Man and Machine Samuri still rattles a sabre Datsun has lost its tuning bits but wins championships. Words and photography Paul Hardiman.
Charles Barter’s 240Z is a very special car despite its plain blue livery. It was one of the original Samuris, built by Spike Anderson for Win Percy when they were racing ‘Big Sam’ together in 1973. Win had tried Spike’s own tuned car that Motor had raved over, finding it faster than a Porsche turbo, and decided he must have his own – Wolfrace slot mags, triple Webers and all. It was more distinctive than most of the other 73 Samuris, because the contrasting bronze second-tone paint was laid over its original metallic blue instead of the usual red.
The tuning gear and the two-tone paint have gone now, because Barter races it in the Historic Sports Car Club’s ’70s Road Sports series, which demands near-standard cars – and offers extra points if they are driven to the races. Barter has just started his 25th season of racing the Z, and has won the championship twice. He found it in a derelict state close to home in Dorset. ‘By then it was no longer in Samuri colours, though still blue. Win had used it on the road but also in things like the Birkett Six Hours.
‘At one point it was the full works – triple Webers, big brakes – but its was rebuilt to current spec by Ray Payne at Hartwells, then later looked after by Tim Riley before he emigrated – his dad Peter used to come down too and we’d have a good chat. More recently it’s been looked after by Dave Jarman, who built the final Samuri for Spike.
‘I’d given up hillclimbing [in Hartwell Imps] in 1985 and intended that to be the end of my motorsport. But Historic racing really appealed. In 1991 I’d heard that Win’s car was languishing about here somewhere, so I acquired it – from the brother of the guy I eventually sold my watercress business to. Back then the Historic Road Sports series had too many Datsuns and they wouldn’t accept it, so I didn’t race it for a couple of years. Eventually they started a class for ’70s cars, which became a series in its own right. ‘It’s just on the weight limit of 1035kg. You can remove seats and carpets but the rest of the trim has to stay. You don’t have to run bumpers but these are glassfibre because it wouldn’t look right without them. The Perspex fairings are to save the headlights. We’re allowed to go up an inch in wheel sizes, and I run 15in Yokohama A050 tyres.
‘We’re only allowed the standard carbs and inlet manifold, but it makes about 220bhp and revs to 7500. It’s been fairly reliable, though I broke the clutch at Snetterton and blew the engine three years ago at the final meeting at Silverstone. Dave built me a new one and it’s quicker than it’s ever been.
‘It’s a lovely, forgiving car. On fast, flowing tracks it’s superb, and so stable in fast corners. It doesn’t like poky little tracks, though we’ve won at Cadwell. The biggest disaster was at a Brands Superprix meeting. I was in the second row next to a TVR Tuscan. It and a Camaro collided and I thought I’d judged where they were going to go…