Zach Zupancic

Zach Zupancic

Senior Designer, SolidWorks addict, AutoCAD zealot, Cyclist, Shade Tree Mechanic, & moderately tall. 

Passions of the past

A few months ago I discussed the want of building a project car (harking to the past). I have been on the lookout for something special, something to make mine. Up until recently chance has not been on my side. There was still an issue to resolve before I made the investment into actually getting a project, what to actually get. I narrowed the decision down to two suspects, either a MGB/MGBGT or a Datsun 240z. To speak the truth, I really couldn’t make up my mind. There was the glory of the British classic vs. the spirit of Japan: pints vs. sake, an accent that could read the phone book vs. one of the harshest languages in the world. Like most things, I left it up to chance to decide the fortunes of good men, and that is exactly what happened. I started to discuss it with the pops, asking him what he would prefer to ride/drive. He said that the MG is a good car, but… it is just another British sports car. The 240z, on the other hand, is a classic.

At the time that I asked him, there were two cars on the market that I was interested in: a non-running $800 MG and a running $1500 240z. With the 240z on full force, I called up the owner and drove to San Diego to check out the vehicle. It was not as expected. He stated that it was running with a 4 speed, and when I got there it was running, but it was not road worthy in any respect. The car was still undergoing an auto to manual swap, and there was still much to do. So I left him to the wrenching to finish up the car, and let me know when it was finished. The next morning I got a message from the owner saying that someone offered the full asking price in the current condition; lame. I told him to sell the car; after all I was only going to offer $1300 after it was drivable anyway. So I was kind of pissed, but I figured that I could find one later. No rush.

Then out of the blue he lets me know that there is another Datsun 240z being sold for $500… in Fallbrook. Wha?!?! For serious? So I did some checking up, called the poster up and went to check it out. The pictures that were posted on craigslist made the car look like it had surface rust everywhere, but when I went to check it out; it was pretty ridiculous. The car that I looked at in San Diego ($1500 one), had some rust spots that were near the frame, the $500 one. Oh my god. There is rust, but all of it is on the skin of the car. Then I started to look everywhere for any signs of it. It was hard to believe that it would have less rust than a car that cost 3 times as much, but apart from the rear wheel skin there wasn’t anything of consequence.

While I was there, 30-45 minutes, thinking about buying the non-running car they had 18 other people that were just as interested in the car. So I knew that if I wanted to make this car mine I would have to move on it quick. With the knowledge that it wasn’t running, I had to start looking for other ways of making sure that I could get the car started for as much as I was willing to spend for the 240z that I found in San Diego ($1300). And then I found it.

Along with the car posted in Fallbrook, there was an engine and transmission posted in Mira Mesa for $300. Boom. I thought about it for another 10 minutes, and decided to buy the car. It is a rare chance that a 240z in this great of condition would ever be sold for this cheap again. After the deal was made, I told him my plans with the car. How it was going to be my project car for road races and some spirited canyon runs. He said that it would cost around $15,000-20,000 to get this car actually on the road. I smiled a bit, and said “I can get this car running for less than $1000.” He thought it may be a hard target to reach, but he had faith “you look like you have the determination to do so.”

I stand by my statement, and it has become my budget to get the car running. It may not road worthy, but it will be running.

1973 Datsun 240z
1973 Datsun 240z
1973 Datsun 240z

For the complete collection of the 240z project photos click HERE

Sure it may not be the prettiest girl that I have owned, but the potential… far greater.

After a day of wrenching and some minor work to the car, I have decided how I want to start building it. The rules and guidelines that I want to follow throughout the project must remain in focus, or else it will never get done. First and foremost, I want to have the engine running for less than $1000. I may be stretching myself thin, but I think it can be done. I have already invested $600 into the car: $500 in the chassis, $100 on spark plugs, spark plug wires, oil, and oil filter. With the purchase of the engine and transmission from Mira Mesa that will bring my total to $900. Once engine runs I will still need to get new fuel filters, possibly a new thermostat, and radiator fluid. So… I will be cutting it close.


Recently I have re-acquainted myself with my love of photography, and now I am getting back to the dirty fingernail days of working on cars. And you know what, no matter how many times that I racked my knuckles or had to make stupid trips to the auto parts store today; I have had a smile on my face all day. I may just be learning about the woes of working on a classic car, and yeah this might not be the best thing to do right now, but I am happy. Being able to sit back and look at the work that I have done, what I will do, and what it will look like in the end is well… a petrol-sexual’s dream.

-till next time

p.s. I re-found this video Drew King – made back in 2004ish, so much has changed... 


Zach Zupancic | MySpace Video

I think I may have to buy a pack of Lucky Strikes in honor of me getting back into it.