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#61 clocker


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Posted 15 August 2014 - 04:28 AM

A small but welcome step:



Although I understand the constraints and reasoning behind the short shift kit, it's still one cranky mofo to install and I can see why the PO didn't quite get it in right. Fortunately, he (them?) didn't bugger it all up and I was able to finish it.

Yes, there was JBWeld involved...I'm not proud but I am pragmatic.


I was pleased that the stock rubber boot (new) would stretch to cover the heightened assembly, I didn't think it would.


As L.J.K. Setright might have said, the shifter now falls naturally to hand.

Even had we kept the stock dash, I can't imagine we'd have left the shift lever as supplied, it was too tall and far forward.

This config not only feels better but fits the Miata dash/RX7 shifter surround perfectly.

Which is nice.

#62 clocker


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Posted 20 August 2014 - 05:06 AM

Also nice is that the stock transmission tunnel boot still works fine, another unexpected happenstance.


Not so fine is the progress of the electrical system.


I actually had everything hooked up and functional but the layout was appalling and like most of my projects, I could see improvements that weren't obvious until I'd built it. So, I'm redoing the entire dash/firewall area.

Fortunately, this time I can concentrate on just the physical routing/component siting as all the connections have been figured out.


I also came upon some components that will make things easier and neater, it's really amazing the cool widgets hidden in the junkyard.

#63 clocker


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Posted 26 November 2014 - 01:36 PM

My oh my, three months pass and you'd be forgiven for thinking this project had died.
Not yet.
I spent another two weeks or so on the chassis electrical but finally got it all functional.
As it will all come out to install the soundproofing, I've waited on most of the looming as it's easier when not constrained within the cabin.
Moved on to the engine harness:
Along the way, got sidetracked for a week or so inexplicably obsessed with the wipers again.
Finally ended up with the Lexus motor, Mazda 626 pivot/spindles (both from the driver side) and VW Jetta passenger side wiper arms:
Finished mounting the Honda rocker trim and found some Nissan Maxima mudflaps that after some trimmage, make a good visual "period" to the 
body line created by the airdam lip and rocker panel:
New fuel pump and pre-filter:
Then we ran into trouble.
Simply could not get her to run.
This was not entirely unexpected...it was not really running when we got it and all signs pointed to an engine quickly thrown together for the sale.
It would be nice if it worked but the real plan had always been to swap the drivetrain and this just accelerated the timetable.
Then Sigfrid accepted a job offer in California.
So now the project sits in limbo as he figures out what to do with her.
He returns for Thanksgiving (his family stays here till the school year ends) and we'll hash it out.

#64 clocker


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Posted 29 July 2015 - 05:11 PM


Then Sigfrid accepted a job offer in California.
So now the project sits in limbo as he figures out what to do with her.
He returns for Thanksgiving (his family stays here till the school year ends) and we'll hash it out.


The "hashing out" process took a bit longer than expected and in fact, is still ongoing.


It was a dismal winter:



I was just killing time:



Finally got around to modding the intake on my daily (1990 RX7 GTU), which I'd thought about for years:



When suddenly, this shows up:





Apparently, even the pretense of building a California legal car has gone out the window.

Sigfrid wants back into Colorado and Ratchet is a go again.


He (and the family) were travelling a lot this summer and I basically moved in as a sitter for the pets (one dog, two cats, two turtles) and worked on the car non stop.

Got a lot done.


Moving from FI to the carb triggered a whole cascade of changes.

The most difficult (primarily due to working solo in a severely underequipped garage) was swapping the fuel tank to a RX7 unit.

I've long wanted to do it; we gain the ability to run a dual exhaust should it be desired, it eliminates the clunky vent system, the fuel senders are compatible with the Miata gauges and best of all, it has an internal pump.

Here are the tanks together:



(the tanks are reversed here...the fill ports are actually on the same side)


I used the fuel pump from a 1976 Toyota Corolla, turns out it's kinda hard to find low pressure, in-tank pumps but this one is perfect.

And, after lots of fiddling about, it fits:







I used one piece rubber hoses from the tank to the engine bay after deleting the ancient janky original hardlines.

For the run under the floorpan the hoses are encased in aluminum tubing from Ace Hardware Racing.


We'd long ago removed the mechanical throttle linkage, so only cable length needed changing to work with the carb.


There was a problem though.

We had the Arizona Z recommended pancake filter but our 280 hood has a vent directly above the filter.

Seemed like if it rained, we'd just be gobbling water.

Figured I'd use the low profile Spectre top hat but before investing the $100, I checked my favorite parts supply- the junkyard.

And found this:



It's off a Dodge Dakota and after some trimmage and stuff, it's fits beautifully.


I finally got motivated to build the efan setup...I've had the fan/electrics for two years now.

The shroud is made of sidepanels from a Lian-li computer case (nice 3.5mm aluminum), the fan and relays are Volvo and the fan trigger is a BMW part.

The bay now looks like this:







And as she sits today:



Now we need an exhaust.

#65 clocker


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Posted 28 November 2015 - 10:16 AM

And we're back.


The whole "Sigfrid is in California, are they moving there or not?" telenova is still playing out and after my July/August housesitting/mechanicing thrash, Ratchet kinda sat for a while.

