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My new 280Z project -- advice, please

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I bought a '77 280Z from a young woman who had bought the project from someone else. She did not know much about it, but she had accumulated some nice parts (including a new, still-in-the-box 670cfm Holly carb and a new carpet kit). I will try to post some photos, but since I am new here, bare with me.


My goal is this: I want a nice driver, one with plenty of get-up-and-go, but comfort and good looks are primary. I intend to put air conditioning in it and ensure the heater works well. I will take care of two rust spots I have found and then paint it. It has no bumpers, but i see there are thin glass or carbon-fiber aftermarket ones available that look better than stock bumpers. Seat upholstery will likely be leather, with perhaps heated seats and new foam. I will put a decent (but not obnoxious) sound system in it. And I will rebuild any suspensions components that show wear. Ditto on brakes. In other words, I am lot looking to build a beast, just a very nice looking car that is enjoyable to drive long distances.


Apparently the engine sitting in the car is a second swap. There are drag timing slips in the glove box that show it once ran in the 12s, (the previous owner said with another engine), but I haven't checked the slips closely. The engine now in it looks very clean and has the following stuff cast on the bell-housing: GM 5.7LS on one side and 10243880 on the other. From the research I have tried to do, I think this tells us that it is a 350 built around 1996, a roller (which I guess refers to the rockers?) Vortec (whatever that tells us). I don't see any markings on the tranny bellhousing, but it is an automatic. 


Here are three questions: 1. Where do I look to determine which transmission it is? The car is not on stands, so I cannot get under it yet.(I need to move my last project out of the shop, a street/track Alfa Romeo Spider that I will sell to finance the 280Z build).


2. I was told by the young woman that there is no rear support for the tranny, that one needs to be fabricated. The front mounts appear to be an amateur fabrication, but rather cleanly done. The engine sits somewhat high and the distributor (a Pertronix Flame Thrower) sits about four inches from the firewall. Here comes the question. If I buy a kit from JTR or whatever other supllier you recommend, I can get the engine to sit lower and further back. But that will cost precious dollars (I would need the have the driveshaft shortened in addition to the kit cost). The car ran well enough to run at the drags, so one part of me thinks leave well enough alone. I am not concerned by the small amount of weight shift new mounts would give me, so should I leave it as is and fab a rear support for the tranny? Or spend money and extra time converting to one of the kits -- and if so, which?


3. The car came with its hood with a hole cut over the carb (which I hate) but a second hood was included. It has no louvers -- that is, it is smooth. Would that be a 240Z item, and if so, will it fit?


Thanks (and now I will try to append a couple photos).







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 I am new here, bare with me.



2. I was told by the young woman that there is no rear support for the tranny, that one needs to be fabricated. 


Firstly, nobody is going to get naked with you (I think).  This isn't that kind of forum.


Second, running 12's without a transmission crossmember seems very unlikely.  Could be that the 12's were with the first motor, and it might not have been an LS engine.


Looks like you have a lot of learning to do.  And, I'm pretty sure, that the LS engines are known as Gen III, IV and V.  So you might be in the wrong sub-forum if it's an LS.  But the bell-housing is not part of the engine block so you might be looking at the wrong ID markings.  Best to take good closeup pictures and post those.  Stick your camera under the car and take pictures if you can't get your eyeballs under there.

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Okay, it indeed should have been "bear with me..." For 40 years I made my living as a writer and likely never used that phrase -- since I do not recall an editor ever calling me on it. So, I learned something about the English language here on the forum. But not answers to the questions I asked.


The drag timing slips definitely were obtained with the previous engine. The car as I bought it has never run on this engine, and the installation is far from complete.


I got the information off the block in the bell-housing area. So I am in the wrong part of the forum. Is there an administrator who can move this to the proper area of the site? Or should I start over.

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Apparently a good way to remember it!


1. Not sure how you expect to identify the transmission without being able to look at it. I think NewZed answered that one. Slide your phone or camera under there and take a picture. 

Looks like you can identify off of the pan shape and bolt count: http://www.monstertransmission.com/Identify-Your-Transmission_ep_106-1.html


2. Kind of being contradictory, hard to get around amateur built, but cleanly done. A picture would help a lot. Based off your assessment one would guess you don't have access to a welder or have built mounts before. That does put you in a bit of a pickle. Either you order a premade kit (which doesn't just have to be JTR, there are other companies that charge much less like CX racing even our own member Hoke seems to have them), OR make or have someone make you a custom setup. Not terribly difficult. Usually you buy a replacement motor mount and adapt or buy straight steel sheet stock and drill the holes and such yourself. Addressing number one here would probably help kind of narrow down your off the shelf choices if you plan on staying with that transmission.


