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The First Z...and Last...


d240zx2

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Lubbock, Texas. In late fall of 1969, I was subscribed to several automotive publications like Road & Track, Car and Driver, etc. In one or more of those magazines, I saw pictures and read articles of a “new sports car” being introduced by Datsun. I was hooked. I owned a Porsche 912 Targa at the time, and my then wife laid down the law: NO Z-CAR UNLESS THE PORSCHE IS SOLD. I had been autocrossing the Porsche with little success because of its handling characteristics and was tired of finishing last in four-car classes. I knew I was better than last! I had broken my foot while dancing and also had some surgery done whilst the ad for the Porsche ran in the Dallas paper. It sold over the week-end with me signing the papers in the hospital.

Kent Clark (yes, that’s his real name) and I decided to purchase one Z-car each. Kent was not going to register his, but prepare it for Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) Solo I racing. I would’ve done the same, but didn’t have the bucks. I had to drive mine to work and, obviously, for fun.

We each gave a $1000 deposit to our local Datsun dealer, B&V Motors. Kent was there the day before me, so I was second-in-line. Here the story gets a bit interesting.

These 240-Z sports cars were on allocation to Datsun dealers. Each dealer would get one Z car each month and the local dealer had yet to receive his first one. Kent and another friend, Mike Peacock, worked up a plan to go to Houston to get Kent’s car and, if possible, mine. They took all the requisite paperwork for Kent’s car and hoped they could wing it for the second car, mine. They took special care to determine if any of the Datsun sales executives were in town that Friday and after finding that all were in LA for a meeting, implemented the plan.

At that time, Pete Brock was doing a deal with Datsun on the left coast, using the first production cars fresh off the car-show circuit as race cars. Bob Sharp, on the east coast was doing the same thing. That left the central part of the US vacant of any factory authorized or supported racing endeavors. Kent and Mike’s story to the Datsun dock workers was that they were there to pick up the two cars for Datsun Racing Central, as the West and East already had their cars. They explained to the lot honcho in charge that Datsun had authorized the preparation of two cars but that the paperwork for one of them had been lost in transit. That was the key that Kent and Mike used to unlock the gates at the Port of Houston and the two cars they then drove back to Lubbock. I bought a stolen car.

Between the two cars, they had one paper dealer plate and a roll of masking tape. It would have been next to impossible to drive 600 miles in two cars nose-to-tail that had never been seen in Texas before and escape notice by the gendarmes of the era. They tore the corners off the plate and affixed it to Kent’s car. Then they took the torn-off corners and taped them to the rear of mine, leaving just a black hole where a tag used to be “….I guess the wind blew it off, Officer.” They traversed Houston-to-Lubbock in about 8 hours having to stop for gas and to tighten the alternator belt when it proved sufficiently loose to not keep the battery up with headlights on.

A bunch of us had gathered at Kent’s home awaiting their arrival, not knowing (these were days long before cell phones) if they were able to get two cars, or just one. At about 9:45 pm, Kent comes screaming up the street in a bright red 240-Z sports car…..by himself. My heart leapt! Mike couldn’t be too far behind him, could he? As about 15 folks were ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the beautiful piece of automotive design, Kent explained more loudly than would have been otherwise necessary, that they couldn’t get the second car off the dock and that Mike had taken ill on the trip back and that he’d been dropped off at home. My heart fell. I believed him. I turned to Kent and said something innocuous when the sound of screeching rubber pierced the night air. Here came Mike down the street at 5000 rpm in second gear, sliding sideways into the driveway….in MY CAR! You’re right, he drove it like he stole it! I teared up. Couldn’t help it. Laughter and tears don’t normally go together, but they did that night.

There it was. That ugly mustard yellow color with no wheel covers and factory inspection stickers all over the windows. Cosmoline dripped from every surface. It was, to borrow a phrase, coyote ugly. But she was beautiful, and she was mine.

I made right with the dealer the next day, but Datsun wasn’t at all pleased with him as he had been more than a little complicit in Kent and Mike’s plan. His allocations were suspended for three months, so I made a deal with him to park my Z on his showroom floor every Saturday for 60 days. That seemed to square things up because he sold out all of his allocation for 1970 in less than 10 days at retail plus.

Over the next seven years, the Z was driven quite hard. I modified the engine with a high-performance camshaft and stout valve springs; oil cooler; headers; replaced the two doggy SU carburetors with three Mikuni-Solex units; added an electric fuel pump and shaved the head 0.030 inches. The suspension didn’t escape my notice, either. I added racing steering linkages; short springs; changed the McPherson strut oil from 10w to RPM Delo 50w; heavier front sway bar and added a rear bar. The puny narrow (4.5”) factory wheels gave way to 6 inch aluminum mags and bigger tires. Brakes were upgraded as well. If it goes fast, it’s gotta stop fast, too.

Omaha, Nebraska. By the time all this had been done, my interests had shifted a bit. Although I was a top contender in Solo II SCCA events, I was getting old (33) and into the cars made by my employer, Chrysler Corp.

