On the list of cars you probably shouldn't modify is the Datsun 260Z. The two-door coupe was sold in the U.S. for only one year, which makes it every bit as unique as it is ambiguous. Give one to a guy who's never worked on one, have him stuff an engine into it he has no experience with—all in a friend's front yard—and watch the whole thing prevail at last year's SEMA show anyways.
But that's what Dominic Le does, who you might recall cooked up the Hakotora—the stew you end up with when you mix a Sunny pickup truck and a Hakosuka GT-R together—and before that an SR-swapped 510. You could say he knows his way around a proper build, so long as it isn't a 260Z or anything that has to do with a 2JZ.
About that 2JZ... Never mind the fact that twin-turbo Supra engines aren't among Dominic's field of expertise. As far as he was concerned, it was what the Z was calling for. "People ask why I cut it up and stuffed a Toyota motor into it. My answer is simple," he says. "Why not?"
Indeed, why not? There's nothing particularly wrong with Datsun's 2.6L L-series engine, it's just that there's everything right about Toyota's inline-six. That and when Dominic got the car, there were already remnants of a 2JZ underneath its hood. "[With] most of my builds, I go out and find a clean chassis. This one came to me from a friend," he says, going on about how the S30 sat at a shop collecting dust until its owner asked Dominic to take control. "Dumbly enough, I said yes without looking and checking it out first. The car was missing everything and the 2JZ that came with it had nothing on it."
As far as project cars go, this one wasn't ideal, it didn't make sense, and it was exactly what Dominic decided to turn into a SEMA-worthy Z in just three months' time. Days and hours were made up of not just turning wrenches and running wires, but combing websites and scouring service manuals. "I like the challenge of doing something [I] haven't done yet," Dominic says. "It took me some time to look up and research [everything]. I like to study a car to death before I go into a build."
An information shortage of all things 2JZ-GTE or even S30 chassis there was not. But words of advice when it came to the car's seldom-seen Marugen Shoukai Work aero and how to get it all to fit just right left even Google speechless. "We used a JDM body kit that had no documents or anything, a motor that I've never worked on before, and a chassis that was new to me," he admits. "Every turn on this build was a lesson learned and it taught me a ton."
Not that Dominic needed any lessons. The Southern California native's been modifying Japanese cars longer than you, starting with his mom's Accord. "I had to do everything quickly because that was the only car I had to get around [in]," he says about the fifth-generation model that got him to school and back. "Everything I did had to be done the same day so I could use the car the next day for school or work." It was no 90-day SEMA crunch but, for Dominic, it's proof that, for him, deadlines are nothing new.
Dominic later found his groove with Nissans, mastering the SR20DET and even taking on all manner of Datsuns. The 260Z, on the other hand, that was his first S30 chassis. "You can say I know my Datsuns [and] Nissans pretty well," he wants you to know, "but I'm always learning. This is my fourth Datsun build within the last three years."
And yet despite all of his acumen with those SR engines and anything that isn't an S30, Dominic landed in unfamiliar territory. But conventional engine swaps of the same make and body kits that can be sourced in a day rarely earn anybody the sort of accolades Dominic's gotten. "We were filming for Velocity TV's SEMA Battle of the Builders and got a visit from Chip Foose, who couldn't believe that the car was built on a driveway in three months," he says.
Unlike that Accord, Dominic didn't put together this Z to drive it to school and back. Today, it sits in a collector car garage on the other side of the country. But it did what it set out to do, which was to turn heads at SEMA and go fast the rest of the time. "The power comes on like a train is hitting you when boost kicks in," he says about how that 2JZ responds to the Apex Performance turbo it's fitted with and the Adaptronic ECU that controls it all. It's nothing you'd expect from a car like Datsun's classic and limited-run Z, and all coming from a guy you wouldn't necessarily expect to make it happen.
Dominic is already an alumni member of pbskids, having both his SR-powered 510 and Hakotora truck featured in '14 and '16