The Tuning Lore of the
Nissan/Datsun L-Series Engine
During Tuesday night’s Triad Z Club meeting, I listened to one of the older members give a quasi-dissertation on early Z-Car history.
Other makes have their tuning gurus and accepted bodies of expertise when it comes to performance enhancements, but in my mind, a few things set the vintage Datsun tuning scene apart:
- The Datsun 510 and Z-Car were the first performance cars from Japan that captured any kind of mass market appeal. From a tuning/racing standpoint, no Japanese import goes back farther.
- The racing Datsun was an institution in the ’70s and early ’80s, akin to the success of the Miata in recent years. If you wanted to get into racing, it was practically the only cost-effective choice.
- The cars themselves and their engines were, and remain, very robust and responsive to a wide variety of upgrades. Yes, there are preferred “paths” to unlock additional power, but the L-series engine also rewards creativity.
Thumbing through the classic How to Modify Your Nissan/Datsun OHC Engine reinforces the sense of standing at the foot of a giant accumulated mountain of knowledge. The book naturally covers tuning tips, tricks and rules of thumb in exacting detail, but the illustrations of vintage Datsun racers from the early ’70s through the present day really convey the impression that there are decades of L-series lore to draw from.
One of the “legends” covered briefly in the book is the part shown above, arguably the holy grail of vintage Datsun tuning: the OS Giken DOHC, 24-valve cylinder head. Produced in tiny numbers and only available in Japan, the OS Giken head will set you back north of $30K today. From a cost/benefit standpoint, it’s far from worth it, but just the fact that it exists supplies the vintage Datsun scene with one its “mythical beasts,” so to speak, a necessary pillar of any classic car tuning lore.
Image credits: datsunzgarage.com, Dino Dalle Carbonare