Z Cars – Notes From The Archives

June 22nd, 2017 by James Chartres

Words by: Gary Horstkorta – June 2016

Sometimes when a manufacturer gives a specific car model a somewhat sedate or non-aggressive name, it doesn’t reflect what the car is capable of on the road or track. Take for example the Nissan Fairlady a name which sounds better suited for a nice, comfortable four door sedan which was the designation in Japan of a car that would cause a sensation when it was shown to the world in 1969. When introduced to the U.S. market in 1970 it carried a different designation (as an export model), the Datsun 240Z, a car which would become very popular for the street and a staple in SCCA road racing for several decades.

Devendorf leads Leary – IMSA 2.5 July 30 1978

Upon it’s debut in the U.S. potential buyers flocked to Datsun showrooms to grab a look at this stylish new two door sports car. It came standard with a 2.4 liter, inline, six-cylinder engine with twin SU carbs putting out 151 horsepower; a four speed manual transmission; disc brakes up front and drums on the rear. The Z had a top speed of 125 mph, weighted 2355 pounds all for a very reasonable $3500. It wouldn’t be long before the first 240Zs would make their way to SFR grids.

From the archive material, it appears that Walt Maas, sponsored by the Bay Area Datsun Dealers in 1971 was the first to run a 240Z in SFR races in C Production and went on to win the regional championship in the class. The Z was a popular car in C Production with several other drivers racing in that class including Dave Chidester and Mac Flanigan.

Frank Leary at Laguna National – June 25, 1978

After three previous attempts, Maas in his Z won his class at the 1974 National Runoffs in Atlanta. Maas’ Z was sponsored by FAR Performance, one of the first local race shops to actively race the car and offer a variety of aftermarket performance parts for purchase.

As the 240Z evolved into the later 260Z then the 280Z, the list of drivers racing the Datsun continued to grow. In 1977 in C Production, ten of the top thirteen drivers earning regional points were driving Z’s including Joel Anderson, Gary Kerch, Dave Stohlman, Ed O’Sullivan, George Kord, Maurice Oetzen, Mike Mullinix, Neil Vanni, Joe Leonard and Don Madsen.

FAR Performance ad in early 1970 race program

In 1978, Frank Leary won the C Production class at the Runoffs beating one P. L. Newman (Bob Sharp Datsun) to the checkered flag. Nineteen of the twenty-three cars on the grid for that race were Z’s. In addition, fifteen of the twenty-three cars in Showroom Stock A were Z’s with D.J. Fazkas of Indianapolis winning and Raymond Kong of Sunnyvale, CA finishing in seventh. To have thirty-four of their cars in the Runoff field must have made the Datsun factory boys mighty proud.


FAR Performance Z post at finish of race.

The Z continued to win in 1979 with Michael Mullinix and Glenn Klimak finishing one-two in the Pacific Coast Championship but in 1980, competition from the Triumph TR8 and Mazda RX7 pushed the Z down to fourth in the NorPac Division standings. However, a Z driven by Bill Doyle won the Pacific Coast Championships and Dave Vanek won Showroom Stock A. While the dominant performances in C production had waned somewhat, Z cars would continue to garner their share of the glory in SFR for several years to come.

You can still see many of these same cars beginning to appear in more vintage races as they approach forty plus years in age yet are becoming recognized for their place in SFR and SCCA racing history.

10 Responses to “Z Cars – Notes From The Archives”

June 24, 2017 at 4:53 am, Coomzie1 said:

Paul Newman had success in the US for a few years with a Z31.
What about the Paris to Dakar being won by 240z (twice?) piloted by our own Brian Schou wasnt it??


June 24, 2017 at 5:08 am, James Chartres said:

This was just a quick highlight of some of the Z car racing in the region. Lots of great Z car racing around the world.


June 24, 2017 at 9:19 pm, Larry Oka said:

The FAR Datsun 240z in the ad is currently run in vintage racing by Glenn Chiou .
The Joel Anderson #49 240z is currently run by Rob Fuller.
The Glenn Klimek 240z is currently run by Larry Oka
All these cars have remained in the Bay Area.
The Bob Sharp /PL Newman 240z is currently run by Dave Stone. Also in the Bay Area


June 24, 2017 at 9:23 pm, Larry Oka said:

I believe the Mullinix car is currently raced by Bob Romimper and the Vanni car is owned by Annon Varanasi. Also in the Bay Area


December 27, 2017 at 4:46 am, Mike Vanek said:

Dave Vanek is my uncle


January 23, 2018 at 9:43 pm, Greg Wadas said:

I was the 1979 PCRRC C Production winner @ Sears Pacific Coast Road Race Runoffs. I was #41 and shared the garage with Joel Anderson in Santa Clara, knew Frank from FAR, had his head on my engine that I won in and his trailer…..Mullinex lived around the corner from my parents and I raced against Glen Klimek….think he was from Sacto….red car if memory serves….livng in AZ and looking into NASA….Not much of an SCCA presents here.


March 19, 2018 at 1:58 am, Mark Mendoza said:

Does anyone know if Glenn is bringing his 240 to the Rolex reunion this August. Nissan is featured marquee. It would be great to see again!


June 25, 2018 at 3:47 pm, Larry Cooper said:

Yes he is! I’m bring mine too.>


July 04, 2018 at 8:30 pm, WriterMike said:

Frank Leary was a friend of my father’s and mine. He was C Prod champ for more than just ’78. If memory of his poster that I had on wall through high school serves, he had a total of 5 regional and 5 or 6 national C Prod championships in 240Z, 260Z, and 280Z cars. He also helped me build my first race car, a ’69 Camaro RS that I raced at the Santa Clara Fairgrounds, San Jose Raceway, Baylands, Laguna Seca, and Sears Point.

Frank used to come over to my dad’s Chevron station in Mountain View near Rengstorff (now Shoreline Parkway) and 101 to give my dad a hand. In turn, my dad helped Frank on his Healy and then his Zs. I’ve got a picture of my father holding me on the driver seat of that car holding onto the steering wheel in our driveway when I was about a year old.


September 10, 2018 at 11:05 pm, John Washington said:

WriterMike, did you see the redux of Frank’s car (by Jake Tesch) at RMMR?


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