The “New” Old School – Rocky Auto S30 Fairlady 240Z
Your impression of the very first generation Fairlady Z will change instantly; from old clunker to modern age tech-marvel. Not only does this Fairlady impress, it promises to redefine the word “Old School” in a whole different light. In the era of the late ’60s and ’70s, a specially assembled team of designers from Nissan’s Sports Car Styling Studio, headed by Yoshihiko Matsuo, sat down and gave the world its very first two-seater coupe, the Nissan Fairlady Z, also known as the Datsun 240Z (for export).
The Z’s popularity was so great, that it sold over 100,000 units within 5 years of its launch. Today, the legendary Z-car badge continues with the latest 350Z & 370Z, which still after so many years, has the simplistic and background style of the original Fairlady Z.
The First Lady
During the hey-days of venturi carburetors, the Fairlady Z was quite an impressive machine. Producing 128hp from a L20A single-cam engine driven by rear wheels, with 4-wheel independent suspension and struts, it was a marvel and instant hit with the automotive community, with many praises for its looks, reliability, performance and affordability.
While there are only a couple of Fairlady Zs left in Singapore due to the model’s age, coupled with the unique COE bidding system, there is an extreme cult base for this very legend, in the heart of the country that made it all possible; Japan. The Z is an extremely popular nostalgic car, well-received by the automotive community. Till today, the vehicle is pretty much a head-turner when it pulls into Fairlady meetups, earning the envious stares and jealous remarks of many.
Even for the common-day folk, the Fairlady Z is further glorified by Michiharu Kusunoki, who penned the nostalgic car down in the fictitious hit anime series Wangan Midnight, where the main character Akio Asakura, drives a pretty much insane Fairlady Z against his modern-day rivals on the highways.
Not Your Everyday Restoration Shop…
With so many nostalgic car enthusiasts in Japan, it is pretty natural that workshops and garages that specialise in restoration work for older cars exist. One such shop is Rocky Auto, that has a special and unique crew of skilled craftsmen who beside restoring old classics to their former glory, provide a little something extra for adventurous nostalgic car owners…
Set up in 1985 in Okazaki, Aichi prefecture, Watanabe-san headed Rocky Auto as a premier and well-known garage that specialises in refurbishing old Japanese ‘Hot Rods’ like the C10 Skyline and Fairlady Z. No job is too small for Watanabe-san and his crew of trained and experienced technicians, who provide services for nostalgic car owners looking to do servicing, maintenance, restoration and lately; engine swaps. Being a big fan of the RB engine series that power the generation of Skylines in the ’90s to early 2000, Watanabe-san has become an expert at blessing these classics with the craziest engine swaps that will blow the minds of curious and willing nostalgic car owners.
The later generation of Skylines that include the famous GT-R R32 and R34, are powered by the RB26 engine. Proven in one-make races, as well as in the early Japanese Touring Championships, the RB26 has proven its near-boundless power potential and extreme durability to accept insane power upgrades without much hitches. Combine this with Watanabe-san and Mukaida-san’s encyclopedic knowledge of the Fairlady Z, it is not hard to see the ingenuity behind this build, which combines the sheer power of the RB engine and the unique body of the Fairlady Z…
The Devil That Consumes
Sawasaki-san, the owner of this particular Fairlady Z knew what he wanted, setting about doing it by stopping firstly over at Rocky Auto. He spoke of his idea; how to develop and built this Fairlady Z into an extraordinary masterpiece that stood out amongst other Fairlady Zs…
Wanting to breathe new life into its aged engine, this Fairlady Z lost its original L20A engine and carburetors, swapped out and replaced with the strong and mighty 2,600cc RB26 inline-six engine from a Skyline GT-R, which was dutifully installed with custom mounts for the engine. Knowing that the RB26 engine is capable of churning out more power, a pretty costly HKS T04Z turbo was mated to the RB26 engine, fed by more HKS parts, such as the enlarged fuel rail and air intake kit.
The fuel comes from a Fuel Safe Enduro Cell tank that is controlled by a Sard fuel pressure regulator. These upgrades are managed by the extremely capable HKS F-Con V Pro ECU, which gives this Fairlady Z the ability to churn out 600 horses of lethal and brute power at its sweetest point of 6,200 rpm with 1.7 bar of boost, from the Z’s rear-wheel driven platform. Exhaust gases are breathed out via HKS’s exhaust manifold, into a one-off stainless steel dual muffler.
In The Pursuit For Handling
It is relatively impossible to expect a stock ’70s transmission to be able to handle the incredible amount of horsepower from a ’90s engine. Hence, another gearbox had to be sourced. Replacing the stock Fairlady Z’s gearbox was taken from a RB25 equipped Skyline, which could easily handle the intense torque figures that the monstrous RB26 produced. Mixed into the transmission equation was ATS’s carbon twin clutch, which duly receives the torque from and properly passes it to the transmission, along with Nismo’s LSD (Limited Slip Differential) splitting power to the wheels.
