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#21 clocker


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Posted 09 February 2014 - 10:47 AM


I'd like to have the chassis wiring complete by end of February but we'll see how that goes.

Yeah, that is going, erm...poorly.

Weather has stymied our plans for paint, it's just been too cold.

Hoping for this next weekend but we'll just have to see.


I decided to occupy myself with renovating the tail light assemblies, something I've dithered around with for a long time.

Now they'll be the first example of my proposed color palette for the car, so it's worth proceeding even though we won't really need them for a while.

And I'm bored.


The lamp/lens housings are fine, no cracks or missing studs, so a clean and polish finishes them off.

The "chrome" lens bezels are bubbled and peeling but structurally sound.

The plastic trim panels are both broken, both in the same place.


I'm not sure exactly how to approach the bezels.

If anyone has removed this "chrome", I'd like to know how it was done.

The obviously bubbled and cracked areas peel off with a razor blade easily enough but the rest is quite obstinate.

The substrate (plastic) is so much softer and chemically vulnerable than the coating...I'll need to think about it.


The plastic panels are easy.


Over the years I've tried many ways of fixing broken plastic and by far the best is homemade ABS "adhesive/filler".

All you need is a sealable glass vessel (like a Ball jar), some acetone and some ABS solid.

To get the "solid" I just went to Ace and got a piece of black 2" ABS pipe, chucked it up in a lathe a skimmed it, creating long wispy hairlike swarf. It doesn't matter how you do it though, the idea is to get the ABS into a fine, easily meltable shape...like coffee grounds or shredded cheese.

Put your ABS solid in the jar and add some acetone, cover and let sit.

This is where the fineness of your solid matters- the finer the pieces, the faster it dissolves.

Add more plastic or more acetone to get the consistency you want...I try for a honey/maple syrup level of thickness.




Here's a trim panel (I did them both simultaneously, so the pics may show either side depending on which was the better shot) and it shows how stressed it was...note the misalignment of the broken ends. I'm surprised that a molded piece would have such internal pressure but both of mine were broken in exactly the same spot, so that seems a likely conclusion.


This makes the repair a two stage process; first to rejoin the ends in a cosmetically pleasing way and second, to reinforce the area to prevent a future break.


I first scrubbed the edges of the break and the surrounding are (in the back) with q-tips and acetone.

After it was clean I applied a heavier coat of acetone and let it sit...this is basically a primer for the ABS honey and premelts the surface, promoting good adhesion.

Then butter the edges with honey and clamp into place.

With luck you'll have a nice little squeeze out on the front face which you can trim off later with a razor blade and requiring minimal sanding.



For extra strength I cut a strip off a 1/8" sheet, 3/16" x 2" which fit in the channel on the panel back.

Soaked them in acetone for about 15 minutes to get them semi-soft and pliable, then pressed them into the channel, spanning the break. Butter them in with more honey.



Let cure for 24 hours and they're ready for prep and sanding.

(I had avoided washing and cleaning these because they were so fragile in their broken state and I didn't want water contamination in the repair area. Now that they're whole and sturdy, I'll feel better handling them.)


I'm at the final cure stage now, so I guess I have no choice but to reconsider the chrome removal process.

Google, here I come...

#22 clocker


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Posted 18 February 2014 - 07:49 AM


I'd like to have the chassis wiring complete by end of February but we'll see how that goes.

Ha, ha, ha, lol, lol, lol.

Yeah, that ain't happenin.


Weather and family commitments conspired to sabotage our work time, we were getting nowhere.

Finally though, the weather broke and we went back to our "normal" winter temps in the 40-50° range and this last Sunday was forecast to be in the mid-60's...just what we needed to dip the car.

And of course, Sigfrid had a ski vacation planned and would be unavailable.


We decided that the opportunity was too valuable to squander and I would just do it myself.

Despite the fact that I haven't touched a spray gun in decades (rattle cans don't count) and Plastidip was a totally foreign material, we figured that the worst that could happen is we peel off the result and waste $100 of dip.

What the hell.


Here's a sneak peek at the result:



The atrocious lighting and crap camera conspire to make it look grey but it's actually black.

Look in the gas fill cavity to see the "real" color.


Shooting Plastidip is really simple but you have to trust the process because it doesn't look very good till the end.

We had made our lives even more difficult by prepping with black primer, so there was no contrast to work with.


It's easiest to liken the process to laying old time plaster rather than spraying paint.

The first two coats are light dust coats, about 30% coverage each. These coats are analogous to the wire netting that supports the final plaster layers, they are the framework to support the heavier wet coats to come.

At this point the surface appears and feels quite rough.

Which is exactly what you want.


The next two coats go wet on all the jambs,nooks/crannies, wheelarches, rockers, etc. and medium wet on the main panels.

You now have full color coverage and good build up in all the fiddly spots but the large fields are still textured.

Again, that's fine.


The final 2-3 coats go full wet everywhere, as heavy as you dare.

This is where the surface finally flows out and gets as smooth as it can (which is about like latex paint on sheetrock).

