We’re excited for the BaT Alumni Gathering at The Mitty April 28th at Road Atlanta. The featured marque this year is Nissan/Datsun and we thought it would be fun to find a Datsun 240Z and drive it from San Francisco to Atlanta meeting BaT users along the way. We put the word out our friends in the Datsun community that we were looking for a road trip ready Datsun 240Z, but with a week before our scheduled departure we still didn’t have the right car.
Enter marque expert Z Car Garage, who called with a modified 1973 240Z that one of their customers was considering parting with. As it was right in our backyard and had been serviced by the top-notch crew at Z Car Garage we were excited to see it and potentially make it ours. The thrill of the hunt is what binds many car guys together, and at BaT we’re no different. Rob Fuller, the owner of ZCG, had sent a link to a blog post that they did on the car a number of years ago, but you never know if it will be better or worse in person. The hour-long drive to San Jose was filled with anticipation, will we get that feeling of YES we have to have it? Or, would it be a let down?
When we arrived at Z Car Garage we were greeted with a bright lemon-lime 1973 Datsun 240Z. At a glance it was a very solid car, and it was very clean and well-built compared to some others we had tested. In shopping for old cars, I often think that to some degree you are also buying the previous owner. What are they like? How well did they care for the car? In our case, we hit the jackpot! The seller had owned the car for 20+ years and had lavished it with lots of thoughtful (and expensive) modifications. Of course, personal choices come with modified cars and if we owned the car we would want to change a few things. I hoped we would get the chance.
As we were looking at our new car, we were careful not be smitten too quickly. Rob had thoughtfully printed out the entire service history he had on the car. Randy took a look at that while I distracted myself by looking at the other vintage Datsuns in the shop. The BaT Alumni Jim Fitzgerald Racing 280ZX and the Jim Froula Bluebird SSS were among the notable vintage racers getting prepped for Mitty. We were definitely in the right place.
I began digging into the rest of the records and was amazed to find a treasure trove of vintage bits including the Vehicle Identification and Delivery Acknowledgement and the original Warranty Card. This car was sold at Rodgers and Rodgers Inc. in dry and hot El Centro, California and was equipped with air conditioning when new. An updated unit was in the car, and might be handy for our first stop in Arizona. Did it work? We would have to find out!
Rob took Randy for a short drive and when they came back Randy moved into the driver’s seat and took me for a quick loop. Within two blocks we were ready to commit to go with the car. The big question was could Rob handle the quick list of modifications we wanted to make as well as complete a thorough nut and bolt checkup? It was Monday and I wanted to get on the road Thursday if possible. Randy agreed to the purchase price and we sprung the modifications list on Rob. He didn’t flinch and said he would “make it happen.” Excellent!
I said I would return the next day with a cashiers check for the seller, and Rob said he would have him at the shop to sign the paperwork at lunchtime. We always loved the look of Panasports on 240Zs so we started the modification list by downsizing the blingy 17-inchers to a set of 16-inch Panasport wheels. Luckily the Z Car Garage had them in stock. Before we made it back to our SF office Rob had texted to let me know the Panasports would fit over the aftermarket Wilwood brakes and that a set of tires were on the way. Progress! Randy and I were stoked. We had found a good car -but more importantly, we found a great partner to get it ready for us.
The next day, I asked Randy if I could take the BaT 1987 BMW 535is for the one hour drive down to San Jose. It was already 80+ degrees and as I did not have a top on my little 1969 Datsun Roadster I didn’t want to get any more sunburned than I already was. Also, I was quite fond of the e28 and felt like a little seat time in it would be smart as it is the likely candidate to go in order to make room for the new Datsun.
Photo courtesy of Rob Fuller Z Car Garage.
The seller was happy to see his car go to enthusiasts who were going to drive and enjoy “Nicole.” With the money exchanged and the paperwork completed. Rob began to remove the existing wheels and tires and fit the newly mounted Yokohama S-drives on the 16-inch Panasports. While air dams on a Z are functional and some say needed, we preferred the look without one. The problem was while two of the three front valance trim pieces were in the many boxes of spares, the center section was missing. Rob had a parts car of the right vintage and amazingly the correct color but the valance was a little faded and more importantly a bit dented up. It would need to be repaired and painted for sure. As I was talking to Rob about the possibilities of pressing his paint guy to drop everything and deal with our problem he received a text that the seller had the center section of the valance and I could swing by his office and collect it from him right away! The two side pieces were in very good condition. They were still wearing the original paint, although the rest of the car including the air dam had been painted in 2005, they looked pretty good. How would the center section look? Perfect, I hoped.
