SEMA 2016: Datsuns, Datsuns, Datsuns!


You’ve seen what Mazda, Toyota, and Honda have done for SEMA. Nissan had no official presence, but one thing is clear. Of all the old school Japanese marques, among customizers, none is more beloved than Datsun. 


Let’s start with the must-see build that was on every Nissan nut’s list. The Z Car Garage Hakosuka debuted at the OS Giken booth, and despite its ubiquity at JCCS a vintage Skyline is still a rare sight at SEMA. The mere sight of a KGC10 would have been reason enough swing by the famed Japanese tuning house’s display, but the real show stopper lay beneath the hood.


The heart of the Hako is none other than the unicorn of Nissan motors, the OS Giken TC24-B1Z. Last year, the ZGC-built 240Z became the first car in America to have the famed motor — an aftermarket kit converting the standard SOHC Nissan L-series into a twin-cam crossflow head with gear-driven cams and a 10,000 rpm redline.

As with last year’s Z, the team at Z Car Garage found a brilliant solution for showing off the engine while keeping the rest of the car appealing for photos: getting a second hood and cutting a window in it. That way, original lines are kept in tact and the motor can be viewed without having the car look like a Swiss Army knife.


The car itself has a bit of history as well. It’s in fact the ex-Jim Froula race car that ran at the Rolex Motorsports Reunion during the Monterey Historics. The off-white and burgundy livery is still in tact; the current graphic scheme is wrap.


Z Car Garage is the sole authorized US distributor of OS Giken parts, and is being commissioned for ever more high-end builds. The presence of more TC24-B1Z engines — which cost over $30,000 — is proof that the market for classic Nissans beyond the typical slammed 510 is growing fast.

Also note that the ZCG shop dog, Kane, could not be there in person, but was definitely there in spirit and cardboard.

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Incredibly there was a second Hako this year, and it happened to be at the Eneos Oil booth right next to OS Giken. With thousands of booths, the chances are quite slim, but there it was, some kind of bizarre cosmic confluence of Skylines.

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It happened to be the rare Hako that came from east of the Mississippi. It’s owned by Ginash George, founder of  JDM Chicago. It’s also the rare KGC10 that doesn’t try to pretend it’s a GT-R. Not only are the gold badges (the GT-R would have red ones) kept in tact, but so is the wider grille emblem and even the L20 engine. It’s a great example of how more is not always better, and doing a lot with what you have.


Speaking of Skylines, GReddy displayed the “it” car of the 25-year importation exemption, an R32. But rather than the standard GT-R, it was a four-door model with the requisite turbo RB engine swap. As Godzilla prices climb, the sedan has become an excellent alternative that’s more accessible.


Phil Blottie’s 1972 Datsun 510 is indeed slammed, but it’s more than just a thrown-together collection of bolt-ons and forced patina. Every aspect has clearly had thought put into it, including the livery, which was inspired by Walt Maas’ Trans-Am 2.5 Challenge race car.


Under the well-weathered skin, it’s a melting pot of Japanese cars. The front suspension is from a narrowed Toyota pickup and features custom control arms. The rear suspension has been relocated and modified with a 280Z crossmember, and the engine is a Mazda 13B rotary.

Before the purists get angry, though, it should be noted it isn’t a clean 510 that’s been hacked up. Phil says the car had been “left to rust in a field for 20 years” before he started his project in 2013. It was a rescue, not a ruin.

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If the previous 510 was built purely for style, a blue BRE-inspired example was built for function. Competing in the Optima Batteries Ultimate Street Car Challenge, it’s a serious track machine that’s also road-legal and built to withstand being driven in anger.


Parked in the same section was a fellow USCC competitor, an R35 GT-R that also wore the iconic BRE livery. Both cars, along with numerous others, will compete to see who has built the best mix of street and circuit this weekend.


A Datsun 320 stood as a proper take on a lightly patina’d custom truck. Nothing on it is exaggerated, and the ride height is perfect for the street rod shop truck the widened steelies suggest.


The outpouring of Datsun love wasn’t limited to actual builds, either. Allison Design is primarily known for illustrations of hot rods, but included in their exhibit were two iconic Datsun race cars any JNCer will surely recognize.


