Project Z

Owner: Roman Vanecek 
Photos/Words: Michael Satterfield

Two years ago Roman and I were walking through the madness that is the SEMA show, when his phone rang. It was the seller of a 1972 Datsun 240Z that Roman had called on. He had been looking for a good project car for several months and was only finding cars with major rust or sellers who wanted way more than the car was worth. But this Z was just an hour away, reasonably priced, and it being in Nevada, hopefully rust free. 

We drove out past the ring of suburbs surrounding Las Vegas, past Boulder City, right near the Arizona state line. After following directions that included turn left at the Taco Bell, we found a lonely storage yard filled mostly with boats that would never see the water again and RV's waiting for their annual trip to Wisconsin. 

The seller had been planning to restore the car for years, but like most car guy packrats he wanted to sell the Datsun to work on one of his other half dozen projects that were in various stages of disrepair. The car was nearly rust free, complete, and came full of extra parts. A deal was struck and we made plans to pick the car up the following week. 


The car was in great shape, but it had every standard 1970's auto accessory on it, from the door moldings and louvers to mudflaps and a cheesy shift knob. All of those had to go; this Z would be clean, mostly stock, with some JDM flavor.

Restoration time, Roman is a first rate mechanic and Nissan is by far his favorite brand, so he needed no motivation to get the car driving within days. Working between Los Angeles and Japan means he was able to bring parts back with him as he slowly restored each system of the car. After sorting out the running gear, the entire body was stripped and it was off for a full paint job.

The goal of the car was to keep the stock appearance and keep the upgrades subtle. The stock head was ported and polished and a NISMO cam was added. To keep it cool a Champion Cooling Systems radiator was installed and a close ratio 5 speed manual transmission was sourced to make the car more manageable on Southern California freeways. The interior is mostly stock with the stock seats being reupholstered with alcantara inserts and increased side bolstering to prevent sliding out of the seat in hard cornering, along with a Takata racing harness.

Since Roman wanted a fun car for the canyons tires and suspension were two the most important upgrades he focused on. Thanks to BC Racing we were able to install a fully adjustable coilover suspension on the Z (you can see that install here). Not a fan of oversized wheels on classic Roman opted to keep the stock wheels, but wrapped them in Falkin Azenis making the car stick to the corners.

Video from our first canyon run.