1969 - 1973 Datsun 240 Z - Print # KC-32
Here's the story...
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Meyers-Mank Dune Buggy "The Do-It-Your-Self Dune Buggy" - Fast, inexpensive cars always get attention. Someone, somewhere in the mid-'60s, figured out that if you take the Bug body off a VW, the platform makes a great buggy. Bruce Meyers was a talented fiberglass artist who liked making 40-foot catamaran boats as well as dune buggies. Back then, dune buggies were kind of goofy looking. So when Bruce and his wife Shirley started tooling around Newport Beach, California with this unusual but very cool-looking car, folks started asking where they could get one. By 1966 the B.F. Meyers Company started making Meyers Manx kits for sale.
Meyers wanted to sell completed cars to the public, but Volkswagen wouldn't sell Beetles without bodies. So the car would be a "kit-only" product. Like all kit cars back then, the Meyers Manx was limited to the owner's wallets and ability to spin tools. Because the engine hung out the back, the Meyers Manx could use either a Beetle, Corvair, or Porsche engine. With 14 inches removed from the chassis pan, low weight, low center of gravity and modest power, the car could be a handful. With the right parts it could be a beast.
In 1966 Ted Trevor, owner of Crown Manufacturing Company, took his racing Meyers Manx to race at Pike's Peak. Running in the under-305 cubic-inch sports car class, the car was faster than all of the sports cars, including Ak Miller's undefeated 427 Cobra, and all but seven of the specialized hillclimb cars. A broken fuel line cost the team a win. After the race, a rattled USAC canceled the class for 1967.
Over the years Meyers sold between 400 and 600 kits. People loved these cars for their looks, simplicity, and their sheer, wind-in-your-face, fun factor. Inexpensive fun definitely gets attention! - KST
Colin Chapman's Lotus 7 - Legendary car designer Colin Chapman debuted his Lotus Seven at the Earls Court Motor Show in October 1957. The original intention was to offer a "kit car" for the club racer crowd in England. The kit concept also helped get around England's home-market purchase tax. A few years later, Lotus was selling fully assembled Lotus 7 cars. The spartan sports car got its name from the fact that it was Colin Chapman's seventh car design for Lotus – hence the name, Lotus Seven. Formula 1 and sports car champion Dan Gurney called the Lotus 7, "an unrivaled, quintessential sports car." The Lotus 7 is very close to being 100 percent functional. In other words, there isn't anything on the car that is not essential – just like a race car.
From '58 to '73 Lotus produced four versions of the Lotus 7. The original Series 1 was offered from '58 to '60. The Series 2 car featured a simplified chassis with fewer tubes and suspension improvements to help lower cost. The 1340cc Ford-Cosworth 4-cylinder produced 95hp and provided 0-60 times of 7 seconds. The Super 7 version had a 130hp engine and weighed only 1,200 pounds.
The Lotus 7 came very close to being terminated in '66, but exclusive distributor of the Lotus 7, Caterham Company, convinced Colin Chapman to allow them to make significant improvements to the aging club racer. 1968 saw the introduction of the Series 3 Lotus 7 that used an 85hp Ford Cortina 4-cylinder engine and suspension. A year later the Lotus 7-SS was offered using a 1600cc Lotus twin-cam 4-cylinder engine that produced 115hp and had stronger chassis. Some referred to the car as the
By 1973 the Lotus 7's '50s styling was looking very dated. Some were even calling it "dune-buggy-like." With sales way off, Lotus sold the rights to Caterham Cars of South London where it is still produced today.
When Caterham took over production of the Lotus 7, they went back to the Series 3 look since Caterham was involved in the styling of Series 3 car. This was referred to as the "classic" design. Caterham made significant improvements to the Lotus 7 and called their version the "Super Sprint." Weighing in at just 1,300 pounds and using a 1700cc, 135hp Ford Kent engine, the Super Sprint could run 0-60mph in 5.6 seconds with a top speed of 115 mph. The suspension was updated using a stronger chassis, deDion rear suspension, a 5-speed transmission, and 4-wheel disc brakes. As usual, the interior was cramped and no frills – an absolute zero in creature comforts..
