Project InZanity: The Ultimate LS-Swapped Datsun 240Z Bound For SEMA

Five years in the making, this ’72 Datsun 240Z follows Kyle Kuhnhausen’s own transformation from a fresh-faced college kid with big dreams to a seasoned professional looking to blow away the SEMA Show competition. An auto body technician by day, Kuhnhausen takes on big-budget builds on the side, and this Datsun is one which has brought Kuhnhausen and its owner, Dennis, to levels of obscene dedication. “We’re both fully committed to making this just the absolute best drive-to-the-track Datsun that we could,” states Kuhnhausen.

Kuhnhausen built the Datsun to showcase his fabrication skills in the Battle of the Builders competition. (All photos courtesy of Derek Panter and John Gessler)

In building this street-able track toy, he also aimed to use it as a vehicle to showcase his metalworking abilities and retain the minimal amount of amenities to make it an appealing show car. Stylish and speedy, this car, nicknamed “InZanity,” should sway most of the judges at this year’s Battle of the Builders, part of the upcoming SEMA Ignited event.

Kuhnhausen is responsible for finding the best parts for his customers. “That’s why I go to SEMA; so I can find the latest, greatest technology; the trends; what’s cool; what’s going on; and present that to my customers,” he adds. Contending with some stiff competition this year, he knew he had to put together a unique car that would turn heads and snap necks if he was going to stand out.

Simple but potent, the mild LS1 works well and provides a feast for the eyes.

As a track car, improving the weight distribution was paramount, but as a show car, a motor swap would do some good. Meeting both of these aims is a fairly stock Chevrolet LS1 from a 2004 GTO, which fortunately fits neatly in the back of the bay — a spacious bay designed for a longer inline-6 motor. Interestingly, only minimal tunnel tweaking was needed to fit the Tremec T-56 gearbox.

The engine is mostly stock, but a few modifications squeeze out a couple additional ponies. LS3 coils, Holley valve covers, an LS6 cam and intake, custom headers, and Magnaflow mufflers are the only power adders. While the recipe is simple, the visuals are enhanced by custom bracing and gusseting. Plus, as the car weighs just 2,700 pounds, the 347 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque at the wheels are more than enough.

Inside, the car showcases plenty of Kuhnhausen’s style. A custom dash made from 13 pieces of aluminum, fitted with Dakota Digital gauges, plenty of Top Gun-inspired switch gear, and no shortage of carbon are the first things you notice. Sparco seats, surrounded by a gusseted cage (lacking secondary door bars for ease of ingress and egress) scream serious track toy, while a few modern amenities including a rear view camera, custom cup holders, a navigation system, quilted door panels, and a stereo remind you this street/track hybrid has to be comfortable to make the drive from Eugene to Portland International Raceway.

Did we mention there is a ton of fabrication in this car — it's absolute InZanity!

It's the little touches that make this more than just a race car. Everything is done to a high level with attention to detail everywhere you look.

Top-tier footwork helps give this Datsun the handling characteristics of a C5 Z06 with even greater rigidity. Included in the package are CCW wheels and Kumho tires (315-sections in the rear and 255-sections in the front), which house six-piston Wilwood brakes in front. Soaring brake temperatures are dealt with through ingenious ducts that run through the body and use the calipers’ centrifugal force to draw cool air directly onto them. For some aerodynamic grip without compromising the classic lines, Kuhnhausen fitted a massive diffuser, a full belly pan, and that distinctive front splitter.

Arizona Z Car provided the Track Pak suspension setup, which gives this car a street-friendly ride height as well as an athletic stance.

Without a doubt, Kuhnhausen assembled one of the most complete street/track hybrids in existence. By shoehorning all manner of track-related upgrades underneath a clean, stylish exterior, he succeeded in building something that would both snap necks at the track and turn heads in the parking lot; he’s done everything in his power to stand out.

“I want to bring a Tomahawk missile to a knife fight—I don’t want to bring a fist,” Kuhnhausen concludes.

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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