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Beginner’s Luck: A Supercharged V8 Datsun Z

Beginner’s Luck: A Supercharged V8 Datsun Z

The Beginning Of The End

“It was supposed to be a daily.” If there’s a phrase uttered more often among car builders, I’ve honestly yet to hear it.

We tell this lie to ourselves all the time, but in this story Josh Wilson wasn’t the one to lie to himself, his friend did. Josh legitimately set out looking for a daily driver, and it was his friend Keegan who suggested a Z car would be a great choice.

Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Josh's Z

At the time Josh wasn’t really into cars, at least not as much as he is today. But it didn’t take Keegan long to convince him that the sporty L28-powered Japanese coupe would make a great daily.

Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Josh's Z

Add to the fact that the seller of this 280Z was even throwing in a second motor free of charge, what could possibly go wrong?

So Josh and Keegan bought the car and towed it home, then spent the entire night combining the parts from each L28 motor so the car would fire up the next morning.

Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Josh's Z

Josh didn’t know it at the time, but in those 12 hours he was inducted into the world of car enthusiasm. By comparision, the several-hours-a-night schedule he would later adopt would be light work.

Prior to getting heavily involved with his 280Z, Josh had always worked with his hands. As a child he was the type to take apart dad’s VCR while he was away, and then scramble to put it back together before he returned.

He eventually turned that technical interest into a career as a mechanical engineer. At work Josh spends most of his time behind a desk, but when he gets home the slacks come off and the oil-stained jeans go on.

Through his therapeutic nightly wrenching sessions, the Z did wind up a fairly capable daily driver. But with his friend Keegan still operating as the devil on his shoulder, and his own angel fascinated with making the car better, things quickly got carried away.

Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Josh's Z

The Z is Josh’s first build, and he soon became addicted to the feeling of accomplishment that comes with doing something yourself. Each successful DIY project led to another, which led to another and so on.

First Time’s A Charm

Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Josh's Z

The Frankenstein L28 motor in Josh’s car was relatively healthy, but after he picked up a supercharged Dodge Magnum SRT8 as a new ‘daily’ the vintage six didn’t put the same smile on his face it once did.

So he sold that motor to another local Datsun enthusiast and picked up an LS1 for a quick shot of power.

Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Josh's Z

To handle the increase in output, Josh upgraded the sway bars front and rear, and installed a set of Ground Control coilovers. After a few spirited drives, Techno Toy Tuning GTX2 front control arms and rear lower control arms were added to the mix.

Helping keep him out of the cabbage is an OEM+ big brake setup comprised of Z31, 240SX and 4Runner parts.

Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Josh's Z

As a final act to keep the car firmly planted, Josh used ZG flares to accomodate wide Diamond Racing steel wheels shod in Hankook rubber.

We Can Rebuild


While enjoying the LS1 and upgraded suspension, one faithful day disaster struck. Josh and the Z found themselves on the losing end of a battle with some spilled oil and a pole. Thanks to a cage built by Garage Auto Hero, Josh was largely fine after the accident, but the same couldn’t be said for the Z.

With a show in four months, instead of sitting in the corner licking his wounds Josh hunkered down and set about rebuilding the car.

Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Josh's Z

The driver’s door and rocker panel of the Z were completely destroyed, and though he’d never done it before, Josh managed to replace all the twisted metal himself. A bit of luck enabled him to find a 280Z in a local junkyard and he used parts from that car to fix his own.

Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Josh's Z

Having made his way through bringing the body from pretzel to straight, Josh decided to tackle something he’d had on his mind for a while: custom aero. Taking his vision from idea to reality was one of Josh’s favorite parts of the build.

The custom package starts with a new front bumper and splitter.

Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Josh's Z

This is followed up by Skillard side skirts, plus a custom rear diffuser and complementary rear spoiler. Keeping the custom body work rolling, fender bracing was added, and to finish tightening everything up a Bad Dog rear frame rail reinforcement was fitted.

Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Josh's Z
Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Josh's Z

Coming in just ahead of his four-month timeline, Josh opted to skip paint and leave the Z in primer grey.

Comeback Kid

Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Josh's Z

Already hooked on LS power, Josh raised the stakes when his car was off the road. The LS1 was stroked and fitted with CNC-ported 243 cylinder heads, a 234/246 cam, and Brian Tooley Racing double valve springs and retainers.

Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Josh's Z

The real kicker added to the mix in round two of the build was an LSA supercharger pushing 12psi of boost. There’s a T56 6-speed manual transmission, Drivelines NW driveshaft, and R200 LSD with Z31T axles to help get all the newfound to the ground.

Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Josh's Z
Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Josh's Z

Inside the car is pretty much all business. The factory door cards have been replaced with Skillar units and the seats are Sparco Grids shod in Takata Racing harnesses. There’s also a Sparco wheel and a host of Auto Meter Phantom gauges. It’s a spartan setup, but a little brushed aluminum around the place goes a long way in making it look quite refined.

Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Josh's Z

Now well and truly addicted to building and driving, Josh has a few more items left on his list to tick off before he deems the project complete.

Paint is the most obvious missing link, but before that he wants to work on keeping the engine cool. An entirely new cooling package is on the list, along with an upgraded methanol injection setup to replace the Snow Performance system currently employed. From there, a new tune will be thrown at the motor with the hopes of hitting 700hp.

Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Josh's Z

The Datsun might not have turned into the daily driver it was initially meant to be, but Josh really has no regrets.

To be fair, if my ‘daily driver’ evolved into something like this I wouldn’t have any regrets either. Just a lighter wallet.

Dave Thomas
Instagram: stanceiseverythingcom

Photography by Keiron Berndt
Instagram: keiron_berndt
Keiron Berndt Photography

Car News

via Speedhunters

July 21, 2018 at 06:00PM


Car News



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