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MRGierut

Silver 1977 Datsun 280Z Project

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I purchased my first Datsun on 2/26/2017 and I've decided to create a Project Journal to document the progress of the build.

 

I am from, and still live in, a suburban wonderland just south of Chicago.  My father purchased a 1965 Pontiac GTO when I was 13, and ever since then I have been "into cars."  In high school I decided that the coolest thing anyone could possibly do with their life was become a mechanic, so that's what I did at a local community college.

 

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I received an Associate's Degree in Automotive Technology and got a lube tech position at an Acura dealership where I had been a porter in the past. I learned a lot there, but I wasn't making any money and there was no room to move up.  I left Acura for BMW to become a customer liaison in their body shop.  I sucked at it. They didn't want to fire me, so I was put in charge of the body shop "Parts Department" which was a small room with a bunch of shit on the floor.

 

After I left BMW I got a job through a friend that had nothing to do with the automotive industry.  Industrial inspection.  More specifically, advanced guided ultrasonic inspection.  I inspect all types of pipes and pipelines, everything from crude lines in refineries to server chilled water lines in corporate office buildings.  With this new job came more opportunities and more importantly, more money.

 

After buying a house and getting married I bought my first weekend/hobby car:

 

2005 Subaru Impreza WRX STi

 

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Great car.  A real blast to drive.

 

Time went on and I wanted something different.  I saw a video of a 280Z with an LS motor on 1320's facebook page and I believe he is a member here.  I was a huge muscle car fan growing up, and the one thing missing from the Subaru was a V8, so I made up my mind, and started reading up on what it takes to do an LS swap on an S30.  Seemed very doable, so with a 2 year old son and another baby on the way I sold my turbocharged all wheel drive sedan and bought a 40 year old 2 seater coupe.

 

Original pictures from the listing on Windycityzclub.com:

 

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They day I picked her up:

 

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Have you ever seen an uglier sunroof?

 

The paint is in pretty good shape, owner said the car was resprayed a couple years ago and any rust was repaired with metal but there is definitely some filler on the quarters and rockers....whatever.  Some other issues include the radio, HVAC controls, and headlights are all dead.  The car sat in a barn for like 6 months so it has a funky smell, probably mice...which might have something to do with the electrical issues?  Also, the car falls flat on its face with anymore than half throttle while under load.   Meh, an LS will fix that, sorry purists.

 

You guys on this forum inspired me to do this, so I'm blaming you for everything that goes wrong. ;)

Edited by MRGierut

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congrats on the purchase and good luck.  I too also just purchased my 1977 280z as far as i have gotten is taking the bumpers off.  Hope you get further then me

Thanks.  I'm sure I'll need it!

 

I was able to get the headlights working the other night.  After exposing the Combo Switch and removing it from the steering column, the red power wire and the black ground wire were very loose and they both disconnected as I pulled the switch off the column.  I took both switches off and sprayed the shit out of them with electrical cleaner.

 

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I also pulled back some carpet on the passenger side and removed the center console to see what I was working with. The floorboards may have been replaced, there is seam sealer/caulk where they meet the firewall that looks newish (not 40 years old).  I'm planning on taking out all carpet anyway, so we'll see how all that looks, and hopefully I can get rid of the smell.  I'm finding mouse poop everywhere...woof.  I'm seriously thinking about getting a Painless/EZwire kit for chassis.  These glass fuses are getting super hot and make me kind of nervous.

 

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Annnnnd some pretty substantial corrosion under the battery tray.  Yesssss!

 

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I contacted a couple places that carry sheet metal for S30s, asking about this area.  One place gave me a somewhat positive response. "Zman" from ZSpecialties/DatsunStore replied and said he's actively looking for a local vendor to supply him with new meal for the apron area under the battery tray.  So I gave him my info and I guess I'm on a list now? In the mean time I'll probably just hold the battery down with a ratchet strap or something.

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I also pulled back some carpet on the passenger side and removed the center console to see what I was working with. The floorboards may have been replaced, there is seam sealer/caulk where they meet the firewall that looks newish (not 40 years old).

Post a pic. That could easily be original.

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Nevermind, yeah, someone's done some work there, and quite a lot of it by the looks of it. To their credit, it looks mostly decent, at least at the moment. I've certainly seen worse.

