Hey there guys! My name is Andy Leonard. I live in Upstate New York, where Z's and Z parts are few and far between. I am 21 years old (and will probably be much older by the time this car is 100% complete). ALL work on this vehicle has been done by myself. I'd imagine over 3,000 hours or so and about 9,000 dollars have been invested (parts only) throughout the restoration process. This is an ongoing project that, as you will see, has gone through many changes. By no means is this car complete. I am always thinking of some stupid change or modification to make the car more and more appealing to myself.
Lets start at the beginning.(buckle your seat belts, its going to be a long ride. I'll try to keep it interesting.)
My first Z (unfortunately I don't have pictures) I found in a barn while when I was 8 years old. The car did not run, it needed an engine, but I didn't care. I fell in love with that hulking piece of rust from day one. I paid roughly 300 dollars at the time, which was a HUGE investment at 8 years old. As the years passed the car fell further and further into disrepair.
It soon became apparent that I could not save the body, and I was on the market for a clean, rust free 240z. I was a 16 year old kid with about 4,000 dollars burning a hole in my pocket. After some searching, I found what I was looking for, in Southern California. I promised myself I would not let this one fall to the same fate as my first Z venture.
Here is the car I purchased from California (I paid 2500 dollars, plus another 1000 for shipping, sucks, but the rust free aspect was worth it to me)
In order to keep the virgin steel of the car and undercarriage safe, I spent the next 3 successive days under the car scraping and undercoating (sucks, but 150% necessary)
I bought the car from eBay (along with many other parts of my car, haha). As with any eBay purchase, especially when dealing with cars, it is always a gamble. Luckily I caught a break. The car arrived and showed minimal problems. I had my base. I was ready to begin what would become the next 3 years of my life.
The interior was completely dismantled and either broken, or missing. I started by removing the AWFUL stock bucket seats. The seats were so bad that the previous owner has EPOXY'D, not glued, EPOXY'D, the blue seat covers to the seats, fusing the two horrific materials together forever. As shown here
Those were quickly disposed of (and hopefully burned for safety reasons).
These seats were what went into the car soon after. (yes also purchased off eBay, say what you want but I consider them the BEST investment I have made to the car, they are PERFECT) -200 Dollars shipped! hahaha
And believe it or not they weigh a significant amount less than the stock seats.
I had to fabricate mounting brackets for the seats, as they did come with rails, and miraculously shared a similar base width, which was a complete and total guess on my part. I mounted the seats to 1/8th inch sheet steel cut to adapt to the slight differences of the new seats, and mounted the plates to the existing seat brackets.
I also ordered and installed my carpet kid after painting the floor pans black, with a brush, to protect them.
I decided to change the look of the conventional black dashboard, and since my dash had a crack in it a dash cover was most definitely in order. I thought blue and black two tone would look pretty neat, so I carefully removed and taped off what I couldn't from the dash. I painted the dash and the center console a dark blue. I left certain things black in the car, to create contrast.
- Floor Pans
- Interior shot (there will be more from numerous angles later, just initial install)
Now that I had an interior, my 17 year old mind said, forget engine stuff, lets paint it! Now I know what you are probably thinking, "Andy. the car doesn't look that bad, the paint looks fine, why would you paint it?"
I agree, the car did arrive in decent shape, but the previous owner told me that he had the car quickly painted in MEXICO for under 250 dollars for the full job. The paint was only a year old and already the MOUNTAINS of Bondo, securely hidden beneath, were already beginning to crack.
I ended up doing the following TWICE, as I was not at all satisfied with my first attempt, due to impatience.
A note to all who are thinking of restoring ANYTHING: TAKE IT DOWN TO BARE METAL ALWAYS, DON'T PAINT OVER THE UNKNOWN. I quickly found myself sanding into hidden body filler, especially in my doors, and would attempt to fix BOTH my and the previous guy's body work at once. The hours of grinding will absolutely save you time in the end. DON'T BE DUMB LIKE ME!
So, in a blind fury, I went straight to body work. I was now making the biggest mistake I have made to date on the car...
Take a guess at the number of layers of material.
- If you guessed 8, you are correct. That's a whole lot of paint, and bondo....But I stupidly pushed through. Continuing the paint process.
When I felt the car was straight-ish I bought a gallon of PPG k36 primer, hardener, the works. I primed the car that same day.
Did I remove the emblems?
Did I remove the door handles?
Did I remove the windshield?
Did I remove ANYTHING AT ALL?!
I think I removed the rear bumper.