All these pics show the results after the fifth coat, she got one more later.





Yesterday (Mon.) I returned to the garage and applied a beauty coat of bedliner to the interior, so everything is now nice,clean black and she'll be curing all week.

This weekend we'll roll her outside and see what it really looks like.

I'm confident that I laid down a thick enough coat to be serviceable but the light in the garage was awful and I suspect there are a few "dry" spots on the roof.

Our plan accounts for the probability of shooting one more coat on the body, further down the road when the rest of the panels get sprayed.


Although a multitude of jobs can now be started, the main focus of our shared work time will (I hope) be getting the cabin weathertight. I'd like to attack the car with a pressure washer before any of the interior goes back...if there are leaks (probably inevitable), I want to deal with them now.

This moves the doors to the top of the list.

Not only are they the largest unprepped pieces left, they are also the most complex (all the window and latch mechanisms must be overhauled and put back).

Of equal importance is the stainless upper window frame...what are we going to do with that?

With the body color finally established we can start making aesthetic decisions and what to do with the brightwork is a biggie.

Sigfrid has shaved and molded the driprail, so that bit of trim is permanently deleted.

This leaves the window frames, doorhandles and locks and our original concept has always had these in gloss black but now we can actually see what that might look like.

Who knows, we may like the bare metal.


Another big aesthetic decision is the tail panel.

Our lens/housings are fine, no cracks or missing studs but the finish panels and chrome bezels are awful.

Both panels are broken (in exactly the same place) and "chrome" on the bezels is bubbled and cracked.


I've wanted to just 86 the whole thing and go completely custom but Sigfrid kind of likes the originals (although he'd like 240 parts instead), so I'm seeing what I can do. I've repaired the break(s) and begun sanding the panels for paint.

I really don't like them, they are wavy and hard to sand but will probably look OK in satin black. At least good enough for now.


The bezels are a different story.

I just don't know how to best remove the chrome, it's an ongoing process.


Assuming the weather cooperates, we'll roll her outside and I'll get some better pics this weekend.

I should have the tail panels (less bezels) ready as well, so that will be interesting.

#23 BluDestiny



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Posted 18 February 2014 - 09:24 AM

I wish I had a place to stay for a fixed amount of time that I could do something like this. 

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#24 5thgenluder


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Posted 18 February 2014 - 09:33 PM

Looking good. Keep up the good work and great posts.

#25 clocker


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Posted 23 February 2014 - 07:43 AM

I should have the tail panels (less bezels) ready as well, so that will be interesting.

And Oh!, what fun we had.
Well, kind of...we spent most of the day on Sigfrid's Audi TT but that was an aberration that we shall never speak of again.
We rolled the Z out into the sunlight and I got my first real look at the paint job.
As I suspected, there is a dry spot on the roof but otherwise it's pretty damn good.
I slotted the tail lights/finish panels in place:
Note how dusty the finish appears...that's because it is, the next door neighbor was doing lawn work and it was fairly breezy, so we got covered. The plastidip seems to show dirt quite readily, I suspect the greys would be less sensitive than the black. I was able to hose off a section behind the wheel and it cleans up just fine, a rinse was all it took. I'll update as we get more experience with this finish...
I won't (can't?) detail our discussion about the minutia of the tail lights, suffice to say that after several bowls we decided on a plan.
There are many compelling reasons to use the stock lights- at least to start with- and if we do, that more or less dictates we use the stock trim panels. Again, at least to begin.
I'll be working on the lights/panels again this week and should have them ready for final install by the weekend.
We also installed the short isolators on the rear struts:
We had run across a random comment that said assembling and tightening the suspension with the car in the air and the arms drooping could sometimes lead to a high ride height. I was skeptical but really had nothing to lose, so we set her on ramps and loosened/retorqued everything while under body weight.
She still sits high, I'm not sure it dropped at all but there's not much we can do right now. The weight of fuel and interior will help and suspensions typically "pack down" a bit when driven, we'll just have to see where she finally lands.
It's now obvious that our wheel offsets sucks, so the extra ride height is actually saving us from tire rub...a silver lining, I guess.
The primary focus of our shared worktime will now turn to getting the cabin weathertight. Initially this means prepping the doors and hatch and painting them.
I'd like to able to pressure wash the car and check for leaks before work (primarily electrical to begin with) continues on the interior.
All of our glass is rubber gasketed and the original weatherstripping is horrible, so Z's are notoriously prone to leakage and I'd like to address that tendency while it's easy to see/get to.
Meanwhile I'll be independently beginning on the wiring, which starts with component siting. Sigfrid must decide on the stereo configuration he wants because speaker location will dictate the space I have available for relays/fuses, etc.
After the tail lamps are finished my next "home" project will be the quarter windows, which will be the testbed for two more critical decisions we must make.
First is the window tint- how dark, can we do ourselves, etc.?
Second is the window frame, originally polished stainless (most think it's chrome but it's not), we want gloss black. The door has a similar window frame, so the way we treat them is a big part of the side-view visual.
I'm going to try for a good result with spray paint but powdercoating is the fallback option.
We've gone from twiddling our thumbs, unable to do anything, to an embarrassment of riches...there are a million things we can do now.
The trick- as usual- is to figure the most logical/productive path.

