1978 Datsun 280Z Restomod Gets Widebody Rocket Bunny Kit

Traditional and era-correct, or custom and wild? This is usually the question faced by those lucky enough to get their hands on any of Datsun’s beloved Z cars born into the 1970s. Having experienced an uptick in value in recent years and often in rough condition, it’s universally accepted that, unless you’re buying someone’s finished build, you’re officially taking on a project of your own.

Have It Your Way

Of course there’s no right or wrong way to put together one of these classic sports cars but more often than not, a pre-set style is applied. In the case of Douglas Ibarra and this golden 1978 280Z, the vision was to combine some of the past with some of the present to truly make this Z his own.

Ibarra purchased the car 8 years ago, and being someone else’s project it was in the sort of condition that you would expect—rough around the edges, missing plenty of parts, and slathered in primer. Finding an old Z car with its share of flaws can help save a few bucks and with the intention of tearing it down to rebuild, it was an ideal candidate for Ibarra.

Just a few months after taking ownership and doing a thorough inventory to figure out what was missing and what was needed, the L28 engine and transmission were yanked out for a thorough rebuild in search of reliability and longevity, rather than swapping an engine from a different chassis for brute power. As the engine and drivetrain were updated, new suspension was added and that primer finish became a thing of the past with a new coat of yellow blasted across the Z’s exterior.

Factory Fresh

Inside, instead of race buckets or flashing gauges taking up every inch of dash space, the look is subtle and mostly factory. Restored original pieces combine with remanufactured bits that team up for a genuine step back into the ’70s—the only obvious divergence being an Autopower roll bar. That original feel from the driver’s seat backed by the grumble offered by the L-series mill under the hood captured the spirit that Ibarra was after, but after a few years of enjoying the car, a change was in order.

Taking the old and new formula even further, Ibarra decided to modernize the car’s exterior and opted for a complete Rocket Bunny aero makeover. The kit includes aggressive, sculpted flares for all four corners, a sleek front air dam, and kicked-up rear wing. Adding substantial size to Z’s flanks, the kit gives off an almost exotic aura, and one that Ibarra felt was in need of a new color.

Back to the body shop once again, it was prepped and painted a unique Safari Gold. In addition, a custom five-slat grill that eliminates the high-mounted turn signals was installed, as were LED-equipped headlightss, while Datsun bullet mirrors mounted to each fender borrow from the past.

Older on the inside, and newer on the outside, it was expected that Ibarra would pick up some modern wheels to match the body’s new look. Instead, he sourced a set of 280ZX “iron cross” wheels that, in stock configuration, would be sunken so far under the Rocket Bunny flares that the car would look like it’s floating. A plan was already in mind and involved the help of the wheel whisperers at Love20BEE. 

Staying On Theme

The old school wheel re-build and customization specialists performed major surgery on the 14×6-in. rollers, creating a one-off set of 17×8.5 front and 17×10.5 rear versions of the Z-car classic. Now a 3-piece affair, the deep, stepped lip customs completely fill the wheel wells and adjustable air suspension, installed by Iceboxx Customs, allows the ride height to be adjusted on the fly.

The tasty exterior mash-up of then and now flows perfectly with the rest of the build and gives Ibarra the best of both worlds, rather than sticking to an established set of guidelines.

Car 1978 Datsun 280Z

Owner Douglas Ibarra

Instagram @78_dougsun280Z

Engine L28; custom exhaust system; Mishimoto radiator

Suspension Airlift Management system; TechnoToyTuning adjustable rear lower control arms; front shock tower bar

Braking 1986 Toyota 4Runner discs, calipers, pads

Wheels & Tires 280Z Iron Cross wheels 17×8.5 front, 17×10.5 rear; Federal FE-201 225/45 front, 255/40

Exterior Safari Gold paint; Pandem Rocket Bunny aero; Datsun OEM fender bullet mirrors; custom 5-slat grill; deleted turn signals

Interior restored and reupholstered factory seats, dash, and panels; Autopower roll bar

Thank You @love20bee for the custom wheels; @iceboxxcustoms for the Air lift install

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