Black Chariot: Christine Siepka’s ’78 Datsun 280z
When it comes to building a car; actually putting some blood, sweat and tears into it, cars like Christine’s 280z really hit home. This Datsun is far beyond a simple drop and some fitted wheels. Can you say “Two and a half years in the making” and “work in progress”? Well, that’s exactly how Christine described this gorgeous piece of automotive legendry. With the Z being over 30 years old, starting from ground zero is an understatement; let’s try 6 feet under.
Buying the car sight-unseen, Christine knew right off the bat that this car was going to require some much needed attention. Luckily, the car being from Florida, the typical issues of rust were pretty much non-existent, and for someone living in the Midwest, this is truly a god-send. With positives, there always comes some negatives, and in Christine’s case for the Z, it came in the form of having to source almost a full interior for the car, as well as some various things needed to even get the car road worthy.
“It’s a learning experience. I did a whole lot of reading on the common (and not so common) issues…so I wasn’t surprised to find that mine had them as well.” Compared to newer cars, a 30+ year old classic like the Datsun 280z is far from being a grab ‘n go process. You don’t hear of new Z owners having to repair dash cracks do you? Well, that’s where the dedication of a true build shines, and between Christine and her husband, the countless hours put into this beautiful ride definitely shows.
Now, getting a car’s stance dialed in is one thing, but to Christine’s surprise, her 280z wasn’t going to get low without a fight. With the frame rails being the lowest point on the car, it was accepted that the car was not going to avoid some road to frame contact in it’s near future. Fitted with a custom set of coilovers meant for an s13, Christine’s Datsun definitely begins to flirt with the approval of some purists, but that didn’t bother her, as this car was definitely built to her own standards, and no one else’s.
The wheel fitment is nothing short of jaw-dropping either. Staggered Work Meister CR01’s at 15”x9” and 15”x10” in the front and rear respectively snug nicely behind those custom, yet characteristic flares of the classic Z models. Finishing up the suspension, a slew of pieces from Techno Toy Tuning were situated to bring the Z up to par.
Last, but certainly not least, the engine on Christine’s Z has been given a fair share of attention as well. From the beginning, Christine’s vision had always been to give her Z a more powerful drivetrain. Since acquiring the car, the original motor has been given a freshening up, and I’ve been told that parts are still accumulating, waiting for the off-season when the plans to swap in an upgraded variation of the original L28 motor, an L28et. For those not in the know, the L28et was a turbocharged version produced for the later model 280ZX Turbo models through June of 1983. After a little history lesson on these Nissan motors, it appears that the turbo models were deemed unsafe, or too powerful by Japan’s Ministry of Transportation, and therefore were never sold in the Z’s homeland.
As previously mentioned, Christine is far from finished with getting her hands dirty under the hood of her 280. With an upcoming motor swap only a few short months away, she also hinted to us that she “already has other things planned that I haven’t seen done yet – I’ll just keep those to myself!” Talk about a finishing statement leading to a sequel!
Christine would like to thank Leo Tapia of Great Lakes Auto Body, Ryan Corwell of Corwell Customs and Touge Factory for all their knowledge and help throughout the process of Christine’s Z. You can rest assured that we’ll be keeping a close eye on this car as it undergoes yet another phase of it’s life under Christine’s acute eye for detail and perfection!
Editor: David Monzingo