I sold this modern hot rod to Mike Cole in Omaha in 1977. We had a handshake agreement that should he ever decide to sell the Z, he would find me and give me the right of first refusal and would sell it to me for what he paid me. I think that last part is a fool’s agreement, but he offered it, I accepted, and we shook hands. That was 30 years ago.

The Woodlands, Texas. At the end of January, 2007, I got an email from Mike Cole, accompanied by a photo of him standing next to his new-to-him Dodge Viper. In that email he said he wanted to sell the Z and was curious if I would be interested. You know my response by now and a deal was done, again without me ever laying eyes on the car. For the second time, I bought it sight-unseen.

John Evans, owner of Vintage Restorations, and I drove to Dripping Springs, Texas on 10 February 2007, towing an empty trailer. Mike was in the front yard, chainsaw in hand trimming low branches. In the drive, by the garage, was my Z. Still. Quiet. Lifeless. A pool of leaked coolant stained the concrete. She looked good, but something was wrong. After a few minutes of pleasantries that couldn’t substitute for 30 years of absence, Mike and I walked to the Z. The hood was popped and Mike lifted it.

I nearly cried again. The engine compartment was exactly as I last saw it. It was spotless except for the missing water pump which was the source of the coolant stain. The polished valve cover shined. The carbs were void of stain. The remote oil filter and cooler were exactly where I’d put them. It was, as Yogi Berra said, “dejavu all over again.” I looked inside. The four instruments I had added were in place. The dash crack had expanded some, but otherwise was the same. The windshield still had the same chip. The doors still had the same parking lot dings. The tires were unchanged. I looked at the odometer. WHAT? When I sold the Z to Mike in 1977, it had 55,000 miles and change. The odo read, 30 years later, 64899!

Mike had been posted to an out of the country assignment for eight years. He didn’t take the Z with him, of course, and put it in storage. He did it right, fresh oil, tank full of gas and Stabil, wheels and tires off the ground, suspension unloaded and the car covered. When he retired from Daimler-Chrysler two years ago, he moved to Dripping Springs, had the Z removed from storage in Michigan and shipped down. He changed the oil and coolant. Put in a new battery. Unplugged the coil wire and cranked it over for about 10 seconds to get oil where it needed to be. Plugged the wire back in and it started! As the Z still had the original water pump, hoses and all, the lengthy time in storage had cratered the pump. When attempting to change the pump, a couple of bolts proved recalcitrant to move and broke. That’s been rectified and all suspension bushings & boots have been replaced. Carbs have been gone through. Gas tank dropped, cleaned. Fuel lines replaced. Now she's in paint.

Time, of course, takes it’s toll. Although Mike had garaged the Z constantly, and had only driven it on a wet road one time in 30 years, certain things just go away. The driver seat back had torn and is missing a vent piece. The “leather” steering wheel cover I’d installed in 1970 had fallen to the effects of time and UV rays. Parts of the car that are historically prone to severe rust were only affected to a very small degree; easily and inexpensively repaired, given its condition.

The Z does need that minimal amount of rust repair and fresh paint, and Mr. Evans is seeing to that. New carpets, some replacement seat covers and a shift boot will easily put her in near-original interior condition.

I think I am in a truly unique situation. It’s like finding your high-school sweetheart late in life and making good on all the hopes and dreams you had when you were young. Time is short now, live life and enjoy. And I’m taking my own advice seriously.

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Frank, That is truly an intriguing story. Almost like stepping into a time machine. You will most certainly enjoy the freshening up of this car, like no other! You also have the knack of story telling and we never tire of hearing a good Z saga. Thanks for sharing.

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I think I am in a truly unique situation. It’s like finding your high-school sweetheart late in life and making good on all the hopes and dreams you had when you were young. Time is short now, live life and enjoy. And I’m taking my own advice seriously.

Except your high school sweetheart might not be in as good of condition.ROFL Great story.

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Hullo Frank

I really enjoyed your story. There won't be many stories like this to be told because it just doesn't happen. I bought my first 240Z in August, 1971 (HS30 00741). I had to sell it in 1976 unfortunately. Several years ago I wanted to revisit that 240Z experience of so many years ago. The first thing I did was to check on the registration (NSW Australia) of the car. I found that the original registration of the 1971 car was "available" - meaning that my original car was probably beer cans.

The original registration was BBQ-240. I reserved it right there and it is now the only connection with my current 1973 Fairlady 240Z (HS30 103407)purchased in 2003.

When I went to take delivery of my new 240Z in 1971 I asked the dealer how he managed to obtain the registration number (BBQ-240) and he looked at me strangely and wondered why I would ask!! He explained that he wasn't aware of the interesting plate - it was what the registration office issued him at the time. I thought it was quite an amazing coincidence!!

Great to read your story. I think many of us will be interested in seeing some photos and hearing of your refreshment of your "old" 240Z. Thanks again.

Regards, Jack

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[quote=jackwarnock;232085The first thing I did was to check on the registration (NSW Australia) of the car. I found that the original registration of the 1971 car was "available" - meaning that my original car was probably beer cans.

