The Reason We’re Here – Riley Stair’s LS6-Powered 1974 Datsun 260Z
The Reason We’re Here – Riley Stair’s LS6-Powered 1974 Datsun 260Z
It’s shocking when I realize that StanceWorks has been around for a full quarter of my life. Six years ago, this all began with a group of friends and like-minded car enthusiasts, all looking for a place to collectively share their thoughts, efforts, passions, and stories. It wasn’t long before success was found; other members of the car community sought similar values, and StanceWorks continued to grow, but it did so unlike anywhere else. StanceWorks grew as a family, based on friendships that transcend distance, boundaries, countries, languages, and more. StanceWorks is a family - and it’s our family, near or far.
There are moments that highlight the journey thus far, especially in StanceWorks’s youth. The photoshoots that today seem, at times, formulaic, often offered a crowning moment in a weekend years ago. Whether we were sneaking in to abandoned airport hangers with Sean Williams, Austin Driggers, and the gang in California, or if we were driving through flames on backroads outside of Chicago with the boys at Fluid MotorUnion, each weekend always seemed like an attempt to out-do the last, with antics, jokes, and disregard for seemingly everything else in the world. Weekends were about cars, photos, and friends; it goes to show in several ways how far StanceWorks has come.
Today isn’t without its own sense of excitement, more often brought on by unique experiences, one-of-a-kind opportunities, and locations of chance. The fun seems less crafted; instead, it is more derived from our efforts and success. Our name earns us access and opportunities I had never even dreamt of, such as the chance to shoot the Andy Warhol M1 Art Car on the streets of the Paramount Downtown NYC set, or our road trip across the hills of Italy. They’re experiences that make the hard work and six years of effort worthwhile; recognition that Andrew and my own talents and work are respected in the world we’ve plunged ourselves into, head-first. However, those weekends of shooting for fun with friends, where the air of “work” has been lifted entirely - the moments that birthed every part of this - are fleeting.
Over the past six years, I’ve had the chance to meet a countless number of people. From the casual weekend builder, whom has built a car worthy of recognition, to the keystone persons of the industry, and everyone in between, StanceWorks has brought forth a little bit of everything. Race car drivers, fabricators, innovators, and more… In a sense, the pages of StanceWorks have stood to collect something special from every aspect of “cardom,” and many of those persons have since become friends, mentors, inspirators, and influencers of our own.
It was two years ago that I began to interact with Riley Stair. Initially, he was just another name in my email inbox, but upon seeing his E28 535i, I knew Riley was different. In the nearly 300 articles we’ve put together since, few cars tend to similarly mimic interests of my own to a T. Riley’s car, among a select few others, check the box with “that’s exactly how I’d build that car” written next to it. His follow-up ’49 Chevy build was equally impressive; he was a like-mind, and my interest in his projects continued to grow.
In February of this year, Riley let me know that his latest project was nearing completion; a ’74 Datsun 260Z that had yet to see the light of day. Riley can be as secretive as I am when it comes to his builds, and what was in store was a genuine surprise. A single cell-phone teaser photo made for one endlessly-long week waiting for his arrival. The excitement was culminating. A wild project was on the brink of completion, ready for the world; as well, the chance to meet a friend, finally face-to-face, was days away - it brought back much of the same joy that StanceWorks produced in its infancy.
Riley arrived at the StanceWorks shop late in the evening, driving his ’49 Chevy with the Datsun in tow. After introductions and the formalities attached, it was only moments before the weekend’s pace was set. For the first time in years, it was a weekend about cars, photos, and friends once again.
It was Saturday afternoon before we found a suitable location to shoot the car. Instead of driving to Los Angeles as planned, a small local back lot offered plenty of space to kick back and shoot without worry or interruption. Riley fired the Z up, which roared to life, and pulled it into position. With just 9 miles driven since he completed the build, it was his first chance to step back and see the car from a distance. It was a first chance to reflect upon his decisions, methods, and ways.