I continued tweaking the weatherstripping until she was well and truly water tight and then...nothing.


Suddenly, around the beginning of Nov., S. became active again and got the car registered with temp tags.

Now that she could be driven it was off to the exhaust shop for a cat and then to the tuners for carb jetting.

Finally, she was ready for emissions...and passed easily.

In CO, pre-85 cars only need a sniff test, there is no visual, so they didn't care about the carb or the missing EGR, etc..

In fact, he didn't even check to see the cat.


Ratchet is now fully street legal, tagged and insured.

At long last (2 1/2 years) we could drive her and see what we had.


I thought a pilgrimage to the junkyard to visit her forebears was in order:



She's on their certified scale there, weighs 2440lbs...about 200 lbs more than I'd hoped/expected.

This was fully wet (including the 18 gal. FC tank) but no interior.

280's really are heavier, I thought we'd pulled a lot more weight but I guess we were just porkier to begin with.


I finally plumbed in the heater core and the system is now fully functional except for defrost vents, which disappeared when the Miata dash was trimmed to fit and I haven't figured out yet.

The electrical system all works.

The suspension is softer and more compliant than I expected, it's obviously crude but better than I remember from my last Z.

No squeaks, rattles or clunks although I think we'll need to roll the rear arches a bit.

Steering is fine but we'll need an alignment as it shimmies some over 75mph.

Brakes need a rebleed.


I drove her around for a few days and made her first trip to my house, where she met the harsh reality of being a street car:



Happy to say the interior remains dry as a bone.


Except for the fact that the bare interior is hellishly loud, she could be dailied without too much discomfort.


It's now too cold to proceed with sound deadening (probably Dynamat), so progress on the interior is somewhat stymied.

I housesit again for two weeks over Christmas and I plan on sorting through the interior stuff- which I haven't seen for over two years- and maybe temporarily sticking some in, try to mitigate the racket.


After picking up my FC, the drive home after a week with the Z was a real shock.

The RX7 felt like a Cadillac in comparison...quiet, smooth and much bigger.

The Z really is a tiny car, the interior much more closely coupled and the beltline is high.


So Ratchet now sits again for a few weeks but fortunately, I still have things to do:



I finally found a replacement engine for the Mazda, at nearly 300k miles mine is kinda tired.

I'll be using all my manifolds/ancillaries, so this needs to be stripped to the keg and cleaned up.

I hope the current engine keeps working through the winter so I can refresh the replacement at my leisure and deal with it when the weather isn't actively trying to kill me.

We'll see how that goes.

#66 Nelsonian


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Posted 08 February 2016 - 05:57 AM

Just wondering what those side mirrors are from?

Nelsonian, San Diego, CA.

#67 clocker


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Posted 23 February 2016 - 08:53 AM

They are Ebay "Spoon-style" mirrors, heavily modified to fit.


Sigfrid's California experiment has ended and his return to Denver has accelerated work on the Z.

Losing his company car means Ratchet is his daily and that meant getting her more functional...like seatbelts, for instance.

We spent two weekends getting to this point:







The seats are Honda (Prelude, I believe), that I've had for a few years...not what we want, but good enough for now and worlds better than the Datsun originals. The seatbelts are from the rear of a '88 Mercedes 300 sedan, steering wheel is Audi A4, switchgear is Lexus and dash is Miata.

Everything works.




She looks like this now, I'm surprised how well the Plastidip is holding up but S. still wants "real paint", so that might happen this summer.

She runs well, no leaks/drips and the interior continues to be bone dry...very happy about that.


Still a lot of interior work to do but at least the major touch points are fixed and she's comfy to drive.

#68 75280z



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Posted 26 February 2016 - 08:27 PM

Great car with a ton of unique touches. I am over in Aurora. There are quite a few Z guys/gals around. What did you end up doing with the old truck steering wheel?

Edited by 75280z, 26 February 2016 - 08:27 PM.

75 280z...T.. running a 60mm TB, Ported Intake, Pallnet Fuel Rail, MS1-MSNS, mostly stock running turbo swap Datsun. I have had her for 7 years now.

#69 clocker


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Posted 27 April 2016 - 06:46 AM

Great car with a ton of unique touches. I am over in Aurora. There are quite a few Z guys/gals around. What did you end up doing with the old truck steering wheel?

As it turns out, I ended up selling the wheel to you, 75280z...hope you like it.


Sigfrid was to begin his new job on Feb. 18th, so we went into overdrive to prepare the Z for daily use...basically, we wanted Stage 1 of the build to be complete.

The main project was the interior and that had to start with sound mitigation. S. investigated various options/strategies and chose a two part option. This first layer is a heavy, foil backed sheet (NOT roof stuff from Home Depot) that is selectively (and from the pics, apparently randomly) placed on panels to dampen booming and vibration.



You apply a piece, rap on the panel, then apply more till the panel is acoustically "dead"...it seems capricious but actually works amazingly well. Then the entire interior is covered with a thin black foam layer (also adhesive backed).



You can see some of the foam just under the front glass at the firewall top.

