Jay Leno Drives a 1972 Datsun 240Z Roadster With a Chevy V8


The driver of the classic Japanese sports car admits he was passively stalking Leno, which is a natural thing to do when you’re into cars and live in California. And it worked, as the famous collector thought the Z “looked beautiful.” Owner James Smith thus brought over a very cool-looking 1972 Datsun 240Z convertible with a story behind it.

James says he bought the car back in 2001 from a Cal-Tech student for a juicy price: just $1,000. The catch was that it had already been chopped and had a V8 swap, yet the mods weren’t done well. After that, he, his brother, and his father worked on the car to get it to the current condition, which still isn’t what you’d call finished.

They’ve come up with two funny names for the unique prototype: Chevatsun and 580Z. Can you guess what’s under the hood? It’s a Chevy 350 cubic-inch V8 motor that’s been re-built and bored out to around 5.8 liters of displacement.

Being the all-known car buff that he is, Leno remembers that there used to be a popular conversion called the Scarab with V8 kits. Since it was designed for the American market, the 240Z had a lot of room under the hood, so a big motor actually fits with room to spare.

When James bought the car, it was the stock yellow color, but his brother picked out the current olive green paint, which gives the car a unique look. It’s a very classy choice that reminds us of a 1980s Aston Martin V8 Vantage, which the 240Z somewhat resembles anyway.

When Jay Leno got to drive it, he said, “it’s got some power.” They have done some mild bracing under the hood, but there’s no crazy chassis tubing going on, and the brakes are still stock.

At the back, the builders got rid of the fish-hook Datsun bumper. The previous owner had chopped the top, but the bodywork still needed smoothing, and a spoiler was added.