In June last year, Stefan dropped by the Datsun Shop ZA in Middelburg, South Africa to check out a collection curated by brothers Riaan and Thinus Jacobs and their father Rudi, and take a look at all the cars they had under the knife. One of those was a 1982 Nissan Stanza being built up as a tribute to an iconic South African circuit racer – the Clarion 1800 SSS of Dick Sorensen and Barry Flowers.
As you’re about to see, the car is now finished. Stefan caught up with Riaan and the Stanza earlier in the year, while on the way back home from picking up his Volvo S60 Polestar in Cape Town
The Nissan’s transformation began three years ago, after originally having been turned into a race car by Martin Richards in 2016. “Martin found a suitable donor car while on holiday in Johannesburg,” Riaan recounts. “I fetched the car and delivered it to the car transporter to be taken down to him in Cape Town.”
During the initial build, which saw the Stanza go from completely stock-standard road car to circuit racer, Riaan assisted Martin with some hard-to-find parts, including a complete M75 LSD-equipped rear end.
On the Stanza’s completion, Riaan travelled down to Cape Town for its debut at Killarney Raceway. It had turned out very well, but as time went on there were persistent engine issues.
Fast forward to 2019, when out-of-the-blue Martin phoned Riaan asking if he wanted to buy the Stanza. “At the time I was 90% of the way through a scratch-built Nissan pickup project called FAT AMY. I said to myself, ‘Oh well, Amy needs to go’; I wanted the Stanza more!”
Riaan had always dreamed of building a tribute to the Sorenson/Flowers Clarion Stanza, a car that had taken the Class C win during the 1984 Castrol 1000 at Kyalami. This was his chance.
The new purchase arrived at the Datsun Shop as a rolling chassis. Riaan knew exactly what he wanted to do with the car and, importantly, he also had the period race parts to build it. “The ex-Nico van Rensburg Stanza gave me the body kit, wheels, and an engine,” he says.
The Stanza took shape quickly with the fitment of the entire wide-body kit and giant front spoiler, which Riaan says needed a bit of TLC to get it back into shape.
Out back, some cutting was required in order to fit the classic Compomotive CX500 3-piece mesh wheels in 16×9-inch and wrapped up in Bridgestone semi-slicks (16×8-inch at the front).
In the early ’80s, most South African works race cars were quickly pieced together; the focus was on winning championships not perfect presentation. In rebuilding this car, Riaan kept that thinking in mind as the Stanza would be raced not entered in shows.
It’s one of the reasons why he chose to only respray the exterior white (with the correct blue and red striping); the interior and engine bay remain red, in well-used condition.
The engine is a Nissan L18 1.8L SOHC four-cylinder unit running new Nissan pistons, a Datsun Competition S280-spec camshaft from Van der Linde Developments – who also ported and flowed the cylinder head – along with new Nissan valves, Crane springs and a baffled oil pan.
On the intake side you’ll find a pair of 45mm Weber side-draught carburettors, and on the exhaust side a TNT Performance header running into a full custom system. MSD ignition provides a dependable spark.
One thing that assisted the engine build was Dick Sorenson supplying some of the original documents from his race car, including the modification specs and dyno plot. This not only helped Riaan build an engine as close to the original as possible, but revealed that the Clarion Stanza was making around 135hp when it raced in ’82. The replica engine is outputting less than 10hp shy of that, something Riaan puts down to its lower compression for reliability and using 95RON octane fuel as opposed to race gas.
The power finds its way to the ground through a Toyota 21R 5-speed gearbox adapted to fit the Nissan engine via a custom-cast bell housing and the aforementioned M75 rear end, both modifications made during Martin’s ownership.
Suspension-wise, the front end uses Ian Glass inserts in modified struts, custom camber plates and adjustable control arms, while the rear benefits from a 3-link setup with coilovers. And when it comes to the brakes, there’s no shortage of stopping power thanks to AP Racing 4-pot callipers and 300mmm rotors up front, and Alfa Romeo callipers paired with Nissan Skyline rotors out back.
There are many neat details on this build, but two in particular really stand out. The first is the driver’s seat – the bucket Martin used at his very first oval track race way back in the day. The second is the hand-painted main livery, as completed by Oeloff Signs, which is 100% how the sponsors’ names would have been presented on the original car. It’s a look that’s hard to beat.
“This is one of my favourite cars in our collection,” says Riaan of the finished build. “From the iconic livery to the South African way of body kit creation of the period, it looks like a typical saloon car you would find standing in the pits of any racetrack during the ’80s.”