Imagine an early morning start and you’ve just found the perfect vantage point at one of Dunlop Targa’s more notorious stages in the back of beyond, somewhere in the central North Island. The swampy paddock you’ve just waded through before reaching some high ground provides just the spot to view the first Targa cars as they come out of a fairly tight right-hander then into an acute left-hand, off-camber corner with a deep culvert on the far side and a sprinkling of gravel scattered on the corner for good measure. The early morning sun glistens through the light mist which hangs motionless over the low-lying paddocks, a combination of cow manure and silage odours mixed with the pleasant smell of pine, eucalyptus, macrocarpa and freshly cut grass assails your senses – typical rural New Zealand.
The local cow-cocky has just arrived on his quad-bike to have a chat with the small group of nearby residents and a couple of avid Targa fans that have gathered at the same vantage point, and provides a brief run-down on the neighbourhood and surrounding district history as the first engine echo pierces the eerie silence. It’s still about a kilometre or so away, you can hear the sounds of the driver hard at work in the office changing precisely through each gear as the engine revs rise and fall – evidence of the driver’s attempts to keep the car moving as quickly as possible. Before you know it, a car appears from nowhere and brakes hard as the driver lines up for the tricky manoeuvre immediately in front of him. Too much power on the exit provides a little excitement as the car snakes off into the distance – everyone at the roadside looks at each other, grinning with anticipation of what’s coming next.
Time gives the impression of virtual decline as you watch each car; what seems to be five minutes is in reality just a few seconds, and early attempts by the small group of onlookers to identify each car before it appears are generally way off the mark.
Then there’s a sound not many people can quite fathom. A high-pitched whine that could easily be associated with a jet engine – unless someone’s discreetly entered a Boeing 737 into the Targa event, it’s got to be something quite unique. As the car gets closer the whining sound punching through the morning’s crisp, rural air is suddenly overshadowed by the deep throbbing sound that can only be one thing – a V8. As the minds of the small group of spectators swing into overdrive, the penny drops. It must be a supercharged bent-eight.
However, confusion still lingers amongst the group as they try and determine what’s changing the cogs in such precise fashion. Far too fast to be a manual and definitely no auto, that’s for sure. Then some bright spark mutters – “That’s gotta be a sequential ’box.” Time has elapsed rather quickly during our confusion – then, Allan Lewis’ awesome-sounding, bright-orange Datsun 240Z skids sideways into view as he wrestles the 385kW (514bhp) beast into the off-camber corner. With mouths wide open, the spectators try their best to utter the word – WOW – as Allan skilfully pulls the 240Z into line for the apex – narrowly avoiding an unexpected off-road encounter – and with full opposite lock disappears out of sight just as quickly as he appeared, leaving behind the stench of burned rubber and that unmistakable whine as the blower kicks the alloy LS1 V8 into action once again. Smiles all round – but before we even get a chance to engage in the usual dissection of the driver’s antics another car appears into view.
Welcome to Targa New Zealand.
Motor Sport Addiction
Allan Lewis has always been interested in cars, firstly involved in restoring and motoring vintage and veteran cars, and has a collection of restored and under restoration vehicles. Providing he lives to 100 years of age, he reckons he should be able to get them all restored. Allan has also helped mates with speedway cars and has always been interested in motor sport.
During the early ’90s an opportunity arose to expand his Alert Engineering business – formed initially as a performance hose shop with Aeroquip hose and fittings, although new products were soon added to their product range. Twenty years on, Alert Motorsport now has a full range of motor sport-related items on hand.
Allan’s entry into competition came in 2004 when a friend suggested it was time to get out from behind the counter and get behind the wheel of a racing car – the suggestion being that Allan join him on the Targa. Unconvinced that Targa was the right thing for him, Allan agreed that the Targa Tour would be a good start. A Z3 BMW coupé was purchased and Allan joined the Targa Tour in 2004. He was hooked.
From there, it was quickly decided that maybe the BMW would not be powerful enough, so a plan was hatched to put a big motor in a small car. Allan has always been a fan of the 240Z shape but equally keen about Chevrolet V8s so, with more encouragement from his mates, the supercharged V8 240Z was born
Living with the Zed
Like many 240Zs, Allan’s car started its motor sport life in the mid ’80s with the Datsun Z Club, competing in many club race days and intermarque events and, in later years, it was put into the Sunday drive category. When Allan purchased it he was looking for a strong platform to build his version of a classic tarmac rally car for Targa and club events. The intention was to loosely replicate the USA-built 240Z Scarab, but in a more modern manner.