#26 LanceVance


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Posted 23 February 2014 - 12:46 PM

...my next "home" project will be the quarter windows, which will be the testbed for two more critical decisions we must make. First is the window tint- how dark, can we do ourselves, etc.?
Second is the window frame, originally polished stainless (most think it's chrome but it's not), we want gloss black. The door has a similar window frame, so the way we treat them is a big part of the side-view visual.
I'm going to try for a good result with spray paint but powdercoating is the fallback option.

While you've got the glass out I would suggest a good polishing with cerium oxide. It's not always noticeable how many small scratches it's picked up in the past 40 years, but you've already done most of the work just getting the glass out. I plan on doing all the glass while the trim is out for PC, which should aid in tinting and gasket replacement.

Just trying to spread my 'While I'm at it' sickness :)
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#27 clocker


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Posted 13 March 2014 - 05:34 AM

Just trying to spread my 'While I'm at it' sickness :)

Anyone in a forum like this is probably already infected.


Work- on many fronts- has continued apace, buffeted by Denver's whiplash spring weather.

Tis the season where we regularly go from 75° and sunny to snow within a 24 hour period, which can make scheduling interesting.


Our main focus is to get the cabin weathertight, so we can pressure wash the car and check for leaks while the interior is bare.

After two sessions (one day was 10°/snowy, the second was 75°), the doors and hatch are ready for dip, which hopefully, happens this weekend.

Sigfrid has been refining his technique and recently discovered his new favorite tool- a 16" x 2" block sander.

This is probably where we should have started, months ago before we stripped her down.

And we actually knew it but were more concerned with searching out rust issues before spending time on the exterior, it was a tradeoff we made willingly.

Of course, we could always hang the panels and block it now but that would not only make a mess of the clean chassis/engine bay but it's really not necessary for our dipped finish. The car was very straight and essentially ding-free, the thick, matte dip coat will hide the flaws that would kill a real paint job.

Should we decide at a later date to get real paint, the dip peels off and the bodywork could recommence as normal, no harm, no foul from our work so far.


As we've worked together on the doors, I've tackled a few smaller- but still vital to the outcome (which is weather tight, remember) projects.


First was the tail lights.

The housings/lenses/harnesses were fine but the "chrome" lens bezels and plastic trim panels were not.

Because we've never seen the car assembled, we decided it would be best to renovate what we could and get the rear "put together" and then see where to go from there.

All of the plastic is getting very dried out, cracked and warped, so even though it's been "renovated", I doubt it's a long term solution.

But it looks OK for now, seals the tail and gives us something to look at and discuss.

A start, in other words.


Sigfrid spent who knows how long picking the "chrome" off the bezels and sanding them smooth for gloss black paint.

I am amazed at how well they turned out...I'd given up on 'em.

All of the screw posts on the trim panels were broken, so I fixed them by converting to studs. I found these 1" long studs at Ace that had a screw thread on one half and machine thread (8-32) on the other. I screwed the studs in and reinforced/gooped around them with my ABS paste and the nuts now compress onto the housing flange.

Seems to work pretty well.


That left color to decide.

We thought that dipping them the same black as the body might be too boring, so I tried Plastidip's "Gunmetal" grey first.

It was too light and too blue...just not right at all.

As a lark, I painted over the center section with some satin black and it turned out pretty much just how we hoped, a subtle but definite color/sheen contrast to the main body.

I'll be painting the outer panels and final assembling the tails this weekend.


The quarter windows were the next challenge and turned out to be much more difficult than I suspected.

Naturally, I had done zero research and just arrogantly assumed I could wing it but had a problem right from the start.

All of the screws were buggered but I had figured that would be the case...the problem was that when the four screws on the bottom leg were drilled out, the driver side frame came apart in three pieces but the passenger side, only two.


I could see that the top/front joint was corroded and broken but it looked like the same slip type joint as the bottom two, which meant that the passenger side should slide apart as well but was stuck together somehow.

Fortunately, before doing anything drastic, I discovered my error- the passenger side was fine, the driver side broken.

I fabbed in a new l-bracket, retapped all the threads and the frames are now being soda blasted before gloss black paint.


We wanted the glass tinted before assembly, so we researched that as well.

I thought we'd get a discount by bringing in just bare glass panes, no crawling around in a car involved, but the local shops were having none of that. We were getting quotes in the $175 range, so decided to do it ourselves.

How hard can it be?


We'll find out.


Assuming we dip this weekend, the doors/hatch will be ready to hang the week following.

Hinges/strikers, etc. are already blasted and painted but now we need hardware.

I really dislike janky bolts and screws and would rather reuse nothing from the original car.

