The ’70s were a mixed bag for car enthusiasts. Similarly, traditional performance cars were evaporating quickly: Compression ratios were dropping like suicidal lovers from the Golden Gate Bridge; catalytic converters cleaned the air but smothered performance in its crib; park-bench bumpers grew in the front and rear of virtually every car sold in America, adding weight and sapping what power was left. Insurance companies had killed traditional American performance, and whatever was left was mopped up from the first OPEC crisis. For 1970, GM offered a 370-gross-horsepower, high-revving 350-cube small-block; by 1976, the same displacement in a 4500-pound Chevy Impala offered just 145hp from thecontinues to be built from the base up, plus supercharged to make 650whp on pump gas.
That left the door wide open for any performance-hungry populace to discover newer, more efficient machines. lighter and Smaller, the new type of performance car needed less power to deliver better performance. Datsun’s Z-car was a natural choice: Its low-slung body, sexy good looks and anvil-like reliability won it a huge number of friends, and millions more admirers. An electricalIt was only a matter of time before someone dropped bigger power into a Z. Enter Brian Morrow, founder/owner/president of Scarab, who engineered the small-block-Chevy-into-a-Datsun-Z swap. Breathe about the engine, take it up to pre-emissions levels and voila! The SBC weighed about the same because the all-iron straight-six that was removed for the conversion and set back slightly for improved weight distribution. More power, same weight, better handling… who could complain? (See sidebar for more.)
1972 datsun 240Z sparco steering wheelhave got all moved on within the decades since. Advances in specifications have allowed five- and six-speed transmissions; advances in technology allow programmable fuel injection for increased tires and gratifaction that are much less likely to be spinning at the end of a quarter-mile run; advances in materials have made components and bodywork alike stronger and lighter. Some of these have come from the aftermarket, and some (when it comes toin the event it came out within the 1992 Corvette: a genuine 300 net flywheel horsepower, numbers that hadn’t been seen since the early 1970s. (The LT1 was named to remind people of those heady high-performance days). A year later, it would appear in greater numbers inside the fourth-generation Camaro Z28 and Firebird Trans Formula and Am lines, using a rated 275hp. There were improvements over previous small-block iterations: aluminum cylinder heads (though the block remained cast iron), up-to-date fuel-injection software along with a so-called reverse-cooling system, which starts coolant flow in thetoo: The rotating assembly was interchangeable with millions of earlier SBCs, meaning there was a ready-made aftermarket full of parts that would fit this new engine. By 1996, a level hotter version, called LT4, was available for select Corvette models: improved breathing for that heads and intake, a more radical cam profile and 1.6 roller rockers in those new aluminum heads.
Before rear tires, 1972 datsun 240Z straight pipe 05 Photo 7/16
And yes it was around this time, the mid-1990s, that 18-year-old Darius Khashabi fell in love with a 240Z who had previously been converted to small-block Chevy power. This car had been converted to V8 power in the early ’80s; I have a stack of receipts from previous owners that shows that money was dumped into this car for years. It had bubble flares as i got it, and eventually a buddy and I hung new quarters onto it and managed to make it look stock-bodied again. I let a pal borrow it, he crashed it, we tore it down, painted it black and upgraded to the LT1.
Now, Darius makes his living as a motorcycle stunt rider. Replicating the two-wheeled thrills of his day job would take some doing, you’d think…but in terms of power along with the minimalism, we’d say he’s just about as near as he will get to a four-wheeled bike. I added a supercharger in 2000, he says. Quickly, I discovered which it was just an excessive amount of power; I needed wider tires in order to hook up, which meant I needed a widebody, and so i started the transformation that you see today.basically stripped minus the Sparco seats, custom ’cage and dash.
Currently, Darius has a machine that would blow anyone’s mind. There is precious little Datsun left: The body is entirely fiberglass, except the roof (using the fenders blistered out to accommodate 12-inch-wide rubber); the fuel-injected, pump-gas-fed, supercharged 650hp engine, and the attendant driveline that handles it, is all aftermarket-fortified GM, save for the 300ZX rear end; the interior is gutted, bar seats and belts, an eight-point ‘cage, the factory dash shape full of Auto Meter gauges and six-point harnesses; the chassis has become completely transformed beyond the scope of anything Nissan’s engineers would have dreamed of for a full-race machine, significantly less a fun weekend cruiser its owner uses to take downtown and scare people. And he doesn’t even have to be going fast to do it. The exhaust are twin 3-inch pipes having a stainless muffler that’s pretty much straight through, like a cherry bomb, he says. They pretty much don’t do anything. It’s stupid loud. You drive it for some time, then you’re like, ‘Get me using thisAs if a display from the power-20 pounds of boost through a stroker 383-cube LT1, informed by an ACCEL Thruster brain, fed by 80-pound injectors, sparked by coil-on-plug technology that has long since surpassed the dodgy Optispark distributor-wouldn’t do that alone. But all the inconvenience, all the bespoke adapting of components, all of the effort, all of the money, is in the name of speed. I took it to some Shift-S3ctor half-mile event, and that i got it up to 159mph. A buddy with a Ferrari 458 went through the traps at 158mph, and a McLaren MP4-12C experienced at 161mph, so I was right up there with many other cars that had similar horsepower to mine. And mine doesn’t have wind-tunnel shaping like those did.
