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v12horse

Two Dads, a 260Z, and the Open Road

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     I look at watches and cars as instruments.  They respectively tell the time and get us from place to place.  Today I was to meet Leon a neighbor of mine with an example of Nissan’s first generation Zcar.  The air in my bedroom was still and the sun was just beginning to peak through the curtains as I scanned my dresser for an appropriate watch to wear; an odd yet rewarding ritual I do upon waking up every day.  I was meeting someone new and we were to go on an adventure so I strapped the old Japanese dive watch to my wrist.  It  is Seiko’s first dive watch and the concept was for it to go to the ocean’s darkest depths.  While there the wearer could explore knowing how much time had elapsed beneath the water’s surface.  This was crucial for the early scuba divers to calculate how much time they had before their oxygen tank went dry.  In the watch world a diver is known as a ‘tool’ watch.  
     I literally just met Leon a neighbor of mine yesterday and we would be going out for a short drive in his dark green 260Z.  The bond between car people forms quickly as if we are migrants from the same foreign country and we are some of the only ones around that speak the same language.  He is a new father with a two week old son.  My children are 2.5 years old and 7 months, but it has been such a blur.  I never wanted the time to go so fast, but like the saying goes ‘time flies when you’re having fun.’  Raising a family is both the best thing in the world as well as being an exercise in torture.  Its a good thing babies are cute.  With all kidding aside I am a better person than I was before.  I have learned tolerance and my ‘me’ time is no longer taken for granted.  This time with Leon and the Z would be a bit of ‘me’ time for the both of us young dad’s.  
      The suburban roads were quiet as the town was still asleep and  before I could see the beautiful sheet metal of the 260Z I heard it.  It was the sweet sound of an L28 with a set of 45mm Weber DCOE carburetors. In no time at all the car was around the corner and before me.  I had told myself that I was going to get some photos of it in motion, but there was no point.  I was mesmerized by the car and I was not about to experience this Z for the first time through a viewfinder.  I had to see the car through the lens of my own eyes.  The car was gorgeous and I stood in the road like a deer staring at its killer.  Before Leon could cutoff the engine, I had opened the passenger door and hopped in.  The comforts inside a Z are so welcoming and something I was so familiar with.  Outside of the thick gripped steering wheel the interior was perfectly original.  I had figured all of this out after a few seconds as Leon and I had already said hello and were onto deciding where we were headed.
      It was a Sunday morning and with my wife being a pharmacist she would be at work soon.  I couldn’t find a sitter in time so we had exactly 45 minutes.  “Crystal Springs” I recommended.  This is a short network of canyon roads close to where we live that would be fun to traverse.  We cruised on the big boulevard that is El Camino Real heading towards the hills.  The car was compliant and surprisingly quiet; civilized if you will.  I knew only a bit about Leon’s background and that was that he is familiar with wrenching in a garage as well as being a world class driver on the track.  I came to find out that his 260Z reflected his skills as the car was dialed.  It was relatively original in appearance, but at its core it was a ‘tool’ being functional.  
     We got to the canyon and Leon ‘opened the car up’ so to speak.  I imagined the butterflies of the venturis’ flapping, but oddly butterflies were not growing inside of me.  He was pushing the car and it handled so neutrally that I was at complete ease.  I trusted him and the car.  The vision of my car under construction at the Z Car Garage came into view and I only hope that it shares a bit of this racing spirit.  We arrived at a parking lot at the top of Skyline and I had planned that I would turn down the opportunity to drive, but my soul wasn’t about to say no.  I slid into the driver’s seat and pushed the shifter up and forward releasing the clutch and gently easing into the gas pedal.  The engine made noise, but there was no movement.  I must have been in third.  
      “The car has a 10lb flywheel and it engages when the clutch is pulled up super high.” Leon said.  
      I pulled away not making a smooth transition from stopped to rolling, but this car didn’t like to be stopped.  It was a mover.  We made our way down the canyon and the throttle was on.  There was definitely a learning curve to the setup of the car, but I liked that because the few (emphasize few) times that I was smooth it was very rewarding. With time I would become attune to the clutch.  This bit of challenge made the car alluring in a adventurous way.  It had the appearance of an original, but the heart of a thoroughbred.  Leon’s influence from the track gave it a dash of magic while still being civilized enough to still be comfortable.  It was the perfect balance of performance and everyday usability.  
    I had forgot about anything that wasn’t keeping me on the road.  Z’s do this as they are consuming cars to drive.  They are so analog and they require focus and the right inputs from the driver.  It is this simplicity and balance that brings people to the early Zcar’s and keeps them there.  There are no electronic aides, but there’s no need as they are predictable.  Our time was just about up so I drove us to his place so we could walk around the car and examine it from the outside.  
    Leon’s 260Z is painted in a beautiful British Racing Green.  It has such a nice sheen that it still looks wet.  Much of the excellent handling characteristics are in due part to the wheel and the tire selection as it sits nicely on 16” Panasports.  The car even has European taillights with contrasting amber turn signals only the obsessive notice.  The emblems are NOS and the car really was well built preserving so much of an original Zcar while being uniquely Leon’s car.  We could have talked for hours, but my time was up.  We said our goodbyes and we both went to care for our family’s.  
    This morning I started out trying to decide on a wristwatch to wear and the one I chose could not have been more fitting.  The car was a ‘tool’ and it was not the track scalpel that some might think, but rather a grin machine.  It did all the right things and made all the right noises without being tame or being a hair-raising racer.  Thank you so much Leon for the ride.   

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Wow, great write-up Ben! I'm flattered and honored. You've summed up perfectly my direction with the car, I think we're both on very similar wavelengths with this.

I really enjoyed the line about car people being like migrants from another country, that's really what it feels like. Strangers reunited for the first time. You have the passion flowing through your veins and that motivates me, whether it's having that extra patience to sooth the baby to sleep or to finally make time to put that limited slip in. I was very impressed with your 2.5-year-old son's ability to identify every piece of construction equipment and many cars he saw on our walk the other day, he's an inquisitive kid and you're doing it right by feeding his curiosities.

I'm very much looking forward to seeing your 260 in action.

Long live the Z!

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Thanks for all the compliments with my son.  He is totally into his own thing.  I am not sure how kids end up being attracted to big trucks, but he is.  He loves watching videos of trucks in action working.  I have learned all the different vehicles of a construction site with him and its a lot of fun. 

I didn't even tell everyone how we met.  My daughter was sleeping in my lap while I was submitting a post on another thread and Leon's infant was on his lap and he was posting too.  I literally put the kids in the stroller (once they woke up), walked around the corner, and there was Leon.  Classic Z Car just made the world a bit smaller!  Thanks Mike. 

Thanks for the compliments on the writing too.  I am trying to somehow elevate my car writing into stories.  I get a lot of inspiration from automotive writers and Peter Egan is my favorite.  I have been reading his column since I was a kid.  Leon, I'll see you in the hood.

Ben

Edited by v12horse

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