The writer reunites with a 140Z at the Datsun museum in Bothaville.
Bothaville – The street outside the museum seems to head to nowhere. Something about it reminds me of a tune called “Small Town, Saturday Night”, where the punch line is “You’re going ninety miles an hour down a dead-end road? What’s the hurry son, where you gonna go?”

Me, I don’t care if this road goes nowhere. I’m concentrating deeply, sitting in a car created by South Africans for the boykies in just such a small town as this. Think deep sideburn and mullet territory, and with a car like this, you don’t need an auxiliary music system.

The sound of dual-throat side draught carburettors should be appreciated in the same manner as a Martin acoustic guitar.

The way to get maximum spectator appreciation from a set of side-draughts when pulling away is to ease the clutch out on a light throttle, then put your foot flat as soon as the car is rolling. We are not after maximum acceleration here, but maximum acoustical communication.

You change into second at a mere 4000 revs, then mash your throttle foot again, and with the engine pulling hard on low-range torque, the gargling effect you get is akin to an old guy swirling Listerine after a heavy night.

Then, on your return trip around the block, if you want to show off to the girls waiting for you at the side of the road, you ease onto the brakes gently with your toe, then just before you arrive, you blip the throttle with your heel, and the carbs sound like a grumpy old bear woken up after a long hard night, or even a whole winter ... and downshift to second.

Back in the days, say 1978 or so, that raw animal sound of a Datsun 140Z would have had the babes shoving each other out the way to hop into the passenger seat. But that was then and this is 40 years later, and now they laugh and cheer, thinking the whole gig is a bit err quaint.

So me, I’m behind the wheel of a Datsun 140Z, but the year is once again 2017, and the scene is an afternoon back street in Bothaville in the Free State, after we had all ducked out of the huge Nampo agri-fest to go and drive some classic Datsuns and Nissans.

The Nissan part of the gig was experiencing the smooth-hauling new Navara pick-up. The Agri-fest, my co-driver explained, was like a Woodstock for bakkie owners, so we felt right at home.

But the afternoon was all about the Dastun-Nissan Heritage Museum in downtown Bothaville, a place set up by a timber merchant called Freek de Kock, who has, over the past 15 years, assembled over 150 classic Datsuns and Nissans, from the very dawn of the marque to the latest R35 series GTR twin turbo sports machine.

“It all started when I was given a Dastun P510 SSS toy car. Then my first vehicle out the army was a Datsun 1400, and since then, it’s been Datsuns and Nissans.”

He owns some ultra-rare examples, like the original SP 212 sports car (he has two of them) which few people have ever seen here, a first series 1970 “Hakosuka” Skyline GTR with an original S20 twin cam six-cylinder motor, reportedly once owned by a Tokyo Mafia king pin, and one of the first three Datsun Bluebird pick-ups imported here in 1958, the dawn of Nissan in South Africa! He also has the Bluebird sedan of the same vintage.

And yes, he has the Datsun 140Z I told you about at the start of this missive, fitted with a pair of snorting, chortling 40mm Dell’Orto side draught carburettors, a hot cam, banana branch, and stripes and things. I was around in those days when those 140Zs, developed for Datsun-Nissan SA by Alconi Developments in Joburg, were the scourge of Sunday night street races. Even the two-litre Alfa owners feared them!

I also drove Freek’s favourite car, an R32 series Skyline GTR. The next model, the R33, was the first production car to break the eight-minute barrier at the famous Nurburgring Nordschleife. This big turbo straight-six was the original Q-car, its all-wheel-drive system and bullet-proof motor making it the ideal Ferrari or Porsche-beater in its day. I kind of wish Nissan had kept the GTR an insiders secret with its Skyline-coupe body, but, of course, the sales-suits will tell me that I am out of touch.

Me? I like being where I am. I love finessing a wobbly old gear lever through the gate from second to third just the way Brian Cook must have done when he won the Wynns 1000 km international race (against BMW 535s and V8 Chevairs) in a Datsun 140Z! I kid you not.

Funnily enough, though, hauling back to the airport in a 2017 Datsun Go, I picked up on some of that old Datsun Z-car vibe from the motor fitted to this new little shop-about. Okay, it’s a three-cylinder, not a four, but there is something about that induction noise, the slight vibe from the powertrain, that taps way back into the original Datsun appeal.

Star Motoring

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