I zipped over to meet the seller and hoped for the best. In addition to the front valance piece, he found the windshield and rear window trim that had also been removed. The valance was wrapped in paper and was in great shape. The paint was nice enough and Rob suggested that a “cut and buff” would do it. We were making rapid progress! We eliminated involving a paint shop, so maybe a pick up on Thursday -only two days away – was possible after all.
The next day, Rob texted photos of the progress and said he was “on-track” for a Thursday mid-day pick up. On Thursday, we drove down to San Jose in the BaT shop truck to collect the spares including the 17-inch wheels and tires.
When we arrived, the Z was parked in front. It was washed and ready. Rob even made the time for a run on the dyno. We are pleased to learn that the Rebello Racing-built 2.7L motor was making 191hp at the rear wheels!
Randy jumped in the Z and headed back to BaT while Rob had his guys load the truck. I dealt out some BaT 240Z t-shirts, thanked Rob again, and got on the road. When I got back to the office a number of staffers were out front checking out the new “BaT staff car.” As I was a half hour behind Randy, this activity had been going on for awhile.
It was hard to believe how rapidly the entire plan had come together. We had just seen the car for the first time on Monday, paid for it on Tuesday and here we were on Thursday with a road-trip-ready, tennis-ball-yellow 240Z! We couldn’t have done it without the assistance of Rob Fuller and his mechanics at Z Car Garage. Thanks, guys!
I finished up my work and headed home to pack. On Friday morning a “Pineapple Express” storm blew in from Hawaii and San Francisco was bearing the brunt of it. With 12 hours of driving ahead of me to get to Phoenix Arizona for the Copperstate Rally, I decided to wait out the storm and take my first drive in our new car in daylight and under clear skies.
The storm had passed by Saturday morning. It was time to get on the road. The first stop was what I jokingly refer to as “Datsun of Alameda.” Brian, a friend, and local Datsun aficionado had offered up a set of stock windshield wipers and a stock shift knob. I fished the parts out from his hiding spot and slipped the payment through the mail slot in the door of his machine shop. With the parts in hand, I was on my way to Phoenix only 12 hours away.
The Datsun was good… no, make that great. As I settled into the drive and became comfortable with the car, I began to focus on my own comfort. Does the air conditioning work, seemingly not. How about the seats? They’re great! As I was trying to make time, taking the time to figure out how to run the stereo would have to wait at least until I stopped for gas. Luckily, there was one cd loaded, unfortunately, it was the soundtrack to Mama Mia. I skipped through the 20 tracks and decided to listen to the engine instead.
Driving along I-5 the car ran well and had no problem keeping up with the fast-moving traffic. The Challenger in the photo above came racing up on my left, slowed to check out the Z then resumed their triple-digit pace. A mile down the road the car slowed until I was alongside then sped off again. Oh, they wanted to race. It had been a long time since I had driven a car that attracted that kind of attention. Sorry pal, not today, I need to get this car to Arizona tonight for the Copperstate 1000 tomorrow.
I don’t think it matters what time you try to get through Los Angeles, there is always grinding traffic. This would be a good test of the Z’s cooling system as it was over 80 degrees. Ten miles of stop-and-go traffic and the Z’s temp gauge stayed right in the middle, a very good sign for the rest of the trip.
A conversation ensued at every gas stop and multiple thumbs-up were given by people in passing cars. By midnight, I was searching for my room at the Marriott Buttes in Tempe. The next morning I collected Randy at 6:45 AM and drove the short distance to Tempe Diablo Stadium. A few minutes later we had our BaT tent popped up and were ready for the day.
Shortly after we parked the Z, BaT bidder @ixselr8 arrived in BaT Auction lot #0002! Randy had sourced that Alfa in Europe and drove it to a number of vintage car events before shipping it home. The entire story was chronicled on BaT in a 5-part series titled Euro Alfa Purchase Adventure. In July 2014 when BaT began auctioning cars, we started with several of our own and the Alfa was the second one listed. Randy was delighted to be reunited with the little Alfa again. By mid-morning, we had met dozens of BaT users and heard a multitude of BaT related stories. We could have stuck around all day but the Copperstate 1000 was starting and we had to get on the road. To see our coverage from that fantastic event click here.
Follow along as we drive from Arizona to Texas, up to Oklahoma City and on to Tennessee and end at Road Atlanta in Georgia. The Z is in Phoenix and our first stop is to see Peter W @superjmutt and his 1972 Alfa Giulia Super that he drove across Europe after winning it on BaT. If you are on our route and want to bring out your BaT Auction wins for us to see please let us know in the comments! Also, we want your travel tips. Do you have a favorite back road, barbecue or burger joint? We want to know that too!
Original Article at BRING A TRAILER