People who know me, know that I am a die-hard Nissan Z-Car enthusiast. From the 240Z (the first ever) to the now passé 370Z, I see myself owning ‘almost’ the entire lineage at some point in my life. But why almost you ask? Well just like you would have the one sibling you cannot stand in a family, there is the one Z-Car I simply cannot look at, the Datsun 280ZX.
Essentially, the 280ZX is the second generation Z-Car. It is the car that began the transition of the Z series from a sports car to a grand tourer. A step away from the roots of the original 240Z, where Nissan focused more on driver comfort than the joy of driving. It was heavier, spongier and in my honest opinion uglier than its predecessor – all the reasons I would not want to be seen in one.
That being said, me and Daniel have gone back and forth many times on how it is impossible to find a tastefully modified S130 this side of the planet. I was for the motion, till I met Hasan Al Mujaini. And after looking at his 280ZX, I realized that I stood corrected.
‘Moe’ as he fondly calls her, Hasan found the then burgundy 280ZX on a classic car website sometime in 2015 . A reasonable price, a T-top and two seats was all he was looking for at the time. The Datsun ticked all those boxes, and with it came an ‘in your face’ maroon interior. A bonus he was not willing to miss out on. A second thought and a quick chat later, Hasan’s friend was in the original owner’s driveway to check out the car.
This particular specimen was in better condition than the many others available for sale. The car was parked under covers in a garage, barely used by the owner who was now close to the age of retirement. Seeing that a young enthusiast is after the car, the owner readily agreed to reduce his price, and a deal was struck.
Despite being a 30 year-old sports-car, the trusty and a little rusty Datsun only required filters and fluid top-ups to continue running. But despite Hasan’s best efforts, three decades in harsh Alberta climate had taken a toll on the Fairlady. Rust spots started to worsen at the rear quarters, fenders and door-sills. Interestingly, Hasan had promised this Datsun to his son and vowed to never let it go. Which left him with just one option – to rebuild the ZX from the ground-up. Quite literally.
With reliability being the top priority, the stock L-series unit was swapped out for the bulletproof Toyota 1JZ. The stock twin-turbines were switched with a single HKS T51R unit and HKS supporting mods including the waste-gate, BOV, pulleys and engine belt, with a dual fuel pump set-up finishing things up. A Motec M84 ECU ties the package together. The horsepower made by the engine is transferred to the rear-end using the R154 transmission and differential. How much horsepower? 500 to be precise.
A full-body restoration followed the work done in the engine bay, with all rust spots being eliminated. The Datsun was then re-sprayed in a shade that has probably broken the internet more than Kim Kardashians rear end. An infamous Nardo Grey from the Audi Palette. Accents around the car that were previously chrome have been blacked out. The result is a pleasant contrast, something that a hue like the Nardo needs to look good. The exterior otherwise has been left mostly stock, barring the vented hood and custom HID projector headlights by The Z-store. Both modifications extremely functional, to say the least.
Elimination of rust must be religiously followed by elimination of wheel-gap. A combination of Tokico HP shocks paired with Vogtland springs allow the Z to sit an inch lower on all four corners. Conservative? Perhaps. But less is more, isn’t it? Complimenting the stance are Rota RB’s measuring 17×8.5 ET4 all around, wrapped in Toyo Proxes rubber in sizes 235/40 front and 245/40 rear respectively.
Hasan has got the car sitting just right, but the restoration is far from over. If Alberta had taken a toll on the body, Dubai has taken a toll on the inside. An interior overhaul is underway as I write this feature, with Sparco bucket seats replacing the sofa this car came with. As for the dashboard and rest of the interior, Hasan has sewed his lips shut and wont spill the beans. (Between you and me dear reader, I would not be surprised if the boys at CarbonSignal have some plans for this Datsun).
Quite the rescue mission for an underappreciated classic one might say, but then again it had to be.
After all, it was this car that taught Hasan everything he knows. From mechanical maintenance to automotive history, this 280ZX let Hasan live the 80’s for a change. But most of all, ‘Moe’ showed Hasan the meaning behind a cars character. It was a coming of age experience, a revelation that opened his eyes to what many ‘car-enthusiasts’ fail to acknowledge. It does not matter what car it is, what matters is how it makes you feel when you drive it. And after watching Hasan drive into the sunset, I can safely say that the feeling is indescribable. That being said, if I was pressed to use a word, I guess I would have to go with elation. Yep, that’s the one.