The Need For Speed
When I was around fifteen years old I caught the car bug. I have no clue where this came from, my father could not have cared less about cars. To him the automobile was nothing more than transportation. Nobody in our neighborhood had anything like a sports car or an exotic. But there it was, the need for speed. As it turned out my father worked with someone who just happened to own a Porsche and knowing I had this new found passion for cars he introduced us. Bill took me for a ride in his '57 Porsche and I was totally hooked, I just had to have a sports car. For the next several years this passion was satisfied only with building models, drawing concept cars and reading Sports Car Graphic magazine like it was the Bible.
After high school and my two years in tech school I finally started working for a living and had enough money to buy a new car. It was 1965 and as I pondered what to buy I found I was leaning toward American cars, it was the start of the American muscle car years. Then I read an article in my beloved Sports Car Graphic magazine about a new car from England, the Sunbeam Tiger. This was a hybrid car combining a British sports car with an American Ford 260 cu in V8, a poor man's Cobra! I was more than intrigued by this car and there just happened to be a dealer in Dayton Ohio where I lived. A quick trip to the dealer and a test drive was all it took, I had to have this car. It really wasn't that expensive compared to a Porsche or Jaguar XKE and only a little more than the American cars I was considering at the time. I talked to my father who of course wasn't thrilled with the idea of me driving a car capable of over 130 mph, but he reluctantly agreed to co-sign for me, I was only 19 years old at the time. How I survived this car is still a mystery. I drove it like any 19 year kid who thought he was invincible. I raced on weekends drove on the highway at speeds that were totally insane and even wrecked it and its replacement a couple times. I eventually met a woman, got married and decided to put away the toys and sold the Tiger. Over the next few years I regretted selling that car, still having the car bug which I realized would be a life long passion. I pleased that passion to a degree by hotrodding a '68 VW Beetle and then trading it off on a '70 AMX muscle car. 390 cu. in. reworked into over 400 HP in a 3200 pound street racer. I kept this car for 7 years and loved every minute of it. Then the urge to build something exotic hit me. The kit car industry had started producing some rather cool cars and I discover the Kelmark GT. Although it was based on a VW chassis but there were options for using an after market frame with either a Corvair 4 speed transaxle flipped over or a Olds Toranado automatic transaxle and huge V8 to produce a mid engine beast. I did build a VW version and drove it for three years. I was a fun car but just didn't have the thrill of that major HP fix I wanted. Divorce and the need for a "real" car and lack of money caused me to eventually sell the Kelmark. For a few years I was satisfied with my Datsun 200SX and then my Toyota Celica GTS. I seemed to have lost the car craze, I took up other hobbies like woodworking and landscaping and then scuba diving took over my life entirely for the next 11 years.
Recently the car craze has crept back into my life. I had been spending a lot of time cruising car lots and EBay looking for I'm not sure what. The standard run on the mill cars have never really impressed me, I've always wanted something different. The Cobra Replicars have always attracted me but they are very expensive and not really too practical being pretty much fair weather cars. Years ago I had two friends that built hybrid cars. One was an Austin Healy 3000 which he installed a 283 Chevy in place of the stock 6 cylinder engine. The other was Datsun 240Z with a 327 Chevy. Both these cars were impressive and a total blast to drive. One day while cruising around EBay I discovered several Datsun Zs with this conversion. Apparently there are companies out there produce conversion kits for the Datsun 240z - 280z models. I enquired about a few on EBay and in April of 2005 finally settled on a '77 280z with a reworked Chevy 350 and a 5 speed transmission. This car has absolutely no rust, had been repainted and the engine had recently been rebuilt. I am now the proud owner of this car. While it did have a few issues due mainly to being 28 years old I am pretty happy with my purchase. I spent the next few months repairing and upgrading this car.