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Return of the Z - Bleach's 280Z turbo build (1978)


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Summer of 2016, purchased a 280ZX turbo "parts car" sight unseen and had the car put in storage down in southern Oregon. I picked it up on December 31st and put it in storage closer to home.


May 2017, bought a 280Z in Eastern Washington and brought it home.


The ultimate goal is to have the 280Z running the L28 turbo along with some other body and suspension modifications. LED headlights, 240Z bumpers, wide wheels, lowered 2 inches, 4-wheels disc brakes. For the moment I'm limited on my workspace so I may get the 280ZX turbo running and drive it around. During this time I can tinker on the 280Z and maybe do some brakes and suspension work.


You might see the 280ZX at a Datsun meet sooner than the 280Z. For now, the 280Z runs fine...


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This may be a slow process but please be patient with me.


280Z looks completely stock front to back. L28 with all emissions crap. Nice quiet exhaust. 5-speed manual with sloppy shifter. Spare tire, Nissan scissor jack, can 'o air. Brakes feel ok but the previous owner admitted there may be something up with the rear drums. All four shocks are worn and the car bounces a lot.

Thanks goes out to UberKevin for stopping by to see this 280Z and doing a great pre-buyers inspection.


280ZX turbo is basically stock as well. It was hit in the rear corner and then parked. Doesn't run now but only because it sat for a couple years. In theory it shouldn't have anything really wrong with it. Needs a tune-up, new oil, and fresh gas I'm hoping. Being a 1981 turbo, it has the automatic transmission.


Continual thanks to Ted for helping me with both these cars.

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Last weekend I opened up the hood on the turbo Z and began doing some preparation for its first start after sitting for a couple years.

New coil, spark plug wires, spark plugs, oil change, fuel filter. I also put some WD-40 on the rings and spun the engine around by hand a couple times to get it broken loose if it was stuck at all. It seemed to turn freely from the very beginning.

The old spark plugs were not stuck in there so I take it the previous owner took care of the engine and probably changed the oil and sparks plugs somewhat regularly.


Some cat came by looking for attention. Ain't nobody got time for that cat!






I also removed that electric cooling fan for the injectors. (above) It might only be needed if you drive in a very hot climate.








That's it for this week.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 1 month later...

I've spent a few more days on the 280ZX turbo.
Installed new fuel pump. Still no fuel pump noise.
Cleaned up the battery terminals and installed additional grounding straps.
Switched around some of the relays in the engine compartment that are the same. Pulled the EFI relay with the ignition ON, other relays click. Plug it back in and again some other relays click. I guess that means the EFI relay is ok. Fusable linkes have 12v at both sides with ignition on.
Pulled the main plugs off the ECU and they have some electrical grease on them. Looks OK.
Tried starting fluid in the intake manifold and then later into a couple cylinders with the spark plugs out. Still doesn't even fire at all. (no spark)
Finally realize that there is no green light on the ECU which would give some indication that the computer is on. The turbo ECU controls the fuel pump relay as well as the coil.
L28 still won't start at this point. I wrote out where all the pins go using the 1981 Factory Service Manual. I'll check that power is going in at the points needed on the ECU. I think the EFI relay is the primary power source for the ECU. Maybe I can jump power to it as a test.
In the future if anyone is reading this then this image might be useful.


Pin 9, 27, 35 should have 12v power going in to the ECU. If you are using a 1982/83 ECU then pin 114 will also need power. That is the only difference in ECU configuration.

Pin 16 (fuel pump relay) my note says power but it may be that the ECU provides Ground to the fuel pump relay which allows the relay to activate.

Next time I will also be checking for ground at some pins.

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  • 3 months later...

In all my efforts with the 280ZX turbo, I never could get the new fuel pump going (by command from the ECU) nor could I see evidence of spark. As the summer came to a close I decided to turn my efforts over to the 1978 280Z that was running...


only now it doesn't run


So again I was faced with a fuel problem but this time there was spark. I remove the pump completely, hooked it up to the battery and it worked fine. Upon further inspection, I saw that the ground wire back by the pump was failing. I fixed the wiring, installed the pump, and the 280Z was back up and running.


