Homegrown Rocket Bunny Z is a Dream Come True

Photography: Wes Taylor

  • The 260Z was a one-year North American special for 1974, making it a rare find in the United States.
  • Greg’s 260Z was a barn find that required every bit of his accrued skill set to restore and modify.
  • Greg’s overarching vision meshes the Z’s classic lines with the impactful flair of the Rocket Bunny kit, Rotiform wheels, and AirLift suspension.

There’s something to be said about cars of the past, both import and domestic. However, the classic Japanese vehicles are in a league of their own; while Ford, Chevy, and Chrysler products were commonplace sights, their Japanese counterparts often never graced the shores of North America. Datsun’s “Z” was one of the few that made it; for eight years we enjoyed three flavors of the Fairlady, which became known for its smooth lines, long nose, and sloped back hatch.

Greg Petschauer has always loved those clean “Fairlady” lines. After seeing the famed Fast and The Furious star Sung Kang’s 1972 Rocket Bunny Datsun 240Z, he fell even more in love with the car’s aftermarket potential. After finding a 260z of his own (more on this later), he knew he wanted to build a car around the iconic widebody kit.

A Family Passion

As a bit of backstory, Greg’s father raced front-end dragsters in the ‘60s and now devotes his free time to building hot rods; he now has a 1950 Ford custom and a supercharged flathead-powered Ford Model T in the garage. As a result, Greg grew up around the hobby; his dad made him his first “racer” at the tender age of ten — a go-kart that became a 13-year racing hobby — until Greg moved on to Formula Vee in the SCCA. After that, Greg turned his passion for automobiles into a career: he earned master ASE certifications for Mazda, Volkswagen, Isuzu, and Nissan. Shortly after, he took it a step further and learned the trade of paint and bodywork from his uncle.

From Barn to Build

Greg found his 260Z in a barn. After being stowed away for 30 years, it was surprisingly intact; most of it was there aside from the front fenders and the hood. These cars are known for rusting, but Greg’s luck continued — there was only a tiny pinhole in the floor pan — and all of the original bracketry was reusable as well.

As I previously stated, a Rocket Bunny kit was mandatory for Greg’s build. As a unique kit, lead times were long, but he used that time to source all the other parts he needed for a trouble-free install, including a fresh hood and matching fender set. After that, Greg completed all the bodywork himself, stripping it down to bare metal inside and out. With his assistance, the wife was happy to help install the widebody kit, and the Fairlady got some fresh Orange paint courtesy of Porsche’s color library. Some clear PPF to protect the front splitter and fenders, black JDM fender mirrors, and badges added the finishing touches. The car looked immaculate and I couldn’t tell he did it all in his garage! 

Dialing it In

The right wheels can make or break a build, especially for widebody cars. What better brand to use with a nice blend of old school and JDM style than Rotiform? Greg chose a staggered set of custom LHR’s that he and James of The Wheel Lab designed for this car — 17×9 up front and 17×10 in the rear — wrapped in Toyo rubber.

Stance is everything to Greg with this build and suspension plays a significant part. Up front, Techno Toy Tuning control arms and roll center spacers help achieve this. The rear remains somewhat factory with the transverse link style system and anti-roll bar. The eye-catcher is an Airlift Performance suspension setup with the 3P/H management system. In addition, Greg designed spindles and top hat adapters to mate with the universal air struts.

Modernizing a Classic

The factory 2.6-liter L26 received a stage 3 build from the fellas at Datsun Spirit. That includes a blueprinted and balanced super lightweight forged 11:1 2.8-liter stroker bottom end and a stage 3 280Z head and cam package. The attention to detail Greg spent on this build is insane; one of my favorite parts stares you in the face as the hood pops. It’s the RHD Japan-sourced Harada triple 45mm carburetors. Greg estimates the Z puts out about 240hp — a healthy 78 horsepower gain over stock. He shifts through a stock 280Z 5-speed transmission with a Datsun Spirit clutch and lightweight flywheel.

The interior detail is just as impressive as the outside. He rewired the entire car, integrating a radio and Vintage Air blower unit with the stock harness. Speedhut gauges modernize the factory units and coordinate well with the car’s theme. The upholstery work continues the exterior scheme — black leather and orange stitching flow throughout — and Greg’s wife sewed all the vinyl covers for the rear hatch and inner fender wells. From the time he found the car on Craigslist until completion, it took Greg four years, and there’s still more he’s working on. After all, are any of our projects ever finished?

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