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First Project Car- '77 280z auto-x/track car


Ben280

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Ok, here's the story thus far. I bought the car in mid march after much internet searching and being blown off by a few people. My initial plan was to just get a running Z that would be fun to cruise to the beach and be a fun weekend car. My CURRENT plan (funny how these things change!) is to get it into reasonable shape to do auto-x and the occasional track day. Still a weekend warrior cruising car, but more race themed!

 

After looking at the car, the body was in reasonable shape and things looks about right for a car this old. Wasn't running when I picked it up, but the previous owner assured me that he had "hit 120 on the freeway a month ago!". Sure buddy...

 

Anyways, he pulled the head to get a new cam installed and never did it. Thats where our story really begins.

 

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Luckily some of my friends had a big ol' truck and the came to the rescue of getting the car home. This is how she looked getting into my driveway! Not too bad, but the rain and my giddy school-girl like excitement hit from me the extent of this project!

 

We got it in the garage and discovered immediately that one reason that the guy wasn't eager to rebuild the engine was the presence of an ugly snapped head bolt, just below the surface of the block. It appeared that he had tried to drill it, very much off center, but gave up. Undeterred, my buddies and I proceeded to rip out every last piece of the gross interior. Funny thing about pulling an interior out is that no matter how gross it was before, you inevitably make it look 1000% worse initially.

 

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Gutted interior here. Pulled out the rotting seats and carpet. Somewhere along the line the car had been resprayed black inside and out. And by inside, i mean all the interior plastics had been sprayed where they were. Looked like shit and was flaking paint all over the place so it HAD to go.

 

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Steering wheel was rotten too, need to fix that! And note the other MAJOR issue with the car here, in the form of two pedals. Not so hot!

 

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Starting to clear off the sound deadening. My slight OCD was making me go crazy before i started this! I had never done this kind of thing and was loving it sofar, but the monotonus nature of chiseling sound deadening was sapping my motivation. With real issues up front, I decided to turn my attention towards the front of the car.

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I wasn't sure of the condition of the head, and since the rest of the car looked reasonably untouched, I thought it would be a good idea to have the head redone. One valve grind, decking, bead blast and new (ish) cam later, I was ready to rebuild my motor! Being new to the motor construction game, I managed to find a pretty good book/walkthrough of the process. The only hold up was that damn snapped stud!

 

After a couple shattered easy-outs, much whining and frustration, I consumed a beer, sacked up and drilled that bastard into oblivion. Another beer and some more found testicular fortitude, I began re-tapping the hole to the original bolt size.

 

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Finally got all the threads tapped and test fit the head. The previous owner drilling off center definitely hosed me, but I was able to save it. Not a perfect fit but its close enough. When I threaded the bolt in, its a little tight, but it goes all the way down! Totally psyched and now I can move on and get this thing running!

 

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Shiny new head on the block. Bought a whole mess of parts from MSA to make the install go smoothly. Figured if I had everything i needed the install would go a bit smoother! Made me over buy, got a few things I didn't need, due to ignorance, and missed a few things, but it started going back together all the same!

 

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Repainted the valve cover, timing cover and all the coolant housing things. New shiny waterpump here as well!

 

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Got a little excited and put the new header on. The exhaust manifold wasn't fun to get off and I didn't plan to do it again soon, so why not? should make for a good sound right? Anyways, after a couple late night and lots of internet, I finally got it all back together. I was still missing a couple key parts for the electrical system so i couldn't start it up but I was close!

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While waiting for parts, my room mate and I went back to the center of the car and got after it with full force! We had one good night of REALLY cold weather and my room mate and I went after that sound deadening like speed freaks. One marathon night later (special thanks to our girlfriends on this one, since we finished at 3am) and we were left with this:

 

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totally stripped interior, ready for wire wheels and paint! I was particularly happy to find almost NO rust in the flor boards. Granted its a 77 not a 71 or 72 but still, I was impressed! Maybe the industrial carpet we ripped out did its job...

 

Anyways, my next day off saw the wire wheel and paint hit the car. I was tired of the shitty interior and needed it to be cleaned up. 8 hours later and I had made quite the impact!

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Not perfect, but good enough for me!

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Was still waiting on my electrical parts. The downfall of ordering midweek ends up being a wasted weekend! If only I had ordered sooner!!! Anyway, I thought this would be a good time to move to the exterior of the car and make it look better. Or worse. Well, actually worse..

 

I don't really like the look of the side markers and decided those were ready to come off, with plates welded in. Never had experience with body sheet metal, but I thought we did pretty well.

 

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Couldn't find any magnets to hold the panels in place so we had to do it all sketchy like with painters tape! once you got the corners tacked on it was good to go, but getting there was pretty annoying. This was also when I discovered that the passenger side fender had about 3/8'' thick bondo on the front! at least I could be sloppy with my welds there!

