NZ Performance Car - - Contents - WORDS AND PHO­TOS: PETER KELLY

They say that ab­sence makes the heart grow fonder, and I couldn’t agree more. Dis­tance and time have a way of mak­ing a man re­mem­ber all the things he adores about his one true love. The prob­lem is, once you’re fi­nally re­united with your beau, it doesn’t take long be­fore you begin to re­mem­ber all the stuff that ripped your undies about them in the first place. In my ex­pe­ri­ence, the more time and the longer the dis­tance, the rosier the tint on your glasses be­comes.

Af­ter be­ing abroad for six months, my wife and I ex­cit­edly ar­rived back in Auck­land and headed straight for our friend’s garage, where the clos­est thing to a child we have, our beloved Dat­sun S30 Z, had been pa­tiently wait­ing for our re­turn. We had only just man­aged to get the old girl, with its com­pletely fresh-carbed high-com­pres­sion en­gine set-up, dyno tuned and back on the road weeks be­fore we left the coun­try, so we were ex­tremely ex­cited to fi­nally get be­hind the wheel and do some driv­ing. Un­for­tu­nately, although noth­ing went dras­ti­cally wrong, re­al­ity quickly reared its ugly head once we re­al­ized we had all but forgotten the months’ worth of frus­tra­tion, swear­ing and dry bank ac­counts that come with any full-on car build. It wasn’t the Dat­sun’s fault, she can’t be blamed, as many read­ers will be well aware — it’s just the na­ture of the beast.

In our case, thanks to the short space be­tween fin­ish­ing the car and tuck­ing it up tightly un­der a cover, we never had a chance to work out all the in­evitable teething is­sues. As soon as we started to do some real driv­ing, the nig­gly prob­lems be­gan to arise — I hadn’t checked the clear­ances of the bon­net prop­erly when I bolted it up, so it dug some nice lit­tle notches into the freshly painted ra­di­a­tor sup­port. A coolant leak un­der the dash de­vel­oped, re­veal­ing a whole bunch of badly cor­roded heater-hose fit­tings. The ex­haust man­i­fold gas­ket sprung a leak. A mys­tery knock­ing noise ap­peared in the rear end. The car seemed to suf­fer from vapour lock sit­ting in traf­fic on re­ally hot days: the list goes on. Thank­fully, the strong de­sire to fi­nally en­joy the prod­uct of our labours — and that of all our awe­some mates who lent a hand — over­came the dose of project-car re­al­ity, and the is­sues were sorted out one by one.

So now that the Z is in fight­ing shape, has it been worth it? Ab­so­lutely! Af­ter nearly three long years, we’re fi­nally able to mash the throt­tle and lis­ten to those triple side-draught Miku­nis sing while rip­ping down a de­serted coun­try road, with­out wor­ry­ing (too much) about some­thing go­ing wrong. We’re cur­rently stay­ing out in the wop wops about 25 min­utes east of Whangarei, and this has given us the chance to fi­nally use the Dat­sun to its fullest po­ten­tial on some of the many amaz­ing coastal roads and epic hill climbs you can find out this way. I can best de­scribe the ex­pe­ri­ence as to­tal and com­plete sat­is­fac­tion, per­haps even vin­di­ca­tion: hear­ing the big straight six bounc­ing off the lim­iter as I wres­tle the wooden Nardi steer­ing wheel through tight, heav­ily cam­bered cor­ner af­ter cam­bered cor­ner is noth­ing short of bliss, and I wouldn’t trade the sen­sa­tion for any­thing else in the world.

Un­til next time, good luck with all your own projects and I hope that, un­like us last year, you’re on sched­ule for get­ting them done be­fore sum­mer is over!

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