Chapter One: Assembling the crew.
The convenience of this connected age we all live in comes with a hidden cost, Disconnection. Unfortunately younger enthusiasts these days may not even know what they’re missing out on. I doubt (and hope) the boffins never successfully digitize the full human experience. Perhaps one day marketers will make people forget it exists but they’ll never ever replicate it.
I only bring all this up because I’ve found myself hiding behind the wall of convenience for the past few months. I’ve been ridiculously busy and haven’t given myself the time to get out and just chill with friends or cars, or even better, friends with cars. A close mate of mine, Brad, invited me out for a Saturday night run through Sydney in a pack of Hakosukas and Kenmeris. I answered before he finished his question with ‘Shotgun!’. What was already scheduled was irrelevant. Luckily for you ladies and gents I brought my camera along to share some of the fun with the SpeedHunters family.
Brad is currently putting the finishing touches on what’s ended up being a 6 year build. Transforming the shell of an Aussie delivered Datsun (Datsun was Nissan’s entry brand in Australia during the 1970’s ) 240K GL coupe into a Jap spec Kenmeri GTR replica. The running gear and externals are pretty much finished, with only a few obscure interior trim items to be found and fitted.
The coupe is powered by a high compression L28 with a mild tune. It forgoes the convenience of injection and keeps the period correct triple webber carbies. A lumpier cam helps give the car a little bit of extra grunt up top and more burble down low. Extractors and a full exhaust complete the run to create a deep satisfying rumble while stationary and a sweet note when exposed the angry pedal. It’s an authentic time period build that puts out just over 185hp at the wheels. Not bad! Lowered springs give it a more aggressive and less boaty look. A set of genuine Wantanabes 16×8.5 fronts and wider 16×9.5 on the rear finish off the car nicely.
Brad reckons the engine is ‘finished’. I say ‘finished’ because I’ve known Brads for a long, long time and I know that no motor is ever truly finished until it blows up or is sold. My bet is the L28 will be stroked out to a 3 litre within the next 12 months and a stronger 5 speed be fitted ‘just in case’.
The coupe isn’t even my car and to be honest I’ve put minimal hours in helping out this time, but seeing the transformation from the shell it was to how it stands now fills me with a strong sense of pride on a job well done.
Brad is generally a pretty quiet and reserved kind of guy but there’s no masking how pleased he with how his Kenmeri project has come together so flawlessly. To celebrate he organised a city cruise with some of the local (plus one interstate) Datsun guys that he’s networked with and grown to call mates over the course of the long build. There were no facebook invites, no maps and no itinerary other than where to meet and the expectation that we’d find something decent to eat along the way. It couldn’t have been a simpler or more perfect plan.
Chapter 2: Just Drive
The 2nd Kenmeri was driven by Scott from all the way from the Sunshine Coast, way up near the top of the country. Australia is a big place. How Big? It took Scott 25 hours to drive roughly half the distance of the Eastern coast. Now that’s dedication!
Sure, he didn’t come down just to disturb the peace with us, there was an All Japan Day held in Newcastle the following day. Newcastle is roughly another 2 hour drive from Sydney. Did I mention Australia is big? An admirable effort and also a testament to the quality of his self-built coupe to make the long trip with no issues.
Scotty is pretty sure that his 240K was one of the last great Ebay finds in the country! The car cost him a mere $1,500. It’d be easily insured for $50,000 to $70,000 now that import prices have gone crazy. Having said that it’s not the same car it was when he bought it. It’s been given the royal rebuild treatment. No bolt was left unturned and every panel on the car has been untacked, rust checked/prepped and re assembled. It’s literally as close as you’ll get to a brand new classic car, except with a few upgrades to the power and handling. Hell, he went to the effort of nickel plating all the original parts to original spec. See I didn’t lie, this guy’s picture should be on display when you punch ‘ Datsun Dedication’ into a search engine!
Our first and only planned stop was our meeting spot. Dan’s garage. A well designed nostalgic paradise. The space was custom built to house his addiction. Raked ceilings and a clever use of space allow a full hoist and also a block and tackle along with plenty of working space. As large as it was it was still overflowing with classic cars! Six very impressive examples of Datsun/Nissan heritage. We might have to revisit Dan’s dream garage one day if the demand is there.
Seriously, the first car I see sitting in the garage was possibly the cleanest 2000GT I’ve ever seen outside of a museum. The bodywork was immaculate. It looked like it had just rolled off the dealer showroom floor. I’ve been assured that there are big plans for this in the near future too. I explored the man cave while we waited for the rest of our crew to arrive. 2 crazy 1600/ 510 coupes, A 4 door 1600/510 track car, A 240zx with mental running gear, the mentioned super clean KCG10 2000GT and a granny spec 240K waiting for a restoration and some ‘go fast’ bits from Yahoo Japan.
Suddenly, the suburban silence was broken by the burbly cackle and exhaust pops that could only come from an ‘L series’ motors. The cars would have been at least two blocks away when they came into earshot. Which gave us plenty of time to make our way to the street to watch the cars roll in.