I'll be making a rough estimate of what we'll need  and buying in bulk from a local metric supply, so we'll be starting fresh with nice clean JIS spec hardware.

No 13mm heads here if I can help it.

#28 cerealwars



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Posted 14 March 2014 - 06:18 PM

This looks like it will turn into something good.  Staying tuned!

#29 cerealwars



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Posted 14 March 2014 - 06:18 PM

Way to go, me.  Starting off strong with a nice double-post.

Edited by cerealwars, 14 March 2014 - 06:21 PM.

#30 Perandor


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Posted 14 March 2014 - 10:23 PM

it already is looking pretty mean!  I love the paint job and sweet rims too.  Oh yeah, that valve cover, man I really like it! 

Edited by Perandor, 14 March 2014 - 10:24 PM.

#31 clocker


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Posted 16 March 2014 - 11:16 AM

Oh yeah, that valve cover, man I really like it! 

The engine bay has been shrouded in plastic for so long, I haven't seen it in a while so I looked at some pics and yeah, it does look pretty cool, if I do say so myself.

No idea if any of it works yet, of course.


Progress continues, constrained by family commitments and weather as usual.

All of our hinges and striker plates have been soda blasted and painted and are ready for install.

The doors have been dipped and are curing, we should be able to hang them next week.

We got halfway through painting the hatch frame when the Harbor Freight HVLP "compressor" self immolated and left us hanging.

It was a cheap POS system to begin with, I'm not surprised it failed but we'll have to find a replacement to carry on with.


The quarter window frames have also been blasted and are ready for paint, which will happen this week.

With luck we should be able to tint the glass (tint arrived yesterday) and assemble the frames for final install, also next weekend.


Installing the doors and quarter windows will not only go a long way towards enclosing the cabin but will also really help us with other detail decisions as well.

We have spent an inordinate amount of time agonizing over details in the tail light area but right now, because the body is so matte and incomplete, that section stands out more vividly than it will later as the body nears completion. It's the only "finished" area to be seen, so it naturally attracts attention that will ultimately be diverted to the car as a whole as she slowly takes shape.

We must be careful not to obsess over details until the overall gestalt begins to emerge.


With my "real" camera dead, we're relying on Sigfrid's iphone thing for pics and they ain't great.

But build threads depend on visuals, so here's a useless shot of some satin black doors in a dim garage:





I also realize that to date we're really not doing anything very "hybrid" to our car and are a pretty vanilla read...this is all pretty basic

Z rebuild stuff, randomly salted with community college psychobabble as we try to explain the reasoning behind decisions.

This is an intentional result of our FD experience...we want to absolutely KNOW the platform is sound before we start ******* with it.

Too many swap threads seem to get diverted and wither as other issues, not directly related to drivetrain, pop up and must be dealt with. When we get around to the engine/trans, everything else about the car will already have been brought to an acceptable standard and shouldn't be a problem.


And we WILL be changing the drivetrain up...we just don't know to what extent yet as we've never driven the car.

We constantly "blue sky" ideas as we work, putting up candidates and then pro/con-ing them to narrow the field.

Bizarre as it seems (and if you knew more of our backgrounds, you'd know how odd it really is), a candidate that keeps coming to the fore is the twin turbo rotary from the FD RX-7.

I'm certain it's been done before and packaging looks straightforward, my biggest initial concern is emissions and the specifics of CO's enforcement.


Colorado used to have the "25 year rule", where the car became emission exempt after it was 25 years old.

That's done, now only cars manufactured before 1975 are exempt, everything newer is subject to testing.

Pre 1985 cars go to old style test stations, basically a tail pipe test only, new cars go to Envirotest for a rolling road dyno/visual inspection.

When we swapped the Vette engine into the RX-7, we had to go to a referee who certified that we had all the stock emissions equipment on the engine (and yeah, it was "kinda" all there...) and after passing his visual, the state's database was changed and our VIN said we had a 1997 Corvette instead of a 1993 Mazda (this doesn't effect the title, just the CO emission database) and when we went for testing, we had to meet 1997 standards.

All this nonsense is necessary because the first thing that happens when you go to Envirotest is they punch in your VIN and a picture of your engine bay (with the required equipment highlighted) pops up. When we first swapped the FD, we boldly just showed up, they punched in the VIN and saw a rotary engine pictured instead of the hulking V-8 we had crouching in there.

Much head scratching ensued but they rolled it onto the dyno anyway...which we passed with flying colors.

They then failed us on the visual exam because nothing looked right to them.


We don't have to run the Z through this heightened testing but part of the simple, early test requires that a lead be hooked to the coil so they can get an accurate RPM reading...which means they are under the hood.

I don't know whether these guys care, there is no visual inspection and as long as the machine can be connected, they may not be bothered about what it's connected TO.


If so, we're golden...we can meet 1977 tail pipe laws, no problem.

If we must referee the car and get it "legal" we'd be bumped into requirements for the year of the engine (1993) and that is a whole 'nother kettle of fish.


