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Zetsaz

A musician's therapist (The $300 Z)

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Zetsaz    4

Some of you might have seen my post about wanting to buy this car. I've been a huge fan of Z cars since I was about 12 years old. I finally had the opportunity to buy a 280z at a ridiculously low price and I went for it. It has a clean title and an engine that'll start and that was about it. 

 

For those reading, the intent of this car is not to build a show quality car, or a performance monster; just me trying to apply all the things I've learned and been reading about for the last 7 years of trolling around online and staring at build threads and S30 pictures. It's also a learning experience for me, since I bought it dirt cheap and it has some rust issues and all that jazz I'm not afraid to tear into stuff.

 

Pulled it home with my dad's tiny little Toyota pickup he uses as a daily to get to work about 3 minutes from home.

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This is the first problem I have to address with the car. And probably the only reason I got the car for $300 (Some people lack both patience to do things right, and the resources to pay someone else to do it right)

 

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The spare wheel well was cut out (very poorly) and a different tank was installed off some unknown car from a local junkyard. They didn't even bother to get one with a feeder line on the side, just went with what they got and left the fuel inlet hanging to the side. On the bright side, they did wire a nice Walbro fuel pump to it. Unfortunately that was jimmy-rigged too. The cables were attached after the fact and went straight to the battery and a switch in the cabin. The setup works for running the engine, but it's totally unusable. I'm not too bummed though, I'll probably be picking and buying the fuel tank from my brother-in-law's F-body Camaro. 

 

I removed the fuel pump switch and wired it to the stock connections. Worked perfectly and engine ran smooth. No idea why they didn't just do that the first time. Much easier. I removed all the old breather hoses from the mystery tank to clean things up, cut some of the excessively long fuel lines and started properly cutting the spare wheel area (on the bottom right of the pic you can see how much metal was left hanging down) so I could rig up the tank as it is while I work out other things in the engine until I get my hands on the Camaro tank and do a proper job. 

 

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Pardon the long post that was catch-up/initial thoughts on the car. More to come from today's work in the next post.

Edited by Zetsaz

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Zetsaz    4

I removed some of the interior panels so I could work on the fuel lines in the back easier and figure how I'll hook up the filler hose properly later.

Removed all the emblems and saved them for after I get to doing some body work. Tried bleeding the clutch, but it still won't fully disengage, I'll have to figure some more out tomorrow. 

 

Removed the rusty old cutoff bumper mounts. Pretty easy to get to since my tank is already dropped.

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Mandatory shot next to my daily driver. A 91 Toyota Celica ST with 276k miles.

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Put the back end on jack stands to work more comfortably around the fuel tank area. This also gives you a better view of the body. Most of the car is surface rust (especially the roof where all the paint is gone). Driver side rocker panel will be replaced in due time, along with the passenger side dogleg, and both of the lower rear fenders. Fortunately the wheel wells are all in tact. 

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Finished cutting up the spare wheel area. (Pic of me excitedly jumping in the back with a grinding tool because I don't have any more fun shots. 

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That's about it for now. I was going to properly bleed the clutch, but I was tired of having to jump the car so I took the battery to autozone. Might be bad. It's on a trickle charger until the morning.

 

When I start the engine the car won't go into reverse, the gears just grind, and if I let go of the clutch entirely the rear wheels will still spin a bit. I'll adjust the clutch when I get my battery back and figure out what the deal is, bleeding, or something in the cabin. 

Edited by Zetsaz

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Zetsaz    4

Not much work done on the fuel tank. Camaro tank is too much of an uncertainty and would require a little to much tampering for my interests right now. I think I'm gonna head to a junkyard nearby where I know there's a Z and rip the old spare wheel well, tank, and straps, then weld the wheel well back into my own car and bring it back to stock. Realistically I could go with a fuel cell, but the inconvenience and amount of custom fab work is something I'd rather put into patching up the body. 

 

Gutted the interior. 

 

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The floors were actually mostly in tact until I started tearing out the factory sound proofing. I found a few extra rusty bits and cut them to delay any future problems, then ghetto patched them with some sheet metal and rivets in the style of Crazyoctopus
 
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If you look closely in the picture, at the front by the gas pedal you'll what looks like wet metal. I'm pretty sure that's fluid leaking out of my clutch master cylinder. I tried to bleed it with... meh results. That'll be one of the first things that gets replaced once I get an original tank back in. 
 
That's all the updates for now, until I head back to the junkyard to strip the 280 there for the tank, straps, spare wheel well, headlight buckets and maybe a few random other bits.

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Zetsaz    4

No picture updates currently. I replaced the clutch master cylinder and then the clutch slave cylinder and realized that there might be a problem with the clutch itself figuring that out this week. Slave cylinder's piston is moving plenty when the clutch is pressed, but there's no change in pressure and I still can't shift so I'm looking at the clutch itself. 

