Inspiration comes in many forms; sometimes the most unassuming and unexpected occurrence can change the course of our lives. Who would have imagined that a trip to the movie theater could have such a positive effect on someone's life? Surely the then 11-year-old Kevin Yeung didn't expect his entire outlook on life to be changed when he first laid eyes on Brian O'Conner and Dominic Toretto racing on the big screen in 2001. Yes, the film The Fast and The Furious opened Kevin's eyes to the wonderful world of cars. Say what you will about the movie—how unrealistic it was or the kind of negative attention it brought to the underground automotive community—but once you're done, take a deep breath, step back, and consider what that film has given us automotive enthusiasts today. This film sparked the interest of countless children, who went on to become innovators, fabricators, writers, and builders of amazing cars, such as the '70 Datsun 240Z before you.
One of the most beautiful aspects of youth is the seemingly endless imagination that so often withers away as the years go by. Real life replaces fantasy, and creativity is all too often displaced by survival necessities. Unlike those who saw the aforementioned film as an adult, who likely shrugged it off as a dramatization of the life they were already living, Kevin's imagination allowed for the wonder and excitement of a car-centered lifestyle to manifest itself within his mind. Upon returning home, Kevin realized little else could bring him the joy that he had experienced while immersed in the world of cars. Being much too young to own or drive an actual car, he turned to the next best thing: video games. While playing games such as Need for Speed, the adolescent realized that what he enjoyed most about cars was the ability to modify them. He understood that all cars leave the factory virtually identical, but there were ways to make one his, to create a piece of art while everybody else drove around in blank canvases.
In high school, while most teenage boys were concerning themselves with sports and girls, Kevin was passionate about cars. From reading about them to enjoying them virtually through video games and racing simulators, he could not, nor did he want to, put this passion on hold due to a trivial little detail like the inability to own one. Realizing that thinking or saying that he loved cars was getting him nowhere near owning one, he took action. Kevin discussed his thoughts with his parents and together they came up with a plan. Kevin could start working while in high school and save for his own car—with one catch. His parents would support his passion by helping him purchase a car, but if his grades suffered at all the deal was off. No way was Kevin giving up this opportunity.
His dream was finally within reach, and a path toward that dream was visible. He understood that this would be no walk in the park; finding a job as a teenager is difficult enough as it is. The odd hours that a high school student is available to work are enough to scare away many potential employers. Luckily, a restaurant gave him a chance as a dishwasher.
For the next two years, Kevin washed dishes and worked his way up to being a waiter, all the while keeping a close tab on his grades. When he finally accumulated enough cash to consider some cars, he and his parents started shopping. A four-door car was the main criterion, as a two-door sports car would be financial suicide considering Kevin's age. Research was done and many cars were seen until they decided on a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX—quite possibly the ideal car when considering the criterion. Kevin enjoyed this car for the next few years, tweaked and tinkered with it while driving it daily. It was then, at the age of 19, that Kevin was introduced to the world of Wangan Midnight, the story of a young man, Akio Asakura, and his strange but beautiful relationship with an S30 Z, the Devil Z. In the story, Asakura, a highway racing aficionado, finds a wrecked S30 in a junkyard and purchases it only to find out that the previous registered owner's name is the same as his own. He restores the car to its original glory, meeting many skilled and interesting characters on the way, but the majority of the story revolves around the relationship between man and machine. Kevin was hooked; he watched the animated series, read the graphic novel, and enjoyed the video game. Once again he realized that printed words, moving pictures, and virtual reality were not enough; he needed to experience it for himself.
The first step was research; Kevin joined forums, poured over build threads, and crammed every bit of information available about the legendary Z car into his brain. As he studied, he saved. When he had finally saved enough to start looking for the foundation of his new project, he searched. Many hours were spent on Craigslist and eBay until he had his next project narrowed down to a red Z located a little over an hour away. As we have all experienced, buying a new car can be an incredibly exciting experience, Kevin arranged for a lift to see the car on the outskirts of San Diego. Once the car was visible, he spoke to the owner and checked out the details, remembering to keep his cool and not do anything impulsive. The interior wasn't in the best condition, but an L28 sat underhood, breathing through two SU carbs. The body looked straight and the owner assured him that it was rust free. He drove it home that day. Once Kevin had his very own S30 sitting in his garage, he continued to study and save. He knew he wanted a turbocharged powerplant and the allure of Godzilla's heart, the RB26DETT, was irresistible. Several months passed before Kevin had enough money to start on the car, deciding to get acquainted with it as much as possible before sourcing a powerplant, he started on the bodywork. The first thing on his to-do list was to strip the car of its paint, which was fortunate, as he made a heart-breaking discovery that day. The car had rust—a lot of it. The firewall, framerails and floorpan were rotted.
