This, friends, is a 1978 Nissan Fairlady Z, or a Datsun 280ZX as we would call it here in America. What a machine.
The Datsun 280ZX was known for being more of a cushy personal luxury coupe with questionable styling than a legit performance car. That’s what you might think, anyway. This is because you’ve never seen one built into a mad tight drift car, yo.
The best weather we had all weekend for the 24 Hours of LeMons' North Dallas Hooptie race at Eagles Canyon Raceway was a few inches of powdery snow during the practice day. Needless to say, the race didn't happen, but a few of us went out for practice laps, anyway.
Let's play a word association game. I'm going to say a few words, and you tell me the first thing that comes to your head. Here we go: Four-speaker stereo system. Velour seats. Stirring coal. Lighted instrument panel. If you thought "Rolls-Royce Phantom," you're close. It's the 1979 Datsun 280ZX.
We were hoping— without much basis in anything resembling reality— that the L28ET-powered 3rd-gen Firebird would utterly dominate this weekend's LeMons race. Sadly, a roaring engine fire ended the aptly named FireKats' run at a major trophy.
The small-block Chevrolet engine has proven to be one of the least reliable engines in 24 Hours of LeMons racing, but there's one that's even worse: the Nissan L28. Some teams see that as a challenge!
It's time again to test your automotive intellectual fortitude by figuring out what car this engine bay's from before you click through. Sure, you'll say you got it right in the comments, but only you'll know the truth.
We've seen the miserable racetrack reliability of the 240Z/260Z/280Z/280ZX/300ZX at enough LeMons races to see the pattern, but the real surprise has been the large number of Zs that managed to keep running well enough to make the top third. Will a Z ever take the overall win? Doubtful… but anything can happen on a…
It's a real head-scratcher: the Datsun/Nissan Z has plenty of six-banger power, independent rear suspension, four-wheel discs, good build quality… yet so far none has placed better than eighth in LeMons. Why is that?
It's fun, that's what it is! Somewhat slow fun, granted, but the crazy body roll and music blasting from the roof-mounted PA speakers compensate for the lack of power.
You figure it's a special junkyard day when you spot a full-on art car (not like the half-assed kind you usually see), so it came as no shock when I found another cool machine nearby.