Diecast manufacturer Jada showed prototypes of their upcoming line of “JDM Tuners” as well. The line will include an FD3s, NSX, AE86, (more on this later), and a be-winged Datsun 510. Scales will range from 1:64 to 1:24.


Amazingly, they weren’t even the only diecast company to announce a new line of Nissan models. M2, which until now has also been known primarily for American cars and the occasional Volkswagen, will be coming out with a series of highly detailed 1:64-scale cars as well.

Models include the Datsun 510, Hakosuka Skyline, and S30 Fairlady Z. Actual prototypes weren’t shown, but a poster disclosing their arrival in summer 2017 was displayed.


Back to the real thing, Z-cars, specifically G-nose examples, were a big deal this year. At the AEM Induction booth, drifter Chris Forsberg showed off his RB-powered Datsun 280Z. It’s the same car that starred in a 2014 video in which Forsberg slides his car around a series of empty streets. Of course, it’s been completely reworked since then. The body kit is notable for coming from Middle East tuner CarbonSignal.


At a Toyo Tires display, a John Player-themed G-nose Z held court with a Toyota 2JZ under the hood. The builder is Dominic Le, whose Hakotora ranked in the top 21 Battle of the Builders last year.


Right by the two Hakos was Peter Brock’s Datsun 240Z, which we first saw at its 2014 JCCS debut. With a blueprinted engine and VTOs emulating the magnesium American Racing Le Mans wheels that were used by the race cars and offered in the BRE catalog to customers, it’s a street car tribute to his famous BRE race cars, and both were built by the same man 46 (!) years apart


Our absolute favorite Z, however, was the car in the lead photo: Liberty Walk Fairlady Z. JNC‘s Japan team spotlighted it when it debuted at the Tokyo Auto Salon earlier this year, but this is the first time it’s been shown in the US.


With a custom widebody kit inspired by Liberty Walk shacho Wataru Kato’s bosozoku roots, there is something just so right and unmistakably Japanese about how this car sits. Beneath the hood there’s an L-series bored and stroked to 3.1 liters with a very light flywheel for that zoku-revving sound.


Ironically, it was the front-and-center scene stealer in the booth Dub Magazine — named after the term for rims 20-inches or larger — which confounded showgoers to no end. “Look how small those wheels are!” was a comment oft heard as we were photographing the car. That’s right , smaller is better.


Despite a reputation today that trades mostly on widebody Lamborghinis and Ferraris, the Z is near and dear to Kato-san’s heart. He personally oversaw its build and debuted it at TAS.

Bonus Images. Click to enlarge.


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11 Responses to SEMA 2016: Datsuns, Datsuns, Datsuns!

  1. Aaron says:

    I’m really regretting not going this year. Thanks

  2. pete240z says:

    I have an old OS Giken brochure in my collection that has some great pictures of that engine. I am not sure where I even got this but it ranks high.

  3. Negishi no Keibajo says:

    Whoaa… Dat Z. (Liberty). I don’t think I’ve seen that rear window treatment before. I wonder what that would look like in non-racing colors like a solid dark red. I usually am not hot on crazy interpretations but this is cool.

  4. Nathan Babbitt says:

    Did you notice that The Datsun L320 had been converted into a electric vehicle. It was a combined project with Local Motors and Babbitt Motor Werks. Local motors makes an all in one KIT, The Electric Motor, Gearing, Control Modules and half shafts al in one case. I can send pictures if you are interested .

  5. Randy says:

    Still dig the 320 truck… Perfect for runs to the DIY store and grocery shopping. 🙂

    Ain’t no way 6,000 lbs. GVW, though…

  6. Punto8 says:

    That OS Giken TC24-B1Z is definitely a sight for sore eyes! See folks!!!!! No LS swap required!!!! Let’s go back to being creative with what we have. Demand determines the price for these innovations and will drive down the price over time. Let’s stop destroying increasingly rare chassis with nonsensical SBC swaps. Let’s go back to what made Japanese cars so great.

  7. Ant says:

    Oh my, that OS Giken Hako. Thanks for bringing it to my attention – had I seen it in person, it’s the sort of car I might have ignored, just assuming someone had thrown some modern rims on a classic car (not something I’m a fan of). But love the idea of that engine. Hadn’t even seen this before I mentioned Hakosukas in the Question of the Week post, either…

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