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!