 

While we were borrowing the welder I fab'd up some seat brackets for the new toys i got from ebay. definitely not FIA certified, but they will hold me in the car for sure!

 

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Nothing super fancy, these are the canadian bride seats! still have all the right tags, but arn't from Japan. These will probably get replaced pretty soon, once i have enough money not tied up in trying to fix the motor!

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The car finally is running, although there is little power, so I'm not totally sure what is up. It did make it to the local Taco shop for a bite. open header dumping under my seat is the loudest thing in the world. exhaust should be on the list soon!

 

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Take careful note of the bondo please! need to get a good sander and some finish putty. but I've got other things to worry about at the moment!

 

After popping the hood and some careful observation, the motor looks like its not firing on 1 or 5. checked for spark and it was good, so I'm blaming bad injectors. Solution seems to be a Pallnet fuel rail and reman'd injectors. that will set me back on time, but will let me get after some good side projects on the car, IE cleaning up that ugly manifold and getting parts together to convert to a 5spd.

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Started to tick stuff off the list, around now. Got the pedals i need for the manual swap from a pick n pull car. that pedal box is a total bitch to pull. luckly somebody already had their way with the steering column and dash so I didnt have to feel bad about getting physical with them.

 

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Also had to fab up a new hub to get my steering wheel attached to! apparently even though the parts sheet says it fits, the NRG short hub for the nissan s13/14 doesn't fit in the 280, and its a known issue! not sure why they sold it to me then but oh well. The old steering wheel center will work just fine, even if its not as pretty as the NRG part!

 

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SO!!!! With all the annoying back story out of the way, here is this week on the car! the manual swap is done, thanks to a AZC lightened flywheel and some other fun toys. No photos of the swap cause I'm lazy! And swapping transmissions isn't exactly exciting.

 

I did get bored one day and decide that i needed to spend money i dont have, which resulted in this...

 

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GOLD WRAPPED HARNESS!!!!!!! In the background, you can see the offending cycinders/lack of header oxidation on #1 and #5. The main reason for this most recent teardown!

 

I also did a TON of work on the intake. I found a junkyard '76 with a non EGR intake and decided to shave it. Also started the conversion to an s14 throttle body, for the cleanliness. That and linkage throttle is dumb haha. Got it shaved and welded up and powdercoated. the powdercoating was done by a friend of mine, and while he is a nice guy and didn't charge me for it, it does look now like the intake manifold is made out of clay! High performance ceramic anybody?

 

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Oh well, it looks way sicker than the stock cast manifold and there's no fun in being too serious about these things so screw it! You can also see the new fuel rail made by Mr. Pallnet complete with pressure gauge! Very exciting things.

 

I also added a wool sock to the engine bay....

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So between the wool sock header and the clay pot intake I'm doing pretty good!!

 

Got a chance to refresh the steering rack bushings and after much torching, the tie rod ends gave it up and those got replaced. Once its running again, might actually have some steering potential!

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Yesterday was a load of fun with some not so fun surprises tossed in there. I got my new hood sort of fitted. anybody have tips on how to properly align these? I know doing it in caveman style is wrong, but not sure the correct way!

 

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Louverless hood from a '73 240z. Nice and straight with minimal rust. Anybody want to old louvered hood?

 

Then I started to tear into the front suspension. I was planning to just chop the springs and call it a day, but then i got this!!

 

(not sure how to put videos in here so heres the link!)

 

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Needless to say they are trash, and I'm sure the rears are the same. This makes me rethink my strategy, and is making me look into a coilover setup sooner.

 

In the good news though, I am a fuel pressure regulator away from firing up the engine! hopefully she runs better than last time!

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Nice build so far. I'm more of a 510 guy, but I'm really digging your Z. keep the pics coming. :thumbup:

 

Thanks! 510's are super sick, particularly your wagon!

 

I'm trying to keep up with the pics, its tough to remember to take em when your in the middle of stuff! Thanks for the motivation though!

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Got some time yesterday and sunday to put in some work. Mostly it was on the exterior. Waiting on a couple hoses before i can really turn this beast over for real. Anyways, got my bondo hat on and went after it. Did some work smoothing out the front and rear side marker deletes, door mirror deletes, bumper deletes and cleaning up the side trim. Wish i had a good photo of the car before I pulled the trim off. Living in the PNW there was moss/algae growing on top of the side trim!

 

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Front passenger side

 

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passenger side trim. Can see where they got lazy and didnt pull the trim off when they resprayed it. I like black more than the caramel color, but its a shame they didnt do it properly.

 

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passenger side rear quarter. My room mate and our friend vandalized the bondo dust earlier. Fender flares are on the roof too. Waiting to get the wheels before I fit them though, might have to go with the BAMF Wide ZG flares.

 

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Drivers side rear quarter. Complete with circled low spot!

