Gas Monkey Garage Present Their Very First JDM Car at SEMA – 1975 Datsun 280Z

This meticulous Japanese import was built by a renowned JDM connoisseur Big Mike

Published November 6, 2017

You might recognize the Gas Monkey Garage team by their Fast N’ Loud show from the Discovery Channel. Or you might know them from previous SEMA shows. If you do, you’ll also know that Richard Rawlings and his team have never before had their hands involved in a Japanese car build. Until SEMA 2017, that is. With the help from a guest builder and JDM cars connoisseur Big Mike, they now have. Behold their vision of a 1975 Datsun 280Z.


First thing everyone will notice on it, is the flashy Leaf Green Metallic paint job. But that’s far from all GMG and Big Mike have done to the Fairlady’s exterior. Rear bumper has been completely removed and replaced by a custom made contoured rear pan. Front bumper, on the other hand, has been taken from a Nissan 240Z. Fenders have been widened and treated with ZG flares in order to accommodate wider Nitto NTO1 tires. RAYS Volk Racing wheels are what’s wrapped in them sticky tires, and behind them lurk Wilwood brakes. Final touches are courtesy of a BRE rear wing and unavoidable original Fairlady fender mirrors.


Big Mike, however, really likes to show off with the engines. Instead of the steady original 6-cylinder, he’s decided to go with S14 Nissan Silvia Blacktop SR20DET mill. Although it has two less cylinders, SR20 packs quite a punch. Thanks to a Garrett GT3071 turbocharger, mostly. Final setup generates around 400 horsepower, but all that firepower wouldn’t mean a thing without a proper driveline. This is where Silvia’s own 5-speed manual transmission with Q45 R200 differential comes in handy. Rest of the powertrain consists of Tomei Pons cams, CP pistons, Hypertune manifolds, and Vibrant Performance plumbing among other things. Finally, GMG and Big Mike’s 1975 Datsun 280Z has been treated with fully adjustable top-of-the-line front and rear suspension by Arizona Z Car.

Interior has mostly been left intact, but things like digital Speedhut gauges, Gas Monkey Garage logos, and a Datsun Competition steering wheel and shift knob still managed to claw their way inside this sublime import. By stepping out of their hot rod comfort zone, GMG have proved they can build almost any car you can imagine. This menacing 2+2 Fairlady certainly proves that.

All photos courtesy of Speedhunters and Paddy McGrath.

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Nikola Potrebić
About Nikola Potrebić

Despite driving a piece of junk, Nikola still manages to survive the harrowing experience called "A road trip in a Yugo," day in, day out. On the other hand, precious few things move him as muscle cars do. Especially those from the bygone golden era, which makes him wonder why wasn't he born a few decades earlier? Well, at least he's been given the opportunity to enjoy the likes of the Pontiak Aztek, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Fiat Multipla, and other lovely millennials, right? Come to think of it, I'll stick with my Yugo. Thank you very much.

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