rxspeed presents

The Manhattan Project

Built in frenetic New York City, this 300 horsepower Datsun 240Z is not only a labor of love, but also an exhilarating drive that you’re able to experience thanks to Classic Car Club Manhattan.

1972 Datsun 240Z Stroker

A lot has been lost with the mechanical connection between sports cars and humans since the electronic boom has consumed them. Human interaction and mechanized feel has disappeared with computers doing most of the heavy lifting: steering, throttle and suspension. Modern cars are smoother, more reliable, convenient, comfortable, option-heavy technological factories, but the one thing that’s honestly missing is the direct — sometimes archaic — human/machine interface.

 

There’s a cyber wall now filled with motherboards, CPUs, processors, RAM and other electronic components that do things for you. Steering too heavy? There’s usually a button for that. Ass too hot in the summer? Well, there’s a fan in the seat for that. (With three different settings!) Yes, it’s comfortable. Yes, it probably makes daily commuting more enjoyable, but that’s not the point. Where’s the fun and charm? It’s lost, replaced with 1s and 0s, calculations and programs.

Exterior Exterior Exterior Exterior

Exterior

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Adam Miller is the membership director at CCC and the caretaker of the 1972 240Z. He has had his share of “pet cars” at the club, which members were able to enjoy with their membership, a bare-bones Caterham Super 7 being a perfect example. For this particular Japanese icon, Miller went through the process of finding a clean example for the club.

 

“[I] bought the car in December 2013, and I was under the impression it was ready to rock and roll,” Miller recalls. “It was delivered to Jersey and broke down on the way back — less than a 10-mile drive.” However, since this was a California car with around 80,000 miles on the odometer, the body and paint were in great condition.

 

 

Because of CCC’s commitment to making sure every car is ready to drive, regardless of age or pedigree, the Z needed a major overhaul to make it road worthy. Miller explains, “[We] had to go through the car and rebuild from the ground up. Everything was put together to make it look nice. The fuel lines and fuel tank were gunked up and completely rusted out. All the bushings were shot.”

 

Gum was literally holding the interior together.

Engine Engine Engine Engine

Engine

The heart of the Z was strong, however. A Rebello Racing 3.0-liter stroker kit refreshed the dainty 151-horsepower 2.4-liter and boosted it to a very usable 300hp. With only 2,350 pounds to push around, the torquey, triple Weber-fed motor is lively with induction noise that can only come from a motor of this design. Side-draft carburetors not only look beautiful, but they sound terrifyingly pleasant at high rpms.

 

When the 240Z was released, the 2.4-liter, single-overhead cam inline-six (hence the name 240) was a raspy, affordable competitor to the Porsche 914 and other similarly spec’d cars of the ’70s. Taking today’s inflation into account, the roughly $3,500 1972 240Z would be around $20,500 in today’s dollars — a lot less than a Scion FR-S and a Mazda Miata. It was a rally winner, winning the East African Safari, often considered one of the toughest rallies in the world, and was campaigned by the legendary Bob Sharp in the beginning days of SCCA racing. It was a bare-bones sports car that fulfilled the carnal desires of the gearhead.

 

This particular Z is quirky and rough around the edges but invokes a sense of fulfillment when you get in and get through the forward four gears with precision. If this doesn’t put a smile on your face, you should consult your doctor.

 

As my hands ape the thin-wheeled steering wheel — where they should be nestling them more intimately — I notice the steering is still direct and fluid, offering positive feedback with a bit of float around center. It’s thanks to the suspension setup Miller chose, which makes the Z as precise as possible without resorting to a full coilover setup. This isn’t an experience limited to this author, though. The thing you have to wrap your head around is the fact that you can come to the club and drive this sports car with vigor. All said and done, it’s a few dollars more than reserving a midsize rental car for the same time period.

Interior Interior Interior Interior

Interior

“The shocks were one of the biggest hold-ups on the project,” Miller explains. “The Tokico Illuminas are the only drop-in shock cartridges that work with the stock struts without major modifications to those struts.” They were also on a six-month back order. This means that Miller could also get away with a set of Eibach lowering springs, as the Tokicos are the only ones that work reliably with a lowering spring. He stresses that you can use other shocks, but they can be prone to blowouts over time.

