posted on January 7, 2021

Sergey’s 1974 Nissan 260Z “community project”

Owning and caring for a vintage sports car usually takes lots of work, money, and especially, patience. What makes all the effort worthwhile is passion and the fulfillment earned from working to create something you’re proud of. Turo host Sergey D.’s project car, a 1974 Nissan 260Z, is no exception. He’s had to get creative to keep his restoration going during 2020, using his host earnings to fund the work.

Sergey grew up on Russia’s remote Sakhalin Island (“you can Google where it is and you’ll be surprised”). Since Japan is a mere 80 miles away, everyone on the island uses right-hand drive Japanese cars. And because they drive on the right in Russia, Sergey was involved in the driving process as a young kid — he’d help his grandfather pass cars on the highway by spotting oncoming traffic from the left passenger seat. He’s been fascinated by cars ever since.

Sergey with his 1974 Nissan 260Z

Thanks to the brutal Russian winters and poor road quality, Sergey mostly grew up around rugged SUVs — cars like his Nissan (or Datsun, depending on the country) were simply too expensive, fragile, and impractical. “As of 2020, officially, only 30% of roads are paved on Sakhalin Island, and I think it’s a very optimistic number,” said Sergey. “If you make enough money you can afford to drive a nice sedan in the summer (3-4 months), and if you make even more money you’re probably thinking about moving somewhere else.”

Many years ago, after moving to Southern California, Sergey was surprised to find you can buy a classic Z-car in the US for relatively cheap. “I started looking specifically for a red one, wanting it to be more dramatic and Italian,” said Sergey. “I once drove an Alfa Romeo and I still remember every second of it, so I wanted to capture those feelings.”

He found his ‘74 260Z (Sergey has listed it as a 240Z, which he’s found people are more familiar with) in a small town near Salinas, California. It was a long-term project of one older gentleman who had repainted the original yellow to red. “Honestly, I didn’t know what I was buying exactly and couldn’t check it properly. I was getting my red dream car and it’s running and that’s all that matters,” he remembers. “It barely made it back to LA. Turns out I had to rebuild half of the engine and work on the electrics.” So he started taking care of the essentials, but “early on, it was a long and very expensive process.”

Paying for the project with host earnings

In early spring of this last year, the little Nissan broke down and wouldn’t start. “All the mechanic shops were closed. I was looking at it every morning, thinking I can’t do anything about it.” So he got some tools, turned to YouTube, and a couple days later it was running. “I found out that I was just afraid of the unknown. After I fix it I feel much more comfortable starting new things even if I know nothing about them.” After getting the car shipshape, Sergey listed it on Turo to help fund further restoration. He’s spent this year adding more upgrades and creature comforts, which to him is proof you can do anything if you just try. “I heard a very cliche phrase from some Harley riders: ‘I fix him and he fixes me’, and that easily applies to me.”

“I put it on Turo for two reasons. First, it’s paying for the restoration.” There’s always more to do when you have an old project car, “and I want it to pay for itself. If everything goes to plan I’m going to make it my daily driver, with all the comfort of a modern car but the look and feel of the old one,” Sergey said. “After each trip, I install new goodies and each guest gets a slightly different car!”

Among his recent upgrades are aftermarket bucket seats, Momo steering wheel, and Rota RKR wheels. At the moment, Sergey notes that the engine, chassis, brakes, wheels, and gearbox (all the essentials) are in great shape, which he confirmed with a track day at Laguna Seca. “I wasn’t the fastest, obviously, but I was quicker than some 911s from the same era.” (Please leave the track driving to the owner — taking a car on track is prohibited on Turo)

“I’m looking at it as a community project. It’s a more efficient way for me to pay for the restoration, and the project has much better chances of success,” he said. “I also like meeting all these people. I mean, if you booked my Datsun, there’s a great chance we have something in common.”

The second reason that Sergey listed the car is it has to be driven. “Four times per month. Every week. All the fluids have to get up to temperature and all the moving parts have to work. Without regular use, you should expect problems.” In this way, every guest contributes to the project by helping stretch the car’s legs and allowing Sergey to afford more upgrades. What could better capture the spirit of car sharing?

Steven is an avid car guy and content maker at Turo. Between Golden State Warriors games he can be found getting lost somewhere in California.