NZ Performance Car - - Contens -


It may have been a rough road, but the build of Peter and Taryn Kelly’s lefthook 280Z is now com­plete, although this car’s story is only just be­gin­ning

It was built by past edi­tor Peter Kelly and his wife Taryn, so it shouldn’t come as a sur­prise that this Dat­sun 280Z isn’t new to the pages of NZPC, or to my­self. If you’ve picked up the mag­a­zine over the past few years you will have seen Pedey and Taryn’s frus­trat­ing two-year strug­gle as they wres­tled with the build each and ev­ery step of the way. But as any­one who has pieced to­gether a ground-up project will at­test, you kind of get lost in the build, and noth­ing else mat­ters but get­ting it done — not the empty wal­let, skinned knuck­les or that damn part that just won’t fit.

The cou­ple’s S30 dream was ini­tially sparked by Taryn, who fell in love with the chas­sis when Cal­i­for­nia-based Yuta Akaishi dropped his ground­scrap­ing ex­am­ple on Speed­hunters, circa 2009. This was fur­ther ce­mented when the pair ven­tured to Tsukuba Cir­cuit in Ja­pan a few years later for the Idler Games, as Pedey ex­plained. “There was a stripped-out Fair­lady Z pe­riod-cor­rect race car, the sound of the L28 run­ning triple side-draughts blast­ing past on track was amaz­ing — we had to have one. Some months later, when we were back home, Taryn found one on Trade Me. We didn’t have any money to pur­chase it, so we both vis­ited our bank man­agers.” The car they had fallen in love with was a left-hook USDM Dat­sun 280Z that had found its way to New Zealand back in 1976. It came into the coun­try with an Amer­i­can Air Force of­fi­cer who was part of the US’s “Op­er­a­tion Deep Freeze” in Antarc­tica. The Air­force al­lows cer­tain per­sonel, who were based in Christchurch, to bring their own per­sonal cars with them from the States un­der spe­cial per­mit. Ap­par­ently the Zed had a built L28, and had been re­sprayed a few years ear­lier. But as the pair was about to find out, no old car is quite as it seems, and when day one saw it put on the dyno at STM for a health check, it was mak­ing only 74.5kW (100hp) at the rear wheels. Some­thing was def­i­nitely wrong with the sup­pos­edly high-com­pres­sion en­gine, but the true ex­tent of the is­sue would not be re­vealed for an­other year.

From the be­gin­ning the pair had a solid vi­sion of ex­actly what they wanted for the Dat­sun. It was to be a street car, and they planned to ac­cen­tu­ate the S30’s vin­tage el­e­gant-yet-ag­gres­sive body shape. To do this a ZG-con­ver­sion kit, based off the spe­cial model JDM-only Fair­lady ZG, was pur­chased in Australia, and the ever-fru­gal Pedey put Taryn on a plane to Mel­bourne, so she could bring it back as lug­guage as it was cheaper (and safer) than hav­ing the kit shipped. “It’s a love hate thing, some peo­ple hate it, but I think it trans­forms the shape, it’s way more ’60s su­per­car,” Taryn says. The elon­gated G-nose re­ally does bal­ance out the front end, pro­vid­ing a cer­tain el­e­gance that bal­ances out the ag­gres­sive duck­tail wing and fen­der flares. GT Re­fin­ish­ers re­luc­tantly took on the job of wrestling the out-of-shape fi­bre­glass into sub­mis­sion, smooth­ing, short­en­ing and fit­ting a 240Z rear bumper, fit­ting gen­uine ZG mir­rors that Taryn had sourced from Ja­pan, as well as re­mov­ing rust from a few places in­clud­ing the chas­sis rails, both doors, the floors and a few other spots. Pedey is quick to point out that there’s no such thing as a rust-free S30, “If you think it’s rust free, you’re prob­a­bly wrong, and you just haven’t found it yet.”

One of the most frus­trat­ing jobs of the en­tire build be­came get­ting the sus­pen­sion right: no, scratch that, get­ting the car low enough to scrape road mark­ings clean off. “There is no such thing as bolt-in coilovers for th­ese cars, you can pur­chase a kit but you still need to cut and weld the front struts. In ret­ro­spect we should have pur­chased a Ground Con­trol kit, as there would have been less screw­ing around. We re­peat­edly re­chopped and rewelded us­ing dif­fer­ent shocks to get it low enough.” All that trial and er­ror also un­for­tu­nately meant that they didn’t com­mit to buy­ing (ex­pen­sive) qual­ity gear for fear it would be wrong and need to be re­placed. “We pur­chased the cheaper stuff, the springs are way too stiff so the shock is over­pow­ered. But now it’s set up at the height we want it, we’re go­ing to go to a slightly softer spring, and de­cent Koni ad­justable shocks with the cor­rect valv­ing.” With the looks on point it was time to shift fo­cus to the en­gine power, or lack of. At first a set of fac­tory 240Z twin SU carbs were thrown on, as it was thought the ar­chaic fac­tory Bosch EFI sys­tem (the USDM 280Z was the first Z to be fuel in­jected) might be the is­sue caus­ing the un­der­whelm­ing dyno fig­ure.

