FEATURE – RISING FROM THE ASHES

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Before I set these two cars up for the shoot, I was just pondering with a friend on how people say these cars are so hard to find and so rare and yet, I have come in contact with so many of these rare beauties. Even a couple of my friends are getting into restoration of S30Z’s. From hidden personal restorations to internationally acclaimed zetto artisans, Star Road, I have been witness to a great variety of Fairlady’s and have found a deep and profound sense of appreciation for all of them, regardless of what state or style they arrive in…

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The reply my friend gave me in regards to these ponderings was that it is precisely because they are rare and hard to find that I keep having spotting them. It took me a while to soak that up but the impact was significant. Yes, I concluded, they are hard to find if you are looking for one to take up as a restoration project but if you are looking for ones that are already in pristine condition or on the way to being perfected, or perhaps, if you are searching in the right places, there they will be.

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These two S30Z’s are special in their own unique way and that is magnified when we talk about classic cars; they each have their own “character” and their own “aura” with no two ever the same. The grey Fairlady is a 240Z and the orange, a 240ZG but the way in which these cars are being built is unprecedented. There’s an incredible amount level of skill and labour being employed by the artisans commissioned with the task of restoring them. A great majority of the parts going into the builds are not purchased new and just bolted on like a new car but are actually hand crafted using sheet metal using the old rusted parts and images found as guidance; a true testament to dedication and perfection.

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The names behind the builds for these Fairladys are firstly Playhouse Garage in Malaysia, as well as long time friend, Rahmat. A while back, 7Tune did a feature of a TA23 Celica that also restored by Rahmat, who himself, has become something of a go-to-guy for a great number of restoration projects. He kept emphasising that I mention the two cars are works in progress but personally, I would say that no matter what state these cars are in, they will still evoke emotion.

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The similarities of the two Zeds are seen in the careful restorative treatment. One is a 240Z and the other a “G nose”. The 240Z is on the way to a full restoration with the original L-series engine while the G-nose has a naturally aspirated RB26 under the hood. Both the cars are different in approach.

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The 240Z is built to represent Japanese muscle with a roaring classic L-series engine and chunky over fenders that give the car a muscular stance, while the ZG is built more as a modern tuner car; the elongated nose and slender figure accompanied by a more powerful and modern engine swap.

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I keep looking at this pair and can’t help but think about the fable of how a phoenix is reborn. As the story goes, a phoenix is reborn from ashes and never really dies. This is the most suitable way of describing an S30Z; they are quite literally reborn again with new life and fresh parts from ashes and dust, even more so for the 240ZG which is obviously the more complete of the two cars.

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Rahmat kept stressing the issue of finding parts for this car as they are quite hard to come by in Malaysia (or anywhere else for that matter) with the stencil stamp that he has placed on the door an obvious indicator. The cars are literally assembled piece by piece, old parts replaced by newly forged ones or with parts that have been salvaged from junk yards and anywhere that they might be. Restoring old cars is an arduous task and I truly respect the culture and effort behind it because nothing makes someone prouder than to say everything has been done by hand.

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Continuing on with the phoenix theme even the colour seems to coincide with that of a phoenix: a rich fiery orange hue has been chosen and The design for the zed range of cars are so iconic and sleek that no matter what colour that is chosen; no matter how brash or tame the colour may be the timeless sporty shape that consists of a short back and a long nose compensates for it. 

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The plans on the interior are to keep it original, and has not been refurbished yet. I am glad to still be able to see the interior in its untouched form; a certain personality exudes from it with the familiar  old car smells and the beauty of craftsmanship of old that has somehow managed to be preserved in all its charming allure. 

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When we were done with the shoot, there was a small issue when starting the grey 240Z as the battery has gotten weak. Rahmat said to me in Bahasa Malaysian, “Biasalah, Kereta lama..”, meaning, “It’s a normal problem for old cars.” One of his friends/customers that had tagged along and helped for the shoot, quickly moved his AE86 and whipped out some jumper cables to give life back to the old girl.

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Nothing wrong with classic car enthusiasts helping each other out! This is what makes classic car culture so interesting. Some car cultures are all about who is the fastest or who’s got the most horsepower or the best looks but in the classic car culture is all about creating a community that helps each other out.

7Tune – The Ultimate Malaysian Automotive Experience since 2005

Photos – Eugene Chan
Words – Eugene Chan

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