 

 

Not just you, those frame rails are big as hell. What were they thinking? I'm guessing 2.5" square tube, and it's already sitting 4" from the road. Looks like your car is stock height, so I think those will have to go.

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Posted (edited)

Nevermind, yeah, someone's done some work there, and quite a lot of it by the looks of it. To their credit, it looks mostly decent, at least at the moment. I've certainly seen worse.

 

 

Not just you, those frame rails are big as hell. What were they thinking? I'm guessing 2.5" square tube, and it's already sitting 4" from the road. Looks like your car is stock height, so I think those will have to go.

The floor pans feel very solid, but it appears that it's not coated very well. I'm still going to strip the interior and seal it up, probably with POR15. Everyone seems to like that stuff.

 

Question: If I use POR15, should I remove all the seam sealer or just go over it?

 

As for the frame rails. Holy crap. I'm thinking the easiest fix is to cut them down, or all the way out and replace them with the Bad Dog rails.

 

Another question: I have access to a two post lift, but, if I'm going to replace the frame rails, should the car be sitting on all 4 wheels so it's square/level?

Edited by MRGierut

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Lot's of people use POR15, but IMO it's overused. Lot's of people seem to use it when another product would be better suited. POR15 is a rust encapsulator, and it's very good at that. However, I've heard that it really doesn't stick to clean metal well. Personally, I would only use it for its intended purpose, which is rusty, pitted metal - think truck frame that has seen a few too many winters.

 

I'm not sure exactly what product to recommend you, as I haven't gotten to that point in my project, but I think an epoxy would be a good place to start.

 

Regarding you frame rails, I think any way you do it will take quite a bit of work. Looks like they're welded on pretty much the whole length. Are they connected to the rear subframe? I think most people, if they use tube, use 1x3 or something like that. And of course, there's Bad Dog rails, which are excellent, but your floor has been modified - factory 280Z floors aren't flat like that - so their 280Z rails won't fit. You might be able to use their 240Z rails, since 240Z floors are much flatter, but may require more fitment than usual. Bad Dog rails should add less weight than 1x3 tube, so there's that to consider as well. You could also cut down the ones you have, which would be a lot of cutting and welding, but might be less work than removing the rail entirely and fitting a new one. Of course, that option assumes that the rail was put in properly to begin with. It looks good at the moment IMO, but may not underneath the paint and sealer.

 

I'm not sure exactly how you should support the car for frame rail work, but these cars are quite flexy, so that would be worth thinking about.

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Posted (edited)

I emailed John from Bad Dog Parts, sent him some pictures and he thinks the 240 rails might work, like rturbo said.  I'm not really in a hurry to cut out these perfectly good frame rails, so that will go on the back burner for a while.  I'll just concentrate getting the interior fixed.  The car runs and drives fine so I might as well drive it.  Plus we're planning on moving this spring and I would hate to be in the middle of something and have to move the car.

 

I always liked stock interiors in classic cars.  This one is just about there, except for the radio.  I know, I know.  The stock radio and speakers suck and they should be replaced.  After looking at prices for OEM radios on eBay, I figured I would just use an aftermarket unit.  Fortunately I found a guy who recently finished an S30 build and had a handful of OEM parts left over that he didn't need, which included the radio.  Offered him 100 bucks, and now it's on its way to my house.

 

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I figured I can mount a new head unit remotely and replace the speakers.

Edited by MRGierut

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Posted (edited)

I hear you on stock interiors. Depending how much you're willing to stray from stock, check this out. Might be a good fit for you. http://www.thezstore.com/page/TZS/PROD/classic08c01/50-1289

 

 

Edit: Another option: http://forums.hybridz.org/topic/123259-a-modern-datsun-260z-fm-radio-with-bluetooth-support/

Edited by rturbo 930

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Posted (edited)

So, in my search for more mouse bodies I took out the dash to check the duct work, blower motor isn't working either. While I have it out, I'd like to freshen it up a bit. I'm trying to take the gauges out but since there was a dash cover/cap installed it's preventing the gauges from coming out and the glove box too. Does anybody know of there is a way to remove the gauges by taking them out the back?

Edited by MRGierut

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I hear you on stock interiors. Depending how much you're willing to stray from stock, check this out. Might be a good fit for you .http://www.thezstore.com/page/TZS/PROD/classic08c01/50-1289

 

 

Edit: Another option: http://forums.hybridz.org/topic/123259-a-modern-datsun-260z-fm-radio-with-bluetooth-support/

Very cool. I'll definitely keep those in mind!