Talk about an impressive line up! And we were still waiting for one more car! Finally we were all assembled. Daniel’s neighbors must have loved us leaving. Or perhaps they’re grown used to the extra noise these classics make. A cacophony of engine roars and exhaust pops from six of Japans finest engines echoed and reverberated against the brick and mortor of an average Aussie street. As awesome as these cars looked on the street they sounded even better.
Chapter 3. Hitting the road.
It was such an awesome and surreal to see and hear first hand. So many of these super rare icons of Japanese Tuning, cars that 99.9% of the population would have never seen set against a very ordinary and (until now) quiet piece of Australian suburbia.
And we were off! We’d swapped the touge for back lanes and cherry blossoms were traded in for gum trees.
Chuck, One of the Hako owners and also President of the Sydney Datsun Club recommended a cool little boat ramp area nearby to get some group shots of the cars before the sun dropped behind the horizon. We raced against the sun to get there with some time to spare, but I’d call the race a draw. I watched the last blip of sun sink behind the horizon as the cars rolled into position.
We were greeted by some locals who were curious to know what kind of cars they were looking at. An enthusiastic group of young kids were kind enough to give up their parking spaces to let us grab a group shot of all six cars. They were also pretty keen to show everyone how well one of their mother’s automatic Holden Commodores could do a single wheel burnout (I scored him a 2 out of 10 for form, 1 for effort and 1 for his disregard for his Mum’s car.)
Check it out! History in the making… maybe.
With the best of the light gone we decided not to hang around and do what what we planned. It was time to drive! So with that we hit the road and head right into the heart of Sydney and ultimately across the ‘Big Coathanger’, an affectionate term for the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge. If any of you guys have owned or currently drive a classic automobile you’ll know that there’s one more important pit stop to make before any journey beyond the local corner shop.
The cars are a magnet for attention. It didn’t take long before the cars had attracted another audience of interested punters who liked what they saw but weren’t 100% sure what it was they were looking at. The service station was no exception. A group of enthusiastic guys who were about to drive out of the servo parked up and got back out of their car (Yep, another Commodore) for a closer look and to find out if they were Datsuns or some kind of Mazda RX3’s!
The universal response to a Hakosuka and Kenmeri seems to be a smile! Maybe we need more of these in our lives. With tanks full of fuel we were ready to drive for at least another 15 minutes before our tanks were empty again. So we made our way through to the heart of the city. We made sure to cross both of Sydney’s iconic bridges.
Chapter 3: Citybound
Let’s be clear about this, Sydney is not Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto. I’d wager a decent sum of money that this would have been the very first time that anyone in Australia had gotten 3 Hakos and 3 Kenmeri’s together outside of a car show.
People of all ages stopped at stared with massive smiles as the angry pack of noisy nostalgia zig zagged through the otherwise quiet streets of suburbia. On Sunday morning I saw a stranger had posted up a VERY excited video of the cars rolling through a shopping precinct. The owners were all stoked by the warm reception.
The boys wanted to help me out, and take advantage of my camera, so we headed through the heart of town and across the iconic Harbour Bridge towards North Sydney and Milsons Point. Milsons Point look back across the harbor and presents some amazing views. It’s well worth the train trip across the bridge to check out first hand if you’re ever a tourist down this way.
We ended up in the same spot that Magnus Walker picked for his Sydney Outlaw meet a couple of months ago. We were extremely lucky and found that 6 of the 12 parking spots were available! Seriously!? When does that ever happen? We were quick to capitalize on the situation and parked. The Boys went for a romantic walk while I snapped a couple shots of the team against a super cool backdrop of the entire city, the sails of the Opera House and of course the bridge itself.
While we may have crazy wildlife, draconian car laws and extreme weather we still have an exceptionally beautiful city. It almost looks like a screenshot from Need For Speed!
People outside of Australia often make jokes that every piece of wildlife down here is trying to kill you. While we were hanging out by the harbour Chuck had a 1kg fruit bat fly into is face and scratch his nose with it’s massive claws! NO SH*T! While it’s never happened on a shoot before, the bat must have known I was considering documenting our adventure and wanted some e-fame.
Chapter 4. A new connection has been established.
With all the hard work done (sarcasm intended) Team Datsun headed north of the city to revisit a place they assured me presented a good feed. I was secretly hanging for a nice juicy steak, we ended up at a joint creatively called ‘Ribs and Burgers’. 10 Points if you can guess what they served…
I ended up with ribs and they were good. Damn good actually! But the conversation and spending time with like minded guys was better. I’d only met 3 of the 5 guys a couple of hours before but through our passion for cool cars, a cold beverage it felt like we were all old school friends catching up.
Apart from the adrenaline kick, these real life connections with like-minded people in the living, breathing world is one of the very best outcomes from tinkering with cars. That is, if you can break away from your keyboard or smartphone screen anyways.
Do yourself a favour, get a small group of mates together with a similar interest and organise a time and place to meet. Once your all there pick a direction on your compass that’ll steer you away from traffic and just drive. Keep the pack small, say 4 to 6 cars. I guarantee you’ll feel more satisfaction than that one time you posted that funny meme that 300 strangers ‘liked’.