In retrospect I wish I had built a time machine instead so I could go back now and kick myself in the balls. The next 2 months would be a a serious test of my mental stability.
I sanded the primer first with 500 wet, then working my way to 900 grit wet, after a recoat. As I finished I quickly wiped off the car and before ran to the furthest reaches of the garage to see the, most certainly awesome, results of my labor.
Instead as I gaze forward, I felt like a Hawaiian surfer just staring at all the waves......
WHAT HAD I DONE?! How could this be??! The car was smooth as glass (generally not a good idea in primer for one, paint needs something to stick to) which felt amazing to my ignorant hands. Even the smooth texture could not make up for the ripples that so commonly plagued my doors roof and hatch. WHAT WAS I TO DO?
There was no other option......I had to do it over. DAMN! My world was turned upside down.
I cannot tell you how hard it was to put that grinder back to the car.... I was still mentally prepared for laying paint next. But now I had to fathom the idea of starting from square one again. Now my interior even had over spray from primer on the panels and carpet (it has taken until just recently to restore them to previous luster.)
My friend and mentor for all things Automotive allowed me to use an unoccupied paint booth where he worked in return for working for him. I was allowed to work at nights, after hours as long as I left the place in BETTER condition than I found it.
I stripped the car to bare metal. Hours turned into days, of seemingly endless material. Grinding through inches upon inches of body filler, completely painting my face blue, save the distinct outlines of where safety goggles and a mask clearly had been.
After exhaustive work, and screaming relentless obscenities later. The car was completely naked. She had not been this way since when she was on the production line in late 1972.
NOTE: APOLOGIES FOR THE BAD QUALITY, THESE WERE TAKEN FROM A 2 MEGAPIXEL CELL PHONE CAMERA. (you may run into this in the future as well. I don't like having a camera in my shop with all the dust flying.)
-First stages of body work
Once the car was in bare metal I thoroughly inspected each and every inch for flaws. I targeted them individually and SMITED all dents that opposed me. I was a force to be reckoned with.
Once all problem areas had been eradicated, I sanded the car, in its entirety, with 180 grit sandpaper for a smooth-ish finish.
Next was primer.......Again.
-BUT FIRST! I forgot to mention earlier, I did yet another impossibly stupid thing to my car when trying to paint it the first time. I painted all my door jams flat black with spray paint..... (I claimed cause it looked "cool" but it merely was me being lazy, looking for the quick way out instead of taping the doors and jams etc. Was a common trend with me then.)
SO what did this mean?
It meant I had to take a blow torch to the jams of the car, and the doors themselves. Heating and scraping the flat spray paint off the car. This too took an unbelievably long time....Don't do this either. Paint your jams like any normal person.
As for the torch thing....That job blows..... Trust me, you want no part in that.
NOW I can spray primer.. For real. The time span between this this day and when I originally sprayed primer was almost exactly 8 months. (like I said earlier, a time machine would come in handy)
I sanded and re-primed the car until the blocking process was complete. I worked my way up to 500 wet again.
-Freshly dressed in primer (Used Martin Senour this time, due to cost constraints, I would recommend the high build primer, it works great!)
- 500 wet sanded (and dried)
The car looks and feels great. Finally, I feel I did a good job.
Now, I never thought the day would come, it's time for paint.
I chose a silver metallic paint, also by Martin Senour, and their high performance clear coat. (At first I'll admit, I was not loving the clear, until I buffed the car out, about two years after spraying. Yes, they call me "Captain Procrastinator".)
Unfortunately the 6 incandescent bulbs in my garage don't accurately show the TRUE color variations in the paint, hopefully you can see the bronze tones and platinum hue that appear at different sun height.
The car is now to be painted.
First came the base coat. Had to lay it on from a distance to reduce mottling.
Then came the clear. It sprayed a little harder than PPG products but it didn't turn out half bad. It looks great now after buffing the car.
I also purchased a carbon fiber hood and flares, because yet again the money was obviously burning a hole in my pocket.
I know, not the most solid investment at the time. But I was a kid. Who cares if the thing even RUNS right? Right?
Here is the car during it's reassembly and the beginning stages of retrofitting the hood.
I painted the grille and tail light panel sections black.
- WHO CAN REFUSE THOSE? I bought these back when they were only 230 dollars, I think, from TheZstore. Now I think they are over 300 for a set. I GOT LUCKY!
Next was getting all of my lights to work. I'll admit lighting is NOT my area of expertise, and the previous owner had slaughtered the wiring harness. Luckily with the help from my mentor the car was lit and wired in under an hour. Also, I installed the Autopal HID lights (I think that's they are called). They are very bright.
