"We've had a thing about Datsun's sporty Z cars since when they were the hottest, newest, sporty Japanese number on the market. Call the designation the Fairlady if you like, but we'll always think of the long nosed beauty as "
MZR Datsun 240Z
Better than the original?
Enthusiasm and passion are marketing buzz words that tend to get thrown around about the most unlikely of subjects these days, but speaking to Rahail Tariq of MZR – the company responsible for the gorgeous Datsun 240z you see in this film – both come pouring out of him, entirely naturally and unfiltered.
“If you ask a child to draw a sportscar that’s the kind of silhouette they would draw,” says Rahail, as he’s explaining what drew him to the Datsun 240z in the first place.
“My family has always been into cars and I was looking through a magazine and there was an advert for a 240z and I saw the side profile of the car – and I didn’t even know what it was at the time – but it’s such an iconic shape.”
That planted the seed and Rahail was “bitten by the z bug”.
One of the most successful sports car lines ever produced, the car was called by a variety of names in different markets; the Nissan S30, the Nissan Fairlady Z and, the car we know it to be, the Datsun 240z. It was designed by a team led by Yoshihiko Matsuo, the head of Nissan’s Sports Car Styling Studio and was aimed squarely at the MGB-GT market. It hit the mark. Light, nimble, pretty, reliable and affordable the 240z sold in large numbers, in the ‘70s.
Rahail bought himself a 240z and just enjoyed driving it but soon after bought another example and that was where the thoughts for modifications cropped up. “I struggled in the UK to find anybody that would do what I wanted to do”, says Rahail, “and I ended up having to take the car abroad, to France, to get somebody to restore it.”
Enter Martin Ryland. Rahail continues, “Martin had the technical know-how, the engineering background and I could provide the facilities, the design and financial side and so MZR was born.” Martin subsequently moved back to the UK and MZR has since expanded to five like-minded guys, producing beautiful, upgraded 240zs.
The cars stay as original as possible, with sympathetic upgrades designed to enhance the car but never to take away from the essential 240zness of it.
Over time Rahail has found that his customers are people who might normally buy a Porsche or a Ferrari but find themselves wanting something different. “They aren’t necessarily classic car guys; they want a retro look but none of the ownership issues you may have with a car that is 40 plus years old”, he explains.
The comparisons with companies like Singer, in California, are evident and Rahail says he loves the Singer cars; but Singer’s job is perhaps slightly easier, at least in the sense that they are taking a newer car and backdating it, as opposed to taking an older car and updating it. And update it they do, with many parts fabricated in-house, subtly improving the performance and reliability of the cars, while it all looks correct for the period. MZR are in control of every aspect of the process; from when the – California-sourced – body shells are sent away to be carefully stripped and treated, through to brand new interiors, all maintaining the feel of the original cars. Even the engine bays are pristine, with new wiring and plumbing hidden away and a crisp, clean finish.
MZR started out with the Classic Edition, the car featured in this film, which, in terms of ‘greasy bits’, has an updated gearbox, suspension, differential, and a 2.4-litre engine, with mildly modified internals, triple Weber carbs, pushing out 180bhp, while weighing only 1030kg.
As of the NEC show, last week, MZR have also now launched the ‘Sport Edition’ and ‘Sport Design’ models, where the updates increase to include things like their own wheels, own brakes, and beautiful bespoke interiors. lt’s company policy is that all these unique features remain completely exclusive to their clients turn key car builds and will not be sold separately, that way the car, the company ,the brand and most important the new owner knows only another MZR car can have the same treatment. Rahail is keen to emphasise, “we keep the essential heart and soul of the 240z and don’t do anything like put a modern engine in; we just make what’s already there better. It all looks original, just with a bit of a twist. There are a lot of companies Stateside that will put on wide body arches, or put an engine from a Skyline in, and they are great feats of engineering but I think they maybe detract from the purity and clean lines of the original car.”
Customers are kept appraised of the build process at all crucial stages and are delighted to get some modern reliability in an older body shape. “They are getting a car that is super-rare anyway”, says Rahail, “and we’re adding modern engineering to it and making the ownership even more pleasurable. Even the mpg on the fuel injection is good, for those doing a lot of miles in the cars – and we have customers doing European, long-haul trips with no problems.”
The cars are bespoke and tailor made, MZR will take a full brief even to the point of the client’s height and suited driving position. Made in both right and left hand drive, as desired, cars are exported all over the world and, if the interest at the NEC show last week is anything to go by the current waiting list – MZR are currently set up to make eight to ten cars a year – will continue to grow. Keep an eye on their progress here.
It seems fitting to give the last word to Rahail, enthusiasm still bubbling out of him, “This is how we’d want our car; if we were building a dream car; money no object, this is what it would be.”
images: Fraser Havenhand
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