3. Hard to say. I don't think I've seen any 240z's with hood vents so that may be the case, but I haven't seen any 260z or 280z with them either. Perhaps because of the wet climate people don't option them or install them here. Combined with the interchangeability of the parts not sure, but it will bolt up. 

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Thanks, Seattle Jester. I, too, am in the Pacific NW, but on the dry side (Walla Walla). We spent 20 years on your side, ten in Friday Harbor and ten more on Bainbridge Island. Now we enjoy a bit more sunshine. But it does get hot here in the summer, which is why I will install air conditioning.


I indeed do know how to weld, and own both Mig and Acetylene rigs. I'll use the Mig to patch the two rust spots I have found (likely there will be more to be seen when I strip the paint off). I also have the JTR book, which has nice drawings of mount parts. But I'm in a hurry to get this project done, and I don't mind buying a good kit to get around all the problem-solving involved in DIY. (I have built a few hot rods and know just how much time gets eaten up figuring out the next move.) It would be nice to hear from some who have experience with various kit suppliers.


I do want to retain an automatic transmission. I successfully rebuilt the Italian 5-speed in my Alfa. It now shifts smoothly and quick. Great on the track, but the Z will be a cruiser, and I think an auto will be just right.


I'll slip a camera under the car and try to get a good shot of the transmission. I'll then post it, and we can go from there.


If I am supposed to have this thread on the Gen III, IV and V portion of this site, is there a way for me to shift this over to it? Or is there an administrator who would do so?

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Motorsports Auto (MSA) also sells a SBC swap kit that includes the engine mounts and transmission support. This kit, like the JTR kit, is easy to install, but assumes that the user knows about driveline phasing, balance, measuring etc.  Lots of material in the Drivetrain Forum.



  • Download a Factory Service Manual (FSM) 
  • Download electrical schematics for your car.  PDFs are easier to read than those found in books. Some are in color.
  • Buy the book How to Restore Your Datsun Z Car by Wick Humble. It will save you hours of searching for "how to" info.
  • Focus on searching Hybridz as 99% of questions have already been addressed.
  • Start bookmarking Z car parts suppliers
  • Remember these are 40 year old cars and will need restoration to be safe and drivable.
  • Join ClassicZCars.com website and search there as well.
  • Become well informed about modifications before asking questions. People will be more inclined to answer informed questions.
  • Read the new member FAQs.


 Useful Links:




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Posted (edited)

Thanks Miles,

I just ordered the book from Amazon, and I'll search for the FSM and schematics on the forum in a moment. When I tackled the Alfa, I downloaded the schematics to a thumb-drive and took them to Staples to be printed on 11x17 stock. Then I had them laminated. Made them far easier to read and kept the grime off.


I tried getting shots of the transmission under the car, with very little success. I did get a photo of a front motor mount. I'll post it here for comments.


Thanks for the help. All your points are solid, and I'll follow them. And I agree that restoration is in order on cars this old. I plan on spending a bit of money to recreate the feeling of  "newness" I enjoyed in my first 280Z. I bought that one with just 21,000 miles on it and drove it three years before it was stolen and stripped. One of my favorite cars.



Edited by wingwalker

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The engine mounts  shown in your picture are based on the original Scarab engine install which was high and forward in the engine bay.


You can pull and then reinstall the engine using JTR, MSA or John's Cars installation kits.




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It is nice over there, once you cross the mountains the difference is pretty stark. Went from freezing our butts off at lake diablo to wearing shorts one summer.


That makes sense now, more so basic in design. Is it a solid mount? Or is there rubber attached to the motor?


Bringing it down and back seems to be a fairly simple thing to ask, especially if you are handy with a MIG and a torch. You have the plate for the block, drill a hole for a plate on the cross member then just add material to bridge the two. Shouldn't take more then a weekend with the engine suspended or blocked whereabout you would want it. The concern would potentially be making room in the trans tunnel.


Gusset setup is quite nice as well like in ARZ's thread.


Or you can run a length of pipe from two bases.



Just a word of caution, I would not weld straight to the frame rail as they are C's and the weight of the motor can pull at the stitch welds, adapting off the cross member is still my favorite method. Fully reversible and all that.


Only reason I push for it is that I ordered a kit for my 2jz swap for the same reasons, didn't want to spend time figuring it out, didn't have the time, was willing to spend the money. I was pretty unhappy with it and modified it extensively. Looking back it would have been faster and easier to have just made it myself with some careful measurements. 


