In the late 1970s, if you were looking for a sophisticated performance car, you know, something like an iron fist in a velvet glove, you didn't have too many choices. Corvette? Not exactly a stunning performer with 165 horsepower. Porsche? Much too expensive. Mustang II? Are you kidding? For several hundred lucky enthusiasts, the Scarab was exactly the right choice.
So what's a Scarab, you ask?
Built by Brian Morrow by taking an early Datsun Z car and adding one 327 cubic inch Chevrolet V8 and a T-10 4-speed transmission, along with a host of suspension and braking improvements, a Scarab is a sophisticated sledgehammer from an era when street-legal horsepower was incredibly hard to find.
This Scarab, #1430, is based on a 1975 Datsun 280Z. It is heavily documented, beautifully maintained, and amazingly fast. An original California car since new, it has been carefully preserved by six caring owners, but never fully restored or disassembled. Paint and bodywork are very good, particularly considering the era in which it was built, and aggressive upgrades like the chin spoiler, rear window slats, custom louvered hood, and deck lid spoiler give the familiar 280Z shape a road race look that's hard to ignore. The car was repainted some years ago in the original silver, and still presents very well today with an authentic patina that looks great. You'll also note that this car is carrying earlier slender chrome 240Z bumpers, although the original 280Z bumpers are included in the sale.
Scarab also sold kits so that enthusiasts could build their own V8 Z-cars, but this one is a real, documented Scarab built at Morrow's facility in San Jose, California. Proof includes original Scarab emblems on the sail panels as well as the impossible-to-replace Scarab cast aluminum valve covers, as well as the original invoice.
That 1965-vintage L79 327 V8 under the hood is the reason this car is such a thrill ride. This is the original engine used in the Scarab conversion, and because it was a 1965 block, the Scarab was able to escape the emissions laws that were in place when it was built. Making 350 horsepower, this is a formidable performer, even 36 years later, and you might want to warn unwitting passengers about the car's stunning acceleration before you hammer it through the gears. The engine bay is original, and shows signs of careful maintenance throughout its life. The small block Chevy barks to life breathing through a pair of long-tube headers into a custom dual exhaust system that follows the path of the original Z system. Also cribbed from the Chevy parts bin is the T-10 heavy-duty 4-speed manual transmission, which drives the stock Datsun independent rear end, which is obviously more than up to the task of handling all that horsepower. And just in case you're worried about that hot small block getting too hot, there's a massive 22-quart cooling system that features a custom-made Stewart radiator.
According to the original paperwork that comes with this car, optional upgrades include Mark IV air conditioning, 4-piston front brake calipers, as well as the standard Scarab equipment such as Koni shocks and custom sway bars. Wheels are the original 14x6 Cromodora magnesium alloys, which wear modern 205/70/14 radials in place of the original CN36 Pirellis.
The Datsun 280Z interior was left largely stock by the Scarab conversion, and still looks great today. The custom black vinyl and fabric bucket seats and hand-sewn door panels are free of rips and tears, and the carpets show no UV damage (try to find an early Z car that doesn't have sun-bleached stripes in the rear cargo area where the seat belts lay). All the original gauges have been adapted to work with the Chevy powerplant and a beefy Momo steering wheel has been added. A powerful Alpine AM/FM/CD stereo system has been installed, one of the lone upgrades done after the car left Scarab's shop.
This car is highly documented, which is rare in the world of tuner cars, especially those in the early days of the craft. We have an original invoice from Scarab, period magazine articles testing the Scarab, invoices, estimates, and other factory literature detailing the Scarab program. In short, it'll be easy to be an expert on this car after you get it home.
Delivering big on Morrow's promise of unexpected performance, the Scarab was a successful venture in the tuner car world before it was common. The end package only enhances everything that was already great about the Z car, and there appears to be no downside to the conversion. This one still starts easily, drives happily in stop-and-go traffic, and delivers eyeball-flattening performance. If a Cobra or a Sunbeam Tiger are your style, but you want something a little more sophisticated, we have your Scarab ready to go.
This vehicle is located in our Charlotte, NC showroom. For more information, please call (704) 598-2130 or toll free (866) 542-8392.