Part of the reasoning for keeping the stock(ish) original engine is to get through the initial emission/registration process as easily as possible, see what it's like and then decide what we can get away with later.

We hope to be roadworthy this summer, use the time to evaluate what we've done and where we want her to go, then attack the swap as Stage Two of the project.

#32 clocker


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Posted 30 March 2014 - 01:44 PM

Progress continues, albeit in unpredictable ways.


Weather and schedule finally coincided and we were able to continue painting.

The doors were finished and Sigfrid had begun on the hatch when our POS Harbor Freight HVLP system burned up.

Literally..as in smoke and sparks.

A different (not HF) system is on the way and you'll notice in the pics that the hatch is blotchy and unfinished...it only got two coats before the sprayer died.


With the doors dipped, we could begin assembly...finally starting to put things on instead of taking them off but ran into a problem.


Finally made a smart purchase at a metric supply house here in town and bought 150 pieces in various sizes and lengths.

They are JIS spec flange head bolts mostly and we should be able to put the whole car together with new hardware, which will look good and save all the time I used to spend rooting around to find matching, acceptable looking bits.

Just hanging the doors required 24 8mm bolts and it was a pleasure to just reach into a box and thread them into freshly chased capture nuts.

Sometimes the littlest things bring the most gratification.


Anyway, doors are on and the freshly painted satin black doorhandles are in:



My next focus was on the hatch, where we had two issues to resolve.

First was the struts.


Our struts were predictably useless and we knew they'd be replaced eventually and "eventually" had crept up to "now".

I was not a fan of the original setup, why Datsun bolted a bracket to another bracket (on the body side) is beyond me.

I wanted to bolt the strut directly to the short "ell" on the chassis and dispense with the intermediate bracket but realized that the geometry of the arrangement would be tricky and probably not work.


While at the junkyard scouting for lock assemblies (that's next...) I casually looked at a Hyundai and for some reason was convinced the struts would work.

And, much to my surprise, they did.

Had to modify the hatch-side end bracket a bit but within fifteen minutes, the strut was functional.

With the hatch glassless it is very light and one strut is more than enough to lift it unassisted but we can install the other side if need be later. I'm not sure how much lift height this might have lost but it can't be much.



The other hatch issue was the rear lock, which both S. and I thought was ugly and too dated...we wanted it gone.

I made three trips to the junkyard as I tried to figure out what might work and finally ended up with a pile of strikers and latches from four different cars. Plus, the interior actuating/cable pull assembly from a KIA.


When I finally got to the car on Saturday, I pulled out the parts I thought were most likely to fit and got to work.

The Toyota striker bolted right up to the capture nuts that used to hold the latch in the hatch (Dr. Seuss title?), no modification required:



And, after drilling two holes, the Honda Accord latch was bolted in:



Worked like a charm, clicked shut the first time, again, no adjustments.

Now that the hard parts are mounted, I can get a cable and we're done.


That was all too easy.

It all fits behind the stock tail panel trim, which is now finished and fully assembled:



We had planned on tinting the glass ourselves and made the first attempt a few weeks ago.

It did not go well.

What seems like a deceptively simple process is actually quite tricky and there is an art involved we had not anticipated.

Because we'd thought it would be better to tint before install, this was an impediment to the whole "get the cabin enclosed" plan I had.

I think Sigfrid has decided to just pay to get it done and this will speed things up considerably.


With the doors (permanently) and the hatch (temporarily) installed, she's starting to show what she might look like when done and I'm pretty happy.

Edited by clocker, 30 March 2014 - 01:50 PM.

#33 clocker


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Posted 15 April 2014 - 05:14 AM

Weather and our own inadequacies have shaped progress lately but things have moved forward finally.


Our initial attempt at window tint went badly.

As did the second effort.

It was a skill neither of us felt like working on and we decided just to pay a pro, which meant quarter window install could proceed.

(For the record, I had assumed that bringing bare glass into a tint shop would be a "best case" scenario for them but was rudely surprised. They all claimed it was no easier than if the glass was in place, so no discount would apply. Well, OK then, screw 'em, I'll put it all together and they can contort into the car to do the work- their choice.)


Assembling the glass into the (newly painted) frames and then squeezing the frames into the chassis (all new rubber gaskets) was an interesting exercise that ultimately involved ratcheting tie downs and lots of soapy water...don't ask.


I do question Datsun's decision to use fine thread 5mm hardware on the windows...makes life more difficult than need be, methinks.



We've been unable to finish paint the hatch yet but it is in place, so I began to explore weather stripping for the doors and hatch.

All our original seals were unusable and replacements seem to be either NLA or of dubious quality, so I relied on my trusty fallback, the junkyard, for inspiration. I gathered up a selection of strip from different cars and used them to see exactly what kind of profile we'd need, then began the hunt for the final pieces.


The doors were the starting point and a big requirement was a molded 90° corner, so I didn't have to splice/miter in such a visible area. Long story short, the front door seals from a '90's Chrysler/Dodge minivan are what I ended up with and am very happy with the fit and seal. The matching strip from the big sliding door of the van provided enough seal for the hatch, so everything matches.


