. His initial goals were to step outside of the traditional cookie-cutter S30 builds we usually see, and that’s obviously clear at first glance. It screams angry noises at a standstill, and if I saw it coming at me in my rear-view mirror, I’d probably move out of its way. The flares are wide, the wheels are massive, the wing is huge, the brakes are monstrous, and it’s LS powered - everything about this car is extraordinary.

The ‘570Z’ was purpose-built to portray American hot rod style touches on a Japanese icon, and it’s set up for going fast. David often posts videos of him demolishing times at local autocross events on his Facebook timeline, and it’s truly a glorious sight to see.


His problem was that the Goodguys AutoCross event wouldn’t allow for a Japanese car to enter into the series. The rules were strict, and members of the class were even stricter, as they refused to accept the Z any time David attempted to enter it. They are an American hot rod enterprise, after all.

Despite knowing this, David still progressed with building the car to its completion, and as mentioned prior, he still manages to race it on other cone courses throughout the year. And after taking some time to ponder over what he could build next, he decided on the perfect match – a neglected American pony car with half the cylinders conventionally found in muscle cars of the era.

Failure Of The Vega

When the Chevy Vega was first introduced in 1970 it received a tremendous amount of praise from the consumers. It was compact, economical, good looking, and even performed well due to its lightweight design and aluminum engine block. But the praise was short lived, most notably due to serious engineering flaws of the SOHC inline-four power plant. They became notorious for oil consumption and engine cooling issues. Chevy tried to revive the Vega, re-engineering all of the common failure points in the motor, but failed to deliver, which ultimately led to tarnishing the reputation of General Motors as a whole.


Because of this, enthusiasts of the hot rodding world almost always veered away from the Vega, as there simply was no support for the car. With a bad reputation comes diminishing sales, and with diminishing sales comes minuscule efforts in aftermarket support for replacement parts, let alone anything performance related. For instance, if you decided to build a ’57 Bel Air, you could open up a Summit Racing catalog and create an entire car from it, with infinite choices in direction of its theme. But try that today for a Vega and you’ll be stumped at being able to find something as simple as a specific weather seal.


While that may be an automatic sign for most builders to just choose an alternative platform, David found the challenge to be encouraging. He mentioned he specifically wanted the platform to test his own skills at craftsmanship and engineering, while also being in love with the overall appearance and design of the Vega. It reminded him of his 570Z, and thus his custom build began.

The All-Custom Vega

David purchased the Vega sight unseen, and had it shipped to his home in Morgan Hill, California. Immediately after it arrived in his driveway, he began researching and drafting up plans to build it up to proper cone-carving spec. Thoughts of potentially going tube chassis on the car crossed his mind at some point as well, but the decision to keep the chassis original prevailed, and I for one am happy it stayed this way.

I believe in retaining a factory chassis for a car of this caliber, not only because it pushes a builder’s creativity, but also because it enhances a driver’s skill level when pushing the car to its limits. There’s a point in building race cars where I kind of see going tube chassis as cheating when comparing to other cars of its class. I’m not saying it would’ve actually been cheating, but being able to spank the hell out of the competition with an original frame holds more bragging rights in my book.

David spent several months sourcing custom parts for the car. The hardest part was suspension, and though he managed to find the control arms he needed, the rest of the components were custom built. From there, he sourced a crate engine from Chevrolet Performance, but of course it wasn’t a direct fit either. They ended up cutting and moving back the firewall as well as the transmission tunnel to get weight centered in the car. The drivetrain, wheels, brakes, exhaust, fuelling, and so forth were again all custom made and tailored specifically to work with the Vega.

It’s safe to say, they went to great lengths to get the car where it’s at today.

What’s To Come

Now that the Vega is complete and ready for the autocross course, David’s plans are to dominate the series. He’s already been fortunate enough to get the car on the track to get some testing done, and even managed to take home third place in its class without being fully dialed in. With 2019 creeping up faster than ever, David aims to have everything perfected by the racing season, and hopefully taking home some first place trophies.

But that’s not all of course.