(The wiring was cleaned up and rerouted quite a bit after this pic. We wanted to use a Miata center console and to get it aligned with the dash centerstack the dash had to move a bit, which meant the entire HVAC system had to move a little bit and in the process, the electrical moved a lot. Along the way we refined the bracketry/hardware and the dash is very nicely solid now...no creaks nor rattles.)


We changed the seats for some different model Prelude chairs, which we painted black. We consider these seats temporary and the risk of paint was outweighed by the visual payoff, so we did it.

Actually turned out much better than I'd expected- coverage was good and although the nap is stiffer, it's not really objectionable and time seems to soften it a bit. We'll see.

Along the way we added some finishing touches...







And we finished up here:







There are still some aesthetic issues to address- the door cards need recovering to match the interior better and we don't know what to do about the rear strut towers yet but the interior is almost 100% functionally complete.

I consider it a complete success, the cabin is (nearly) Lexus level quiet and comfortable. Certainly better than you'd expect from a 40 year old car.


The suspension and brakes are great but we discovered a shimmy at highway speeds that was finally cured by rebalancing the wheels and replacing the front wheel bearings. Not sure which fixed it, but who cares, she steers with one finger now.

Sigfrid's commute (about 25 miles each way) is mostly highway and that has exposed our four speed transmissions big flaw...no overdrive.

A five speed has moved to the top of our "must have" list.


Along the way, we've been incrementally tweaking the Holley carb and engine driveability has improved a lot.

Still a ways to go but absolutely fine most of the time. Now that she's being used and the speedo is working (although we're still creeping up on the calibration), we'll finally get an idea of fuel consumption, which till now has been a mystery.

We need to get a wideband on her, I think we're still way rich.


I still have a few loose ends to tie up- the rear hatch release and getting the turn signals to self cancel and we need to get the windows tinted (for heat control as well as looks).

Sigfrid has also decided that AC is a non-negotiable must, a fairly major addition at this late date but you'll have that from time to time.


Like most project cars, I doubt Ratchet will ever be "finished" but after three years, she presents as a complete car instead of a pile of parts and that alone is something to be proud of.

Which we are.

#70 clocker


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Posted 08 November 2016 - 07:44 AM

Progress has been fitful since the last update, but that's mainly due to the fact that Ratchet has been driven a lot and pretty much everything works.

Most of our effort has gone towards chasing down the random creaks/rattles/glitches that only show up after some use and we've pretty much got her locked down finally.


On my theoretical wish list is a revamp of the electrical system. It all works but I can see several methods to clean up the install and eliminate some unneeded complexity and we are contemplating a return to FI, but only with an aftermarket ECU, so that would be a big change anyway.


More practically, we finally decided to enter the great unknown and attempt to revamp the doorpanels and create some way to dress the rear strut towers.

We basically made up a technique to shape the panels, involving spray expandable foam, fiberglass, foam sheet and vinyl and after a few weekends came up with this:





We're testing this out for fit and comfort before finishing the other side but it's looking pretty good so far.

Not sure if any of the techniques will help with the strut towers, I can't believe there's no carpet cover option available...gluing vinyl is no longer an option since we sound dampened everything.

Inspiration will strike eventually.


A lot of Sigfrid's daily commute is on the freeway and the 4-speed transmission quickly became a problem, so the hunt for a 5-speed became a priority. Took a while but two weeks ago we found one and put it in this past weekend. We have no lift or trans jack, but even working on our backs in the garage, it only took about four hours.

The short shifter from the 4-speed inexplicably does not fit the five speed (although it looks like it could be modified to work) and the stock 5-speed stick will not accept our nicely weighted Nismo knob, so a bit of finagling remains to be done.

The Nismo knob is threaded for 10mm x 1.25 and the new stick is 8mm x 1.25, so I'm planning on screwing in a 8mm Helicoil to sleeve the knob down.

Despite this irritating setback, we were able to test the car anyway and it was a revelation, night>day difference.

Ratchet is much less frenetic at speed (we seem to have dropped 600 rpm or so at 75mph) and the synchros and new shift lever work much better than the older unit.

In every way this was a decided upgrade and well worth the effort and money ( we got the trans for $340 and spent an additional $50-some bucks on seals and oil), she is much better for it.


So, Ratchet is ready for cold weather and snow and we'll see how she fares in that environment.

#71 clocker


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Posted 05 May 2017 - 12:32 AM

Well, she survived the winter just fine and everything continues to work.

The only real issues we've had are all carb related and we finally decided that this worn out old Holley just wasn't gonna cut it, so we got this:



It's a FI Tech fuel injected throttle body with self contained ECU...https://www.summitra...parts/FIF-30003.


Install is set for Saturday, we've been gathering parts and prepping for the last few weeks...it should be pretty simple.

We had to remove the headers to get an O2 sensor bung welded on and will have to replace the low pressure fuel pump and hose with high pressure stuff (we're hoping to use the stock RX7 pump that came in the tank I installed) but I hope she's running again by Sat. night.


This will not only make her run better (hopefully) but more significantly, signals a commitment to the stock drivetrain, which we've always considered swapping out. With all that uncertainty removed, progress can logically continue.


I hope.

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