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.
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.
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.
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.
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.