Finding a trustworthy run shop to work on an vintage car is no small feet. For me, it's not just about finding someone who can perform a service reliably, but it is about forming a business partnership where both individuals' outcomes are clearly aligned. A worthy shop must always put the extra effort needed to get the job done the right way and pay meticulous attention to every last inch of the car
For the restoration of the VIP'S Z car, I chose Les Cannaday, Datsun expert and owner of Classic Datsun Motorsports, to serve as my main shop, consultant and partner. Les is widely known in the Datsun community for not only running a trustworthy business, but for his passion, drive, historical knowledge, and dedication to his customers. In recent years, Les has helped comedian Adam Carolla locate and restore many of Paul Newman's old race cars. Even though Les' shop was some 300 miles away from my home in Northern California, I was willing to travel to get the job done right the first time.
We began our 8 hour trek down to Vista, California on the evening of March 4, 2015. The next morning we set out to meet Les at Classic Datsun Motorsports. We navigated the car through the narrow streets of Vista and finally found the seemly inconspicuous shop.
Stepping into Les' shop was truly something else...
Here sat beautiful race cars of yesteryear restored back to their former glory. Although some projects were farther along than others, you could tell that each and every car received the utmost attention they deserved. 240Z, 510, 280ZX, Roadster race cars were all a common sight here at Classic Datsun.
A few days prior, I expressed my concern to Les about the suspension needing to be removed for paint, but I had to some how bring the car down on the trailer. Les suggested that I bring the car down by trailer, as normal, and have his trusty crew remove the suspension and create a dolly for the car. I would then bring the suspension back up with me to Northern California to have all the bits and pieces powder coated.
Being the Datsun reliable experts they were, all the dolly pieces were purchased and ready to be assembled the night before. Les and his mechanic began by meticulously measuring out the chassis to ensure that the dolly could be fitted properly and safely.
While the Classic Datsun team continued to assemble the dolly, I continued to walk aimlessly around the toy store... I mean, shop. It seemed like every car I saw had historic lineage. One of the most significant cars being serviced at Les' shop was the famous Bob Leitzinger 280ZX pictured to the right in the photo below. Tucked away in the back of Les' shop was one of the most famous IMSA Z race cars of the 70's, raced by a somewhat big-deal-of-a-shop in Southern California by the name of Electramotive. This car spent much of its life hidden away overseas after its successful tenure in IMSA, including a National Championship. Who owns these cars? Well you might have heard of him...
Slowly but surely, I made my way back to Les' team. After about 3 hours of work the dolly was complete and the car was all ready to go. Nothing but first class workmanship!
The next day we would return to Les' shop, but before that we transported the car to the restoration shop in Santee, California. Stay tuned for coverage!
One of the keys to vintage racing is that each car must be restored to its original race livery. This Z car ran with two separate style liveries in the late 70's, but both under the sponsorship of VIP'S Restaurant. VIP's restaurant was the largest restaurant chain based in Oregon and operated from 1968 until the late 1980s. The main colors were brownish maroon and off-white yellow.
The livery from 1977 to early 1979 was a BRE-esque livery. It was very classy and would likely be preferred for most conservative vintage race clubs today. It is traditional, yet sharp. The car bared this livery when competing against the likes of Newman, Fitzgerald, Leary, Blackburn, Mollet, Parkinson, at the 1978 Champion Spark Plug Road Racing Classic at Road Atlanta.
We can see from other angles that VIP'S was not the sole sponsorship. Vey's Realty had a stand-out presence on the front hood and rear wing, while Curt's Total Service Texaco occupied real estate on the back lower panel
The later livery of 1979 was certainly more standout, flashing a disco-like VIP'S font across both sides of the car. Loren's famous number 39 was also moved from the doors to the rear quarters. This is by far my favorite livery as I feel it flows with the Z car likes very well. This livery would likely have a dominating presence at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion.
This livery is just mega. I am leaning towards this paint scheme just because the shear presence it gives out. It would also be more recognizable at race tracks!
What do you all think? Which livery would turn more heads?