Motortrend // 1972 Datsun 240Z - From Rust and Dust

Crusher-Quality Datsun Z Becomes Pikes Peak Challenger by the Hands of Shawn Bassett

Benjamin HuntingEditor; Mike KuhnPhotographer



Not every build that begins with a definite plan ends up following it to a tee. Sometimes, circumstances can push a project car in a completely different direction than the one you thought you were headed in when you first started turning a wrench. That's exactly what happened with Shawn Bassett when he first laid eyes on this Datsun 240Z at a local racetrack.

1972 Datsun 240Z APR Rear Wing 02


"I was there with my prerunner [race truck] competing in a rallycross class," he remembers. "And I saw a little yellow Z on the nearby road course. I had to have one, and three days later, I was the proud owner of the cheapest possible Datsun from Miami Craigslist."

1972 Datsun 240Z Exhaust Tip

Initially keen on building a fun and inexpensive track toy, Shawn soon discovered the Z he had purchased was in far worse shape than he suspected. Taking the car apart, he realized it was rotten from front to back—a "complete pile of rust," in his words.

1972 Datsun 240Z GM LS3 SWAP

It's here that the story of Shawn's Z takes a most unexpected turn. Whereas most people would have simply sent the heap to the crusher and chalked it up to experience, after letting the shell marinate in his garage for almost six months, Shawn decided this setback actually represented an unlikely opportunity.

1972 Datsun 240Z Custom Carbon Fiber Bodykit 04

"I had always wanted to run Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Being a longtime professional motorcycle racer, I thought it would happen on two wheels, not four," he explains. "But I realized it was time to finally put to use all the fabrication and composite skills I'd learned over the years to give this beat-up car a purpose and make that dream a reality for me at the same time."

1972 Datsun 240Z Custom Radiator Ducts 02

Shawn had the advantage of having built many rockcrawlers and other off-road rigs, which gave him a strong familiarity with tube work. This solved the major structural issues with the Swiss cheese quality of the Datsun, and it also allowed him a fresh start to make sure whatever he built ended up satisfying the considerable regulations governing hillclimb racing.

1972 Datsun 240Z Sabelt Taurus Seat

"Pikes Peak was useful as a target because it has a rule book," Shawn says. "I grouped FIA, NASA, and Pikes Peak together and used them as a guideline for how to assemble the entire vehicle. That way, I'd be able to qualify and run in as many different events as possible. It was a long time before I actually picked up a welder, because I made sure the research was done well in advance."

1972 Datsun 240Z Front Splitter 02

That tube frame is wrapped in a bespoke carbon-fiber body and outrageous, hillclimb-ready aero that gives the Datsun a hyper-aggressive look that's impossible to ignore. Under the hood, a 5.3L all-aluminum L33 LS V-8 serves up 415hp through a reinforced T56 six-speed transmission, which is in turn sequentially shifted before sending its output through a carbon-fiber driveshaft to a Kaaz 1.5-way LSD nestled in an S14 differential.

1972 Datsun 240Z APR Rear Wing 04

A Holley Dominator ECU calls the fuel injection shots, with the car featuring a RacePak PDM and a tune from Nashville's Carma Performance. BC Racing ZR coilovers are found front and rear, and a braced S13 subframe, SPL tension arms, and sway bars from Whiteline and GK Tech police the rest of the suspension setup. StopTech brakes up front are hidden behind custom 18-inch BC Forged wheels all around, with massive Toyo RR slicks gripping the asphalt.

1972 Datsun 240Z Taillights

Shawn's car was first seen at SEMA 2018, but it still had more than a few details to work out before it was ready for track duty—and its eventual debut at Pikes Peak—which meant two more months of intensive tuning and wiring prior to hitting the track for the first time.

1972 Datsun 240Z Sabelt Steering Wheel

"That was one of the things that worried me the most: How is the car going to handle?" Shawn relates, laughing nervously. "I wasn't worried about my own skills, but this was the first time I had attempted something this involved, and at that first track day I was going crazy wondering if something was going to fall off or catch fire."

1972 Datsun 240Z BC Racing Coilover Reservoir

In fact, the car ran like it was on rails in each and every session, and Shawn soon began to concentrate on getting to know the vehicle rather than worrying about its reliability. He also had to pack in as much racing experience as possible in order to qualify for the Pikes Peak competition.

1972 Datsun 240Z APR Rear Wing 03

"I really wanted to hit the mountain last year," he says. "But when I requested an entry, I had to submit a resume of racing history. While they were willing to give me a motorcycle entry, I didn't have enough four-wheel seat time to qualify. They told me my best bet was to get my license and get some track days under the car's belt, and then reapply for the following year."

1972 Datsun 240Z Front Splitter 03

Shawn did exactly that, passing his SCCA Pro TT license without issue and snagging as much track time as he could. After a podium finish at its first competitive event at Road Atlanta, it was clear the car was ready for its intended venue, and the vehicle and driver will indeed be applying for 2020 consideration.

1972 Datsun 240Z Fender Vents 02

Perhaps the most amazing thing about this particular Z? Shawn stressed repeatedly that building a car like his Datsun doesn't require winning the lottery or owning a high-end shop.

1972 Datsun 240Z Shawn Bassett

"I really want people to know you can acquire the skills to do a project like this gradually, just like I did, if you're patient enough to amass the tools and find the time," he says. "After all, this car was built in my 750-square-foot pole barn, which is pretty far from the glitz and glamour that's usually associated with these kinds of builds."

Tuning Menu
Owner: Shawn Bassett
Hometown: Apopka, FL
Occupation: COO At Jerry Harvey Audio
Instagram: @shawnb26
Engine: 5.3L GM L33 LS V-8 motor; ported and polished heads; BTR Stage 3 cam; custom headers; MSD wires, Atomic Airforce intake manifold, Atomic fuel rails; Vibrant Performance hoses; HPS Performance silicon couplers; CSF triple-bypass radiator; K&N carbon-fiber air filter; Aftermarket Industries FC1200 fuel pump hanger; Walbro fuel pump; Earl's Performance Plumbing fuel filter; Vibrant Performance hoses; Turbonetics fuel pressure regulator; LS3 injectors
Drivetrain: Built T56 transmission; S1 sequential shifter; carbon-fiber driveshaft; S14 differential housing; Kaaz 1.5-way limited-slip differential; 4.08 ring and pinion; GK Tech billet high-capacity cover; Driveshaft Shop 600hp CV axles
Engine Management: Holley Dominator ECU, EFI sensors; RacePak PDM, mil-spec wiring by Level 7 Motorsports; tuned by Carma Performance
Footwork & Chassis: Custom FIA-spec tube chassis; BC Racing ZR three-way coilovers; FDF Fab grip knuckles; SPL Parts front and rear arms; custom Heim front lower control arms; GK Tech front sway bar; Z32 rear knuckles with spherical bearings; Whiteline rear sway bar; braced S13 subframe
Brakes: obp Motorsport Pro V3 Pedal box, master cylinders; StopTech ST43 Trophy front big brake kit; Z32 rear calipers; EBC rear rotors; G-Loc pads; Hel Performance lines
Wheels & Tires: 18x10.5 front, 18x11 rear BC Forged RS43 wheels; 295/30R18 front, 315/30R18 rear Toyo RR slicks
Exterior: Custom carbon-fiber body and aero; APR duel element rear wing
Interior: Sabelt Taurus seat, steering wheel, harness; AiM lap timer; custom carbon-fiber dash; Auto Meter gauges; Holley Pro 13-inch digital dash; SPA fire suppression