THREE OF A KIND
THESE CALIFORNIA GTO 250s HAVE
ENOUGH HEART TO BE REAL PERFORMERS

By Michael Baranowski

The early Datsun 240, 260 and 28OZ cars once enjoyed quite a reputation in the kit car hobby. At one time there were about five different companies building body kits for this Japanese product, and now the only company that's still around. is the one that started all of the excitement.. Although the project has changed hands, the idea remains the same. The man who owns the former Alpha I GTO project is Tom McBurnie, who's also responsible for the California Daytona Spyder. And he's the same man battling Ferrari for manufacturing the Spyder. What will be the final outcome of the lawsuit? It's hard to say, but McBurnie feels confident he will prevail.


Way, back at the beginning of all this lawsuit mess,, Joe Alphabet manufactured the fine little Alpha body package in Huntington Beach, California. When Ferrari went looking for litigants, Alphabet bailed out and Tom (begin page 54) McBurnie assumed the project's reins. McBurnie was an asset: He refined and refit the Alphas with a high performance ideal and renamed them the California 250 GTOs.


Internal changes promoted Pat Butters, former McBurnie dealer, to an Active role as operations manager. Now Butters handles vehicle produc- tion and McBurnie will cover the R&D shop and floor sales. Industry insiders have lauded the move, and we think it will help restore the company to its proper top spot. In addition, McBurnie Coachcraft has added a deluxe new shop. The work areas are large enough to separate areas of production; no more sanding are right next to final assembly, etc. This new setup allows closer detail work, and the cars prove it.


The three models we feature are a combination of the talents of Butters and McBurnie. The front and center red one belongs to Katy Stone, and Butters and McBurnie built it. The silver and black ones were individual efforts by Butters and McBurnie, respectively, and together they represent a fine cross-section of their fabrication talents. If you're considering building the GTO in kit form, under- stand that your "sweat equity" in the finished product will be substantial. During the last visit to the McBurnie Coach craft shop, six turn-key 250 GTOs were under construction, and it looks like turn-keys are taking over. It's easier to deliver a 240/260/28OZ car and have it transformed into a 250 GTO for many people the extensive amount of body work is foreboding.

While hardcore bodywork isn't exactly Stone's cup of tea, she isn't afraid to handle the rest of the maintenance on her bright red California 250 GTO. That includes tune-ups, oil and filter changes and just about everything else the at-home enthusiast does in his or her garage. Stone's GTO isn't just a "sunny days only" ride, either. As director of recreation programs for the city of Long Beach, California, she spends her days covering the assorted city parks and school yards. And you can bet she gets more than a casual glance when her car pulls up. Stone's GTO sees its fair share of (begin page 55) use.


The car is based on a '78 280 and the attention to detail inside and out is amazing. Yes, it's true the basic suspension and engine in this 90inch wheelbase package is better than most. The MacPherson strut front end features disc brakes, and the rearend (also MacPherson strut) uses vacuum-assisted drum brakes. The six-cylinder engine and four--ceed tranny are more than ample for providing real performance in the form of seven-second zero-60 speeds and low- to mid-13-second e.t.s in the quarter-mile. Ground contact at all four corners is made with BFG radials wrapped around knock-off style Zenith wire rims. The suspension is fully tuned with anti-rollbars and urethane bushings for better handling.
Like McBurnie Coachcraft's Corvette-based California Daytona Spyder, the GTO features unitized-body construction and requires fitting of a new front and rear clip. The doors are reskinned and fitted with new locks and latches, and the roofline is retained (except, of course, on the convertible version, called the 250 GTS-it was deleted altogether).


It required a fair amount of detail work to complete the project. Geniestyle hood latches and fender-mounted mirrors are in their respective places. Side-marker light installation is straightforward, and the body moldings are quite nice. The overall look of the car would benefit from headlight covers, but unfortunately, any type of a cover is a no-no in many states. On the right rear quarter panel is a quick-fill gas cap frenched into its own enclosure.


The interior required a lot of work to restyle. The dash and center console were replaced by fiberglass bits and everything else was fitted around them. To complete the transformation it's necessary to redo the entire dash (keeping the Datsun gauges), center console (including shifter gate) and the headline and door panels. The low-back bucket seats are available in either leather or vinyl. A well-done interior can make or break a car, and the California 250 GTO and GTS have two of the nicest.
The overall fit and finish of the refined California 250 GTO is excellent. The turn-key prices are quite attractive, and if you're truly interested in driving one, contact the factory at 619/562-7703. -Kit Car Magazine



The only way to guess the Datsun heritage of this car is to examine the roofline.


Overall, this car is one of the finer built replicas on the road today.

The front detail shot of the nose shows the quality of the fiberglass work.

The Z car engines have always been quite healthy, however, many owners take the opportunity to build in added muscle. In addition to a trio of side-draft Webers, the engine parts in this six-cylinder spell power, pure and simple.


The Z car interior is reworked to reflect the Italianesque design; the dash cluster makes for easy gauge reading.

Rear view mirrors are fender mounted, and the hood latches are an interesting design.

 

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