After some searching around, Allan found a suitable Datsun 240Z and as soon the car arrived home he wasted no time in stripping it down to a bare shell in preparation for the proposed transformation. The paint was removed to expose any rust, and as luck would have it the shell was in fairly good condition for its age, only the floor sections needed to be replaced to make a prefect shell. The front and rear guards had custom steel flares fitted, with the front guards having the wheel arch moved forward to allow for extra caster and much-improved handling. An almost new LS1 Chevrolet V8 5.7-litre motor with six-speed Tremac from a Pontiac GTO (or Holden Monaro) was sourced in the US and shipped to New Zealand. Allan had doubts as to whether or not his newly acquired set-up would have enough power so, just to make sure, a Magna Charger supercharger was added to the mix. Then came the task of making everything fit into the long, narrow engine bay. The first job was to modify the tunnel to allow the motor to be moved back as far as possible to help with weight distribution, and a straight quick shifter was added to the gearbox to allow the stick to come through the standard hole.
One of Allan’s companies, Alert Motorsport, came in very handy at this point and Allan quickly became his own best customer, supplying everything needed for the build including such items as Aeroquip braided oil lines and fittings, an Avaid/ Patterson dry sump set-up, Samco Sport silicon radiator and induction hoses, a Setrab oil cooler, Laminova heat exchanger, Pipercross pod filter, HEL Stainless Steel braided brake lines and StopTech big brake kit plus, of course, all the encouragement in the world from the team at Alert Motorsport.
After everything was test fitted the car was sent to Mitchell Motorsport in Hamilton for a full roll-cage along with custom electric windows (Allan likes his comforts), and a fibreglass bonnet with the hump raised 25mm to clear the supercharger. Once Allan had the car back at home it was stripped down to a bare shell, sandblasted and the painstaking process of priming and sanding, and test-fitting panels began before applying the final coat of the original 240Z code Nissan 101 orange paint.
Then came the task of rust-proofing, under-sealing and reassembling the car with careful attention to detail and without damaging or scratching the fresh paint. The next item on the agenda was to attend to the car’s electrical system, shorten the standard Holden wiring loom and adding it into the original Datsun loom, then modifying everything to suit. At this stage the car was ready to fire up and was taken to Torque Performance, where it was started and tuned for the first time – the final result being 300kW at the rear wheels.
Once the engine tuning was sorted, Allan then took the car home for final assembly – the 240Z being finished just prior to the start of the 2007 Targa Rotorua. Since then, he and his Z have competed and finished every Targa event.
Like most motor sport cars, the 240Z is continually being developed, and Allan is constantly improving it. After every event something new is added and Allan reckons the rule is if it comes apart it must go back together stronger or more powerful than before. To date, he has installed custom suspension and shocks, and rebuilt the engine – including the addition of LS2 heads and forged internals, an under-driven pulley for the supercharger, a larger throttle body, electric water pump, custom axles and the latest six-speed sequential gearbox, the latter allowing fast, clutch-less shifting.
This article is from NZ Classic Car issue 251. Get your copy here.
1972 Datsun 240z - Specifications
Engine Chevrolet LS1 5700cc with Magna Charger supercharger with under-drive pulley, LS2 heads, custom exhaust headers and three-inch exhaust system, forged internals, performance cam, electric water pump, Avaid/ Patterson dry sump set-up. Twin Bosch fuel pump system, 100mm throttle body, Laminova heat exchanger, Setrab oil coolers, Samco sport hoses, Aeroquip hose and fittings, custom alloy radiator and intercooler, Pipercross air filter .
Driveline Quaife 69G six-speed sequential gearbox with strain gauge gear cut system, custom flywheel with triple-plate clutch, R200 differential with Quaife LSD centre, modified half-shafts and CV joints
Suspension Custom-made front and rear swingarms with custom-made adjustable Koni shocks and King springs
Brakes Stoptech brakes front and rear with HEL braided stainless-steel lines, adjustable pedal box, hydraulic handbrake
Interior Rally spec with race seats and full roll cage Brantz Rally Meter and intercom
Max power – 385kW (514bhp) at the rear wheels
Torque – 1029Nm (750lb/ft) at 2000rpm
Body Standard 1972 Datsun 240Z body with custom steel flares
Wheels Works 17-inch by nine-inch front and rear
Tyres 255/40-17 Federal FZ-201 front and rear
Words: Ashley Webb Photos: Adam Croy