In high school, I would often take a longer route to campus so I could drive by this old 240Z that had been parked on some guy’s property probably since the ’80s. I always loved those cars, and one day I knocked on the guy’s door and asked him if he was willing to sell it. He was open to it, so he grabbed a battery out of his garage and we walked across his sprawling property. The closer I got, the more I realized that this car was in pretty bad shape. Not only was there a ton of rust, but there were also literally weeds that had grown through the decayed floorboards and into the interior of the car. There was no way this thing would start. But lo and behold, he put the battery in and that old car sprang to life. I was dumbfounded.
Long story short, it needed too much work for a novice like me, so I didn’t end up buying it. Later in my 20s I did purchase a 1978 280Z. It looked great, drove pretty fast, and I always had a good excuse to not drive when I was with several friends: “sorry, it’s a two-seater.” But talking to Sung Kang about the ethos and journey of his 240Z build, I realized how superficial my perspective was on the relationships with the cars I’ve had in my life.
Like me, Sung always had a passion for the Datsun Zs, and he saw the opportunity to bring an old 240Z back to life as a way to connect with good friends.
“We were talking about family and getting older and being able to hang out with your friends…we don’t play golf so I said hey, why don’t we build a car together?”
And that’s how it played out. Sung, along with friends, and fellow car enthusiasts, Greg Hwang and Michael Jen, bought a 1973 240Z and linked up with an amazing team of people to transform it into a pristine work of art: the Fugu Z. What’s Fugu? Well, it’s a kind of fish. Confused? Let Sung explain:
“Fugu fish is a blowfish that if you do not properly prepare it, it can kill you…and just like a race car, if it’s not properly prepared once you’re on the race track, you’re gonna get in a lot of trouble.”
To help steer clear from “trouble,” the Fugu Z build was spearheaded by Kenji Sumino, president of GReddy Performance Products:
“…having somebody like Sung involved, showing how fun it is with people that have the passion for this, and everybody coming together, it’s definitely unique and something that’s gonna be within that 240Z history.”
Sumino was clearly a believer in the ethos of why Sung wanted to bring people together with this build, but even he was blown away when the key was finally turned:
“Once we started hearing them rev it up past 8000 RPMs, that’s when everybody just got goosebumps. The sound out of that engine is just more than what I expected. I had chills.”
The excitement for this car accelerated, and it carried the team all the way to the SEMA show. This was never part of the initial plan, but the Fugu Z had taken on a life of its own, and there was nobody more proud than Sung:
“Having a destination like SEMA, to me, it puts a spotlight on all the sacrifice and the hours that these guys put into this car. This 240Z represents a new experience with old friends and experiences with new friends. So it’s very cool that through this little Datsun I can meet so many people.”
To experience this transformative car build; from buying it, to building it, and finally, celebrating it, check out this short Fugu Z docuseries.
I still wonder what ever happened to that old 240Z from my high school days. Fingers crossed it didn’t turn into a planter.