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1974 Datsun 260Z - Uncharted Territory

New to Datsun's Z, Dominic Le doles out a 2JZ-swapped champ anyways

Aaron Bonk
Sep 13, 2017
Photographer: Viet Nguyen

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.

  |   Dominic Le Datsun 510

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?"

  |   1974 Datsun 260Z Gnose Headlight Covers

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."

  |   1974 Datsun 260Z 2JZ GTE Swap

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."

  |   1974 Datsun 260Z JDN Gnose Front End Conversion

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.

  |   1974 Datsun 260Z JDM Gnose Front End Conversion

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."

  |   1974 Datsun 260Z Marugen Shoukai Work Rear Spoiler

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.

  |   1974 Datsun 260Z Marugen Shoukai Fender Flares

SS ALUMNI

  |   Dominic Le Datsun Sunny Hakotora Pickup

Dominic is already an alumni member of pbskids, having both his SR-powered 510 and Hakotora truck featured in '14 and '16

  |   It's not the first time an S30 engine bay's been taken over by a 2JZ, and it won't be the last. Here, a previous-generation Supra's R154 gearbox mates up to the MKIV engine along with a single-turbo conversion and a standalone ECU by way of Adaptronic. The whole thing's been beefed up with forged internals, Kelford cams, and a Supertech valvetrain and hangs underneath the hood by custom-fabricated and solid mounts.
  |   Exterior caption: It's a combination of the seldom-seen Marugen Shoukai Work front and rear spoilers and fender flares along with the John Player Special-like livery that pays homage to a more sophisticated era of motorsports heritage that make this 260Z unique. Pair all of that with an appropriate ride height thanks to BC Racing coilovers and some Work Meisters and you've got something that earned its spot at SEMA '16.
  |   Inside, it's all business but on a subtle, refined level. Takata harnesses and an AiM Sports dash coexist with a reworked but still factory-like interior.
By Aaron Bonk
383 Articles
1974 Datsun 260Z - Uncharted Territory
Tuning Menu
Owner: Dominic Le
Hometown: Santa Ana, CA
Engine: Toyota 2JZ-GTE engine swap; custom crossmember, solid engine mounts, exhaust manifold, 3" exhaust, fuel cell, surge tank, intercoolers, oil catch can; ported cylinder head; Kelford camshafts; Supertech valves, valvesprings, valve guides, titanium retainers; ARP head studs; Cometic head gasket; Wiseco pistons; Brian Crower HD connecting rods; lightened crankshaft; 90mm Accufab throttle body; Virtual Works intake manifold; Apex Performance turbo; TiAL 50mm blow-off valve; HKS 50mm wastegate; dual Bosch 044 fuel pumps; Nuke Performance fuel pressure regulator, fuel rail, and fuel filter; FiveoMotorsport 1,600cc injectors; Rywire/CSF radiator; Chevrolet LS ignition coils; Wiring Specialties engine wiring harness; AN fittings and lines
Drivetrain: transmission swap; ORC twin-disc clutch; custom axles; Z32 300ZX rear differential with 3.59:1 final drive ENGINE MANAGEMENT Adaptronic M2000 ECU
Footwork & Chassis: custom BC Racing coilovers and Swift springs; custom front and rear control arms
Brakes: custom Silver Mine Motors/Wilwood big brake kit; five-lug conversion
Wheels & Tires: 18x11" -38 front, 18x12.5" -31 rear Work Meister M1 3P wheels; 255/35R18 front, 285/35R18 rear Toyo Proxes T1 Sport tires; TredWear tire lettering
Exterior: JDM Gnose front-end conversion and headlight covers; JDM Marugen Shoukai Work front spoiler, fender flares, rear spoiler
Interior: custom reworked seats and harness bar; Renown USA steering wheel; Takata Drift II/ASM harnesses; AIM Sports MXL Pista dash; Driftmotion adjustable short shifter
Thanks You: my wife, Cindy, for everything you have done to help me finish this build; my in-laws for coming over to help with the kids; Johnny (Zerorust) for trusting me; Stan from Toyo Tires; JC from Work Wheels; Jim from Apex Performance Turbo; Michael from TredWear; Ryan from Rywire; Shawn from Turbosource/Adaptronic for the amazing tech support; Yury from Wiring Specialties; Aaron from Driftmotion; Jon Sibal for being so sexy and designing the livery; Vito, Krist (stickyicons), Brendan and Nick for the last-minute help; Ravi from CSF; David from 714Tires; Richard (gt240z); Bride USA; Mark from Takata; Hung from HPS Racing; Scott from Renown; RJ from Meguiar's; and lastly, this one is for you, Nicholas Le and Lauren Le! Daddy loves you!

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