This is the story about how I drove my 1975 Datsun 280z from Muscat, Oman to Dubai, UAE in the middle of Summer right after buying it. If you’re based in the UAE and need advice on how to do something similar, feel free to reach out.
Also, make sure to check-out Chapter 2, where we put the Datsun back together!
Falling in love
The first time I saw a Datsun S30 was when I saw Nona’s 280z at a Caffeine and Machine event in Dubai. This was about 3 years ago and I was highly intrigued. The long hood, the sporty spoilers, the flared fenders combined with that classy JDM look made me think about that car often. I found myself looking up different Datsun’s from all over the world and I was slowly starting to be a fan.
A couple of months later I came across another 240z at another car meet, this time a bright yellow one that was restored by Kanzen Motorsports. I started talking to Faaiq from Kanzen at the car meet and he was very helpful in sharing the journey of how they found this Datsun and how they got to where they are now. Now I was in love and I was hit hard.
About a year goes by and in between that time, I found myself constantly going back and looking up other Datsun’s online. I started reading reviews, looking up the differences between the 240z and the 280z, and reading up on what combination of bumper and spoilers look best. Before long, I found myself saving up to get my own Datsun.
Over the next year or so, I started looking for my own Datsun. Something that could be a project car, but had minimal rust and would run. Turns out, it was probably easier to find a unicorn. This hunt went on for about 18 months. I would find a Datsun 240z or 280z online, I would go see the car and then be disappointed that the car didn’t match my expectations (and sometimes my budget).
The Chosen One
A couple of months ago, I randomly found an instagram post with a Datsun 280z for sale. It was in this beautiful blue color and from the photos, it looked like it was in pretty good condition. The outside had some minor rust, and the interior looked like pretty clean, and overall I was pretty happy with it. Not to mention that the price was half of what others wanted in Dubai. One problem though: the car was in Oman.
After bookmarking the instagram post, I moved on. I figured it would be easier to find a Datsun in Dubai and that eventually I would find one that I liked. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was nearly impossible to find a decent Datsun in the UAE in that condition. One afternoon, I called my brother-in-law in Oman and asked him if he could go checkout the Datsun. He was happy to and he came back with good news. The car’s paint was in great condition, the interior was in great shape, the car had very minimal rust and most importantly the car actually runs!
This car started to sound even better. But Oman? Would it be worth it?
I took a leap of faith and flew down to Muscat, Oman. Transferred the car under my name and i was suddenly the owner of a 1975, Datsun 280z. Since Muscat, Oman was about 550 kms away from Dubai, the plan was to put the Datsun on a tow truck, cross the border and register it in Dubai. During the registration though, my brother-in-law convinced me that it would be easier to just drive the Datsun to the border, sort out the paperwork at the Oman/UAE border and then put it on a tow truck. Sounded like a good idea to me!
So I was off. I was now driving a 43 year old car on the highway headed to the UAE border. This was in the middle of July where the summer’s aren’t gentle. It was 42°C outside and the AC in the Datsun would just blow out a gentle breeze. Not cold enough to stop you from loosing a few kilos from sweating. By the time I got to the border, I was exhausted, my left foot hurt from the clutch and my hands were feeling numb because of the lack of power steering on the Datsun.
The border slowed down me a little bit so by the time I was clearing all the documents, it was about midnight. I looked around and at this point, most of the tow trucks had gone home. Tough decision time. Do I drive around and look for a tow truck, or just get back in the car and gun it home? I chose the latter.
After about two more hours of driving, I was finally home. I had spent about 6 hours driving in the Datsun, a few hours at the border, all with minimal AC. The whole car rattled through out the drive and I could hear every nut and bolt move around in the car. At times, you could strongly smell the petrol fumes that would sweep into the car and would give you headache. To top it all of, there was something wrong with the radio, which meant that the only thing you could listen to, was the car.
There was this moment though on the drive that I’ll never forget. It was about 7pm and I was nearing the border and the sun was going down. And there was this window for about 20 minutes where I was driving through the mountains, there was just a little bit of a fog and the sun was setting. All of this in one scene. And experiencing that in a noisy, rattle, hot Datsun, just made it all better.
In spite of all of that, it was probably the single best drive of my life. Driving a 43 year old car with no modern technology meant that you got to do nothing else but to get know the car on a very personal level. In those few hours, I’d learn how to trigger every noise, creak and bump in the car. By the time I got home, I knew that the best way to get the most out of the AC was to stick to about 2,000 RPM. I figured out that the key that opens the door, works better when this little notch on the key was on the left side. I also learned that it is very necessary to use the handbrake to do a hill start (something I learned the very hard way).
So this is just the beginning. Now that the car is finally in Dubai, the resto-mod can begin. over the next few weeks, the car will get its paint fixed up and a lot of the old parts will be replaced and fixed. Stay tuned for more.
(Make sure to checkout chapter 2 where the adventure continues)