All right. I'm going to skip over the engine section for one second, yet again, so I can finish this stage of the body assembly.
Just know that the car runs, and drives currently, although not inspected.
The car first hit the road on October 31st 2008. And won't you believe it, that the night before, northern new york was hit with a freak ice storm, and somehow unbeknown to me accumulated about 4 inches of snow. Luckily the day after melted most of the snow. My blood pressure soon began to lower.
That being said, my drive home was certainly interesting. When towing the car to the shop where I painted it, the alignment (was perfect) got super screwed up, to say the least. It looked like a Pigeon toed Datsun 240z. I threw my steering wheel back on, started her up, VROOOM!!, sounded great. Then I went to turn the wheel. BEEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BE BE BE BE BEEEP BEEEEEP EEEEP BEEEP!!!!! My horn was being relentless. It would not stop screaming with every subtle movement of the wheel. Apparently I had bent the horn button (metal prong thing that rides on the back of the wheel) out far enough that it was constantly engaging my horn. And to add insult to injury the alignment of the car was so bad that when I turned the wheel so the car would go straight, the tires would squeal!
So there I was, driving down the street, in a HONKING, SQUEALING freshly painted 240z. People would turn and either stop to laugh or wave as I passed by. I was 19 years old, hauling down the 7 mile stretch back to my house on checked tires, in this boisterous beast. I was enjoying every minute of it.
I got the car home. Got an alignment with a new set of Fuzion tires as a temporary set. I was impressed with the tread as these were cheap tires. They are great temporary tires if you plan on putting different rims on your car but don't have the money to do so just yet.
I cleaned and drove the car to my hearts content. The first day I drove the car over 8 hours, on Halloween night. This is what the car would look like for the next 6 months or so. If only I could have driven it that long........You'll see what I mean later.
I mounted the carbon fiber flares with double sided molding tape, quickly fabricated a set of flimsy hood mounting brackets and hit the road!
I had driven the car from October 31st until about mid november, which is when the snow began flying, so the car took its permanent place back where it had grown so accustomed. On stands in my garage at home.
When the car first arrived it came with a 5 speed wide ratio transmission. I loved the idea of the 5 speed but my second gear was on its way out, and the synchro would whine every time I would shift at a higher rpm. This had to be changed. And with winter coming to an end the car would soon be on the road again. I would now return to my childhood car, my beloved first Z, now in its resting place stored away in a field behind my garage. I heaved my jack, my stands, and tools out to the other car, and In a couple hours I removed the 4 speed. (70,000 original miles on the car, was out of a early 72 240z). I did the same with my 5 speed, but from the comforts of my heated shop, not laying in the mud.
With both transmissions side by side I swapped out the needed hardware and installed the 4 speed into my car with a new throw out bearing.
Again, as I CONSISTENTLY SEEM TO DO, I did something INCREDIBLY STUPID............I mentioned earlier that the 4 speed was out of a late 1972 Datsun 240z, the 5 speed I don't know the original origins so I can only guess, but the yoke that extends through the bell housing to the slave cylinder, and the cylinder itself was different on both transmissions, and each car. My car, used the closed hole yoke, and cylinder; the 4 speed utilized the open holed yoke, and that slave cylinder.
Guess when I figured this out?
After reinstalling the drive shaft?
After reinstalling the bell housing bolts?
After installing EVERYTHING BUT the slave cylinder?!
So once again, I reluctantly became a professional Datsun transmission installer overnight......
I didn't feel that just drilling a hole in the yoke would be the right way to do it, although I figured it would work. I wanted to do it right, not cut corners like I had before. I was finally learning.
I dropped the transmission yet again, it was quite easy thanks to some never seize, which is something my Father beat into my head from an early age. Whatever bolt you take out, never seize it before you put it back in. It'll save a lot of heartache in the long run. You'll thank yourself later.
I swapped out the stupid yokes. A task that took literally 45 seconds....and in about an hour again, I had the transmission back in its rightful place, and hooked up the remaining loose ends.
The car was now ready for the season, when the season was permitting the to car.
I drove the car 5 and a half days before more heartache....
I awoke one morning for College classes. I ran out to the car as I normally do, wanting to let it warm up a bit before I left, I went out early. Unfortunately, the dumbass who drives the car left the axillary power on.