Since the Lotus 7 had always been one tick away from being an all-out race car, Caterham offered a racing version called the "Superlight." As if the Lotus 7 wasn't light enough, the Superlight weighed only 1,000 pounds. Some versions were capable of 0-60 mph in just 4 seconds!
Since then, all sorts of Lotus 7 cars have been built by privateers in search of the ultimate power-to-weight ratio. Lotus 7 cars have been powered by V-8 engines, turbocharged, 3-rotor Mazda engines, as well as exotic Cosworth engines.
Some call the Lotus 7 and all of the different versions of the 7, the "last of a dying breed of sports cars." If you ever want to take a blast down sports car memory lane in a super lightweight, high-powered, wind in your face machine, a Lotus 7 could be your E-ticket to maximum fun. Power for kit car versions range from Pinto and Mazda RX7 engines to a 525hp Olds Quad 4. Sensational! - KST
Manta Mirage - "Can-Am Street Monster" - Sports car racing went through tremendous changes during the ‘60s. In 1966, the Sports Car Club of America and the Canadian Automobile Sports Club created the can-Am racing series. Johnson Wax was the sponsor of the series and posted very high prize money that attracted the best teams and drivers of the day.
Officially classified as “Group 7” by the International Motorsport federation, Can-Am cars had very few restrictions. There were no limits on engine size, tire size, turbocharging, wings, minimum weight, or structure material. The cars had to be open cockpit, closed body, with two seats and two doors. That was it! One team quickly rose to the challenge and proceeded to totally dominate the series for more than five years. Team McLaren, with Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme simply did everything better than anyone else on and off the track.
The McLaren cars weren’t always the most innovative cars in the series, Jim Hall’s Chaparrals saw to that. But they tested their cars like no one else. When they arrived at the track, they were 100-percent ready for competition. The McLaren M8 design was the mainstay through the late ‘60s. Every year there were substantial improvements in the car and slight in the body shape. But it was the M8-D with the all-aluminum ZL-1 Chevy engine that made them legends. The press called it, “The Bruce and Denny Show.”
When the McLaren team came out with a new car, they usually sold the old car. Consequently, the Can-Am field started to see many more McLaren cars racing. here’s where the Manta Mirage cars enter the story. Tim Lovette was a young man from Costa Mesa, California, who was pretty good at fiberglass work. One of his neighbors had a used McLaren M8 racer and contracted Tim to make replacement body parts for his race car. While working on the spare body parts, Tim got the bright idea to make a street-legal version of the McLaren M8 racer. Tim and his brother Brad replicated the McLaren as best they could using off the shelf parts and a lot of trial and error engineering. By 1974, their company, “Manta Cars,” was offering a kit for $3,498. For kit cars of that time, it was rather expensive, but the completed car had the potential to be a monster of a ride.
Race cars usually don’t translate well into street cars. even though the McLaren had two seats, one was virtually useless. The Lovette brothers added 12-inches to the interior and made targa-style lift-off roof panels. The rear deck of the McLaren had lift-off access panels to accommodate the large racing wing. Since the Mirage didn’t have a rear, the rear fenders and deck were made to tilt back. The engine compartment was large enough to accommodate a small or big-block Chevrolet engine. Weighing just 1,500 pounds, the Mirage had a tremendous power-to-weight ratio, even with a modest open header small-block. In the early ‘70s, the cars used a Corvair 4-speed transaxle for running gear and a Beetle front suspension.
It is not known how many Manta Mirage cars were built. The Lovette brothers had another McLaren-inspired car called the “Montage” based on Bruce McLaren’s personal McLaren road car. This was more sports car than race car. By the late ‘80s the Kneeland Company began producing the Mirage and the Montage kits until they were bought out by Warp Five in 1992. The latest owners have completely upgraded both cars and offer a ready-to-drive turn-key version for around $43,000. The latest versions are available with either V-6 or V-8 engines, Porsche gearboxes, CD stereo systems, and more.
