Flooded Nissan Fairlady Z Is Being Restored by Japanese College Students

When a family saw their deceased son's cherished car ruined by a flood, a group of college students stepped in to help.
Nissan Kyoto Automobile College

Back in 2018, floods ravaged much of southwestern Japan, destroying homes, cars, and businesses across the area. One Okayama family saw their much-adored Nissan Fairlady Z fall victim to the rising waters. In a happy turn of events, though, an automotive college has stepped up to help.

As reported by Japanese Nostalgic Car, the car in question is an S130 Fairlady Z, the model known as the Datsun 280ZX in the U.S. Belonging to a family in Mabi, Okayama, the car was the prized possession of a son who tragically died in a car accident several decades ago. The family held on to the vehicle ever since, until the 2018 floods saw the car inundated with mud and water.

The car was effectively totaled, but due to its sentimental value, the family sought to have it restored. According to Best Car, the family reached out to the local Toyota Kobe Automobile College for help. Noting the importance of the project, the local college instructors decided to reach out to Nissan Kyoto Automobile College to ensure it got the proper attention from the original manufacturer.

The Nissan technical school took the car in as a project for its students in 2019, with the coupe becoming known as the “Mabi Z.” The car was a base model, with a naturally-aspirated 2.0-liter straight six under the hood. While it may have been a more humble example of the Z car, it was nonetheless cherished by its owner, who had modified it with personal touches, like SSR wheels and Momo steering wheel.

Progress on the car was slowed by the pandemic, but work resumed once students returned to campus in 2021. The restoration effort is ongoing, and is no small task, particularly given the rigorous ethos with which the school is approaching the work.

The engine, for example, was filled with mud, and the easiest route would be to swap it out for another stock motor. However, the students didn’t want to swap out the engine, choosing the more difficult job of rebuilding it instead. “If you replace the heart of the car, it won’t be that owner’s car anymore,” the students told Best Car.

When it comes to bodywork, though, the students are doing more to restore the car to its factory state. Formerly dented areas that were patched with filler are instead being pulled out and repaired to a factory standard, in line with what the students believe the original owner would have wanted. Much work still lies ahead. There is more bodywork to repair, along with the interior, wiring harnesses, and more.

The students continue their work on the car as an after-school club activity, slowly bringing the car back to its former glory. Thus far, their heartwarming efforts have largely flown under the radar. A school representative explained to Best Car that the project was being handled free of charge for the family. “We’re restoring the car because we want the owner to see it in heaven,” said the representative, adding “We’re not restoring it to show off.”

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At the end of the day, this feel-good story is a win all around. The students learned valuable skills for their careers, and a family will get their treasured car back in beautiful condition. You simply love to see it.

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