There are people that like cars, and then there are people who are car enthusiasts. There are car enthusiasts that are brand loyal and there are some who love all kinds of cars, place of origin no matter. I would consider myself one of these types, as I have an admiration of all types of vehicles that go fast on four wheels.
And then there are car fanatics that are borderline obsessive. Van Luong falls into the latter category, and has the proof to back up that claim. The specimen in question is a pristine and restored 1973 Datsun 240Z that’s older than pretty much our entire readership.
This Datsun 240Z came ashore undoubtedly through the ports of California, and one can only imagine how life started back in 1973 for this car and how many owners it’s been through.
But before we dig into this excellent example of Japanese Muscle, let’s rewind for a bit and provide some background. Before Van was digging his heels into the gas pedal of his 240Z, he was mopping greasy floors at Hartz Chicken earning less than minimum wage (a story I will have to tell on it’s own) in the mid 90’s when Import tuning was in it’s infancy. With the few pennies he saved, he was able to buy an early 90’s style Honda Accord and that’s where the obsession began. After cutting drop springs and changing out corner lights to a nice green glow, he then moved onto an Acura Integra GS-R where he first experimented with VeilSide style body kits, Racing Sparco rims, and AutoMeter Monster tachs. Van is what we would call nowadays, a ricer. But just like a fine bottle of Cabernet, his tastes just got better with time. From that point on, the next 40+ cars were just a blur. Cars owned included a 99 Civic Si that was supercharged then turbocharged, a 91′ 240sx hatchback with super stiff suspension, an 02 WRX with Volk wheels and Tein coilovers, a 93′ FD3S RX-7 R1 with Kei Office coilovers, a 91′ Mazda Miata with a ginormous turbo, an 05′ Subaru STi with ECU upgrades, an 04′ Yamaha R6, a 99′ 10th anniversary Miata, a dropped IS300, E55 AMG, a Vortech supercharged 02′ S2000, an SSR SP1 outfitted slammed 05′ S2000, a 98′ Integra Type R with Bride seats, a Porsche 911, and a Lotus Elise round out the more notable examples.
And then he got married to his High School sweetheart and even had a beautiful baby girl. Most people would think that this meant game over for Van, but as it turned out, this was a good thing. He couldn’t go through the usual car jumping this time, as his expenses were more tied up now that he had a brand new family. Instead, he kept the 240Z he had acquired that was restored by one of his acquaintances, and decided to build his “last” car.
So how do you modify an almost completely restored, and almost all original 1973 Datsun? Many ideas cycled through Van’s head as he read through all of the different options on HybridZ.org. Engine swaps that ranged from small block V8’s to the more expensive RB26DETT were all considered, but ultimately, as a true car enthusiast, Van decided to keep it old school and stick to the Datsun’s roots. With a wife and family, he couldn’t do this all on his own, much less make time for something that would require a ton of it.
Van had contacted Jeremy from PowerFab Automotive, a tuning shop here in Houston that caters to all different types of cars and specializes in fabrication. From their website, their view on cars is straight to the point, “We are not a shop for everyone. PowerFab is for the automotive enthusiasts who want their car to receive exceptional attention”. And Van’s car received that exceptional attention in spades. The car was completely overhauled. Everything from the engine bay, to the suspension to the interior received upgrades and extra touches that did not take away from the nostalgic feeling that the 240Z emits.
The first area of attention is the heart of the car, the once carbureted straight six motor was swapped in favor of the more popular fuel injected and turbocharged L28 six cylinder engine from a newer 280z. Speaking of turbos, the Holset turbo on the L28T sports a gigantic 4″ downpipe fabricated by PowerFab that exits through a custom exhaust that looks more like a huge anaconda snake trying to hide from it’s prey under the Z.
Under the hood, you will find lots and lots of chrome accents that make the motor pop from the otherwise cavernous void in front of the dash. The chrome accent theme also repeats itself on the outside, where you will see chrome bumpers, side mirror, window trim and even OEM chrome window visors. Where you don’t see chrome, you see polished metal such as when you are peering through the front grill only to be greeted by a large front mount intercooler that chills the ambient air and then gets sucked into the intake manifold.
Out back, there is no hiding the single most eye catching modification on the blood red 240, an enormous, over-the-top fuel cell that screams RACECAR. If the rumbling turbo six exhaust note doesn’t warn you that this car is fast, then this extremely clean fabricated one-off piece does. Every car has it’s signature mod, and this is by far my favorite part.
Another area where they guys at PowerFab massaged was the interior. The car still has the black leather interior with the original bucket seats and dash. The dash is actually very interesting, in that years ago, for Christmas I had given Van an AutoMeter Phantom boost gauge and told him to one day use it in one of his cars. As Van jumped from car to car throughout the years, he has always managed to keep this gauge with him. Much to my surprise, he had told me that he based his new dash and gauge setup on my original boost gauge I had given him some 7 years ago. So with that, every stock OEM factory gauge was swapped for the new AutoMeter setup, including a gauge I never see in any car- an AutoMeter clock.
Accenting the plethora of gauges is the only italian part on the Z, a leather wrapped Nardi Deep corn 350mm steering wheel.
The suspension also received a bit of attention as the old worn out shocks were replaced with Tokico Illumina adjustable ones paired with Eibach lowering springs. The rubber bushings were thrown out in favor for polyurethane versions to keep the suspension stiff.
The brakes were not ignored either as the car received four piston Willwood calipers with 2 piece rotors all the way around to resist brake fade should the car ever see track use. 15×7 authentic Panasport Racing wheels complete the nostalgic look of the Z, and go perfectly with the theme of the first Japanese supercar in America.
So what’s next? No one knows for sure, not even Van. The only thing that Van tells me is that he is moving to San Diego, CA next month, and along with his family, the Z will go with him. Where life for this particular 240Z started off on California shores, it will finish one car enthusiast’s dreams of driving on sunny Californian streets where it all started.
Van Luong’s Official Modification List:
Engine and Transmission:
– Carb Motor swapped with a 280zx Turbo FI motor (L28ET)
– New HKS Head studs
– Holset Turbocharger
– Megasquirt ECU Kit In custom panel in glovebox
– High Performance FPR
– New plugs and performance wires
– Custom intercooler
– Custom Radiator
– Custom Fuel cell
– Custom cold air intake from turbo
– Custom 4 inch downpipe
– Many Chrome Engine Parts
– 300zx 5 speed transmission
– Race Clutch
– Optima Yellow Top Battery
– Tial BOV
– Tial Wastegate
Rollers, suspension, and brakes:
– 15×7 ( zero offset) authentic Panasport Racing Wheels
– 195/50/15 Tires (new)
– Wilwood 4 piston brakes (front and rear)
– Tokico Illumina Adjustable Shocks
– Eibach Lowering Springs
– Cusco Front Strut Bar
– All bushings replaced with polyurethane
– Autometer gauges everywhere (Tach, RPM, Fuel, Water Temp, Oil Press, Clock, Boost, etc, etc)
– Nardi Leather 350mm Deepcorn Steering Wheel
– Momo Hub
– New Seat upholstry kit to original
– New roof liner
– New carpet
– New floormats