Our 11-year-old car just passed the 200,000-mile mark on the odometer. It’s been with us for multiple transcontinental drives and a lot of smaller road-trips in between. This is our unicorn: a combination of manual transmission, smooth straight-six engine, all-wheel drive, and cavernous station wagon that’s simply no longer available from any manufacturer. What will we do when this car is ready for retirement? That’s a tough question.
My neighbor parks his growling, thundering Audi S3 in a perfectly-sized space. He carefully backs it in and tucks down the corners of the Audi-emblem car cover. At night, this machine comes to life. LED headlamps flare and the walls of the garage form a resonant chamber for the warm-up revs of the turbo engine. Hydrocarbons are injected, explosively oxidized, and exhausted; the beast is unleashed!
I’m on a roll with Datsuns lately. The crash protection and the reliability of a modern car may not be there, but what a face! Particularly when sitting on wider-than-stock tires and hiding out on some side street in Berkeley, this car has the potential for fun.
I’ve had an attraction to Datsun Z cars since I read Wangan Midnight as a teenager and first encountered the “Devil Z”. Around the Bay Area, plenty of these cars are still running, and those that have survived this long come to resemble the style goals of their owners. That might be the “rough style” Z I photographed in Berkeley, or this super-clean example that was kind enough to park in the Marin Headlands overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco.