Video: Modified Datsun 240Z Outruns Porsches At Laguna Seca

The Green Hornet is one of those cars which will inspire weekend warriors in several ways. They can try to run with a modern, reliable, paddle-shifted car, or they can try to build the dream machine from their adolescence into a track weapon. Sure, there are the headaches which come with modifying a classic car, but there’s something truly special when it works. Such is the case with this ’70 Datsun 240Z.

Greg Scott, the proud owner of this gem, was dedicated to keeping this car true to its original shape. Instead of fitting the car with an LS1 for an easier route to power, he sought out the best local builder to help him turn the straight-six into a screamer. The shops in California failed to impress him, and after considering shipping the motor to Japan, he stumbled upon another foreign shop. Fortunately, this one spoke English, and they appreciated Scott’s vision for the car.

“A passionate dream to create a 240Z that captures both the pure essence of the original expression with the soul of a fully-race-bred Z lurking underneath the original lines.”

Les Collins Racing, an Australian builder renowned for its innovative work on the L-series engines, took delivery of this engine and set about building it to Scott’s requirements. As this car would double as a road car, one which hauled a small tire trailer to the track, it had to be civilized. It also had to make roughly 300 horsepower, so rather than search for power higher in the rev range, Collins decided to make the motor a bit bigger.

This engine displaces 3,435cc with a 90mm bore and a 90mm stroke. Forged pistons, Carillo rods, a steel billet crankshaft, a P90 head fitted with 50mm Solex/Mikuni carburetors, the engine makes nearly 300 horsepower with 11:1 compression. An Arizona alloy sump, ATI balancer, Bosch High Energy Ignition system, and a 3-inch aluminum exhaust system round out the engine build.

To learn more about the build process, you can visit this page.

Getting the right sort of feel from the drivetrain took a great deal of consideration. Of course, Scott wanted this gearbox to have a classic feel, so a Holinger six-speed sequential was never even considered. Instead, he commissioned a custom gearbox from LCR to handle the power while retaining the original feel of the S13 ‘box. They stuffed the original housing with wide gears from late-model Nissan gearboxes, fitted with double synchros. A new billet main shaft to suit the S13 case had to be made, as well as special cluster shaft, idler gears, selector forks, and a short-shift conversion.

It’s perfection retrofitting underneath the classic exterior.

This power is then sent through an OS Giken twin-plate clutch and flywheel setup, back through the gearbox, then onto an OS Giken limited-slip differential. It’s the directness in the drivetrain that is partially responsible for this Datsun’s remarkable speed.

With Arizona Z Car modified suspension, AP Racing brakes, Performance Fabrication chassis reinforcements, and a set of supportive Sparco seats, this 2,300-pound Datsun corners and stops as well as it goes. That’s a reassuring asset when fending off German supercars.

In addition to having exceptional taste and vision in cars, Scott is a stellar driver. Perhaps we should be surprised. In his hands, the Datsun rolls impressive entry speed, and that power is enough to reach 110 miles an hour before Laguna Seca’s Turn 1. That straight-line speed, in conjunction with Scott’s quick hands and comfort driving at the limit, is enough to fend off two modern Porsche GT cars at the power-hungry Laguna Seca.

Though Scott does his level best to keep ahead of the modern GT Porsches, it’s only a matter of time before technology gets the upper hand. The quick shifts and 500 horsepower of the PDK-equipped 991 GT3 behind, inevitably gets it past the Datsun on Laguna Seca’s long front straight.

We can see how the difference in acceleration at higher speeds favors the Porsche; from Turn 5 to the Corkscrew (9:55-10:20 in the footage directly above), the Porsche’s power stretches a decent gap. But, because of the Datsun’s weight and agility, Scott repeatedly closes the gap under braking and corner entry, which makes a big difference when it’s not working against gravity.

The Datsun’s weight comes into play on Laguna’s downhill, and within two corners, he’s nipping at the GT3’s heels. It’s an incredible display of how a well-sorted chassis and good brakes can occasionally make the difference at a track which favors powerful cars.

It’s disheartening to lose a ten-car gap that was enjoyed just a few moments earlier.

This car is uncommonly quick — there’s no doubt about that. It shows that with a visionary owner, a talented builder, and the right sort of driving skills, a vintage car can lap the lengthy Laguna Seca in just 1:39. It can also be enough to outrun the best from Porsche stable. May this freakish Datsun serve as an inspiration to anyone who wants to make a giant beater — it can be done!

About the author

Tommy Parry

Tommy Parry has been racing and writing about racing cars for the past seven years. As an automotive enthusiast from a young age, he worked jobs revolving around cars throughout high school, and tried his hand on the race track on his 20th birthday. After winning his first outdoor kart race, Tommy began working as an apprentice mechanic to amateur racers in the Bay Area to sharpen his mechanical understanding. He has worked as a track day instructor and automotive writer since 2012, and continues to race karts, formula cars, sedans, and rally cars in the San Francisco region.
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