 

No progress for a while because I couldn't figure out what to do about the fuel tank situation. I finally settled on a custom setup with a 2002 Camaro fuel tank, because going back to OEM would have been more expensive and even more work (since the wheel well was already gone from the previous owner).

 

Snagged a sweet deal on a tank with fuel pump assembly included $100 on fleabay plus shipping. The guy actually found out it had a Racetronix fuel pump in it after the fact and said he was shipping it as is either way even though he normally would have sold the whole setup for $300. Guess it's my lucky day. I also finally found a decent price on a replacement door panel for my driver side that I was missing. $80 used, but in good condition. Should be here in a few days.

 

Updates to come as I get the clutch worked out and get the fuel tank installed.

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If you are still having clutch problems I have a solution. It was the same issue on my 73 z that had been sitting for years. Previous owner replaced all clutch hydrolics and still unable to shift into gear while running. The clutch disk is stuck on the input shaft. Usually it's greased so it can slide and when you press the clutch everything frees up. But since it had been sitting and no one pressed the clutch everything dried up and froze. Here's what to do to fix it. Get the rear end up off the ground. Get the tires off the ground and have the front wheels chocked and make sure it's solid so it won't move. Throw the trans in a high gear like 3rd or 4th press the clutch and then start the engine. Sometimes just a bump of it will get things to free up sometimes it takes cranking it a bit. You will notice when it let's go when the rear tires don't move when you try to start it. Either that or you will be able to shift gears with the clutch pressed. If that doesn't get it let me know! I've got a few others that might work also.

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Zetsaz    4

If you are still having clutch problems I have a solution. It was the same issue on my 73 z that had been sitting for years. Previous owner replaced all clutch hydrolics and still unable to shift into gear while running. The clutch disk is stuck on the input shaft. Usually it's greased so it can slide and when you press the clutch everything frees up. But since it had been sitting and no one pressed the clutch everything dried up and froze. Here's what to do to fix it. Get the rear end up off the ground. Get the tires off the ground and have the front wheels chocked and make sure it's solid so it won't move. Throw the trans in a high gear like 3rd or 4th press the clutch and then start the engine. Sometimes just a bump of it will get things to free up sometimes it takes cranking it a bit. You will notice when it let's go when the rear tires don't move when you try to start it. Either that or you will be able to shift gears with the clutch pressed. If that doesn't get it let me know! I've got a few others that might work also.

 

I had no idea this was an option. I'll try that as soon as I get the tank back in and before I try dropping the tranny. 

 

For those who are curious, the project is definitely still going but at a snail's pace because I haven't been working and I'm finishing my last year of college. The custom straps and rails for the 2002 Camaro fuel tank are welded and and I've test fit them on the tank. It's holding pretty snug. Just a couple welds to go then I'll be welding the rails I made to the car's frame. I have pictures, but I'll be doing a big dump as soon as the tank is in, the hoses are routed and the filler is fitted, that way it looks more like a write-up on how to do it. I know there are quite a few guys on here that have done the tank swap before, but I've only found a couple that went into any real detail.

 

Pictures and updates to come... very slowly. (Patience is a virtue ^_^

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Zetsaz    4

Huge progress made today. The rails I made for the '02 Camaro fuel tank were finally welded to the car's frame. I can't seem to find most of the pictures I had of them, so these will have to do for now. Remember, this is just one way to do it that I think will work for my purposes. Others have tried other ways successfully. Unless some other way doesn't actually work, no person that has done this is necessarily more correct than another. 
(I will edit this post in the future if I come across more images, and will turn it into more of a write-up when I have time to make more diagrams with approximate measurements)
 
Each piece is two 1" square tubing pieces welded together. There is a bolt on only the rear end closest to the back of the car. The 2" wide barstock is welded directly onto the tubing until the spot in towards the front of the car where the tank's shape starts to curve downward (closest to the welder in the picture). The bolts are about 4" long and are welded in the centers about 2" from the end of the tubing. 
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Friend hard at work, getting it done even despite the horribly awkward angles he was welding at:

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The centers of the two rails are about 17 1/4" apart from each other. They will seem sharply offset to the right because of the position of the spare wheel well. In reality they are only offset 2 or 3" to the right of center to allow a buffer zone between the tailpipe/muffler and the actual tank once mounted. 
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Super quick video explanation. Pardon the very quiet audio, filmed kinda late and my dad wakes up at 3:30 am, so I was trying not to be too loud. My phone is also 3 years old and doesn't pick up everything very well. 


