Friday, December 13, 2013

First Born

Over Thanksgiving weekend, my wife and I visited her family over in Tampa, FL. Having 4 days to spend with family and friends was great! We sure had a great time, and we were surrounded with love. But as a normal car guy, I kept on wondering what the Tampa car scene was like.

I was pretty sure American cars were aplenty, and browsing through Instagram only confirmed my hunch. Sure, there were a bunch of exotics, too, and some imports that favored the flamboyant type of car culture. I kept on searching for anything that is worthy of the Rolling Classics feature. Then, for some acts of fate and creative hashtag searching, I stumbled upon two cars: a classic Mini Cooper, and a 240Z with fender flares. I contacted the owners of both cars and luckily both of them replied. The Mini was not ready for a shoot yet, but the Z was very ready, and the owner eager for a shoot. The only caveat was that he was located 30 minutes north of Orlando, which was 2 hours away from where we were staying in Tampa. I was about to pass up the rare opportunity, but tried setting up a shoot for that Monday, on our way back to Houston. Fortunately, I have a very understanding wife, who approved of the detour to Sanford and the 3-4 hour delay of our homeward bound drive. So, everything was set for Monday, and all I had to do was wait.

The drive from Tampa to Sanford was not as smooth as expected. There was bad traffic in some areas getting out of Tampa, and a couple of areas getting through Orlando. We were set back about 2 hours from our scheduled meeting time. Good thing, the owner was very flexible and understanding.

We got to the meeting point ahead of time and waited for a few minutes. I was on the lookout for a white 240Z with a red sun on both doors. In the distance I saw a white blob, and heard a low rumble of an engine. I was quite sure that white blob was the car I was gonna shoot. 

Sure enough, it was the Z and its owner, Fernando.

Fernando is a retired Army who has the love for classic Japanese cars ever since he became aware of those box on four wheels. He traveled around the US and the world during his stint in the Army, and was able to gather some bits of car culture from every place he visited. For now, Fernando is based in Sanford, Florida, and is starting some kind of a car culture movement in the Orlando area with his accumulated knowledge and love for retro Japanese automotive culture. 

Having a lot of spare time, Fernando decided to start building cars up to his ideals. He told me that he once had a 5th generation Toyota Mark II GT, which he sold after finishing the build. Moving on, he decided to pick up a 1972 Datsun 240z: the car that introduced the Americans to the rich Japanese car culture of customization and modification. 

Fernando found this car in DeLand, Florida, and he bought it from the original owner. The Z started out as a Miami car, then got moved to California for some time, after finally returning back to Florida in 1998. Upon returning home, the original owner drove the car minimally, only putting in about 12,000 miles on the odometer, until 2012.

It would then be very apt for Fernando to have the Z as his canvas for his automotive vision, considering that he just founded JPN Garage, a custom shop that specializes in classic Japanese cars. This early Z car is the shop's first build, which I named it the First Born. If this car is any indication of JPN Garage's future, I would have to say that the shop is in for a very long and fun ride of high quality cars.

This Z exudes of high quality workmanship and great attention to detail. Fernando mainly worked on the project alone, with some help from his buddies. The car is very clean, and is tastefully modified. I was told that he did not have to spend a lot on this project, and that his main goal was to produce a top quality car with a personal-garage-project budget.

Fernando and JPN Garage sure achieved their goal. This build is such a success that during the time of the shoot, the car has already been sold and was about to be shipped to its new owner in 2 days. On hindsight, I am lucky to have gotten in touch with Fernando just in time for a quick photo shoot of this beauty.

As a fellow owner of a first generation Z, I couldn't help but give Fernando high praise on a job well-done, and on how this classic looks so beautiful with its timeless design - oh, the lines and the curves. The 240z also has one of the best looking rear-ends out there. It is very simple yet well-sorted out. On this car, Fernando painted the rear light cluster red, which was originally amber and red. 

Right after after getting the car, Fernando went berserk over shopping for parts and accessories. He bought original Nissan Fairlady badges, some interior trim to spice up the inside, spoiler, fender flares, and a whole lot more of aesthetic and performance parts. 

Fernando went with a 3" straight pipe for the exhaust. He also slapped on there an MSA Victory Spoiler to liven up the rear.

To maneuver the car, he put on a Momo steering wheel with a Datsun cap.

Fernando had to put on a Shakotan Culture sticker somewhere to add some 10 hp boost. As a side note, Shakotan Culture is Fernando's other business where he sells wheels and apparel.

The car still has the original seats and upholstered trimmings, which is rare to see nowadays.

Being the distributor of a fairly new line of wheel in the East Coast, Fernando had to represent the brand. The car runs on 15x10.5 Atara Racing Wheels Pisang with -31 offset, and wrapped in 225/50/15 Kumho Ecsta rubber. 

Pretty wide wheels to perfectly fit those wide ZG flares. 

The car sports a Type 1 front air dam in the chin. The front end is completed with a pair of Skyline fender mirrors, and headlight covers.To stop the car, Fernando converted the front to 4 pot Toyota calipers.

The Z had already undergone an engine swap performed by the original owner. An L28et engine was dropped in the engine bay to replace the original L28e. The L28et is now mated to a 5 speed T5 Borg Warner transmission, which directs the power to the rear through an R200 differential.

An MSD Blaster Coil and MSD 8mm wires were put in place, while everything else was kept stock.

The usual front dash crack has been hidden with a full-face dashboard cover, and the glove box door is proudly labeled with a Fairlady Z emblem. The old gauges were replaced with Prosport ones. 

To achieve the Shakotan look, Fernando dropped the car on lowering springs and painted the car with a 2013 Corvette Antarctic White paint.

The Japanese sun was mandatory to keep the theme.

Apart from a slightly misaligned hood, everything else looks impressive.

I have no doubt Fernando has this burning passion for Japanese classics. JPN Garage's very first build is a great success.

Currently, Fernando is working on a 260z, which he is doing for an overseas client. I can't wait for that project to commence, and can only hope that I could get a glimpse of the final product in person.

If you are in Florida, make sure to contact Fernando of JPN Garage if ever you need some classic Japanese car fix. He sure knows his stuff and has a great attention to detail.

Instagram: @jpngarage

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful car and photos!!!!!!
    Very interested in those wheels for my Z now... =)