Regardless of who offers the parts, the Mirage’s soul will forever be the McLaren M8 Can-Am racer. - KST
Cheetah Road Racer - "Chevy-Powered Cobra Stalker" - Exotic sports car racing was all the rage in the early '60s, and it became popular to build your own racers to compete with the "Big Boys." Shelby's Cobra and, later, Lance Reventlow's Scarab, proved that with guts and pizzaz, you could build a very fast, hot-looking car. In 1963, Chevy engine expert Bill Thomas and Indy car builder Don Edmunds created a Chevy-powered Snake hunter. As the production Corvette was no match for the Cobras, and Zora Duntov's Grand Sport was not yet ready, the Cheetah was set to stalk to Serpents.
When you look at a Cheetah, it screams "RACE CAR" at you. But the fact is that it was never intended to be a racer. Thomas and Edmunds built the Cheetah to make money! Consequently, the wild-looking machine is loaded with off-the-shelf, Chevy production parts. An all-out racer would have had many more exotic hand-made parts. But with a power-to-weight ratio of around 4:1, this was one bloody fast machine that proved to be more than a handful.
At that time, it was an SCCA standard that a company had to produce at least 100 cars to be considered a "production car." Unfortunately, a fire in their shop stopped production at around 16 units, with 11 cars complete and the remaining cars unfinished. This was the beginning of a series of unfortunate events for the Cheetah. Two weeks before the official debut at the L.A. Times Grand Prix, the car was crashed in testing. Then on the first lap of their first race, the lower radiator hose broke, causing water to spray under the tires, resulting in another crash. Then Chevrolet bought car No. 1, tested it, and determined the car's erratic handling was a result of a lack of torsion rigidity. The Cheetah was sent back to Thomas, and Chevrolet withdrew their support.
Despite the abundance of stock parts, the Cheetah was an amazing sports car. The 90-inch wheelbase Cheetah is smaller than an RX-7 Mazda. To get the engine as far back as possible, Edmunds built the car with no driveshaft. The gearbox connects to a heavy-duty aluminum Corvette differential with a single universal joint. To keep the weight down, the stock Corvette trailing arms and leaf springs were replaced with tube units and coil-over-shocks, as were the a-arms on the front suspension. Heavy-duty '62 Chevy station wagon spindles were used with a Triumph Herald rack and pinion. Brakes were heavy-duty Chevrolet drums with sintered linings. Power came from a mildly modified 327 Fuel Injected Corvette engine with open headers.
After Edmunds had the engine and drive train established, he built a birdcage-style tube chassis. The body was then built around the frame using a wooden buck to hand-form the aluminum skin. To keep the cost down, fiberglass molds were built for future Cheetahs.
After the fire halted production and Chevrolet pulled their support, the remaining Cheetahs were sold off. The price of the Cheetah was between $7,500 and $12,000, depending on equipment and how close to an all-out racer it was. Some were raced with marginal success and a few were driven on the street. In 1965, Jack Goodman, of Dixon Chevrolet, bought Cheetah No. 9 with plans to make it a street machine. However, along the way the the 1,500-lb car received a new 396/375hp big-block engine and an M22 Rock Crusher transmission!
Edmunds went off on his own to build a long line of successful Indy, Midget, Sprint, and Super Vee cars. Thomas got into drag racing parts before getting into real estate in 1969. In the end, 11 cars were completed and at least 8 survived. - KST
1969 - 1973 Datsun 240 Z - In the late '60s, Japanese production cars were not widely held in high regard. They tended to be too small for Americans and oddly styled. But all of that was about to change when former Datsun Marketing Manager Yutaka Katayama was put into the driver's seat as President of Nissan Motors in 1965. Yutaka had a passion for sports cars.
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