The battery was deader than a door nail. It wouldn't even take a jump... Luckily though, I had a slightly LARGER battery in the garage, on the charger, so I was not worried about being late for class. I removed the battery retainer bar from the dead battery, and swapped in the much larger (I think possibly marine) battery. It fit well in the battery box, but the height of the battery prevented me from reinstalling the retainer bar. This was over a 3,000 dollar mistake. ALWAYS FASTEN YOUR BATTERIES DOWN!!!!! I will explain shortly what happened.
All RIGHT, this is FINALLY where I talk to you about the engine(s) that my car chews through. I will first talk about the original engine since that is the engine I am talking about in my story.
The engine is a L24 original block with a early e31 head and a mildly aggressive cam (It was what came with the car so I am unsure of lift and duration). It still uses the dual SU carburetors, and runs 6-2-1 headers, with Crane Fireball electronic ignition, coil, and distributor.
The engine ran great, the idle needed to be adjusted every once in a while whenever I deemed necessary. I would have a flat head screw driver on my person at all times for this. The air slide in my rear carburetor
was a little sloppy and out worn so adjusting the carbs to the aggressiveness of the cam proved to be extremely difficult. But for the most part the car ran beautifully, it always held at least 40 pounds of oil pressure even at an idle.
So back to my story... I had just swapped out the dead battery with the big ass boat battery so I could make it to class. I got to school all right, then on my return trip while cornering I heard a shudder from under the hood. I thought: "This isn't good." so I pulled over, and shut the car off (this is important). I opened the hood and saw the battery now wedged between the inner fenders and the block. I thought by catching it at this point I had averted a catastrophe, but little did I know, I had just set one in motion.......
What I didn't see was that the battery had broken my oil pressure sending unit line just at the engine mounts. The engine's gauges ran directly off of the pressure from the block. So when I started the car the next time, I was still reading SOME oil pressure at an idle (I assume the line was not completely broken at this point, only leaking) so I continued to drive. Car felt great. Felt responsive, fast, I was having a grand ole time driving home...... until "BAM!!!!!!!"
"OH NO! I KNOW THAT SOUND!!!" Anyone who has spun a rod bearing will NEVER forget the gunshot like sound coming from deep inside your engine. It's unmistakable. And I knew that is certainly what I had done.....My engine was finished.....and at least at the time, it felt like I was too....
I pulled off the to side of the road. I checked my oil, which had apparently pulled a Houdini on me and vanished. I had just changed the oil the day before. "Where the hell is all my oil?" I thought about it while I sat stranded on the side of the the road. I was waiting for my father to show up to tow the car back to our home, 15 miles away. I continued to search for the source of the problem, and then I found it. The clear brittle pressure line that was clearly broken and dripping oil. THAT was the cause to my problem. The reason I didn't see it before was because I turned my car off...stopping all oil pressure, so it wasn't leaking during the initial inspection.....until I got back into the car, that is, and started my way home. I like to think of myself as Speed Racer laying an oil slick behind him. That's the best way to explain it. Decent imagery.
Unfortunately I didn't take pictures of the engine in its broken state because I didn't want to be reminded of such lame-ness.
Just imagine the pictures above, but broken. And Dirty (covered in oil). haha
So the Datsun was brought back to the garage, and yet AGAIN put on those jack stands. (She is still sitting there today)
What I forgot to mention (along with probably numerous other things) is that I had purchased (back at age 14) a fully rebuilt L26/E88 combination with a similar performance cam. The engine never left the pallet after being rebuilt. I bought it for around 250 dollars (I think). I had originally purchased the engine for my First Z, but the body fell apart too fast, and since my car ran fine I never felt the need to swap what isn't broken. Here is the engine as it sat, for year in my garage.
-notice how clean the timing chain is. The engine had NEVER been fired.
But now my engine WAS broken, and it needed to be swapped.
I removed my engine and set it aside.
This also allowed me to finally paint my engine compartment. (it's just dusty in this picture, but it's actually a very nice satin black)
(here it is kinda cleaned up, although horrible cellphone quality. Hopefully you get the idea.)
I then painted the block of my L26 and swapped all of my engine components over, and swapped my valve cover, because "its shinier"
Now I would LOVE to tell you that I just swapped this engine into the car and all was well. But nope....why would it? I'll tell you why. NO compression. Zilch....even with the plugs in....greeeeeaaaaatttt....