The Z project began with an entirely different car. Riley knew what he wanted to build, but finding the right starting platform took some trial and error. After a bout with rust on his first cadaver, Riley sought out a second example, lucking out to find what may be one of the better remaining examples fit for restoration. With just 38,000 original miles on the chassis and odometer, his rust-free 260Z was as good as new.
While others may beg for such a rowdy path of mods to take place on a more “molested” car, Riley had no qualms with taking a knife to the 260Z. Community norms and expectations were likely the smallest obstacle in his way. Instead, the build began from the inside-out and bottom-up. His starting point, the Sparco Evo Plus seats, were simply too big to fit into the car. Riley modified the floor pans for less height restriction, and for safety’s sake, tied the seat mounts to the cage, which snakes through the car’s innards and interior.
Climbing in to the coupe requires a bit of finesse, with the door bars claiming all but the necessary room inside the cockpit. Meanwhile, the original black dash and door panels hug the tubes closely, showing off their 38,000-mile condition in contrast to the bare, cleared steel cage. Further amenities inside the car are few and far between, with the Momo wheel and drift brake, machined by Phil at TwistedImages, marginally obstructing the view of the white-face Phantom gauges that peeking out from behind.
In the back of the car, a fuel cell is perched, asserting dominance over any remaining space inside the cabin. AN fittings and braided hose hint at the high-performance demeanor of the car, with Ground Control camber plates roosted atop the rear strut towers. The cage work envelops the fuel cell, with the tail end offering support for the enormous wing that towers over the rear of the car.
Such drastic aero, growing as the popular theme to replace Rocket Bunny kits as SEMA 2015’s “must have,” has often replaced function with form for today’s most popular Instagram builds, but that's not the case here. The wing, paired with the almost-intrusive front splitter, keeps the car clung to the tarmac; needed as the car rapidly climbs in speed thanks to the heart that lies under the hood.
A Corvette LS6 has been shoehorned between the frame rails of the Japanese fastback, churning out more than 400 horsepower to the rear wheels, thanks to a slew of bolt ons and the largest cam Riley could source. The engine bay’s perimeter is boxed in by more cage work, which supports the strut towers and nose of the car. The car’s sound barks and burbles at idle, popping as it lopes and hunts for stability. Under load, the 260Z’s bellow is like a punch to the chest, and the rear tires struggle to find traction through several gears. But even parked, the Z anything but quiet.
Flat black paint engulfs the car nose to tail, with glossy black arches breaking the matte finish on all four counters. Bronze-lipped Work Meister CR01s poke out of the fenders, with 195/55/15s wrapping 8.5” wide wheels in the front and 205/50/15s wrapping 10s in the back. A proper set of coil-overs brings the package together, and Wilwood brakes hide in the darkness behind the tiny 5-spoke wheels. The aero crowns each end of the car, completing an aesthetic that is both sinister and refined. The styling plays perfectly to Riley’s reasoning behind the build. When asked by passersby, “Is it a race car? What was it built for?” Riley’s only response is “It’s built to do burn-outs.” It’s an honest, un-shrouded answer that suggests Riley built the car purely because he wanted to, and while he’s not the first to do so, the lack of a sugar-coated answer is heartening.
Throughout the afternoon of the photoshoot, Riley was able to step back and admire his creation for the first time; however, it was my chance to admire too. The 260Z revives a sense of excitement that has drifted away in recent years. Having built the car entirely by himself, Riley’s efforts and talents are equally refreshing; as one to surround myself with those that inspire, Riley and his builds offer a new light of inspiration of my own.
Between the good food, the shop talk, the cars, and the half-dozen or so friends that hung out as shutters clicked and the sun fell, it all served as a reminder as to why StanceWorks exists at all. From curating the story of a spectacular car, to cultivating a friendship that reminds me why it all began, it’s rejuvenating to see that the StanceWorks family continues to grow, in all the ways that made StanceWorks special six years ago. From friends to cars, that's the reason we're here.