Brotherly Love | 1973 Toyota Corolla Wagon & 1975 Datsun 260Z

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Interview & Photography Luke Ray.

This article first appeared in Fuel Magazine issue 22.

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December 2015, a very fine Melbourne Sunday and we were set up at ‘Classic Japan’, a long standing event on the Victorian auto calendar. It’s pretty much ‘the’ retro Japanese car and bike show in Australia and it certainly brings out the cream of the crop, both standard and modified. I’d been to the show before but this was our first time with a booth set up for the event. Being there for the whole day, chatting and checking out all the great cars on view gave me the chance to really take it all in. With my ever-increasing interest in Japanese metal putting me on high alert, there were a handful of cars that stood out and that I mentally placed on the ‘Let’s find out more about those’ list. Two such cars were an overly-cool Toyota wagon done up in old school racing livery and next to it an equally nice Datsun Z. After closer inspection I could see that all the paint was hand done. Magic. After more digging I found out that the cars were owned by brothers and were located just a few hours away in Albury, Victoria. These two went right to the top of the list and so Geoff and I stopped in at Albury to see the Payne brothers during a recent photo shooting road trip to Sydney. 

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Who are you and how did you get into cars?

Mick: My name is Mick Payne I'm a house painter by trade. I got into cars by my dad having a workshop and I have an older brother who was into cars so I followed them. I had some crappy ones along the way (laughs) that I still have. I've always had a car that I muck around with. 

Dave: I’m Dave Payne, Mick’s older brother. I’m a spray painter by trade, I have a small panel shop in South Albury. I can’t even remember how I got into cars. I’ve had so many.. I just love them.  

So your dad customised cars?

Dave: No, Our dad was not into modified cars at all. He gave me a little standard Corolla when I was twelve as a paddock-basher. It was a bit of a shitbox but Dad wanted me to be motivated to save up for a good car. When I was seventeen I got a job, saved up some money, about eight grand from memory. The best thing you could buy back then for 8k was a manual VL Commodore Exec, lowered on a set of Chasers. I remember thinking to myself, I can’t bring myself to spend my saved money on something like that. So I ended up sinking the cash into the little two door Toyota sedan that Dad had given us. It was repainted, reupholstered, lowered on some mags. Dad was furious! He couldn’t see the value in spending money modifying a car, he was more into standard cars. 

So you guys have always messed around with cars together?

Mick: Yeah, pretty much. We lived together for about four years and we were always working on projects together.

Dave: Yeah, Mick was an apprentice and I had a place so he stayed with me. We built up some projects there over the years. 

Is there much of a modified Japanese car scene in Albury?

Dave: You’re looking at it! It’s mostly muscle cars around here; Falcons, Holdens and American cars. We’re pretty much the only ones into Japanese cars in this area. 

Mick: Over the years we’ve been to shows and events looking around. We went to Summernats one year and quickly realised that there was nothing there for us. Our interest has just grown between us, tinkering with Japanese cars and working things out for ourselves. 

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Mick, let’s talk about the Zed! Where and when did you pick it up?

Mick: This is a 1975 Datsun 260Z two seater. I got it around 15 months ago from North Sydney. It had an L28 turbo motor in it at the time, on NOS! It was an auto, It used to be a drag car. It’s got a brake disc conversion and bigger calipers at the front, coilovers etc. So it was a good spec when I bought it. I’ve had the seats replaced and the trim redone, it had some shocking ‘80s sports seats in it so they had to go. I wanted a bit of an original vibe to the car so I found original seats and had them trimmed up using the original fabric pattern. The trimmer did the door cards too, but I now have some new-old-stock door panels that I want to put in so that will happen soon. I always wanted the interior to have an original feel. Apart from the iPhone in the console, that’s my speedo!

What about the engine?

Mick: I found an L28 motor in Wagga that had been sitting in the guy’s shed for twelve years. It slipped in pretty easy, and off she went. My wife actually helped me take the old engine out and put this one in. 

Dave: Mick did pretty much all the work on the motor, but I helped out with a few things. We pulled the turbo, injectors, intercooler, NOS and the auto. All of that stuff had to go. Mick wanted a carburettor-fed L28 so that’s what we set up. 

Wheels?

Mick: These are genuine Hayashi Straights. They were very hard to track down. I had to get the car on the road and I was close to putting a different set on, but these came up at the last minute, which was great. As soon as I bought the car, I had a pretty good idea of the whole look that I wanted for it, and these wheels were the first thing I started looking for. 

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How was the body when you got it home?

Dave: Honestly, when we went to Sydney to look at it, I was expecting to come home with an empty trailer. But, when we got there and looked beneath all the ‘90s modifications, it was a very solid car. 

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Mick: When we got it home, we found out she was a solid, generally rust-free body. When we took it apart to paint it, it didn’t have any body rust, or evidence of previous body rust repair. For a Z that was unheard of.

What about the paint?

Mick: It wasn’t too bad, I was thinking about just driving it around for a few years as it was.

Dave: I would say to 80% of people it looked fine, but I thought we should do something with it, it just wasn’t quite right. So we thought we’d bring it into my workshop and just spend a few hours tidying it up. But of course, once we got into it we wanted to do it right so we spent the next few days getting right into it and fixing up all the body bits and pieces that needed doing. We didn’t do the door jams or the engine bay.