One of the most frus­trat­ing jobs of the en­tire build be­came get­ting the sus­pen­sion right: no, scratch that, get­ting the car low enough to scrape road mark­ings clean off!

But when a com­pres­sion test re­vealed num­ber five cylin­der was down on power, things started to snow­ball — a word com­monly used at NZPC. With the help of a few mates the mo­tor was pulled down, and the pair started ex­plor­ing other en­gine op­tions, ver­sus the cost of re­build­ing the L se­ries. “It prob­a­bly would have have been cheaper in the end if we’d put an RB in, but it just didn’t seem right. You have to match the car’s looks to the sound I think, and in the end we de­cided to keep it pe­riod cor­rect with a high-com­pres­sion re­built and triple carbs, even though it was go­ing to cost more,” Taryn says. The sil­ver lining to the en­gine build was find­ing out the head had re­ceived ex­ten­sive work at some stage, in­clud­ing port re­shap­ing and a big port and pol­ish. While the en­gine work was on­go­ing I had to open my mouth and sug­gest to the pair that we shave the en­gine bay of all and any un­wanted brack­ets. So

It had been two years of in­tense frus­tra­tion, but fi­nally the car was com­plete, and mak­ing nearly dou­ble the power with 134kW (180hp) to the rear wheels

join­ing the long list of mates who made the build pos­si­ble, I helped them strip, shave, weld up and smoothed out the en­gine bay ready for a match­ing coat to the ex­te­rior sil­ver from GT Re­fin­ish­ers.

But there was still a long way to go un­til happy mo­tor­ing, and the next hur­dle in­volved a new set of hand­built head­ers and com­pletely re­build­ing and set­ting up the triple 40mm Mikuni/Solex carbs which they had found cheap on­line. Pedey ex­plains; “Some friends and I tried to set them up by ear, but that was a night­mare. So we took the car to Bob Homewood at HiTech Mo­tor­sport. The carbs needed a se­ri­ous over­haul, but luck­ily we were able to im­port ev­ery­thing new from Wolf Creek Rac­ing in the USA. I’m glad we took it to Bob and spent the money on a proper rebuild and dyno tune,, be­cause if they are not set up right the first time, it will al­ways be un­re­li­able and you will spend your en­tire life chas­ing it.”

It had been two years of in­tense frus­tra­tion, but fi­nally the car was com­plete, and mak­ing nearly dou­ble the power with 134kW (180hp) to the rear wheels — just in time for Pedey and Taryn to move over­seas, and have to park it up for 12 months. But on their re­turn to New Zealand this sum­mer they got some se­ri­ous seat time ahead of leav­ing the coun­try again in­def­i­nitely. But this does not mean they will part with the Dat­sun. This car is as much a part of them as they are a part of it, so it’s likely the S30 will be part of the Kelly fam­ily for some­time yet. “We were so pre­cious about it be­ing per­fect and for­got that it’s a sports car built to thrash, we have raised it up, fit­ted a rev lim­iter and now we’re get­ting stone chips and all sorts and we couldn’t be hap­pier. It’s sur­pris­ingly quick and torquey, it goes hard for what it is.”

DRIVE GEAR­BOX: 280ZX Turbo five-speed man­ual CLUTCH: Heavy-duty clutch plate FLY­WHEEL: 7.8kg light­ened fly­wheel

DIFF: Fac­tory Nis­san R200

Order­ing a set of cus­tom wheels is al­ways a nail-bit­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, as you don’t know you have sussed the cor­rect off­set and widths un­til you fi­nally bolt them on. If you know Pedey then you will know this was twice as nail-bit­ing, but thank­fully the 15x9- (-16) and 15x10-inch (-28) Work Meis­ter CR01s filled the guards

per­fectly. The pair also have a set of 15x9.5-inch AME Fat­lace FZero2s shod with semi slicks for track use


SEATS: Re­trimmed fac­tory STEER­ING WHEEL: Nardi wood­grain IN­STRU­MEN­TA­TION: Fac­tory in­stru­ment clus­ter, fac­tory oil pres­sure, fac­tory wa­ter temp, fac­tory am­me­ter, very rare Nis­san Ral­lye clock/lap timer OTHER: Four-point half cage, re­place­ment car­pet, JVC head unit, Sony Xplod 6x9s, com­pletely rewired from head­lights to tail lights

Car­ry­ing on the build theme in­side, West­gate

Auto Up­hol­stery re­vived the stan­dard seats in black vinyl, while mas­ter fab­ri­ca­tor

Bam Blackie fit­ted a sim­ple half cage within

the rear com­part­ment

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