Being the hot rodding man he is, David has recently picked up a 1963 Chevy Nova II wagon that he will be building alongside this car and the 570Z during the next year. He’s already started restoring the bodywork, and it’ll be packing some serious heat under the hood as well with Chevy Performance’s new ‘Connect and Cruise’ LT1 package.

Once it’s complete, I’ll be following up with him to showcase his wife’s new grocery and family hauler on the site, so stay tuned for that.

Naveed Yousufzai 
Instagram: eatwithnaveed

David Carroll’s Datsun 570Z

Tilden Motorsports LS3, FAST 102 intake/throttle body, FAST coil packs, Tilden Motorsports PRO Racing wires, K&N 4-inch intake tube, K&N air filter, Rock Valley Antique custom 15-gallon fuel tank, Sanderson headers, Quick Time Performance electric cutouts, custom King Muffler exhaust system

Chevrolet T56 transmission, Centerforce DYAD Dry System clutch, Southbay Driveline driveshaft, SNR200 Q45 VLSD, custom CV axles

Koni Racing coilovers & Techno Toy Tuning camber kit (front), JRI custom coilovers & Techno Toy Tuning SNR200 kit (rear), Silvermine Motorsports electric steering rack, Apex Engineering steering arms, Wilwood 13-inch slotted rotors & Superlite calipers (front), Wilwood 12-inch slotted floating rotors & Dynalite calipers (rear)

Jongbloed 557 Series 3-piece race wheels, Falken Azenis RT615K+ 315/30R18 tires

240Z front & rear bumpers, 240Z grill, custom front aluminum splitter, custom rear aluminum spoiler, JPN Garage super flares

Marcus Fry Racing Inc. roll bar, DJ Safety 5-point harness, Autometer Ultra-Lite II gauges, Bride seats

… and his Chevrolet Vega

Chevrolet Performance LTG 2.0T crate engine, Vermont Tuning E85 FlexFuel package, custom tuned, custom Ron Davis Racing radiator, custom Ron Davis Racing intercooler, Spectre Performance air intake with carbon fiber C5 Corvette filter, Guy Smith custom lightweight aluminum inner fender intake ducts, custom 3-inch mandrel bent Flowmaster tubing & custom 3-inch down pipe, Flowmaster Pro Series muffler welded by John at A1 Muffler in Morgan Hill CA, Rick’s Tanks ‘69 Camaro 17-gallon stamped gas tank, Camaro fuel pump, custom bent aluminum 3/8th” line front to back

Tremec TR3160 6-speed manual transmission, custom flange adapter by South Bay Driveline, custom transmission tunnel, GT500 Mustang all-aluminum driveshaft, GM 7.5 Monza Miller Built rear end (3.73 gears, full floater)

Overkill Racing custom tubular front adjustable control arms (modified), Overkill Racing crossmember, Overkill Racing rear lower control arms, RideTech triple-adjustable coilovers with remote reservoirs, custom Church Boys Racing billet spindles with C5 hubs, Church Boys Racing first gen Nova manual steering rack, custom steering arms from Marcus Fry Racing, rear suspension torque arm modified to allow for adjustability, custom Panhard bar &mounts from Marcus Fry Racing, Wilwood 6-piston Superlite calipers & C5 13-inch slotted rotors (front), Wilwood 4-piston Superlite calipers & C5 13-inch rotors (rear), Wilwood brake/clutch master cylinder with remote reservoir

Jongbloed custom X6 Series 3-piece 18×10-inch +4 race wheels (custom design with owner Ryan), Falken Azenis 615K+ 275/35R18 tires

Custom roll bar by Marcus Fry Racing, custom recessed dash panel with Autometer DashLink displayed on iPad, TMI racing seats, DJ Safety 5-point harnesses, original rear seats, AutoCustom carpeting, custom hidden battery compartment with dual 6volt Optima Red Top batteries, Hurst SS Camaro pistol grip shifter