To finish off the door jamb I also wanted to replace the cheesy stamped sill plates and after much searching found a good replacement on a "91 Honda Prelude. It required some trimmage to work but the final result looks nice and OEM to me.

Just better...



I then moved on to mocking up the mirrors.

At this point I'm mostly interested in the "how" to mount a triangle corner plate to mount the mirror on, it's more complicated than one might think. There's not much beyond that that can be done...we need the seats in place to get the mirror mount in a useful position (and we don't have seats yet).

I've gathered some outer window trim from a Mustang and a Mitsubishi Eclipse to play with as well.

I'm going to need more options though, there's a subtle arc to the door top that is hard to match and both my options are completely straight. They fit OK, but I can do better.

More junkyard.


While I'm back at the yard, the HVAC system has now risen to the top of my list and that's the next thing I'll be concentrating on.

We won't be installing AC but I want a completely functional heat/venting system, one that doesn't use the absurd hybrid control system of the 280.

I mean come on...mechanical, electrical AND vacuum just to open/close some vents?


Not only is the system overly complex but the control panel requires a lot of structure to mount so it can resist the mechanical clunkiness of the controls.

I want an electrical system and I'm thinking of just grabbing the complete assembly (heater core, fan, controls) from a Honda or something and grafting it in.

How hard could it be?


We'll find out.





#34 clocker


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Posted 20 April 2014 - 05:53 AM




Doors are completely assembled and adjusted.

Assembling the door interior mechanisms was easier than I'd feared but it took about an hour per side to get the upper window frames right and the glass to raise/lower properly.

Sigfrid rekeyed the door locks to match the ignition; a talent I did not know he possessed and wonder why it wasn't mentioned before but oh well, it's done now.


I'm very pleased with all the weathersealing and confident that we'll be watertight but realize more will need doing to mitigate wind whistles...probably an ongoing project.

I have one more idea to try in the side window area but it's purely cosmetic and can wait.

And of course, I still need to figure out mirror mounting but that too is non-critical and can ferment in the background.

The primary concern right now is to get the cabin enclosed and we're very close now.


The weather cooperated and yesterday we were able to finish paint the hatch.

After it's cured all week, we can install the glass and the hatch will be finished as well.

We just need to pop in the windshield and we're done.



So far, in this stage of the project I've used parts from seven different cars...none of which were Datsun/Nissan.

That trend will continue as I begin the hunt to replace the HVAC system, hopefully in its entirety.

In the last pic you can see the stock system sitting behind the car, I dragged it out of the attic and brought it home so I can figure out what we need and what will fit.


The attic trip not only yielded up the heater box but also triggered a big psychological shift in my perception of the project.

I saw again- for the first time in quite a while- all the remaining bodywork (everything forward of the windshield) and realized how close we're getting and how much we've done. It's all prepped and primed...one good day of work and the whole body will be finished.

Well mostly, we've yet to figure out the nose of the car but that should be fun rather than drudgery.

With the doors and hatch finished, she now looks like a whole car missing some pieces rather than a pile of parts that might someday become a car.

This is not to minimize the remaining work (like the entire electrical system and interior) but I feel like we've crossed the Rubicon and are on the way to Rome.

There is light shining at the end of this aquaduct.

#35 clocker


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Posted 24 April 2014 - 05:24 AM

Two full days in the junkyard and the HVAC issue is solved...I hope.

Five cars were murdered in the search, I pray their sacrifice is worth it.


The answer, as it so often is, is Miata!

I ended up with the main/center box and the control panel, hope to mate it with the stock fan housing but don't know if that will happen yet.

The controls are all cable actuated (except the fan speed) and very similar to the early 240Z but much smoother and less effort required. It will eliminate the insane electric/cable/vacuum hybrid setup from the '77 Z and the jungle gym Datsun built to support it.


I've taken it apart for cleaning and refoaming the flapper doors, will get pics of the initial test fit this weekend.

I came up with six steps/conditions that must be met, but mod/swaps like this often present obstacles that can't be foreseen until you actually begin the work, so we'll see how it goes.


I'm pretty confident that I can make this work and the total lack of electrical (again, except for the fan and panel illumination) means that the chassis wiring can begin without HVAC being involved much.


While wandering the yard I also was accumulating bits and bobs that looked interesting...there are no Z's in the yard to play with, so I'm just guessing about most of this stuff until I can get to Sigfrid's and try it out.

Our car was missing so many little detail pieces that I'm always on the hunt for things like window cranks and inside door lock pull knobs, rubber bumpers, etc.

I'm also trying to delete as much of the dated styling/trim bits as possible...basically anything that's chromed plastic (like the aforementioned window cranks).


Along with prosaic things like pull knobs, I sometimes get intrigued with "Hmm, what if...." mods and I took a flyer on two such parts this week.

Both would solve aesthetic problems we're wrestling with but again, until I get to the car I can't tell how crazy I am.


