This is the first in a series of odes to the cars we’ve known and loved. Here, Kyle Clark – a Shift Car Enthusiast – pays tribute to the Datsun he refurbished in college and still drives today.
I’d always been into cars, but in high school, my passion came to a head. I stumbled across the Datsun 240Z, and thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen. To me, it was all of the best parts of Porsche and Jaguar all rolled into one amazing automobile. So, I made up my mind — no matter what it took, I was going to own one of those cars some day.
It wasn’t until I headed off to college, though, that I finally had enough cash to consider buying my own car. That Datsun was still in my head and, before long, I found a 1973 light blue 240Z on Craigslist (this was pre-Shift days!). It wasn’t in the best of conditions to, say the least — it needed several thousand dollars worth of work — but the body was 100 percent original and completely untouched. In short, it was the perfect blank canvas.
I knew it would take me a few years to turn this project car into a daily driver in my spare time, but I couldn’t wait to give it some TLC. One of my first projects was replacing the shocks. If you’ve worked on a car’s shocks before, you know that they’re essentially a small spring that rests on top of the struts inside a tube. When I bought my Datsun, the shocks were still original — 40 years old! After 40 years of absorbing everything the road threw at them, they were in desperate need of replacement. When I went to remove them, the collar that keeps the tube secured was so stuck in place that I had to weld a five foot bar to it and enlist my buddy’s help to get it to budge. By the end of it, I was covered in just about every kind of car fluid you can imagine. But the collar went right back on with no problems after we replaced the struts. It was messy, but it was a success.
When I had had the Datsun for a year or two, I decided to enter it in the Solvang Datsun Roadster Classic. Since it wasn’t in the shape it’s in now, I entered it as lucky number 13 in the Diamond in the Rough category. Although it didn’t take home any prizes, it was a huge moment for me — it was my first car show, and I was now truly part of the Datsun community. Before Solvang, my experience in that group had been limited to talking to other enthusiasts in online forums. There, it was incredibly cool to meet those people in person, have a meal and geek out over all things Datsun. At Solvang, Datsun went from just being a car that I was building to a culture that I was a part of.
When it came time to start my career, it made sense that, after years of painstakingly rebuilding a car, I’d look in the automobile industry. The problem with big motor companies, though, is that the odds of getting your resume to stand out are pretty low. I’d resigned myself to doing something more tangentially related to cars until I came across the Car Enthusiast posting at Shift. And you know what? It’s absolutely the right fit for me. I almost didn’t believe that an opportunity this perfect would be possible.
Today, I get to drive my Datsun on a daily basis. I’ve driven it back and forth between San Francisco and Thousand Oaks, California, ten or eleven times. It may look like it’s falling apart, but it keeps going. And that’s just another thing I love about it — it’s a car with personality. On top of that, I get to help other people fall in love with their dream cars every day. And for me, that sounds like the perfect ending to my car story.