Custom hand-made front aluminum splitter, VegaMods front valance, custom vinyl wrap over entire car (top is carbon fiber wrap, sides are Nardo grey with ghost checkered flag, done by Brian Jones with Grafikx), Holden Torana flares, Trackspec Motorsports IROC hood vents, custom rear poly spoiler by Rick Brunetti Racing

David’s Thanks/Sponsors:
His wife and kids, Norcal Garage Team, Landon Kupfer, Hector Curiel, Matthew Anderson, Felipe Bellot, Justin Hall, Jose Bellot, K&N Filters, Spectre Performance, Tilden Motorsports, Pacific Fabrication, Wilwood Disc Brakes, Jongbloed Racing Wheels, Falken Tires, Marcus Fry Racing, Braille Battery, Autometer, Flowmaster, Hurst, Quick Time Performance, Centerforce Clutches, CompCams, DJ Safety, Ron Davis Radiators, XtremeKustom Details, Southbay Driveline, Trackspec Motorsports, King Muffler, Silvermine Motorsports




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I wish my car wouldn't look stupid with flares. So easy to go wider with flares. I got some rub-a-dub front and rear.


do you own a Z?


No, 62 Impala.


Ah!!!! That's a big body car and I don't think ive seen any with flares. There is always a first. You could mini tub the rear and probably modify the front frame to fit bigger tires if needed. Check out Ridetech Suspension! they may have what you need or Detroit Speed.


You can't really narrow the front of the frame. Although it's a big car, and it was meant to have a V8, there's not enough room to play with without then modifying, this and that, and that too.

That's exactly what my original post was all about..


I'm fully aware of what it takes. My suspension is done. It's all custom, front and rear with the exception of my front sway bar. It's still on the stock frame, a bit modified. I set it up with a square stance. If I tubbed it and all that, then I'd have narrower front wheels. That's not the look I want, and I couldn't swap/ rotate front to rear. 

Anything can be done, but flares are not gonna fly on my whip even though I love them on other cars like 2nd gen Novas and Camaros and C3 Corvettes. My car is too angular and sharp. Flares would cut into the lower body line and ruin what the GM design engineers mastered on that car. 

They work on the CTSV because it was worked into the design.


that Z is running the wrong v8 if you ask me :P needs a 1uz or a vh45 lol.

but cupholders? in a z? dude's got his priorities set.


Refreshing to read a piece where the writer actually injected his own perspective and opinion while having the courage to actually use “I”.

Too many writers nowadays adopt the Borg-ish “WE” speak!


I've always wanted to attend a good guys event for the autocross.

Now I have that much more reason to...

I think I saw the Z at SEMA once before optima wicked car then and now


What does it weigh and how much power does it make?


Which one? The Vega by March will be sub 2600 making about 350 HP at the crank. The Z weighs about 2650 and makes about 450RWHP.


David is one the nicest car guys ever. A genuine enthusiast. He competes in the Ultimate Street Car championship. I would suggest that anyone who has a chance to go to an event should go. Its a big happy family and you can talk to the people who own several cars featured here on SH. Next year is going to be a good year for the Datsun boys, going to be really fun to watch both David and Tyler Powell wheel their Z's around. Awesome feature!


Thank you for the kind words!


I'm surprised the Vega only run an underpower 4-banger when the S30 Z has LS3.


Gotta be different and prove that you don't need big HP to run autox.


Genuine question: What makes somebody choose Goodguys Autocross over SCCA Autocross? Every Goodguys event seems to have the most compact and unsafe autocross course yet, littered with light poles, parking blocks, and/or outright concrete barriers. The car safety check doesn't look very rigorous either. I've seen so many drivers without helmets that it's genuinely upsetting.

One of the only reasons that I can feasibly take my daily vehicle to autocross on the weekend is because the only damage it could possibly suffer would be a cone scuff...


SCCA and Nationals are on our list. Goodguys is easy because its local and the Vega was mainly built to run events like that. With the rules in both SCCA, Goodguys and USCA its hard to keep up after having to change the car specifically for each series.