Controlling this beast of a Z in corners is no easy affair, especially with its indescribable amounts of torque pushing from behind. Specially indented Aragosta’s coilovers was fitted to tame the car body’s sudden weight shifting in the corners, even though it was said that the car’s body weight distribution was 60% front and 40% rear. Foot rubber was not ignored, as Yokohama Advan Neova AD08 high performance street tyres were wrapped on wide 10 and 12j Work Meister S1 3P wheels, in the most outrageous profiles ever made; 225/35 R18 for the front and 295/30 R18 for the rear !
Other various forms of chassis tightening and reinforcement was added, such as the carbon front strut bar and customised works in the form of a five-point bolt-in roll cage and a stainless steel weld-in triangular rear strut bar. To stop the Z, large Ferrari F50 and Modena Brembo brakes were utilised in the front and rear of the Z respectively. Now how’s that for absolute stopping power ?
Cooling is critical in engine-swapped machines, especially when the RB26 motor is a massive heat generating engine, causing beyond sauna-like temperature surges in the engine bay. To counter the heat buildup, GReddy’s intercooler was specially customised for usage, along with a custom-made aluminium radiator with a thicker core to keep the water temperature as cool as possible.
Same Old Brand New You
The first thing that catches the eye is the beautiful paintwork. The Fairlady Z is given a coat of fresh paint, in the Nissan GT-R Spec-V’s limited colour; Ultimate Black Opal, which complements the Fairlady Z, since it is a one-of-its-kind machine. The front fenders are a product from Rocky Auto, complete with a frontal lip and headlight covers.
A custom diffuser was made, along with a carbon hood with R35 carbon vents for that special touch. To increase rear downforce to keep those tyres pinned on the ground for maximum traction, the rear was fitted with a low-mount GT-wing to further enhance the wide tyres’ grip. CraftSquare’s carbon GT mirrors were used to squeeze the top speed out of the Z.
Stepping Into Z World Of The Fairlady
The interior is kept as ‘Datsun’ as possible. The original Datsun retro leather bucket seats were kept, with the addition of Rocky Auto’s own floor mats. Passenger and driver would be snugly held fast with Takata seat harnesses, while a plethora of other useful equipment was installed.
Such as the Auto Meter tachnometer that was built into the dash, the HKS EVC boost controller to adjust and vary boost settings, along with water, oil and exhaust temperatures. Sawasaki-san shifts the gears comfortably with a Nismo shift knob, with a Nardi classic steering wheel that adds to that nostalgic touch that Sawasaki-san wanted to emphasize on.
Truly A Masterpiece
After hearing of Rocky Auto’s countless RB builds in both NA and turbo specifications for raring Fairlady Z owners, this has probably got to be the ultimate turbo build for the Fairlady Z. It is indeed heartening to see new life injected into older, nostalgic cars.
Though purists might cringe at it, it is a definite thorough and refreshing modification for all the world to see, Rocky Auto’s amazing work and experience with such cars. Taking reference to the Devil Z from Wangan Midnight, this is probably the real life example of one such possible monster that prowls the highways in search of its next better opponent.
Owner : Sawasaki
Vehicle : Nissan Fairlady Z S31 (Year 1978)
Power : 600 hp @ 6,200 rpm / 1.7 bar
Workshop : Rocky Auto
Country : Japan
RB26DETT Engine Swap / HKS T04Z Turbo, Enlarged Fuel Rail / HKS F-Con V Pro ECU / Fuel Safe Enduro Cell Tank / Sard Fuel Pressure Regulator / GReddy Intercooler / Customised Aluminum Racing Radiator / HKS Air Intake / HKS Exhaust Manifold / Rocky Auto Customised Stainless Steel Dual Muffler
Rocky Auto Fenders / Rocky Auto Front Lip / Rocky Auto Headlight Covers / Rocky Auto Customised Diffuser / Rocky Auto Carbon Hood / Rocky Auto Carbon GT-wing / CraftSquare Carbon GT Mirrors / Nissan GT-R Spec-V’s Ultimate Black Opal Limited Body Colour
Aragosta Coilover (Front 8kg / Rear 6kg) / RB25 Gearbox Swap / Nismo LSD / Rocky Auto Customised Roll Cage / Rocky Auto Rear Strut / Rocky Auto Carbon Front Strut Bar / Work Meister S1 3P Wheels 10Jx18” Front & 12Jx18” Rear / Yokohama Advan Neova AD08 Tyres 225/35 R18 Front 295/30 R18 Rear
Original Datsun Leather Bucket Seats / Rocky Auto Floor Mats / Takata Racing Harnesses / Auto Meter Tachometer / HKS EVC Boost Controller / HKS Water Temp Gauges / HKS Oil Temp Gauges / Gauges Exhaust Gauges / Nismo Shift Knob / Nardi Steering Wheel / Eclipse AVN-076HD Navigation System
[ Click picture to enlarge ]
Text & Photos By HOTstuff magazine