Unexpected Reunion Of A Childhood Fantasy – A 1978 Datsun 280Z Story

4 min read

I guess it’s safe to say that many of us car guys will be able to vividly point to what triggered our insanity towards the hobby. Maybe it’s the jaw dropping Lamborghini Countach poster you once had, a Hotwheels that got your mind so intrigued it started your fascination for the automobile, or maybe your neighbor’s Dad’s 69 Mustang Fastback with the big block that sounds like it’s ripping up the asphalt every time it passes by your street. 

It’s a fairly common experience we all share, but let’s just say, in theory, unless we win the lottery, the chance for most of us average folks to get to own that dream car we had, posted in our bedroom wall when we were teenagers is almost close to nil. And when it happens, it definitely is the exception rather than the rule

Gerald Hidalgo went to an uncle’s house for a Christmas family reunion when he was in high school. To his amazement, there was a 1978 Datsun 280Z sitting in the garage. It was so different from the average car he normally sees in the streets. For Gerald, it was the coolest car he ever saw. Just looking at its sporty lines, the Datsun screams FAST even when it was parked.

The S30 series Datsun/Nissan designed by Yoshihiko Matsuo came out in the market from 1969 to 1978 with Datsun 280Z being the last of the first generation Z. For Gerald, it was the sighting of this Japanese sports car that set off a lifelong obsession that even at a young age, he promised himself that he will one day own one much similar to his uncle’s car.

Fast forward a few decades later, Gerald who now owns the shop Autowerkes, and having the resources to acquire the car of his dream, started looking for a project for his shop. What would be more appropriate for a car to represent Autowerkes, than the one he always had in mind since he was a young teen – a Datsun Z. That quest however may be a challenging task as there were not too many Datsun Zs in the Philippines to start with, and the remaining few are in the hands of other aficionados. Gerald searched from all over the country for years only to experience series of disappointments.

Ironically, the lead to a Datsun Z that was kept from a hangar practically just around the corner from where he lives came from a random conversation from a client. Gerald didn’t waste time when he learned about it, took the chance, brought a trailer, and went to see the seller. That same day, he purchased a tired old Datsun Z.

There were not many records about the Datsun’s past, so Gerald did a lot of research and to his astonishment, a very familiar name popped out as one of the previous owners of the Datsun – Ody Vergara. It was his uncle. That was a surreal moment. The car is not just another Datsun. It was the exact car that he had been wanting to own badly – the car that caused the stubborn bug that bit him as a teen and never left him until today.

The Datsun wasn’t in its best shape when it was purchased by Gerald. But as the saying goes, when you’re down low, there’s no other way to go but up. The Datsun was an empty canvass wherein every minute idea that was conceptualized in Gerald’s mind can be brushed to reality. So, the Datsun was immediately brought to his body shop to take care of all the rust issues and get a complete make over paint job. No corners were cut in the rebuilding of the body as Gerald wants to do it correctly, cost was not an object to him.

The front end was also converted to a G nose, a distinct type of Nissan Fairlady released only in Japan to homologate the 240Z for Group 4 racing.

Although the initial plan was to install an RB25 motor, Gerald decided to keep the stock 2.8L inline 6 engine, but he took off the factory fuel injection in exchange for a much sexier tri side Weber carburetors

Interior was redone using genuine leather but it was kept to a factory stock look. Gerald however decided to keep the original steering wheel with all its patina to remind him of the first time he fell in love with this car

The car sits low on 16” Glow Star Wheels wrapped in Bridgestone Potenzas

Today, Gerald’s 280Z – Fairlady is far from how it looks when he first got his hands on it and is playing it’s role to represent Autowerks. It’s a head turner, a definite conversation starter anywhere he drives it. While many of us car enthusiasts will never be able to acquire the exact car we’ve dreamt for, Gerald is the exception to that rule. I bet he never expected that the car that once gave him the adrenaline rush when he first saw it a few decades back will one day be reunited to him to become his award winning collector car, perhaps meant by fate to be rebuilt the way he wanted to – I guess that’s what you call automotive serendipity

   Happy Lumang Oto Motoring folks  

Lumang Oto

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Unexpected Reunion Of A Childhood Fantasy – A 1978 Datsun 280Z Story