Making the best of the situation, Kevin patched up the rust as best as he could and sold the car. He realized that he needed some time to consider his next move and vowed to stay away from cars for a while. During this hiatus, he took a vacation to Hong Kong to visit family and friends, making a deal with his girlfriend that he would not do anything car related—a promise that he almost kept. One morning, he found himself awake far too early and, without much else to do, hopped on the computer. Muscle memory took over and eBay.com was typed into the browser, followed by "240Z" in the search bar. He wasn't expecting much, just browsing, cruising along in cyberspace—until the moment his heart stopped. It was fate and he knew it immediately. Before him, surrounded by the blue glow of his computer monitor, was a listing for a pristine pearl white 240Z. The listing was complete with a full description and detailed photos. He knew that he had not been able to bring himself to spend his "Devil Z fund" on anything else, and it was sitting quietly in his bank account. An email was sent to the seller, which was answered promptly. He was a bodyman by trade; he had restored the car at his shop, taking the car down to bare metal to inspect for rust (there was none) before being straightened out completely and resprayed in a coat of Lexus Starfire Pearl. The only modification done to the car was a set of Epsilon Mesh wheels. Kevin knew he had found the one. There was only one problem: He was scheduled to be out of the country for another month.
Fortunately, the seller agreed to accept a PayPal deposit to hold the S30 until Kevin could see it. When Kevin saw the 240Z for the first time in person, he already knew everything there was to know about it. The seller had answered every one of Kevin's questions during the past month. It was a perfect chassis with a tired drivetrain—exactly what he wanted. With the money in his savings account, Kevin wasted no time ordering parts. A fiberglass air dam and 432 replica spoiler were purchased from MSA, and 15x9.5 and 15x10.5 Equip 03s were ordered from Work to fill out the ZG flares. The previous owner had installed the flares, but left the body intact underneath, rendering them useless. Kevin took it upon himself to reinstall the flares properly—post paint, cutting, and welding the pristine body extremely carefully. A set of Techno Toy Tuning coilovers brings the Toyo R888-wrapped Equips within the confines of the wheel arches while providing proper damping and performance-oriented spring rates, transforming the Z from a boat to a proper sports car. As mentioned, the original drivetrain was old and tired, and lacking in excitement. Kevin considered the tried-and-true SR20DET, the insanely powerful and uncommon 2JZ, but he knew there was only one way this car was to become his very own Devil Z.
The recipe for Kevin's dream engine was quite simple: an L28 pulled from a 280ZX, fitted with triple 44mm sidedraft Mikuni carburetors, and a T3/T4 turbo. Getting the turbo to feed all six intake ports evenly, however, was the main issue. Many solutions were considered, but once again Kevin chose to take a page from Asakura's handbook, and the search was on for a period-correct plenum. Six months into his search, Kevin finally got in contact with a gentleman building his own turbo L-series S30. In his possession were two HKS surge tanks. Kevin made an offer on one of the rare pieces, and it was on its way—the final piece of an amazing engine build. Once the engine was put together, wired up and fired up for the first time, yet another issue arose: tuning the three sidedraft carburetors. Kevin could have, of course, simply towed the car to a shop to have the carburetors synced and tuned, but having a stranger put the final touches on his masterpiece felt wrong. The then 21-year-old hopped onto his computer and, once again, started researching the dark art of tuning a completely mechanical fuel injection system. He looked up everything he could find, and asked questions to more experienced Z owners to attain the answers that weren't published. Armed with every piece of information available on the subject, Kevin set off to get his car running the way he wanted. Trial and error is often said to be the best teacher, and this was the only way Kevin was willing to learn. In the spirit of Asakura and the Devil Z, Kevin took the car not to a dyno, but to the open road. Armed with a flat head screwdriver, he made adjustments until the air/fuel ratio was to his liking and the car ran like a dream.
All too often, cars are judged at face value. Few people look into perhaps what is the most important aspect of a car build: why the car was built and why it became the beautiful piece of art that it is. The reasons why a man devotes his life to a craft can be much more intriguing than seeing his creation, as the creation is simply a by-product of the passion inside.