SOLD 12/23

1979 Datsun
280ZX Turbo race car

BaT NO RESERVE auction in progress: Datsun 280ZX Turbo Time Capsule TransAm/IMSA GT history, with loads of spares

  • VINHS130-100037
  • Exterior ColorWhite
  • Interior ColorWhite
  • MileageTMU
  • Engine2.8L turbo inline 6-cylinder
  • Transmission5-speed manual
  • StatusSold
  • StockFJ2800


1979 Datsun 280ZX Turbo Race Car (Auction ends December 5th, 2023)

Chassis No. – HS130-100037
Exterior Color – White
Interior Color – White with black racing seat
Engine – 2.8 Liter turbocharged in-line six cylinder
Transmission – 5-speed manual
Current Miles – Racecar miles unknown

General History

Despite the significant challenges after the ravages of war, Datsun, like so many Japanese manufacturers, had a distinct advantage. They could completely rebuild, reframe, and reestablish a whole new way of building automobiles. Eager to assist with developments to revitalize the Japanese economy, American industries stepped in to aid the processes and production methods. Some of these methods transferred directly to Japanese traditions, but it was their unique blend of both that would ultimately lead up to the Datsun 510 and 240Z, two of the most important cars in the growth of Datsun and the Japanese car industry.

After the success of the initial 240Z, both 2 and 4 seat variants were made available with the S130 package produced from 1978-1983. By this time, the new “By Nissan” tagline was added to the Datsun name, signaling the transition to the eventual Nissan company name. In 1979, the 280ZX was awarded Motor Trend’s Import Car of the Year. Though the new design was softer and larger overall, the aerodynamics were vastly improved as was the 50/50 weight distribution, making the car a surprisingly strong candidate for racing applications. Especially when Turbocharging arrived in 1981.

History of this Datsun Race Car

Frank Leary was born to race. A Northern California mechanic with a penchant for performance, Leary cut his teeth early in the Nor Cal racing scene with privateers looking to hop up their 510 or 240Z in the 1970s. In short order, Leary built up a reputation as the definitive local source for clever modifications to your Datsun. Leary and his crew chief Ed Mills quickly realized that the potent 240Z could be a winning package for development as full-blown race cars. Together they encouraged shop partners at FAR (Foreign Auto Repair) Performance to make these cars the focus of their service and racing efforts. In addition to the significant mechanical work performed on the engines and suspension, Leary experimented with fiberglass fenders, doors, hoods, and rear wings while retaining the production stamped steel shell for structural rigidity. The fiberglass allowed for quick changes to the aerodynamic panels including new rear wing designs, front air intakes, and brake cooling vents.

When Leary’s cars showed up to race, they often won, even beating Paul Newman as the SCCA National C Production Champion in 1978 driving his #48 Frogline Racing 240Z. Though legendary Peter Brock, John Morton, and Bob Sharp have earned most of the lasting press with their Datsun sponsored team efforts, Leary ran right up against them continuing to earn win after win – a remarkable achievement considering his privateer status. A dedicated autocrosser in the sixties and an SCCA/IMSA road racer in the seventies, Leary’s cars were frequently sponsored by Peterson Tractor with local Nor Cal sponsorships from one of the first California Datsun dealerships Pierotti Fremont Datsun and parts suppliers including BBS, Valvoline, Champion, and other large companies. An avid private aircraft pilot, Leary moved to Hawaii in the 1990s, but tragically lost his life while piloting a twin-engine aircraft.

Though Leary’s initial terms of purchase for this Datsun are unknown at this time, this car was factory built in June 1978 as a normally aspirated 280ZX. The VIN indicates this is a very early production car indicating it to be the 37th 280ZX produced. Though racing entries for Leary with a Datsun 280ZX begin with the first Road Atlanta IMSA GTU entry April 13, 1980, it’s unclear if Leary ran this car as a non-Turbocharged entrant or as it was a duplicate 280ZX. By 1981 Leary updated the car to Turbo engine specifications. According to , the first noted race for the car listed as a Datsun 280ZX Turbo is logged May 3, 1981, in the IMSA GT division at Laguna Seca. Additional IMSA GT and SCCA Trans Am races continued through the 1982 season including Sears Point, Portland International Raceway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway with the last recorded race at Sears Point October 3, 1982. In the final race, Peterson Tractor is listed as the owner. Finishing in 4th place, Leary took home a $2,500 purse.

Wearing #48, 49, and 43 in its last iteration of competitive racing, this car has been stored for the past 25 years, retained by the same current and second owner who acquired the car directly from Frank Leary’s estate shortly after his untimely death.

Current Condition

Today this Datsun presents as a very complete and preserved race car with mechanical integrity and exterior cosmetics consistent with ongoing track use until it was sidelined from competitive racing. The white paint colorful 1980s livery makes a strong visual statement including the last series of sponsorship stickers all of which remain in good condition. The fiberglass body panels exhibit generally good fit and finish including fiberglass door skins, front and rear fenders, hood, and front air dam. The fiberglass construction is quite good including mating to the main production steel center section. A set of staggered width BBS competition wheels wear older Goodyear racing tires, and the front wheels are outfitted with a set of BBS brake cooling fans. Competition touches include various aerodynamic features including a rear wing, front air dam, covered headlights and under bumper air intakes, appropriately speckled from the last series of races completed in the early 1980s. The hinge fiberglass hood is outfitted with a set of later series hood vents added when the car was updated to Turbocharged power.

The cockpit is purposeful, spartan, and reflective of specifications for the period. The interior delivers a no-frills, ready for action presentation, in keeping with the history being entirely dedicated to race duty. Cohesively prepared and properly set up for racing in the 1980s, the car is outfitted with a full roll cage and various safety equipment consistent with the times. Though this car has been essentially untouched over the past 25 years and is an important timepiece representative of IMSA and Trans Am racing of the era, it will require mechanical attention by a qualified shop.

The engine compartment is consistent with production-based race cars from this period with an updated Nissan turbocharged engine, Hilborn fuel-injection, tuned exhaust, dry sump system, and an engine head ported by the top shop during the era, B.C.Geralamy Co. (stamped on the engine) known for their performance head porting and specialized race engine head work. The underside is dry, sound, and features unique components including a Halibrand Quick Change rear end.

This Datsun 280ZX presents an excellent opportunity to acquire a rare example of a competitive 1980s race car with known race history and preservation over the past 25 years.

Although this car has been formerly prepared for racing and participated in racing events this year, we highly recommend a professional shop with racing car prep history inspect this car and properly prepare it before use in a competition setting.

Spares Included with this Car

This car is accompanied by a significant number of spares consisting of more than four pallets including assorted front air dams, a spare head, two fuel jugs, 15 pieces of spare bodywork, assorted plexiglass windows, two camshafts, 2 crankshafts, 4 sway bars, a vast assortment of springs and shock absorbers, multiple boxes of BBS wheel parts and rims, 12 brake rotors, at least two sets of pistons, exhaust headers, several various gears, oil pans, a differential, and a spare set of BBS wheels still wearing original period racing tires.

Note: some period images courtesy of

The above vehicle information is complete and accurate to the best of our knowledge at the time it is posted to this website. Corrections or additional information is always appreciated. All advertised prices exclude government fees and taxes, any finance charges, any dealer document preparation charge, and any emission testing charge. Vehicles are subject to prior sale. All advertised to be true but not guaranteed. We assume no liability for errors or omissions.

Inquire About This Car

Fantasy Junction  •  510-653-7555  •  1145 Park Ave, Emeryville, CA 94608