Spannerhead Dot

The Tuning Lore of the
Nissan/Datsun L-Series Engine

February 20, 2013 by Matt

Nissan Datsun L28 L-Series Engine Motor Rebuild

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.

Nudging my way into the vintage Datsun world as my 240Z restoration progresses, I’m amazed at the depth of knowledge about the cars and their engines.

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.

Nissan Datsun L28 L-Series Engine Motor OS Giken Cylinder Head Twin Cam DOHC

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:, Dino Dalle Carbonare

Filed under: Datsun, Nissan, Technical, Tinkering

1 Comment

  1. areopagitica says:

    Anything this simple that commands thirty grand for ancient artifacts will doubtless be counterfeitied. Perhaps it should be. Does it fit the L engine of the 240Z USA variety, or are we talking about hardware from the S20 engine, or the even earlier GR8 Prince DOHC that it was patterned after? With the front of the engine already provisioned for SOHC there is little preventing an amateur patternmaker from replicating something already proven to work. The metallurgy and the machining do require expertise, but cam grinders do these things every day. As regards ancient artifacts, the precise casting textures and logo suggest this is a recent copy anyhow.

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