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Datsun 240Z Restoration:
Confessions of a Poor Car Enthusiast

November 23, 2011 by Matt

901 Silver Datsun 240Z 240-Z HLS30 S30 Nissan

I finally figured it out. After two and a half years—maybe longer—I discovered the missing piece of the existential puzzle that is my “car promiscuity.”

Since acquiring my driver’s license in ’95, I’ve been through a lot of cars. But more recently, since mid-’09, I’ve made a series of car swaps I couldn’t really justify. Obviously, my automotive flexibility as a husband, dad and homeowner is radically more constrained than it was when I was single, child-less and renting. That said, ever since my car interest “reopened” in mid-’09, I’ve felt this sort of restlessness, discontent, some kind of inexorable force pulling me from one car to the next, searching for what I knew not.

Let me explain our family’s car arrangement. We had established a while ago that there were three “slots” for cars to fill: The family hauler, the daily driver and the project car. The minivan has filled the first slot; no real drama there. The project car slot has been occupied, since late ’01, by my Datsun 240Z. The daily driver slot, in contrast, has seen a remarkable amount of turmoil and turnover. Starting in mid-’09, I’ve been through a ’93 Volvo 940 Turbo, an ’01 VW Jetta TDI, an ’86 BMW 635CSi, a ’95 BMW 525i and I had been searching for its successor. There were a veneer of practical reasons justifying the move from one to the next, but the undercurrent was the aforementioned, irrational restlessness. And it drove me up a wall. It upset my parents. It upset my wife. Why did lose interest in my current daily driver so readily and feel compelled to jump ship? What was I looking for?

The key lay with the third slot, the project car. As a car buff, I love to tinker with cars; there’s little I’d rather do than be working on them. My 240Z is in need of a full down-to-the-metal restoration, and I finally have the space in my new garage to begin the project. So what’s the problem? It’s the realization I came to earlier tonight, and it ties everything together: I will never have enough money to restore the 240Z.

I just won’t. Not the right way, at least, the way it needs to be. Between two young kids, the demands of the house and my line of work, without going into exhaustive detail, the money simply won’t be available for at least another 15 years, if ever. The realization should have been obvious, and I’m sure it was present subconsciously, but tonight was the first time it bubbled to the conscious surface and I “let myself” say it.

And knowing that, deep down, was what drove me (pun intended) from one daily driver to the next. Bereft of a long-term car project I could realistically hope to complete, I gravitated toward short-term “easy power” from my daily drivers. I wanted something that could satisfy my need to get grease under my fingernails, start for me every morning, and haul the family around if the need arose. I didn’t want to admit to myself that the 240Z project was an albatross, but the emotional needs of my hobby would not be denied, and redirected themselves toward my daily driver, creating overlap, cognitive dissonance and great frustration.

It’s difficult to overstate the magnitude of this realization. I feel like a weight has been lifted. It brings so much of my automotive angst over the past two years into focus. My mindset vis-a-vis my car interests going forward is so much more clear.

Editor’s note: This post is Part 3 of an ongoing series chronicling my efforts toward the restoration of my 1972 Datsun 240Z, originally my father’s. Read the other installments here:

Filed under: 240Z Restoration, Car Stories, Datsun, Project Cars, Technical, Tinkering


  1. John D says:

    That is quite a confession. I’m glad you were able to pinpoint the issue before it did any real damage down the road…

    So the question remains: now what?

    It seems like you only have a few options here. Are you going to do a ‘minimal’ restoration of the Z just to get it drivable for the occasional weekend jaunt and/or tune? Will you set your sights a little lower and choose a different project car that will not require an extensive restoration? Or will you get rid of the project car altogether and pool your resources so that you can afford a sportier daily driver that you can enjoy every day? (The latter was what I did with the FD. And it worked…for a while… ;)

    Am on the edge of my seat awaiting your prose on what will undoubtedly be a thorough (if long winded) thought process. :)

  2. John D says:


    • Matt says:

      Happy Thanksgiving to you too! We’re at my parents’ at the moment, so I’ve had a chance to see the car and discuss the situation with my dad. It was a good conversation, and I don’t want to count my chickens before they’re hatched, but there could very well be some positive developments to the situation outlined in this post. Stay tuned.

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