 

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Front drivers side fender.

 

Today I'll have some time and can do some finish sanding and glazing putty. Might be covered in spotty primer by the end of the week! \

 

Ordered a aeromotive fuel pressure regulator that showed up yesterday so i got a chance to install it. Didn't let the thread sealant set long enough though, so it shot gas across my garage. No fun! looks pretty though.

 

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Once I am done sanding, grinding and fabing this engine bay is getting a serious deep clean.

 

On a side note I am still thinking about suspension. As it sits looking at the ACZ coilovers, with T3 front and rear control arms with the tension control arms. Anybody have any advice on this? Comments on what I am thinking or other recommendations would be awesome!

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Post weekend update! Didn't get much done this week cause of the holiday and I ended up taking a job today (I work freelance so I take the work when it comes!)

 

Did get a lot of sanding and bondo finish work done and then got some paint on the car!

 

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Should be getting the rest of the intake piping this week and then the motor can FINALLY get tuned! And if I'm really lucky, the wheels might even show up by the end of the week!

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Tuning the car tonight, hopefully she runs well. Been playing with it a little, and it idles at 1800 just fine, but any lower and it splutters and dies. Probably a timing/TPS issue.

 

Also dumped a huge pile of cash into the suspension, so cool stuff should be happening in the next couple weeks.

 

And my faaking Basset wheels are taking a milenium to get built/shipped. Looking now like they will be here end of next week at the earliest! That will make it 7 weeks total. Not tooo bad by custom wheel standards, but not having solid dates and being jerked around on when to expect them is super frustrating. Hopefully it all comes together and my wheels show up when the suspension does! prepare for a barrage of updates in 3 weeks!

 

In other news, I'm missing auto-x events like its my job! Missed one cause the car wasn't even close to done (discovered that i had zero bushings under the car) and going to miss this next one (an invitational event too!!) because I probably wont have wheels!

 

At least the to do list is shortening up! now if i could just get ahold of a front lip/airdam...

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SHE RUNS! My mechanic buddy came over and helped me tune the motor tonight and we got it sitting pretty. Idles at 800 perfectly, ended up being a TPS issue. Now I just have to bleed the clutch and i can go for a "Test Drive" on the jack-stands!

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Got a couple things done this weekend/friday, but it was mostly a light weekend. Got out and enjoyed the nice weather (for once no clouds!) and fantasized about driving my datsun!

 

First things first; got the motor running. Its official, no sputtering or stalling! Good solid running. This means I got my 240SX throttle working great and successfully converted over to cable from the linkage throttle! Horray for me right? I also got a few silicone tubes to pipe nice cold air into my AFM. Conveniently enough when using the 240sx throttle, you don't have to run a reducing size tube from the AFM to the throttle body like you do on the stock 280z throttle. Cleans up the joint for sure. Here are some photos of the engine bay for your perusal. Sorry for the lack of photos on the past few posts!

 

Silicone plumbed intake:

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Even shittier photo quality than usual! boo iphones... Throttle cable brackets and routing. Need to figure out a more elegant way of dealing with the brake booster vac hose!

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Detail at the firewall where the cable meets the pedal. Drilled out the stock ball stud and replaced it with this one from the Lokar cable. Works pretty well!

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Got my battery situation sorted out for the time-being too. not the prettiest solution, might have to spring for a battery box, but its held solidly in place!

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I also got some of my interior shit sorted out. Got REALLY tired of looking at plywood in the back so i tossed this guy in there. really classes up the joint!

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Also finished FINALLY bolting up the steering wheel. Got the "short hub" powder coated by the same friend who did the intake mani. now i can sit in the car and make race car noises!! Deep dish momo 07 wheel.

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And finally for the interior, i HAD to hang my skull off the rear view mirror. When i get a hook for the wheel, He will get hung off that, but for now, mirror end it is!

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My suspension stuff also started to show up on friday with the delivery of my TechnoToyTuning rear control arms. Unfortunately FedEx is apparently run by walking talking man giants who hate all things fun, because when i opened the package i find this!

 

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To quote Gabriel from T3 "Yeahhh, your gonna have problems with that!". However, being a super cool dude, he immediately shipped out a replacement arm, which should be here tomorrow! Fingers crossed for a more gentil delivery! Seriously though, 3 hours after speaking on the phone I get a new FedEx tracking number in the mail. I am impressed to say the least!

 

 

The only bummer part of the weekend was when i hopped in the car and put on my race helmet, I realized that my custom brackets sit up way to high in the car, and I have to hunch my shoulders super hard to keep my head from touching the roof! :mad:

 

I think I have a fix, but I feel like i need to finish the suspension and get everything ship-shape before I start chopping the interior up again!