I painted over them earlier with some flat black Rustoleum automotive enamel I had lying around the garage, then waited for the paint to dry before mounting. I'm no professional, and I think the rails got bumped slightly at some point, making this a super tight fit. Not quite the super clean fit I hoped for, but it feels incredibly sturdy. Here's more detailed pictures. 

 

Driver and passenger sides

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Underside, a closer view at the covers I welded over the barstock for a cleaner look, and the L brackets on the end with side covers.

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Top and bottom view after mounting. (including a nice look at my rusty paint :P)

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If it looks a bit far back it's because it is. If it was any closer forward it would almost be touching the tailpipe. 

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Edit: Video is now up. New pictures posted. Also added a random picture of my buddy in the process of welding. 

Edited by Zetsaz

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Zetsaz    4

Minor Milestone:

 

Student teaching and travel for conferences screwed me for the weekend, but I finally got a chance to take a look at the clutch. 

The clutch works! Pedal still feels soft and crappy but gorillaman's trick actually worked.  :D

 

This weekend I'm gonna go check out the '78 Z in a junkyard nearby and gut the smaller unleaded fuel filler neck from it so I can actually route a filler hose to the tank. I'm thinking I won't even bother wiring the internal pump on the Camaro tank for a while. I'll just be using the external walbro I have for now while I focus on getting the rest of the car running, then maybe some random weekend when my older brother's in town I'll get the Ractronix pump working properly. 

 

In the mean time. Engine seems to be running have decently, all lights are working, transmission is shifting. To get it on the road I just need to replace a couple flat tires, route the filler hose and neck, then close up the giant hole over the tank in the back. 

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Zetsaz    4

Major update:

 

Last few weeks haven't been so great. Had to put my little dog down just a few days ago, he had diabetes and went completely blind from some cataracts that developed pretty quickly. Been focused on that so not much has happened to the Z.

 

I figured out what I'm doing with the fuel filler, details to come as soon as it's finished.

 

And the major update... my dad surprised me with a nice gift today. The gift of almost ever replacement panel I need to fix the rust on this thing. New rocker panels, lower rear fender panels, and doglegs for both sides along with a pair of bad dog framerails. The floors will probably just be patched with some sheetmetal, but I'm incredibly excited to get going. Cheap temporary tires should be on this week and a new battery so I can move the car to a friends for the welding once the filler is on and the panels arrive. 

 

Stay tuned for updates :)

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Zetsaz    4

Semi-big update:

 

My dad was on a trip to visit family in Mexico and decided to take the seats with him since re-upholstery is significantly cheaper there. Today my seats were finished and he picked them up. They're looking pretty sweet if I do say so myself.  :D

 

Not much has happened to the car itself, the last several weeks I've kinda considered and "acquisition phase."

 

Lots of new parts purchased including some stuff from the junkyard:

 

Seats reupholstered

Old

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New

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Passenger headlight bucket at a steal from the junkyard (Old on was bent out of shape)

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Taillights sans burned plastic (Picture doesn't do the new ones justice)

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Both plastic seat-belt strut tower covers

Top is the only one that was in when I bought the car...

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... And it wasn't even the original color

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Fuel door (Lousy pic, but it shows how bad the original one was better)

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Louvered hood (also a steal, only $40. A few small dents should be no huge issue)

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I've also committed myself to do SOMETHING about my filler neck situation. Won't update on that until I actually finish it though, no empty promises to strangers :P Dad should be back in about a week and after that I'll be getting a start on making this thing move and getting the biggest rust issues resolved before my dad helps me sandblast the whole thing.

Edited by Zetsaz

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Zetsaz    4

Seats look great, and American laborers wonder why all their jobs went to Mexico!

 

No kidding! High quality labor at really great prices. I don't get how the stereotype of Mexicans working hard all the time, and having nice yards, and knowing how to work and cars and all that is somehow negative. I've been poked fun at sometimes for being Mexican and also enjoying car work, and I just think, "how is that a bad thing?!" Those are valuable skills  :P But when friends need help with car problems they know who they're going to haha.

 

Anyway, I figured I'd at least do some little things while my dad gets back next weekend to start on metal work, so I repainted the rear taillight trim. I'll have a picture up tomorrow when there's better lighting to take it in and see the side-by-side with the old ones.

Edited by Zetsaz

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Zetsaz    4

Weird random story:

 

My dad's still in Mexico for another few days, I took this picture in the Summer of '09 which was the last time I was there. This was back when I only dreamed of a project car, but I thought the car looked pretty good. 

 

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This is my dad next to the same car earlier today!

 

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Edited by Zetsaz

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Zetsaz    4

Minor update:

 

I repainted the taillight panels last weekend. I still want to take them apart again to resand and recoat a couple spots that are still a bit rought rough but they look quite nice now compared to before. The bezel around the lights is a gloss black and the rest is a satin black. 

