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Z Meets LS: Eric Ritz’s 1973 Datsun 240Z

(Image/Des Gower & Hannah Miller)

Eric Ritz got his love of vintage Datsuns—and all things car—the honest way.

“My parents had me at the racetrack when I was six months old,” he told us. “I grew up in the paddock of various road courses across the East Coast while my dad was racing his SCCA Datsun 510. Around 1996 my dad moved away from racing and he and I began building classic cars and show cars.”

One of those cars is this 1973 Datsun 240Z. Fourteen years in the making, the Z combines the Ritz family’s history with Datsun products with their bent for hot-rodding stuff. The car was originally a road race-style build commissioned by a friend of Eric’s father. Dad found a rust-free ’73 body shell on eBay and sent it to McMahan Autosport in Akron, Ohio to have a custom steel roll cage installed and the chassis reinforced.  When the car came back to their shop, Eric and his father plunked an LS2 engine and a T-56 six-speed transmission from a 2006 GTO in the Z’s engine bay. They fabbed an adjustable suspension, bolted on a Nissan Q45 rear axle with a limited slip and custom-made axles, and put disc brakes on all four corners.

The classic lines of a first-gen Datsun Z car, the handling of a four-corner coilover suspension, and the power of a GM LS engine—Eric Ritz’s 1973 240Z combines these elements into a killer ride that’s at home on the street, the road course, and even the drag strip. Eric and his father originally built the 240Z for a friend of the family. Once they got it up and running, the owner drove it a few times and decided it wasn’t for him. Eric bought the car back and tore it back down for a complete redo. (Image/Des Gower & Hannah Miller)

After six years of work, Eric and his dad delivered a raw but very drivable car to the owner, who drove it for a while but eventually lost interest. Why anyone would not like an LS-powered Z car is beyond us, but Eric wasted no time and bought the car back.  He drove it for about a month before tearing it back down and mounting the body on a rotisserie for a proper redo.

When Eric bought the car back, he tore it down and coated it inside, outside, and underneath in in the brightest white basecoat-clearcoat paint he could find. DEI heat shielding was used in the floor and tunnel areas to combat the heat in the cockpit. The bumpers and door handles are made from carbon fiber. (Image/Des Gower & Hannah Miller)

Drivetrain

The LS2 was upgraded with a COMP Cams rocker arm trunnion kit, a FAST intake manifold and fuel rails, MSD coil packs, and custom-built Sanderson headers. Eric fabricated a custom airbox with a K&N filter element and wrapped it in DEI Reflect-a-Gold heat shield material. A Davies Craig electric water pump and a Griffin radiator keep engine temperatures in check. The LS2 gets its fuel from a 1999 Camaro fuel tank with a factory in-tank fuel pump.  

The T-56 was torn down and upgraded with bronze shift pads, carbon synchros, and billet keys by Liberty Gears in Detroit, Michigan. The clutch was replaced with an LS7 unit and an aluminum Fidanza flywheel. 

The LS2 engine and T-56 six-speed transmission were borrowed from a 2006 GTO. Eric upgraded the engine with a COMP Cams rocker arm roller trunnion kit, a FAST intake manifold and fuel rails, MSD coil packs, and custom-built Sanderson headers. Eric fabricated a custom airbox with a K&N filter element and wrapped it in DEI Reflect-a-Gold heat shield material. The engine is controlled by a factory GM computer with a custom-made wiring harness. Note how clean the engine bay is; Eric is a fanatic about keeping wiring, lines, and other plumbing neat and tidy. (Image/Des Gower & Hannah Miller)

Suspension & Brakes

The suspension from 240Z 1.0 was retained. It features front and rear coilover suspension conversions from Tech Toy Tuning with ST Suspensions sway bars, QA1 high-travel coilover springs, and Bilstein front strut inserts for, of all things, a first-gen VW Rabbit. According to Eric, they fit the 240Z strut but have two inches less travel, allowing the struts to be shortened. 16 x 8 Rota RB wheels are wrapped with 225/50-16 Yokohama ADVAN Neova ADO8 tires.

The 240Z has a fully adjustable coilover suspension based on conversion kits from Techno Toy Tuning with ST Suspensions sway bars, QA1 high-travel coilover springs, and Bilstein front strut inserts for, of all things, a first-gen VW Rabbit. According to Eric, they fit the 240Z strut but have two inches less travel, allowing the struts to be shortened. You’ll have to go to Germany to get a pair. (Image/Des Gower & Hannah Miller)

The disc brake system features 12 inch diameter Hawk DTC rotors and Wilwood four-piston calipers with Hawk HPC pads. The stainless steel brake lines were tucked up into the chassis as much as possible to protect them from flying junk and for a clean appearance.  