And somehow, that’s not enough for Darius, grumbling that he can top out at a theoretical 174mph. I asked for 8.5: When I measured the pistons in the bore, they were a quarter-inch from even with the deck, though 1 compression from the engine builder. With assorted pistons, I’d be making 850 hp. Events like Shift-S3ctor’s have fueled Darius’ desire to tweak his combination for maximum results. The motor’s coming out, and I’m planning to raise it to 9.5: 1 compression and run race gas. I’ll have the T56 rebuilt and perhaps a 3.13 final drive ratio-it’s got a 3.73 now. I’d like to do certainly one of their mile-long events and go 200.
That 200-mile-an-hour mile is a long way in theof the Datsun Z-car. A few hundred of Brian Morrow’s Scarabs were built at the San Jose conversion facility, but more crucially, Scarab sold thousands of kits to budding power-seekers. That kit is, quite likely, the cornerstone for the Z that Darius bought within the mid-1990s. Since it happens, our cousins throughout the hall at Motor Trend tested an early Scarab in 1976. Here’s what they were required to say:
Slam the throttle down, and the car leaps forward, accompanied by the shriek of tires grabbing for traction. The tachometer needle climbs smoothly and swiftly to the 6000rpm redline. Almost too quickly, it’s time to shift again; and the delicious feel of acceleration starts all over again, till the trees and fence posts blur right into a solid guard rail beside the road. It really is exciting, understandably. Where the Scarab really goes to life, though is on twisting mountain roads with climbing and diving turns connected by short straights. It is on these roads, with their demands on a vehicle’s transitional handling qualities, that the Scarab displays its character.
That was inside a 2600-pound car with 350 flywheel horsepower; it tripped the beams in 14 seconds flat at 104mph. Darius’ car is hundreds of pounds lighter, and has nearly double the power.
1972 datsun 240Z procharger race bypass valve 13
1972 datsun 240Z GM LT1 V8 12
1972 datsun 240Z procharger race bypass valve 14
Chevrolet’s small-block V8, dating clear back to the fall of 1954, has been America’s go-to mill preferred by almost given that it’s been alive. Fuel-injected as early as 1957, the SBC has even been the engine of choice among small, independent foreign-car companies that needed areliable and powerful, cheap engine for their hyper-expensive Grand Touring machines. British Gordon-Keeble used Chevy power in their eponymous Giugiaro-styled coupes; Italian Iso took the SBC aboard for their luxurious Rivolta, Grifo, Fidia and Lele (through ’72, anyway); and each of Italian upstart Bizzarrini’s meager output utilized Chevy power. (You can’t really count the 283-cube Opel Diplomats of the mid-’60s or 327/350-fronted Holden Monaros of the late ’60s, since both are GM divisions…however theyMesmerised
You’ll see two other cars lurking about this story. The first is an ’07 Z06 Corvette and is Darius’ daily driver. Not one to leave a car stock, he’s added a ZR1 wing, side front and skirts splitter, a pair of 20-inch iForged wheels, a Synergy Motorsports cam, Cook’s headers along with an Akropovic exhaust. Compared to his Z, the Z06 is simply lightly breathed on and puts out 553hp in the rear wheels.
The GT-R is a 2010 model belonging to Darius’ buddy Admir Besic, who specified a Switzer P800 kit. It includes a very high-flow intake and injectors, ball-bearing turbo upgrades, high-pressure wastegate actuators, high-flow down pipes, larger intercoolers, stainless 102mm exhaust system and more. The combination is good for 600whp on pump gas and 700whp on race fuel.
We demonstrate these two like a basis for comparisons. Darius and Admir have raced these three cars in every possible combination. I’ve raced my Z06 from the GT-R on pump gas, and they were dead even, Darius says. That’s a bit of a surprise, until you realize that the Nissan weighs half a ton more and has to get over the additional frictional losses that most-wheel-drive naturally incurs.
And how does the Z fare in all of the this, with about 750 pounds less than the Corvette and nearly a ton lighter than the R35? We’ve raced the Z from the GT-R a bunch, Darius tells us. Against my Z, the GT-R with race gas was dead even. But the Z against the Corvette, the Datsun just walks away!