Mick: We’ve tried to do the paint in a period style. Something like how the car might have looked on the race track in the ‘70s. Hence the colours, stripes and logos. Dave has great ideas for paint design and colours so I let his imagination do the work. 

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Dave: All the numbering, lettering and logos are hand painted. After I painted the base colour and masked and painted the stripe work, I had a sign painter come in and hand paint the graphics with One Shot enamel and brushes. We really tried to encapsulate the 1970s racing look at feel with not only the graphics but the techniques used to add an authentic feel. I’d already gone through the process with my wagon a few years ago, designing a livery look for the car that is not a copy of something literally (as the original livery schemes back then weren’t that great) but more our interpretation of what it could have been.

I have a business in Albury, Victoria called Status Customs. It was there that I painted the base paint and stripes for both of these cars. 

Mick: I didn’t want something as bold as Dave’s car. I wanted the same techniques but we just pulled the design back a bit. The whole build took about 6 months. 

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Dave, let’s look at your wagon. From where did you get it and how did it all start?

Dave: This is a 1973 Toyota KE20 Corolla wagon. Way back, when I was about 17, I had the two door sedan, the one we talked about that Dad gave us. I remember seeing a wagon in a car park one day and stopping to take a look at it. At the time I didn’t know there was a wagon variant and I just thought it was really cool. I ended up leaving a note under the windscreen wiper with my details. One of those “If you ever want to sell this…” notes. What do you know, two years later I got a phone call from the owner asking if I wanted to buy it. I went to have a look and it had a story to tell, that’s for sure. It had been sprayed badly, given to the owner’s son for university driving, stolen from uni, thrashed and wrapped around a pole. Straight away I just said “Yeah cool, I’ll have it. How much?” The guy said to me “If you’re going to do something with it, you can have it for free.” And that was that, we brought it back to Dad’s old workshop and pulled it apart. 

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At that time, the car had a lift kit, Sunraiser wheels on it and a bull bar. It was wild! It was also very.. ‘tired’, it had been around a bit and needed some love. 

I never liked the ‘73 front end on these, and that two door sedan we had was a ‘71 which was much better looking. So I pulled the whole front end off and stripped the entire interior as I was going to do a full rebuild of the car. After that, it just sat for years outside Dad’s shed, maybe six or seven years. I tinkered with it a bit, but I was building other cars at the time so I didn’t spend much time on it. I did at one point paint it in a dark blue and got it on the road. It was still stripped, but I wanted to drive it around. I had sold my other car at the time and I had about a week to get this on the road. So I did, but using basic parts and not putting too much time into it. I drove it around until about five years ago when I gave it a birthday and painted it white. A couple of years after that I wanted to freshen it up again for the Classic Japan event in Melbourne, so I blocked it down, fixed up more of the bodywork and then put the full race paint livery scheme on it. 

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You say you swapped the front end, just tell us exactly what that entailed. 

I changed the grille, garnish, headlight surrounds, indicator surrounds, front guards, apron, bonnet. I also had to change the radiator support to accept the ‘71 front end. The front is my favourite part of the car. Australia didn’t get wagon variants until 1973, so unless someone else has put an early front end on one of these, this is the only ‘early’ wagon in Australia. 

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What’s the engine?

It had an injected 4AGE twin cam in it five years ago. I wasn’t really liking it, it didn’t feel old school enough. So I got the 5K engine with twin side draft carbs and headers and a five speed gearbox. It just looks right in the engine bay now. 

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Have you modified the body much?

Aside from the front end clip, the next biggest change would be removing the side panels and replacing them with windows. I made up Lexan side windows for it and fixed them in with period ‘race style’ fasteners. 

The wing mirrors are new old stock TA22 GT items sourced from Japan. The front lip is a TE27 reproduction piece, also sourced from Japan. The wheels are 15” Work 3 piece Equipe 01.

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She runs low. How have you achieved the stance?

I love my cars low, so I had the leaves reset flat and the eyes reversed which sat the diff centre against the bump stop mount, which sucked. I had a look underneath and was happy to see that the bump stop mounts could be removed, which freed up about 60mm of travel. The ride was vastly improved but now the axle housing hits the rails when I grab a gear or hit a big bump. I'll sort those details out one day. This really is a work in progress car and I like to try things out with it. It has Nissan Navara rear shocks. I had custom front struts made up by a local engineering company to get the front ride height. I didn't want to do an ae86 coilover conversion because it was going to alter the track and I wouldn't have been able to fit my wheels anymore.

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It runs non-boosted discs at the front from a later model Corolla KE70 and KE30 drum brakes and axles at the rear with a stud pattern conversion for the wheels. 

With its 80(ish) hp and low weight, I love driving the shit out of it at my local car club Lap Dash series. She loves being thrashed and has never let me down. At a track day, I can run alongside a 2002 Subaru Sti no problem at all, and I’ve only got a little K-motor. It just feels cool. It’s so much fun to thrash it, it loves it and can take it no problem.

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What about the interior? It’s spartan in there but what mods do you have?

I fitted new carpet, a Sparco fixed back driver’s bucket and reproduction TE27 Trueno passenger seat, along with new front door cards. It also has the TE27 Trueno full instrumentation dash and an OMP wheel.

Are there any last things that you guys want to mention?

Mick: I’d like to thank Dave for all his help with the Z project. 

Dave: And I’d like to thank my wife for being so patient along the way. 

Mick: Oh yeah, I’d like to thank my wife too… [laughs].