Torana-fronted, V8-powered Datsun 240Z

The ‘Datana’ snapped plenty of necks at Picnic at Hanging Rock 2022

Photographers: Chris Thorogood

When we saw this unique creation roll into the Picnic at Hanging Rock show ’n’ shine last Sunday, we just had to find out more. As it turns out, this LJ Torana-fronted Datsun 240Z owes owner Gary Goldsbrough just $5000.

The Goulburn retiree is a long-time Torana fan, having owned numerous examples in decades gone by. “I went through a phase where I didn’t have much to do with cars,” he explains. “But then I decided I wanted an XU-1 back, because I sold mine. I couldn’t afford one, so I built this!”

Gary says it all started with a fairly sad 1973 240Z shell, which had spent 21 years in a horse paddock. “It had no front sheet metal, and when I got this basically rust-free shell, I thought, ‘Do I want to spend money on now-expensive 240Z panels?’”

After a little while contemplating the Datto’s fate, Gary had a flash of inspiration. “One night I was sitting down with a 1:18 model of a 240Z and a Torana in front of me,” he recounts. “It all just fell into place. So I spent the rest of the night measuring up these very accurate models to get an idea of whether it was going to work.”

Using a “lifetime of stuff” he’d collected, Gary got stuck into grafting on the guards, bonnet and grille from an LJ Torana. The front guards and nosecone are a single fibreglass piece, while the rear quarters are also ’glass widebody items. The tail-lights are LC Torana units, with a custom one-piece aluminium rear panel to “minimise the Datsun and maximise the Torana”, according to Gary. Naturally, the whole assembly required extensive modification to fit.

Gary’s stoked with the new dimensions of the car, particularly the snub-nosed look afforded by the flat Torana front. “I didn’t want scoops or bulges, because I love the front of a six-cylinder Torana – they’re sexy as anything,” he enthuses. “And with minimal overhang, it works even better.”

The roof is finished with a faux-vinyl look, featuring metalflake applied with a roller and then covered with thick boat varnish. It’s inspired by the show specials created by Detroit carmakers in the 60s and 70s. “I’ve had an upholsterer who used to do vinyl tops look at it and go, ‘I like your vinyl roof,’” Gary says. “I went, ‘Thanks, it’s paint!’”

Despite the unorthodox grafting of Japanese and Aussie components, the ‘Datana’ was designed to imitate a manufacturer prototype. Nothing on the car dates beyond 1975, including the LC-era Plum Dinger paint. Even the rear bar is taken from the GM parts catalogue, lifted from a ’67 Camaro. “I tried to do as much Torana stuff as I could to look like it was maybe a concept car,” Gary says. “There are cracks in the fibreglass and slits in the bog, but I built it for the shape and did everything myself.”

As for the driveline, Gary employed a 307ci small-block Chev he had sitting around. It’s topped with triple two-barrel Rochester carbs, hence the prominent ‘3×2’ graphics in place of the usual Torana ‘GTR XU-1’ stickers. The donk is paired to the numbers-matching Saginaw four-speed, itself turning the Datsun’s factory diff.

Gary’s efforts to create a factory-looking car seem to have paid off, fooling some punters into thinking it’s a production vehicle. “I was pulled up at the lights once, and a young guy in a Commodore next to me went, ‘What is it?’ I told him it’s an SS 307 and he asked, ‘Who builds them?’ I said, ‘Me!’ He looked at me like I was nuts and drove off!”

The ‘Datana’ has received a pretty warm reception since its debut two years ago, while still ticking off the occasional 240Z or Torana purist. “But I’m old, so I don’t care,” Gary laughs.