The 16 x 8 Rota RB wheels are wrapped with 225/50-16 Yokohama ADVAN Neova ADO8 tires. Behind those wheels are disc brakes with 12 inch diameter Hawk DTC rotors and Wilwood four-piston calipers with Hawk HPC pads. (Image/Des Gower & Hannah Miller)

Body & Paint

The 240Z never got past the primer stage, which gave Eric the opportunity to modify the body and paint it to his liking. The car was coated inside, outside, and underneath in the brightest white basecoat-clearcoat paint he could find. DEI heat shielding was used in the floor and tunnel areas to combat the heat in the cockpit. Eric added Trackspec hood vents designed for a BMW M36, carbon fiber bumpers and door handles, plus a carbon fiber taillight panel from TC3 Innovation Composites in Poland (yes, the country).

Eric modified the factory hood with Trackspec hood vents designed for a BMW M36. Your eyes are not deceiving you—the Quik-Latch hood latches are mounted on the back of the hood due to the factory’s forward-opening design. (Image/Des Gower & Hannah Miller)

The BRE-style fiberglass rear wing was modified with laser cut acrylic extenders Eric designed. “I was influenced by real race cars that have an adjustable clear spoiler,” he explained. “They probably don’t do anything to help performance at the track, but they look good!”

Eric designed the laser cut acrylic extenders for the BRE-style rear wing. “I was influenced by real race cars that have an adjustable clear spoiler, so I designed the extenders and had them cut,” he explained. “They probably don’t do anything to help performance at the track, but they look good!” (Image/Des Gower & Hannah Miller)

Interior

Eric and his father fabricated the aluminum floor panels using dimple dies and a bead roller and mounted them over the factory sheetmetal. They built the dash and console from aluminum and covered them in black suede with carbon fiber accents. Eric designed the 1/8 inch aluminum trim bezels and switch labels. The labels are a plastic with red vinyl facing; the vinyl disappears when the plastic is laser etched, revealing the white label text. The seats are Recaros from a Mitsubishi Evo8 on custom mounts. 

Eric and his father fabricated the aluminum floor panels using dimple dies and a bead roller and mounted them over the factory sheetmetal. They built the dash and console from aluminum and covered them in black suede with carbon fiber accents. The seats are Recaros from a Mitsubishi Evo8 on custom-built mounts. (Image/Des Gower & Hannah Miller)

Other interior goodies include a digital instrument panel, Impact Racing five-point harnesses, a JOES Racing shift lever, and OMP aluminum pedal pads.

Eric’s father found a rust-free ’73 body shell on eBay. If you are familiar with 1970s Datsuns (or most Japanese cars of the period), that was no mean feat. The shell was sent to McMahan Autosport in Akron, Ohio to have a custom roll cage installed. Made from 1.5″ mild steel tube, the cage is fully welded to the A-pillars and suspension points. (Image/Des Gower & Hannah Miller)

Other Stuff

Eric installed a three-zone fire system that covers the interior, engine compartment and fuel tank area. He took the extra time to run the lines neatly and conceal the spray heads. The Z was rewired with a Ron Francis Bare Bonz wiring harness, and a Braille lithium battery sends electrons through it.

Eric fabricated this trick fresh air vent panel from aluminum and carbon fiber. The vents themselves are Vintage Air parts. (Image/Des Gower & Hannah Miller)

Saying Eric loves the Z would be one of the biggest understatements of the year.

“It’s proven to be a nice balanced, reliable car that just makes you grin when you drive it,” he said. “The best part is it drives around town like a nice new corvette, but once you push the gas pedal you realize you’ve got a lot of LS power in a car that’s 1,000 pounds lighter.

Eric designed the switch labels and had them laser-cut from a special white plastic with red vinyl facing. When the letters are laser-etched in the plastic, the vinyl is removed to reveal the white label text. (Image/Des Gower & Hannah Miller)

Eric hasn’t done any road course or autocrossing yet, but he does know the Datsun romps at the drag strip.

“My dad and I took it to Summit Racing Motorsports Park for a couple of fun runs down the track. With the two of us in the car, so-so shifting, and awful reaction times, we still ran a best of 12.3 seconds at 116.60 MPH. With some practice or a driver that knows what they are doing, I think 11s are in easy reach.”

Who knew Poles liked Z cars? A Polish company called TC3 Innovation Composites made that cool composite taillight panel, and as far as we know it’s the only one in the States. (Image/Des Gower & Hannah Miller)

Drivetrain Parts

Interior Parts

Exterior Parts

Chassis & Brake Parts

Misc. Parts

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