The Art of the Build
There is something special about a well-maintained, classic car that gives it the ability to turn heads — especially one that has gone above and beyond restoration. Indeed, very few cars have the ability to leave a lasting impression on an individual.
When we see a modern sports car on the road we acknowledge its superiority and maybe take a snap for the Gram or perhaps imagine ourselves driving it. But when it comes to a ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s or older model car we can’t help but take a moment to consider the sheer dedication put into the vehicle. We see and sometimes feel the passion emanating from it. We think of its history and the many stories the car and its owner have experienced.
That is exactly what one thinks when first witnessing this unique, classic 1976 Datsun 280z. It’s either that or, “Damn, what a badass car!” Either reaction is perfectly acceptable.
This beautiful classic belongs to Victor Munoz, 20, of Fontana, Calif. Interestingly enough, he didn’t plan on owning one. He was 16-years-old at the time and his father used Munoz’s own money to salvage the vehicle from certain death by rust and neglect. He wasn’t even totally in love with the car at first. He just liked it enough to keep it and restore it.
“My dad basically told me ‘this car is going to be a representation of you. I want you to have a car that you’re not going to throw away ASAP. Either pass it down or keep it forever.’” The car was beat-up pretty good. Munoz buffed out the paint and customized the exterior to his preference. His license plate “MUYSEXZ” speaks for the car as a whole. But let’s go over some of its striking features. The number 25 represents Munoz’s birth date (Oct. 25) and the Japanese underneath translates to “MUYSEXZ.”
“It’s kind of a running gag. I wanted to put something extra on there and I wanted to make it look Japanese because that’s what the car is,” Munoz said. “Not to sound cocky or anything but I noticed people use “SEXY Z” or “SEXZ” so I feel like ever since I’ve had it I kind of influenced people to get something similar.”
The black hash marks on the side fenders were actually added to cover-up a scratch and the front splitter was custom made. Munoz installed the hood vents himself. The vents help keep the engine cool, especially since there’s something special under the hood. It’s easily overlooked by anyone with no real knowledge of Datsun but the hood vents were inspired by the Camaro, which is Victor’s dream car.
The rear louvers give it a classic sporty look and act as a heat deflector to create cooler temperatures in the cabin. Interestingly, the side view mirrors are from a Bullitt Mustang. The 3-piece black spoiler is original and the black side skirts were custom made. He’s running on 16-inch wheels. The black and silver contrast act as unique color combination that give the car its character and style.
Next is the sunroof, which was sported by only a few 280z’s. The 280z (‘75 - ‘78) was essentially the same as its predecessors (e.g. 240z and 260z), mind a few exterior changes. To appeal to customers who understood that the 280z was no different, Datsun dealerships, especially those in California, took the initiative to install a sunroof. “If you find one with a sunroof it’s considered rare,” Munoz said. “It’s basically factory but at the same time it’s not. I would say it’s a dealer-installed type of thing.”
The cabin looked exactly the same upon purchase. It’s a two seater, coupé style, Japanese take on a sports car with leather door panels, leather seats, leather steering wheel and retro style gauges. Not a bad interior for a 41-year-old classic.
After Munoz swapped his original 2.8 liter in-line 6 for a 5.7 liter carbureted v8 engine from an ‘80s Camaro, the factory gauge gave out, and he needed a replacement. So yes, he is running a Camaro v8 in a 280z — an ‘80s v8 but boy does it run.
It’s a stock Chevy 350 small block with a Chevy 700r4 transmission. He added a shifter kit which gives the car a neck-snapping kick. And with the bigger engine, Munoz needed to install a better coolant system. He has a Champion radiator with a Volvo fan hooked-up to a BMW thermostat. With the v8 engine the curb-weight is around 3,000 lbs. whereas the original curb-weight is around 2,800 lbs. He’s packing about 270-280 horsepower.
For the exhaust system the car is running Supper 44s by Flowmaster along with a custom glass pack and 2.5-inch piping to the headers. It really is a bit of a “Frankenstein” car as Munoz puts it. He named the car Maggie and for good reason. After buying the car, Munoz found an envelope inside with a picture of a young girl. “I was confused at first,” Munoz said. “Maybe they forgot to throw it out or whatever but I found another picture with the same little girl at a car show with an older man.”
The man in the image was the previous owner of the car and he intended to pass it down to the girl but she passed away. Her name was Maggie. “I guess he [the previous owner] tried to finish it for her but then he passed away. So as a tribute to them, I named the car Maggie for that girl. I plan on finishing it basically for that reason.”
The car is quite the head-turner. But to Munoz it’s no longer about attracting attention. To him it’s about about enjoying the car and building it to his style and taste.
“I still have plans for the future but this is where I wanted it to be for a good while. I’m at the point where I just drive it for my enjoyment. I don’t care to impress anymore. I’ve met a lot of people through this car so I’m grateful for that. But as far as compliments go, yeah, I do get the occasional thumbs-up on the freeway.”