Nothing wrong with the auto, just precludes certain mount kits that are designed around a specific trans.


An admin should be able to move this once they see it. 

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Posted (edited)

Don't forget to set your engine and transmission angle to match the diff pinion shaft angle.


I searched around using the casting number  The "5.7LS" you reported confused me.  Looks like you probably have a Gen I crate engine, with Vortec heads.  Which fits the Scarab mounts view.  So you're in the right forum, with an old-school Gen I V8 Z.  Vortec is a type of GM head, I think named for the way they tried to get the charge to spin as it entered the chamber.  Search around on the crate engine sites and you'll see some descriptions, and maybe recognize some other parts.


Edit - some data that looks pretty specific.  No idea who collects it or runs the site.  









Edited by NewZed

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Miles, thank you. I studied the link to Scarab information, and it appears my engine sits a tad higher, which would be the reason the p.o. cut a hunk out of the hood. I guess I could pull those mounts and chop them down a bit, but I still need a transmission support. I think it makes sense to buy a kit so all the engineering is done. Then I can concentrate on all the other stuff that needs refurbishing.


New Zed, thanks for the links. I'm pretty sure that the block casting says 5.7 LS. The S is fuzzy, so it may be something else. But the number off the other side does tell the story. I'm going to pull the engine and transmission once I get the shop cleared of other projects (my Alfa needs an oil change and some detailing before I put it on the market and I have an old wooden sailboat that is nearing completion of a major restore -- it was built in the '70s on a 1921 design-- so I want that out of there too).


Hopefully by mid-spring I'll be working on the Z. I think I'll pull one of the heads to inspect the topside carefully, and pull the oil pan to put some Plastigauge on a few bearings and rods to see that it is okay down there. When I get to that point, I'll search the forum to determine what else I should look for. As for the transmission, I think all I can do is cross fingers and see how it performs.


Once the engine is pulled, I'll paint and detail the engine bay and take care of wiring issues in there. And I'll tidy up the engine itself before dropping it back in -- probably onto new mounts.

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Posted (edited)

Having the engine high and forward was probably ok as a drag car, but the car will handle better with the engine back and low in the engine bay. Next time you go to the store place a 24 pack of water bottles in the front of the basket and wheel around some corners. Note resistance to steering input.



The first 240Z I bought had the SBC 350 and trans (four speed) installed which I thought would save time. It didn't. The engine was installed Scarab style like yours.  After going through the car, and joining HybridZ, I decided to reinstall the engine in the setback position using the MSA V8 swap kit and replaced the Saginaw four speed transmission with a 89 Camaro WC T5. It was a lot of work to fix the mistakes the PO made, but it was worth the effort.


For my second 240Z V8 project I bought a two-owner, well maintained, 72 240Z. It was much easier and resulted in a  low budget daily driver based on:


  • SBC 350 crate engine installed set back and low (not as low as the JTR)
  • Camaro WC T5 transmission
  • 280Z R200 differential
  • poly urethane suspension bushings
  • Tokico struts
  • Stiffer springs 180 lb/in front 220 lb/in rear  (AZC NLA)
  • Arizona Z Car radiator with electric 3000 cfm fan
  • Dyno: 240 RWHP  (so it is still a 240Z!)
Edited by Miles

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Miles, your second car sounds about like what I have in mind--except for the manual transmission. I really am looking forward to an automatic, and since this car won't ever see a track, the car will do what I want it to do. I will indeed upgrade the suspension (within reason). I went too far, using racing stuff, in the Alfa I built. It corners as if on rails, but the ride is rough and we endure lots of road noise. The noise is partially due to the bare cockpit. I took out all the tar-like insulation stuff as part of my weight reduction mania (I saved a tad over 350 pounds over stock, and that includes a roll bar I added). The Z will have lots of noise deadening material, carpets (which the Alfa lacks) and comfortable seats instead of aluminum race seats.


By the way, I see you live in Sacramento. We lived nearby in Roseville from 2002-04. It gets equally hot here in the summers, but evenings cool off quicker.

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Sounds like you have a good plan.


Keep posting your progress.


I will, once I get into it.


Right now I'm in the research/learning phase. My printer is at this moment churning out pages and pages of the FSM for the '77 280Z.  I also located a color electrical schematic and downloaded it onto a thumb-drive. Today I'll have it printed out as large as they can do so at Staples. I'll ask them to laminate it.


When I started printing the manual I had the best part of a ream of paper on hand. I just loaded the last handful into the machine and expect to run out soon. This manual is about twice the volume of the Alfa Romeo FSM, and I thought it was complete! Wow.

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