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I've been looking at this stupid ass dash cover for a couple days now, and although it is in great condition, it makes removing the gauges a pain in the ass, I don't think there is a way to remove the glove box or speedo and tach without damaging it.  While I have the whole dash sitting on my work bench I might do my future self a favor and tear it off and repair the original dash.  When my future self starts the LS swap, new gauges will be installed too.

 

Looks like a lot of people have good luck repairing their damaged dashboards, that is, if I don't **** it up really bad while removing the cover.

 

Hopefully I'll get the interior put back together in the next few weekends. 

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Posted (edited)

I have spent the last couple weekends tackling the dash.  I'm pretty happy with the result!

 

Dash cover removal

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The damaged original dashboard, I was actually pleasantly surprised.  Only one crack and some of the vinyl stuck to the back of the dash cover and came off.

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I first started removing the bad foam and vinyl, then filled the exposed foam with plastic welding rod.  After the welding rod was sanded, I applied some filler to smooth everything out.  I followed this turtorial: https://youtu.be/_x8qtvG-Y8U.  You can find a plastic welding iron at Harbor Freight for $17.

 

I used Polyvance plastic welding rod, filler prep, padded dash filler, and flexible primer surfacer.  I didn't realize I bought primer surfacer, and not primer...Whatever, we'll see how it holds up.  I left the dash bolted to the frame while I did all of this so it stayed true.  I was worried that it might flex and lose it's shape if I took it off.  Also, if you use a DA sander, be careful.  Mine jumped quite a few times and caused some damage to more areas.

 

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3 coats of Duplicolor Truck Bed Armor with a couple scuff in between.

 

PRO-TIP:  Make sure the can is warm before you spray this stuff.  I let the cans sit in hot water for like 10 minutes right before I started spraying, it really helps with the splatter.

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I also bought a cheap media receiver, which is just a regular car head unit minus the CD player.  I mounted it in the glove box.  Very simple, since there is no CD carrier, I just drilled and countersunk holes in the top of the plastic glove box, marked and drilled holes in the top of the receiver case and used countersunk sheet metal screws to fasten.

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I actually had to do this twice.  The first time I mounted it too far forward and the removable face from the media player was in contact with the door latch.

 

The seats are getting re-foamed as we speak, new carpet is sitting in my garage, and I bit the bullet and ordered a set of Speedhut gauges.

 

I've decided I'm going to hold off on re-sealing the floor pans because I'm probably going to replace them and the frame rails.  After further investigation, these floor boards are just patched.  On the driver's side, it looks like they just put a piece of sheet metal on top of the existing floor pans.  Furthermore, that big ass frame rail is only on the passenger side, the driver side frame rail appears to be original and slathered with under coating.  Yay!  Everything feels solid, and I really just want to drive it this summer.

Edited by MRGierut

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Posted (edited)

Looks like you're making great progress! it's no small job removing the dash.

Keep up the good work.

Thanks man! I appreciate it. Taking out the dash was easier than I anticipated. The hardest part was disconnecting the speedo cable. Putting it all back in correctly might be a different story!

 

I'm just waiting for new gauges to come in, hopefully sometime next week. I got the seats back from the upholstery shop and the new carpet is partially in. The aftermarket radio is hooked up and it'll power on just fine, but no sound is coming out of the speakers. After further investigation, the speakers (yes, there's 2!) start disintegrating once you touch them, so new 4" speakers are on the way, as well as speaker wire.

 

Once I get the interior back together that will be it for a while.

Edited by MRGierut

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Welp,  Still waiting on the Speedhut gauges.

 

I ordered them on St. Patrick's Day and they just shipped on April 21st, I knew they were going to take a long time.  Speedhut was very good with staying in touch with me and are very accommodating.  They can add just about anything you want to their gauges, you just have to ask.  They offer a GPS Speedo with turn signals, high beam indicator, and programmable fuel gauge all in one gauge housing!  On the Tach I asked them to add two extra LEDs labeled "Brake" (red) and "Check Engine" (amber).  They should arrive this week!

 

Since the car has just been sitting in my garage for the past couple weeks, I felt that she has being neglected...

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:cool:  :cool:  :cool:  :cool:  :cool:

Tow bolts on the driver's seat and tossed the steering wheel on...no problem.

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