When Dave Scholz began his 240Z project, he elected to build a high performance Datsun that would remain period correct in spirit. “Doing most of this build very period correct and keeping the vintage look and feel was very important to me,” he says. And after seeing it in person, it’s easy to see his logic. His 240Z has a perfect vintage vibe to it, from the blacked out Watanabe alloys to the flat white exhaust. Eerything about the car has been chosen not because its trendy or flashy, but because it looks right or was appropriate.
With values rising quickly, the original Datsun Z-car has become a must-have, early 1970s classic. Of course early variants of the Z, particularly the 240Z, have always been popular- especially for hot-rodders. The coupe's platform is ideal for upgrading, the chassis easily handling more power and grip, and the styling taking exceptionally well to modest visual upgrades like a lowered ride height and some wider wheels. The 240Z’s fast back, Ferrari Daytona-like styling only gets better with age. Of course, those facts are not a mystery to Scholz, who has been into the cars since he was a kid. He’s dabbled in Hondas and even German cars, but the Datsun 240Z seems to hit the sweet spot for him when it comes to four-wheeled forms of transport. “I keep coming back to my love of vintage cars, the visceral sensation of cranking up a triple carbureted motor, the smell of racing fuel and brakes heating up,” he says.
The 240Z in the pictures came to him by pure chance. Well, that and a forwarded email that he received from the person who had bought his first 240Z when he sold it a few years back. “The email had no details at all, simply ‘car for sale, moving back to Japan,’” says Scholz. “There were some attached photos of a faded red 240Z with a battery charger cord coming out of the hood, and, oh, of course a phone number. From the photos I saw that it was a 1970 and I knew right away that I wanted it… badly!”
When he contacted the owner, it was a friendly, older Japanese gentleman who was selling the Z. “We spoke for a few minutes and he gave me a price that I still can’t believe to this day,” recalls Scholz. “Most Z enthusiasts drop their jaws when I tell them.” Needles to say, he burned rubber out of the parking lot where he worked, ran into the nearest bank and grabbed the cash to pay for his new Z. When he arrived to see the car in Torrance, CA the owner had charged the battery and had it running. “The car was frankly in great shape and I knew right away all it needed was a good, deep polish to look great,” says Scholz. To this day, the Z has not been repainted. “It was a little bit out of tune, but I was no stranger to Z cars under the hood and my friend who I sold my Z to lived down the street.” A little while later, Scholz pulled up outside of his friends house with a classic ‘70’s hit song wafting out of the radio and a loud beep of the horn to let him know he was there. “It was a great feeling and of course pulling into the garage right next to my old Z was a little surreal,” he says.
The first step was polishing and waxing the Z’s Persimmon-colored flanks. Sure enough, the car came back to life and was soon glowing like near new again. The interior had seen better days, so this was tackled next. “That first wash of the car, that first lifting of the carpets and vacuuming the floor boards had my brain working overtime,” recalls Scholz. “I had a pretty clear vision and I knew I wanted it to have the look and feel of a car that could have been parked in a Yokohama, Japan parking lot back in the ‘70s.” With the exception of fresh carpeting and a new shift knob and shift boot, the rest of the interior panels simply had to be scrubbed clean.
Sholz’s long-term goals with the car involved a significant upgrade in performance, so he also installed a Recaro Profi SPG race bucket that uses a Willan’s 5-point harnesses to hold him in place. The driver’s side seat was replaced with a Recaro LS bucket. There is also a Nardi Classic steering wheel in place of the 240’s large, thin-rimmed wheel. Monitoring the health of the engine is a STACK Clubman tach, STACK water temperature, oil pressure and voltage gauges. An Innovate DB2 wideband oxygen sensor has also been installed. Rounding out the interior upgrades is a purposeful looking Autopower 6-point SCCA approved roll cage made of DOM tubing and complete with door bars. It may be a little overkill for the street, but it certainly looks right. “It’s great to sit in the driver’s seat and have things feel just right inside,” says Sholz. “I think the 240Z has a great cabin very much suited to the driving experience.”
One of the high points of the build was sourcing the perfect set of wheels. “I always wanted a perfect set of RS Watanabe wheels,” he says. “And when I found them it just immediately transformed the car to me to the right feeling and was a real shot in the arm to get the rest of the project going.” The Japanese-made alloys measure 15x8-inches at all four corners and are shod with super grippy, 225/50R15 Yokohama ADVAN A048 tires. The exterior upgrades were rounded out by vinyl eggshell white number roundels on the door, acrylic head light covers, a fiberglass front air dam and a Classic Datsun 432-style fiberglass rear spoiler.
