Z Is For Autocross: David Carroll Wheels An LS-Powered Datsun 280Z In California
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Z Is For Autocross: David Carroll Wheels An LS-Powered Datsun 280Z In California


David Carroll drives a 1975 Datsun 280Z in autocross competition around California.

For some, racing is a way to satisfy the need for an adrenaline rush. For others, it’s a way to connect with family. For many, it’s a little of both. David Carroll fits into the latter category.

Carroll, 32, works as an insurance broker and lives with his wife, Lindsey, and 3 ½-year-old son, Chase, in Morgan Hill, California, a suburb 15 minutes south of San Jose. From time to time, however, Carroll transforms from a corporate 9-to-5er and doting father into a racer.

He does so through the world of autocross, a discipline in which so many drivers around the country participate, thanks to its accessible nature and relatively inexpensive entry fees. However, unlike many of his contemporaries, Carroll pilots an LS-swapped 1975 Datsun 280Z. The car is a nostalgic tribute to time spent in the garage with his brother, Daniel, when both were growing up.

“We got word of a 260Z in our local town that an original owner had, but he just wanted to get rid of it,” Carroll remembers about his first Datsun. “My parents were at lunch with this guy and the short of the story is they offered the Z to us for about 500 bucks. We got that and literally 10 minutes after getting it home we yanked the motor out and said. ‘let’s put a 350 in this thing.’

“My brother and I have a close connection with the Datsuns and it just kind of brings us together.”

Carroll at the Optima Ultimate Street Car Challenge.

Carroll comes across his love of cars and speed easy enough. His dad was once a world record-holder in unlimited flat-bottom boats and did some Sprint Car racing in California, along with owning a boat shop.

“I grew up having motorcycles and go-karts, and I always just had an urge to go fast,” Carroll says.

He played soccer and other sports in his youth, then began buying and selling vehicles when he turned 16, including a 1973 Chevy stepside pickup and his dad’s BMW. He has become a self-described “Craigslist addict” and has lost track of how many cars he has owned. Finally, after establishing his career, he had the opportunity get behind the wheel in a competition capacity. He’s only competed for about three years, but the bug has bitten him hard.

“I have always liked racing, I just never have had the funds, so once I [did] I was able to participate in events like Goodguys because it’s fairly inexpensive but you’ve got to have a car to compete,” he says. “So I started off in a ’72 rally Nova that I did some speed tech suspension on and kind of went a little all out. I went out there and just kind of got a taste for it, and I really liked it.”

Daniel Carroll has his own Datsun Z project, so David eventually bought a 1975 Datsun 280Z in Stockton, California, for under $2,000, intrigued by the car’s heavy and stiff suspension, knowing he would eventually beef up the engine and chassis for racing use.  However, he still uses the car for its intended purpose as well.

“My goal is not to just have a trailer queen or weekend car only,” Carroll says. “I actually daily drive it. It goes to work with me at least once or twice a week…it is completely street legal.”

Carroll originally built the car as an LS1, but soon found he was way under-powered for the competition he was facing. As a result, he worked with Tilden Motorsports to put together an LS3 which features a COMP Cams camshaft and timing set. It makes 540 horsepower at the rear wheels.

David Carroll with wife, Lindsey, and son, Chase.

Carroll primarily competes in Goodguys, American Auto-X Series and local events near his California home due to budget and time constraints. However, in February 2015, he and his brother loaded up the Z and drove about three and a half hours north to Thunderhill Raceway Park in Willows, California, for an Optima Ultimate Street Car Association event.

He says he was somewhat naïve about everything from rules to apparel, but the group welcomed him with open arms after having towed to the event with a ’75 Chevy K30 flatbed.

In fact, Carroll received the K&N Spirit of the Event award which qualified him for a trip to the 2015 SEMA Show and participation in the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Carroll’s brother got married upon the duo’s return to the San Jose area, so the weekend was a bit like a bachelor party and a good bonding experience for the two.

Going forward, Carroll plans to continue autocrossing the Z, but is also building a 1973 Chevy Vega that will be specific to Goodguys autocross events.

He sometimes takes the Z to shows but doesn’t necessarily like staying in one place throughout the weekend. It’s a common mindset for an autocrosser.

“I don’t like sitting,” he says. “I’d rather be behind the wheel doing something.”


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