1973 Datsun 240Z “Super Samuri”

Among U.K. Datsun enthusiasts, particularly those with a fondness for the 6-cylinder Z series, there is no bigger name than that of Spike Anderson, legendary proprietor of Samuri Conversions and the man responsible for a succession of Z-based racers in the 1970s, most notably Win Percy’s famous “Big Sam.” Very few cars are so famous that they are commonly referred to by their registration number, but FFA196L is one such and rightly so, as it was the first Datsun 240Z to benefit from Spike’s attention, going on to become a motorsport legend. This was the first car to carry the ‘Samuri’ name, a deliberate misspelling, as the Samurai trade name was owned by another company.

In 1973, Spike purchased a Datsun 240Z registered FFAl96L for his personal transport, but the car did not remain standard for very long. What would turn out to be a lengthy and ongoing program of tuning commenced with gas-flowing the 2.4-liter, overhead-camshaft six’s cylinder head and raising the compression ratio, which was followed by ditching the standard carburetors in favor of triple Weber 4ODCOEs. Mangolesti supplied special inlet and exhaust manifolds, and in this specification, maximum power increased from 150 to 190 horsepower.

Suspension improvements consisted of lowering the car by 40 mm and replacing the standard shock absorbers with Koni items. The weak braking was addressed by using ventilated discs and four-pot calipers from a Range Rover. Fitted with a deep front spoiler and refinished in distinctive red/bronze livery, Spike’s “Super Samuri” soon gained the attention of the motoring press. Various magazines tested the car and gave it rave reviews, typically achieving performance figures of 0–60 mph in 6.4 seconds and a top speed of 140 mph.

FFA196L was pressed into service as the company demonstrator, and it was also used in competitions, contesting the 1973 British Hillclimb Championship. Despite competing against purpose-built lightweights, the Super Samuri finished 2nd in class at the season’s end, hinting at the 240Z’s potential. Keen to exploit it to the full, Spike acquired an ex-Works 240Z rally car, which he converted to full race specification. Christened “Big Sam” and driven by Win Percy, this legendary car went on to achieve considerable success. Scheduled to race in the 1974 Modsports Championship, “Big Sam” encountered problems on its Silverstone debut, forcing the team to fall back on “Super Samuri.” The car continued to serve as backup for “Big Sam” throughout the 1974 racing season, competing on no fewer than twelve occasions. Always driven to and from the meetings, it also doubled as a customer and press demonstrator, development hack and Spike’s own transport, covering 35,000 miles by the end of the year.

“Super Samuri” competed in 14 Modsports races in 1978, finishing 2nd in class at the season’s end, a feat repeated in 1979, ‘80 and ‘81. Spike appears to have had an off year in 1982, as the 240Z could only manage 3rd. By now FFA196L had been driven more than 175,000 miles, competed in more than 60 races and 20 hillclimbs, and was featured in 15 magazine articles, making it arguably the best-known Japanese car in the U.K.

Thor Thorson

Thor Thorson - SCM Contributing Editor

Thor grew up in northern Iowa. His father bought a red Jag XK 150 in the late 1950s, and that was all it took; he has been in love with sports cars , racing cars and the associated adrenaline rush ever since. He has vintage raced for more than 20 years, the bulk of them spent behind the wheel of a blue Elva 7. When he’s not racing, he is president of Vintage Racing Motors Inc., a collector-car dealer and vintage-racing support company based in Redmond, WA. His knowledge runs the full spectrum of vintage racing, and he has put that expertise to good use for SCM since 2003.

Posted in Race