Fortunately, my junkyard is very reasonably priced and very little money was spent, so no great loss if things don't work out.

For instance, the entire Miata HVAC system (including a mint condition heater core) was $29.

Our original core is absolute garbage, so we'd be looking at what, $75 or so just to get the original back up and running and that doesn't deal with the control system, so this seems like a reasonable gamble.


Oddly, in what is becoming a recurring theme, nothing I snagged this week came off a Datsun/Nissan.

Every other manufacturer seems to have better options, I dunno why.


Saturday should be very interesting.

#36 clocker


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Posted 26 April 2014 - 04:55 AM

It's Sigfrids wifes birthday, so Saturday's shared work session turned into me working solo on Friday.

I had lots of things to try, there was quite a junkyard haul this week.


The window cranks (very cool units from a VW) did not fit, nor did the lock pull knobs (I need to find out what thread those are cause it's not metric far as I can see)...I'll just keep searching.

Actually, I'm considering replacing the entire inside door handle with a newer one that would probably incorporate the lock, so the knob at the door top would be moot anyway.


There were three other major projects to begin...one necessary (the HVAC) and two speculative.


I began with the HVAC because that is by far the most complicated and will require the most brainpower to execute.

It's been nearly a year since I've even seen the stock setup in situ and I had no real concept of the space I had to work with and the fixed points I needed to hit (like the fresh air intake).


The Miata box had large cast in ears as mount points but they obviously weren't any where close to the Z's, so twenty minutes with a hacksaw/Dremel and it went- more or less- into position.



The Z blower assembly is loosely bolted next to it so I could see how well they relate...or in this case, don't match up at all.


With a better understanding of the situation, today I go back to the yard and search for a suitable blower assembly.

Assuming that goes well ( a big assumption!), I'll have to test fit the dash and see how that interface goes.

This will be an ongoing project because right now I only need to know if it's going to be possible, it doesn't actually have to be finished. My main interest in the HVAC is the electrical requirements, so I can begin the chassis harness.


The other projects were purely aesthetic.

Sometimes parts just jump out at me at the yard, real "Hmm, I wonder..." moments and this Saab rear wing grabbed my attention last week.

It's some sort of molded foam, so semi-flexible, and has nice mount plates molded into the bottom, so easily bolted in.

Here it's just sitting on the car, you can see how close the fit is, even without fasteners:





The question is how to deal with the ends and that is hard to answer until the center is firmly fixed.

They may fit OK just overhanging the hatch and sitting on the quarter flanks or we may have to cut it into three sections and treat the ends separately.

I didn't want to make unilateral decisions about such a big detail, so I'm waiting for Sigfrid's input.


The last thing was a detail on the side glass/trim that has been nagging me far out of proportion to it's importance.

Besides the obviously dated detailing, Datsun's execution left me unimpressed, primarily at the back of the door where the window trim/wiper meets the upper frame and the doorskin. The trim strip just ends and they crammed a rubber plug to fill the awkward hole that remained.

It always struck me as very crude.


I studied newer cars and saw how they deal with this issue and came up with these trim strips from a Honda:





They've been hacked to fit and are just casually GOOPed into place, I was just in proof of concept mode yesterday.

Note that the lower front corner of the trim overlaps the window seal and allows it to smoothly transition away instead of just stopping in midair.

It also simplifies and cleans up the side profile of the glass area.

In my opinion.


Again, need to wait for Sigfrid's approval but I think this will go forward.


I'd hoped to get the windshield/hatch glass in place but that's a two man job and will have to wait till next week.

I've plenty of yard hunting to do though, so I'll be busy.

#37 clocker


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Posted 06 May 2014 - 05:47 AM

As is typical with these projects, much work and effort has been expended with little visual proof to show for it.

The plethora of tiny tasks accrete like a reef till suddenly, all comes together into a greater whole.


We reached such a tipping point with the install of the hatch/windshield glass.

Suddenly, Ratchet looks like a car that's being worked on instead of a hulk that may someday be running.

She's finally beginning to assert her personality and we can see how this may all turn out.


I proudly wear my Spindle Pin merit badge, now I can add the coveted Glass Install badge next to it.


After watching video and reading everything I could find, we finally took the leap and just did it.

My take on the whole thing is that installing that blasted stainless trim is by far the worst part of the job.

I really hated that trim and wished there was a gasket that deleted it (lots of older American cars had this very option...base models would have a plain gasket with no detail and upscale models got trim).

The strips are so flimsy and blemish prone, cleaning, painting and installing was a very fraught task.

The entire install took three hours, 2 1/2 of which was getting the trim in before the whole thing popped into place.

Neither Sigfrid or I had ever done this before, so we started with the (presumably easier) hatch to figure out the process.

It was shockingly simple, the windshield took about five minutes.


We then spent time "massaging" the glass/gasket to properly seat things and viola!, finished.

For the first time in months the cabin is enclosed and we could hose all the dust/pollen/cat hair off and see how the Plastidip cleans up.