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Edited by Zetsaz

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Zetsaz    4

Dad got home at 2 in the morning yesterday. Got a chance to grab my seats and console lid to see how it all fit together. I'm pretty happy with the result. It almost looks like a proper interior now.  :D

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Zetsaz    4

Finally got a semi-permanent solution for the filler neck going. Update in next post once it's installed and I have some pictures. It involves the top half of a late model filler neck, the rim from my original neck, and the lower half of the Camaro filler to narrow it down into the hose I'm using. Gotta cut off a couple inches on this hose and adjust the rim so it screws on properly. The upper portion will need to be cleaned up later for appearance sake and in case of spills but it'll work quite well for now.

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Zetsaz    4

Here are some pics of the filler neck I made for the Z to keep it semi-oem looking.

 

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Looks like a frankenstein of a filler neck, but the welds are really well done where it counts (where the bottom of the camaro tank meets the top of the '78 filler)

 

If you have a late model Z (77-78), this is actually not a bad option if you're going for the camaro tank. All it takes is cutting the top of the camaro neck, an inch or two off the bottom of the Datsun neck, and then joining them together. I cut the lower bend from the camaro filler, but I almost wish I'd figured out a way to angle the camaro piece towards the tank because right now the filler hose is in a really tight S bend to get the whole thing to work, but it's not bad so far.

 

Here are a few not so great pictures from when I installed it after getting home from my last concert as an undergraduate trumpet player.

 

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Cap ended up a bit offset from center but I'm not too concerned about that. And yes the hole from the pipe at the top that would originally lead to the vapor tank will be plugged.

 

Edit: Also... ignore the weird paint at the filler.... that will be fixed when the metal work is done and I start paint haha.

 

Edit 2: There was a small kink in the hose from the tight S bend by the original opening in the car where the hose is routed. Solution: extra hose clamp did the trick :D

Edited by Zetsaz

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Zetsaz    4

Used some test leads yesterday to check the Racetronix pump that came in the Camaro tank. It's working beautifully, the guy that last did the job did a terrible splicing job. I'm redoing wiring later today and seeing if the stock connectors on the pump assy aren't busted as well. If not, I removed the evap sensor and ran the wires through the hole. I'll do some more custom stuff to make that work with some quick disconnect cables. It's satisfying knowing that pump is working though, shouldn't have any pump issues for a long time even with an engine swap.

 

Will update post with my final wiring when I get to it later tonight.

 

Update: Pins on the pump assembly were busted  or at least bent enough that the original connection wasn't making proper contact. Fed the wires through the hole where the evap pressure sensor used to be (since I can't use it anyway), and respliced them to some quick disconnect ends. Cut the hoses down to a more appropriate size too now that I know I'm using the internal pump and put the interior trim back over the filler. Looks much more complete than before, just need to make a cover for the spare wheel hole.

 

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With that, the fuel delivery is pretty much done. :D Will be wiring the sending unit next before I put the cover on. Won't be accurate until down the road when I get new gauges, but this will work for now.

Edited by Zetsaz

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Zetsaz    4

I thought I had figured out the clutch, I was wrong. I think there's just not enough throw in the new clutch master cylinder. I realized that a lot of people actually have this problem so I swapped out the push rod from my old on into the new master cylinder. It's installed right now, but I haven't had a chance to bleed it.

 

Only things left to get it moving is clutch bleeding and new tires. I got a battery for it this week so I don't have to jump start it. I'll have to replace the air flow meter boot soon. I have a plugged up one from a 78 on there right now, but it's torn up and the engine is running super rich. 

 

If anyone has alternatives for the AFM boot on a '76 I would greatly appreciate some suggestions... $50 for the one from MSA is money I could spend other places :/

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Zetsaz    4

Major milestone in both life and in the Z car.

 

I graduated from my university this weekend, but more importantly... I bled the clutch properly and the car shifts quite well right now. Pumped up the lousy tires for a test drive and it actually feels quite good! I'll have a video when I take another short spin around the neighborhood tomorrow. 

 

Time for metal work and paint stripping  B)

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Zetsaz    4

Very nice. Congrats on getting the car running and congrats on grad!

Thanks a lot! It's been a lot of hard work, but I'm excited to actually do something with it that'll make me money now haha

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Zetsaz    4

Didn't get a chance to get some pics or video of the car moving today because we've been getting some pretty good rain. I'll get something once it's sunny again.

 

In the meantime I started cutting up the carpet that I bought over a year ago. It's all laid out and ready to go. center piece at the rear of the console was finished earlier. I'll have pics up in the morning when I finish the rest.

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