 

With any classic car CCC acquires, there is a two- to three-month shakedown, after which the car gets deemed “fleet worthy” and is allowed among the cache of vehicles stored in their sprawling Manhattan showroom. The staff members, along with most of the clients, are self-proclaimed gearheads, which would explain the reason nine out of 10 members who see the Z request to be put on the wait list.

 

“Nobody in the world drives classic cars like we drive them,” Miller claims confidently. “Cars that are driven are happy cars.”

 

That sentiment rings so genuine within the world of true classic car collecting. These don’t sit stagnant in garages. Members drive the shit out of them, and it shows. There are dings, curb rash and more miles on the odometer than can be counted, but it’s just a side effect of a tough city and exactly what the cars were made to do. This is a 43-year-old car sitting in Manhattan waiting to be driven.

Details Details Details Details

Details

Miller considers where the Datsun is at modification wise as “Phase 1,” the road-worthy, sorted drivable stage. But he knows this is a work in progress. “Phase 2 is a limited-slip differential, a five-speed and maybe some more suspension work; I might want to go to a billet control arm,” he forecasts. “We’re not going to track the car, so a coilover setup doesn’t help at all,” he continues. “The stock ones are so heavy, and I’d like to shave unsprung weight off the car.”

 

From an outside point of view, the consensus regarding lending out the Z to strangers could be considered utterly mental. However, there’s a pride among members in taking out cars that are curated, because of their status in the car world and their impact on the collective whole. The track record at CCC is stellar because the cars are treated like personal possessions.

 

Death before dishonor.

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Bonus Images

“We know all the members here, and we know their capabilities,” Miller stoically admits. “You can gauge their level of understanding. I’m just hoping that having a cult-classic car here in the fleet gives everyone a chance to experience something that normally they wouldn’t have the chance to drive.”

 

The experience of driving this modified Datsun 240Z left a lasting impression on my psyche. It had been a while since I’d driven a classic car, and there was a moment where even the lack of A/C, navigation, power windows and radio didn’t phase me, only making me live more in that moment of driving, rather than just being a passenger in any modern car.

 

Find out more about the 240Z, and other amazing cars, at Classic Car Club Manhattan.

 

1972 Datsun 240Z Specifications

 

Body

Repainted stock w/original color code #113 Green Metallic - zero rust California car

Most all hardware powder-coated black

Dave's Headlight/taillight relay upgrade harness

Hella 100 watt H4 headlights

Smoked headlight covers

Top-End Performance rear strut brace

New Rubber and seals throughout the car

 

Drivetrain

Original block bored and stroked to 3.0L by Rebello Racing - rated at 300hp

JE Pistons

ARP bolts

Triple 48mm Weber carbs

LUK 006 Clutch

AEM Air/Fuel Gauge (hidden)

Electric pump with mechanical fuel pump delete

6 to 1 race header

2.5-inch custom exhaust all the way back

Flowmaster muffler

MSD Ignition Coil

280ZX alternator

Stock 4-speed transmission with rebuilt shifter

Stock differential

Red Top battery

MSA Aluminum radiator with electric fan

ITG air filter

 

Suspension

Energy Suspension Polyurethane Master-Flex bushing kit

Tokico Illumina 5-way adjustable struts

Eibach Springs

Bump steer spacers

Rota RKR 15x8 wheels

225/50/15 Kumho Ecsta tires

Rebuilt stock disc brakes with drilled & slotted rotors up front

Rebuilt stock drums in back

New master cylinder and brake booster

 

Interior

Mostly original Butterscotch interior

Restored original dash

Upgraded dash bulbs

Restored steering wheel and shift knob

Deleted heater core and blower fan

Seats are shit knockoff Recaros, soon to be replaced

Hidden Pioneer head unit running 6x9 speakers in The Z Store speaker panel in front of tail light cover

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