Genuine question: What makes somebody choose Goodguys Autocross over SCCA Autocross? Every Goodguys event seems to have the most compact and unsafe autocross course yet, littered with light poles, parking blocks, and/or outright concrete barriers. The car safety check doesn't look very rigorous either. I've seen so many drivers without helmets that it's genuinely upsetting.

It's a different crowd. While there are a few who cross over from GoodGuys to SCCA, it's less threatening to show up and run against others with similar tastes (American iron vs. whatever) and not get beat by something German or Japanese or Korean. Course-wise, the lots GoodGuys have to work may not be as easy to give you the wide open spaces that are preferable for safety and car preservation. SCCA and other autocross-specific groups have a lot more events in any one area than the once or twice/year that GG will be around, which attracts more dedicated enthusiasts.
Interestingly, I read through the 2018 GG Autocross rules and there is nothing mentioned about "not Japanese" or requiring a V8 and rear-wheel drive. The event organizer is free to impose whatever rules of course, and participants are free to not run. So it will be fun to hear if the 2.0T Vega is allowed, and how badly it whups up on the heavier metal - the Camaro with that motor is _very_ competitive against the V8 Camaro in autocross, and that Vega probably weighs 1200 lb less than the current 2.0T Camaro....


The Vega has always been allowed but the Z a few years ago wasn't really accepted. We will be running the Vega and the Z this next 2019 season BUT we are waiting on what the rules are as they are unfortunately changing yet again.


the hot rod version of the vega would be the original optional limited edition twin cam Cosworth motor.


I really Like the Vega. That model wasn't available here in Europe, although we had the Opel Kadett C, which is slightly smaller and much lighter. The thing I really don't understand is why develop an engine that is newer, but still has the same output as the CIH engine they could have taken from the shelf without any of the adherent problems and still produce 110BHP with a 1.9 liter (the same as the Cosworth Vega, but with a single cam in the head configuration using 2 valves. Not the same as an overhead cam btw).

And what is that Cosworth Vega engine based on? The same CIH engine in 2.0 guise, but with a cosworth head? Or something completely different?


I wonder what modern hot rods would be like


Modern hotrod - LS powered S6RX7.


Electric steering huh? Interesting.


We are really enjoying it. Very smooth feel just like driving a new car with the same setup.


Back in the very early 80's when I owned a '67 Nova, I saw a Vega at the parking lot and boy when my car parked right next to this, it was immediately apparent that the Nova looked old school, big and heavy but I always told myself no way could his 4 cylinder compete with my 350. Fast forward to the end of 2018, after seeing this modified Vega, I really want one but couldn't find it in craiglist.


Personally I'm not sure about the 18" wheels, I understand that wheel choice is one of those things that's all down to personal preference but I'd like to see it with 15" or 16" but keeping the width (and the dish on the 570Z looks really good imo) like I said it's all down to personal preference (so please don't fall out with me over it. Thanx)


thanks for your reply. We have been thinking about downsizing to a 17 actually as the 16 inch doesn't offer the needed treadwidth. The Falken tires that we run has a 275 in 17 vs the 275 in a 18 that we are running now. The odd thing is that the tire is the same height basically between the two.


@ David: Your probably mean the circumfence is the same between both? Thats because of 35 and 40 height difference. Its a percentage of the tire width in mm. Since and inch is 25,4mm. 5% of 275mm = 13,75mm but a tire runs around the rims, so most be multiplied by 2. 2x 13,75 = 27,5mm, so roughly a 2mm difference. The only thing you'll notice is a differnt speedo reading if he car is used on the road.

So really not that odd. What I would look into is widening the track when getting new rims. Get as shallow a dish as possible. It may not look as nice, but is faster (way less scrub radius). And by widening I do not mean spacers, as they do the same as deep dish rims. You need to widen the lower control arms, because you want to have as much negative scrub radius as you can, because it deminishis torque steer.

Falken does not offer any tires in that size, but If you are looking for the same tread width, you need to look for 275/45/R16 (slightly bigger. about 4mm compaiired to the 275/35/R18) or 275/40/R16 (smaller) . Although I don't know which manufacturer carries those....