Beautifully, as it happens.



Wash her off with soapy water, rinse with hose and let airdry...no waterspotting.

Essentially, we've traded a nice gloss finish for one with zero maintenance and I can live with that for now.


We had decided that the Saab rear dam was good but would have to be installed as three pieces.

Letting the stock ends just overhang the flanks wasn't a good enough fit.

So we cut it up.


Had to do some experimenting but we finally came up with a way to sand/finish the cut ends and that's what you see in the pics, the finished center section.

Along with the ends we cut from that wing, we have a second, complete wing we can use if we want longer ends to widen the span.


Thing is, we were both intrigued by the look as she sits...maybe ends aren't required at all.

Decided to let it percolate and see how we feel as time goes on.

I suspect we'll add the side pieces but it's not mission critical right now and the visual effect of the wing is there, so we can see how it relates to the evolving body and that's really all we need for the moment.



With the wing in place, Sigfrid could finally see the visual logic to the roof mount antenna I've been lobbying for and we installed that:


All the structure in the dome light area made for a finicky install but Sigfrid's Dremel skills overcame the obstacles.


We also made decisions on the side window trim/mirror mounts and rocker trim.

I acquired the necessary parts at the yard yesterday and should have something to show soon(ish).


As the body has been developing, work has also been progressing on the interior...primarily the HVAC.

As we test fit the Miata blend box/heater core it became obvious that the easiest thing to do was just use the entire Miata system and I now have the AC box and blower motor assembly.


I've spent quite a bit of time scavenging from this particular car (we're also using it's wiper motor) and started to become curious about the dash.

A week or so ago I measured the width and found the Miata dash is 1/4" narrower than the Z's.

Yesterday I brought the Z defroster garnish panel to the yard to see how the arc of the windshield matched.

To the bloody millimeter, it does.

Externally, a Miata dash looks like it should drop right in.


Bracketry is an issue of course and I'm not sure how the steering column mount is going to work but that's all fairly straightforward mechanical work...there should be very little cosmetic fixing involved.


This swap would solve some major issues I've foreseen and will be the key to the interior design.

That too is an ongoing project.


All in all, we feel like we've made some serious headway.


I've been indulging myself on these fun cosmetic details but I really need to get going on the electrical work.

My excuse has been that I want the cabin watertight first and we're nearly there, so I'm running out of time. Naturally, we have leaks and have identified most of them and will address ASAP.

The primary culprits are the new front and rear glass gaskets and we intend on using Permatex flowable silicon to fix it. The front top corners of the 1/4 windows also need some work.

The Grand Caravan door/hatch weatherstrip worked perfectly.

In fact, we are both very happy with the door operation, it's very solid and smooth.

The addition of the wing and glass has tamed the Hyundai strut and the hatch no longer tries to decapitate you when the lever is pulled. Upon release the hatch rises about an inch and a slight finger lift raises it fully.

We tried adding the second strut but it was way too much lift and almost impossible to lower, so, it is what it is.


There are a few other projects going on as well, but this is the big stuff.




#38 clocker


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Posted 25 May 2014 - 07:20 AM

Lots of work, some visible progress.


Our goal is to subtly modify the details, make her different but appear OEM.

This turns out to be very difficult and requires superhuman patience, which Sigfrid possesses, fortunately.

I come up with concepts and then scour the junkyard for parts, Sigfrid makes it all fit together...it works out quite well.


He completes me.



Getting the cabin water tight has been the primary goal, she leaked like a sieve after the glass was installed.

We're now on the third water test and are down to one tiny leak at the upper driver side windshield corner.

That has been addressed and we'll see how we did in a few days.


Both sides of the car are now finished, mirrors, seals and window trim:





Neither of us was very happy with the look of the rear, we certainly didn't want the awful boat anchor stock bumpers but deleting them left a vaguely unfinished lower valance panel (with odd indents and holes).

A pair of Porsche 944 rubber bumper blocks were trimmed/fitted and make all the difference, we think:





Visible in the last shot is the test fit/proof of concept of the Honda Accord rocker trim we'll be using.


Work on the electric began as I installed the power distribution block from a GMC truck.

This made it easy to power up the starter and finally do a compression check...a simple and obvious thing we should have done months ago.


Not great, Bob.


0, 135, 135, 40, 30, 130.


Whelp, that's a bit of a problem.

We're pondering our options (and consulting the bank account) to see what we do now.

#39 NewZed


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Posted 25 May 2014 - 11:09 AM

The Porsche bumper rubber looks good.  Don't park where anyone can park behind you though, many people take "bumper" literally and use them as distance measuring aids when parallel parking.

#40 clocker


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Posted 25 May 2014 - 05:01 PM

These days, bumpers on cars like this are irrelevant anyway...the bumper on the average SUV would decapitate you without ever touching the car.

I can recognize most modern cars by their differential because that's my usual view.


And I can't even remember the last time I parallel parked.


The Porsche blocks are intended more as a design element than useful safety device.

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