After this I wanted to address the problem with the brakes. They work, but there is a lot of travel in the brake pedal before you feel them start to grab. I bled all four corners which pulled out very little air. I do have fresh clean fluid throughout the system now. The problem remains. The pedal goes down half way with almost no resistance and then suddenly the brakes are grabbing hard. Might be air in the master cylinder?


...the days are getting dark and cold... not sure what work I'll get done to it this fall



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I haven't been using the parking brake because the handle for that brake has a lot of resistance to moving. I'll look into that one later.

I pulled the drums off the back and moved the adjuster (that is activated by the parking brake cable) manually until the drum just barely slid on. The brakes feel only slightly better with engine off, but still move half way down easily with the engine on.

I think this tells me the brake booster is working. I think I'll plan to remove the master cylinder and bench bleed it later.

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  • 3 weeks later...

There have been a few Z-cars at wrecking yards recently. I've spent my weekends there pulling some parts to keep and other parts to sell. No work done on my 280Z but i've got a lot of crap stored now. Also made a few online orders.


CRX bucket seats
Megan Racing drop springs (for custom front suspension, not a Datsun specific application)

300ZX brake rotors
rotor spacer rings from T3

Caliper rebuild kit for Toyota 4-piston calipers (also brake pads)

Euro amber turn signal lenses (rear)

Front bump stops

Front ball joints

Sway bar bushings for factory sway bar (front only for now)

260Z chrome bumpers front and rear

240Z style front turn signals

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  • 3 weeks later...

I removed the master cylinder and did a bench bleed. Re-installed it and it feels OK with the engine off.


The battery gets just weak enough that it won't start the car so I had it on the charger. Even with a couple hours of charge the battery wouldn't quite start the engine.
I didn't do another bleeding of the brake lines but was hoping to short-cut and just see how the brake pedal feels right now. I'll get back to this another day and let the battery remain on trickle charge for a few days. I may have weakened this old battery by draining it down too often and not keeping it fully charged in the winter.


This video shows all the parts I listed above.


Watch it if you're interested.


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  • 2 months later...

The Z has been sitting for a few months so I went to start it. It cranks but won't fire up now.

Then I started looking at my Datsun key collection and wondered if any of these other keys will work in the ignition. I found one that turns but then the problems started. It goes to the ON position but won't turn BACK to the off position now. I got a key stuck in the ignition! Can't start it, can't turn it off to remove the key.

I messed with the key and used some penetrating oil for quite some time but eventually gave up. I'll have to do some research on this one. Not sure if I'll be forced to replace the entire ignition assembly now.


Also, I made a deal with Ted and traded those 14" turbine wheels for some 15" 280ZX wheels. Part of the reason was that the tires that came on this car were bald and I had a couple used 15" tires with good tread. So now 280Z has decent tires on it .... its a start


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Have you checked to see if the "reaction disk" inside the brake booster has fallen out/into the booster? That is the leading cause of the problem you have been having with the brakes.

Nope, I have not checked that. I have not heard of a reaction disk before.

I wonder if I should just replace the booster with a used one the next time I happen to find a suitable replacement from a wrecking yard

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Nope, I have not checked that. I have not heard of a reaction disk before.

I wonder if I should just replace the booster with a used one the next time I happen to find a suitable replacement from a wrecking yard

The reaction disk is a rubber puck looking thing that is between the booster diaphragm and the master cylinder.I had it happen with the booster in my 260Z, I was able to shake the booster around enough to get it out.

Check out Hybridz, there was a big thread about it several years back.

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I messed with the key and used some penetrating oil for quite some time but eventually gave up. I'll have to do some research on this one. Not sure if I'll be forced to replace the entire ignition assembly now.


They do make affordable aftermarket options these days?




I've had this problem so many times that when the stickiness begins, I just go ahead and order a new one...   ^_^

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That's one way to do it! I guess you won't have a Nissan key anymore.


Can I use the internals from a 280ZX ignition and put it in the 280Z? I have a ZX parts car with key.


In fact, if I can just force this key out, I've got the correct key for the tumblers (as long as I don't destroy them)

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