 

Thats it for now, going to be waiting on parts for a week or so (Arizona Z Car will be providing the rest of the suspension), which means I'm gonna try and get as much annoying little shit buttoned up as possible! Clutch bleeding time! :hyper:

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  • 2 weeks later...

Houston we have wheels! No real photos yet, but here is a teaser!

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Dont worry world, this is at almost full droop with the stock setup. flares will be going on next week and tires are showing up momentarily. Wheels are Bassett 15x10 in front and 15x11 in the rear, with Toyo r888 205/50 and 235/50 (respectively) on order. Should look pretty awesome when bolted up! (Still need to get lug nuts!)

 

This was also the week where I dropped the rear suspension out and got to deal with the dreaded spindle pins!!! OOooooo! I was almost prepared to deal with them, my previous car was from the east coast, and every project on it required air tools, a torch and inevitably breaking every bolt you laid wrench to. But even seized A arm bolts had nothing on the frozen bolt hell I was about to enter! And in case anybody had any doubts about the quality of the rear suspension, the rear shocks were as blown as the fronts. see the video a few posts ago for reference haha.

 

I had read enough going into the project that i knew i was going to chop the spindle off to get it out. No need to save it since the Techno RCAs came with new bolts. In hindsight I should have saved one end with threads for reasons that came apparent this evening!

 

Started out normally. Torched the area where the pin goes through the knuckle, quenching every so often with PB Blaster. Anecdotally I've decided that doing it this way draws the penetrating oil deeper into the depths of the seized bolt, but it also makes fire when mixed with MAPP gas!

 

Here's my room mate/partner in crime doin his thing

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Dont worry, we had proper ventilation and a hose in case things got out of hand.

 

A couple minutes later we threw the knuckle into the vice and took a good whack at it with the 3lbs hand sledge. How stuck can it be i thought? Answer: extremely.

 

More torchin!

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The sum total of evening #1 was; one entire empty can of PB blaster, a very greasy workbench, one half eaten bag of BBQ chips, and 1/2 an inch of spindle pin driven out of ONE knuckle! Holy shit these guys are stuck!

 

Day two started out similarly-

 

Jake back on the torch, one of the knuckles back in the bench vice.

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Then we had a stroke of genius. I'll give Jake the credit here, super good idea. Probably worth it for the rest of you guys who hate these things to give it a shot.

 

We had already drilled small holes in each end of the pin so the air chisel we were using wouldn't walk around. Then Jakes brilliance stepped in and we ground the protruding end into a square. If I hadn't cut both ends off of the spindle we could have done this without driving lots of spindle out.

 

Anyways, grind down one end into a square shape until you can hammer on a 15mm socket. I used a deep impact socket with a 3/4 drive.

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Nice and square.

 

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Once you have this, I drove on my socket and attached the breaker bar. This let me start to rotate the pin and break what was left of the rust bond.

 

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Sequence for me was to spray some penetrating oil one end, rotate the pin with the wrench, then smash on oiled side with the pointy chisel from the air hammer with the 3lbs sledge.

 

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Took about 30 minutes of spraying, spinning and smashing to get them out. That was after sitting on the knuckle for 20 minutes with the torch. Lesson of the day here is that i need an Oxy-Acetylene torch rather than MAPP gas!

 

Next week I should be receiving an excellent package from Arizona Z and then I can start chopping up the strut towers to make way for camber plates! If all goes as planned, the car SHOULD key word here being SHOULD be rolling on the ground under its own power end of next weekend!

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we want REAL pictures of wheels! not any goddamn teasers! :crying: im hoping for a lot of dish tbh. but the mat looks rad! :thumbup: its coming along well mate!

 

Your wish is my command! :thumbup: My tires showed up while I was at work and my room mate was nice enough to go get them mounted for me. That combined with me mounting the control arms in the rear let me mock up a wheel in the rear for everyone to see!

 

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So there you go. Control arms are level in the rear, and according to my iphone app, its got 2.2 degrees of camber. Wheels are rocking out a 4.5" backspacing, so the dish is plentiful :thumbup: These things could be used as salad bowls!

 

Hopefully the front control arms show up soon and I can mock one of those up for everybody!

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fuuuuuuu. thats gonna look rad on the ground. wheel and tire specs? i see some lovely stretch going on ;) i feel that ass shots should be necessary once you set her back on the ground. :lol:

 

 

Thanks! Very much looking forward to getting it on the ground and out of my garage! Then I'll FINALLY be able to get some good quality images of it! And never fear, a full photo set will be coming soon, including all the booty shots you can handle :thumbup:

 

Wheel and Tire specs are:

 

Fronts- 15x10 ET -25 w/ 205/50

Rears- 15x11 ET -15 w/ 235/50

 

Bassett Steel racing wheels and Toyo Proxes R888's.

 

I was surprised how much stretch I got out of the 235, was considering going with a 225 but decided that might be too much stretch. Looks like I was right!

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