While the Datsun remains overall very period correct, the monster 3.0-liter motor under the hood is a far cry from anything that was available for a Z car circa 1970, though the Rebello Racing-built motor is actually the second one that has been in the car. Scholz initially rebuilt the original L24 himself. Unfortunately, the engine developed a nasty rod knock two days after getting it back on the road. “That was the impetus for going to Rebello to make sure I had the best I could get, and of course more power,” he adds.
Starting with an L28 block from a 280Z, Rebello slipped one of their trademark 3.0-liter stroker cranks into the freshly machined block. The crank actually bumps the displacement of the inline-6 a bit higher, to 3048cc. Sturdy H-beam connecting rods were then bolted to the crank. The small ends of the rods actuate 11.0:1 compression ratio JE pistons and everything is held together with ARP hardware. A Kameari race-spec oil pump ensures that the engine’s internals stay reliably lubricated. On top of the block is fully race prepped head that has been ported and polished and uses a 63DI Rebello camshaft and black nitrided intake valves.
Fuel delivery is handled by an epic trio of freshly rebuilt Mikuni PHH44 side-draught carburetors that are fed by an internally regulated fuel pump. The carbs use 39-mm venturis and are bolted to a port-matched and polished TWM intake manifold that uses Kameari insulators. Spark delivery is handled by a 280ZX distributor and MSD 6AL ignition box. Spent engine gasses travel through an MSA 6-into-1 header and then into a 3-inch exhaust that terminates in a Magnaflow muffler. The exhaust tips are some utterly cool looking, upturned center exit exhaust numbers that Sholz says were inspired by ‘70s road racing 240Zs. A Koyo Racing Series aluminum radiator ensures that the motor stays cool.
Check out this video by Petrolicious on Dave Scholz's 240Z:
After the engine was built it dyno tested to the tune of 300-hp and 275 lb-ft of torque, so it was job done on getting way more power to the Z’s rear wheels. “When I drive the car now, I’m paying a lot more attention to what’s happening with it,” says Scholz of the reborn Z. “I watch gauges and listen for sounds. The change in the sound of the lumpy engine and the glorious sound of the triple Mikuni 44s at wide open throttle, well anyone who knows will tell you there’s no replacement for the sound of side-draught carbs. It just gives you goosebumps each and every time.” For the time being the Datsun’s original 4-speed- matched here with an R180 3.364 rear end- is still being used, though upgrading to a 5-speed is on the to-do list. A Jim Wolf Technologies Turbo-spec clutch and pressure plate were installed to cope with the added power.
With way more power than the original chassis was ever charged with harnessing, Sholz has also worked some magic to keep the aging Datsun on terra firma. Stiffer Tokiko struts and lowering springs replaced the original suspension. Aluminum lower control arms and tension rods have been installed at the front and the rear. The Z’s steering is sharpened up by quick steer knuckles and heavy duty ball joints, as well as roll center adjusters. Further adding to the car’s quick responses are polyurethane bushings wherever applicable as well as a solid steering coupler and steering rack bushings. In order to reduce bodyroll, Sholz installed a 1-inch front and 7/8-inch rear swaybar from MSA.
“Night and day doesn’t even give contrast with this build,” he says. “I went from a soft chassis that rolled about like a small fishing boat, with 150-hp when new, to a stiff, fully-caged, chassis, quick steering response and 300-hp!” On the stopping end of things, the front calipers have been rebuilt and now contain Project Mu HC Titan-Kai racing brake pads. The calipers clamp slotted Powerslot rotors, while braided steel brake lines firm up pedal feel. At the back end, carbon metallic brake shoes were installed in the original drums along with rebuilt wheel cylinders.
With all the hard work that’s gone into the old Datsun, it would be understandable if Scholz was averse to wheeling it out of the garage and onto the mean streets of Los Angeles. Luckily, that scenario couldn’t be further from the truth. This is one car that gets driven, and Scholz has even driven it to the annual Monterey car weekend, which is a solid four or five hour drive away in Monterey. “Getting in an old car on a cool morning and going out to grab a cup of coffee and a quick canyon drive while the dew rolls off the window, well, I mean it’s every true car enthusiasts drug… and I am addicted,” says Scholz. Not to mention a bit lucky.