Datsun 280Z/Mercedes V12 Empire Hill Climb engine swap update: Tick, tick tick

Easter and Tung are toiling away with less than three weeks until the 2019 Empire Hill Climb. Some of these pictures are from a few weeks ago.

Easter and Tung are toiling away with less than three weeks until the 2019 Empire Hill Climb. Some of these pictures are from a few weeks ago.

Easter and Tung are toiling away with less than three weeks until the 2019 Empire Hill Climb. Some of these pictures are from a few weeks ago.

Easter and Tung are toiling away with less than three weeks until the 2019 Empire Hill Climb. Some of these pictures are from a few weeks ago.

Easter and Tung are toiling away with less than three weeks until the 2019 Empire Hill Climb. Some of these pictures are from a few weeks ago.

Easter and Tung are toiling away with less than three weeks until the 2019 Empire Hill Climb. Some of these pictures are from a few weeks ago.

Easter and Tung are toiling away with less than three weeks until the 2019 Empire Hill Climb. Some of these pictures are from a few weeks ago.

Easter and Tung are toiling away with less than three weeks until the 2019 Empire Hill Climb. Some of these pictures are from a few weeks ago.

Easter and Tung are toiling away with less than three weeks until the 2019 Empire Hill Climb. Some of these pictures are from a few weeks ago.

Easter and Tung are toiling away with less than three weeks until the 2019 Empire Hill Climb. Some of these pictures are from a few weeks ago.

Back in the day, when my car would need to be fixed, I would take it apart Friday night, and hope to have it back together for work or school on Monday. It was a constant ticking clock. Thankfully, now that my project car isn’t my only car, I can take weeks, even months, to put something back together. It’s a luxury that couple Michael Tung and Jordan Easter, of project Datsun 280Z/Mercedes V12/poor-man’s E-Type, don’t have. The car needs to be ready for the 2019 Empire Hill Climb, presented by Autoweek, on September 14. “Tick, tick, tick,” is what I’m guessing they hear every night before bed.

So, when we last left Tung and Easter, the SL600-sourced Mercedes V12 was installed and the six-speed transmission was attached, which seems like the biggest piece of the puzzle, though it really isn’t.

“All of that little stuff that you don’t think about adds up and takes a whole weekend,” said Tung.


































They were figuring out the how the suspension and steering were going to fit around the powertrain, and how the whole powertrain was going to fit under the hood.

“We fully expect to run the Empire Hill Climb without the hood,” said Easter.

They also ordered a MegaSquirt electronic fuel injection controller, which needed to be programed.

Now everything is wired, and the wiring harness is in. Tung and Easter moved the steering rack down a half inch, and they had to get a second steering shaft, which needed to go through the engine mount. The wheels now both turn and roll. The new radiator is in, but the coolant hoses needed to be customized, as did the accessory belt tensioner. They also had to have an adapter machined to plumb in the remote oil filter and cooler. The stock unit was big, too big to fit. Both the water pump and alternator are in.

They are waiting on headers, and one mount for the cam position sensor. The headers, Tung is doing himself, except for the flanges, which were conveniently located — in Australia. He has the tubing, and it’s almost time to fire up the welder, which he does own.

Like having a baby, “there’s never a good time to buy a welder,” Tung says, “you just have to do it.”

As of this writing, we’re 19 days away from the Empire Hill Climb; test starts are coming soon. Tick, tick, tick. The stakes are getting higher too. “Jordan’s parents are coming,” says Tung. And this is Michigan’s premiere hill climb we’re talking about, resurrected in 2014 after a 34-year absence, in beautiful Northern Michigan. Three quarters of a mile, lined with unforgiving maples, pines, birches and road signs, something pro racer Peter Cunningham found out the hard way last year.

We’ll see Tung and Easter, along with 39 other competitors, at the hill in a few weeks.

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