I take it then that Australia is one of those countries where the vehicle's license plate is basically a permanent part of the car?

I always thought that was an interesting idea. Around here we have to "renew" our plates every year, and quite often the plate number changes when we do. (unless you pay extra for a vanity plate.)

The result is that I can never remember from one year to the next what the license plate number is on my car, regardless of how long I have owned it.

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Well, shucks. It's just a story of a guy and his car. Thanks for the accolades, guys.

And yes, the VIN is pretty low, HLS30-00721, build date 01/70. My engine is original, still with the old 5 CW crankshaft. No 8 grand shifts for me.:cry:

I've never posted pics here before, but I'll try to put one up of the car before it went to "paint jail." I like that term, too.

Thanks again.

Frank

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I enjoyed your story about your Datsun. It is very interesting how much detail your remember about this car. You getting in back in very good condition is wonderful. What a thrill it must be to have it back in your posession. Keep us posted.

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Ok, then how do I reduce the size of the photos to be able to share them here? They were taken at 2288 x 1712.

Frank

You would need to open them in some kind of graphics program and resize them. If you don't have a program that can do this, you could email them to me and I could resize them and send them back or post them for you. PM me if you want my email address.

-Mike

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Ok, then how do I reduce the size of the photos to be able to share them here? They were taken at 2288 x 1712.

There are many options for this. Assuming you're running Microsoft Windows even the built-in paint program, MSPaint, can resize image files. If you're running Windows XP there's a free image re-sizer "powertoy" available here:

http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/downloads/powertoys/xppowertoys.mspx

If you're running another OS like Linux or Mac OS X there are plenty of options for those as well.

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Frank, that is a great story and it looks like the 2nd owner took good care of it for you. I would love to see some more pictures when you get a chance. I am the second owner of two of my Z's (including #237), but in my case I don't think the original owners will be coming back for them. It seems like all Z's have some kind of story, but I find stories about the early cars to be some of the most interesting. The person that now owns the first 240z to arrive in the Seattle area told me that the original owner was actually fifth on the list to get one. When the car arrived the first four people passed on it because the pre-order information said the cars were supposed to have 5 spds and this one arrived with a 4 spd. Little did they know they would have a long wait ahead of them to get a 5spd Z in the US.

-Mike

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  • 9 years later...
On 10/13/2007 at 9:42 AM, jackwarnock said:

Hullo Frank

I really enjoyed your story. There won't be many stories like this to be told because it just doesn't happen. I bought my first 240Z in August, 1971 (HS30 00741). I had to sell it in 1976 unfortunately. Several years ago I wanted to revisit that 240Z experience of so many years ago. The first thing I did was to check on the registration (NSW Australia) of the car. I found that the original registration of the 1971 car was "available" - meaning that my original car was probably beer cans.

The original registration was BBQ-240. I reserved it right there and it is now the only connection with my current 1973 Fairlady 240Z (HS30 103407)purchased in 2003.

When I went to take delivery of my new 240Z in 1971 I asked the dealer how he managed to obtain the registration number (BBQ-240) and he looked at me strangely and wondered why I would ask!! He explained that he wasn't aware of the interesting plate - it was what the registration office issued him at the time. I thought it was quite an amazing coincidence!!

Great to read your story. I think many of us will be interested in seeing some photos and hearing of your refreshment of your "old" 240Z. Thanks again.

Regards, Jack

Hey Jack,

 

Bit of a thread revival some 10 years later, but...

BBQ-240 might still be out there, HS30 00741 was last seen in a barn in country Victoria.

http://www.viczcar.com/forum/topic/13773-early-girl-bingo-with-photos/?p=192123

Photos here:

https://goo.gl/photos/RMV6rBemLFrcaGPi8

Looks like it was going to be turned into a Rally or Race car and was just a shell missing many parts.

From a member on the site Doug.

Quote

#741
I was going though an old hard drive and found a number of images including some of #741
I remember looking at this car about 15 + years ago going by the dates on the images on a large country type property in the outer east of Melbourne .
The owner had been "given" the car as a spare shell and was asking $6k for it at the time .
It was pretty much a striped shell with a roll cage , seam welded and rose jointed suspension etc. No drive train , interior , wiring loom , lights or bumpers .
Not sure if it ever sold or if it's still sitting in the old barn !

Incidentally your Fairlady 240Z-L has changed hands a couple of times recently too. Lovely car.

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Great story, i remember those days of the dealerships wanting $1000 down and a waiting list due to one Z for every 29 cars sold. After being discharged in early 72 and given the run around by 3 local dealerships, I went to Stang Motors, Elyria, Ohio, Mr. Terry Tracey  took $100 down payment, said '' I'll see what I can do''. A week later he calls and says, " I've got 3 take your pick". I chose white 4sp w/burgundy interior. I asked, "How'd you get 3". Stang Motors sold Datsuns, MGs, Triumphs and AMC, so they sold more cars.

 

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