From sitting over the years the cylinders, more specifically the piston rings collected moisture. They began to rust, (this may have happened even before I bought it at age 14) we will never know. So I thought, I'll just get new rings. Pop the head off and of course the cylinder walls are horribly scorn and have some scale. I take it to a local machine shop to have them boil and bore the block. I drop it off. I hear back within a day. I knew the news came too soon, and was probably bad. He explained that he had bored the cylinder walls as far as he could, without re-sleeving, and the scale was still very much a problem. So my decision was either to assemble this engine, and burn oil, guaranteed, or search for YET ANOTHER ENGINE base.
I spent 400 dollars on the machine work performed to my new boat anchor block (I actually may make a table out of it, with a glass top I think it would look nice). So my wallet was not looking forward to the new engine search. So now I have one broken ass L24/e31 and one equally as worthless L26/E88.
Luckily within a couple hour's drive I located a L28/N42 N/A out of an automatic 76 280z. I love the N42 head and have always longed to upgrade to the L28. The price was 200 or best offer. The engine was out of a running car (the guy upgraded his 2+2 to a l28et/5speed). I didn't care if it ran because I was just going to do the same thing to this block as I had my L26.I bought the engine for 175 dollars.
When I got the engine home I quickly made work of it, stripping the engine of it's transmission, air conditioning, etc.... until only the long block remained.
Finally with all of the junk off of the engine I loaded the engine back in the truck and drove it off to the machine shop, to yet again....perform the same machine work.
The block was bored .030 over and utilizes 240z Rods, L28 Crank, and forged pistons. (Yes, I'm eventually going turbo) Built for lower compression for turbo: 8:5:1
The N42 head was completely rebuilt with new springs valve job and guides.
This was the end result. I couldn't be happier. I decided to paint the engine blue, I thought that would be a good color to use for spotting oil leaks (I am still traumatized from what happened before.)
That is where I currently stand today. I am waiting to save the funds for a new clutch (I am thinking Clutchmasters FX100, because as I mentioned earlier I will eventually be going turbo, so I decided to buy a clutch with enough holding power for both setups. So I am only a clutch away from having my car be driveable again. So as I wait to attain the means of a clutch, I have been fixing all of the little "bugs" in the car like the
Touch Up Paint - Here and there (nothing major)
Interior assembly and cleansing. (finally fully assembled my interior, looks great!)
Sanding (2000 wet) and buffing the entire car (mirror or glass like finish. Hard to do with silver). (this is why I said I liked the Martin Senour clear. It buffs to a brilliant shine: See pictures).
Physically bolting ZG Flares onto the car. Looks very clean. (Make fun of me for not cutting my front fenders, I couldn't bear to cut into her, drilling 24 holes was hard enough.....)
Mounting brackets for the front License Plate (got pulled over once having it taped in windshield. Don't do this, or check state law)
Swap passenger's door panel with my first Z's (somehow remained 100% perfect)
Replacing the Oil Pressure Line that broke
Fabricating a Turbo Oil Pan (Thank you FlatBlack@Hybridz.org for this idea. The picture was wonderful. Anyone who does this make sure to notice the location of the tap in regards to the holes for the pan bolts)
Painting my Fuel Injection Intake (and currently working on boring the intake to accept a 60 mm throttle body)
Painting or Cleaning (with steel wool and lacquer thinner mostly) all remaining parts: Starter, Headers, both intakes, and lots of forgotten miscellaneous.
Constantly cleaning exterior and interior. I hope to show all remaining parts of the car in the following series of pictures.
I also forgot to mention that I upgraded my front rotors to the drilled and slotted rotors (I'll take pics eventually)
This is where I am as of today, Thursday December 23rd 2010.
-Interior panel. I threw an extra Datsun emblem in the middle. I like it, a lot. Still missing that left panel though...
-Headers: My exhaust is straight 2.5'' to a Monza exhaust system.
-The L26 pan tapped to accept turbo applications. (knew that engine was good for SOMETHING haha)
-Notice reflection of boxes in top left. (sorry like I said my shop isn't well lit).
- Torn Door Panel
-Dusty but MINT door panel from my first Z
-Swapped over and conditioned (cell phone quality, but the difference is remarkable)
-Notice the shiny new pressure line. (clear/white colored)
-Behind the dash. Was a huge pain in the balls getting the oil pressure gauge line out. Had to blindly reach through this. Already removed the heater piping....
-In order to access this. (was 11mm nut on gauge and 10mm nut on the line itself. Took like and hour to figure that out.....Can't see.)
-Bolted on flares. No more double sided tape.
-Reflection on back hatch. I will try to take a good picture of it. This one does it NO justice.
- Can kinda see my calipers (edited) just another angle. No flares. Pre-installation.
-I painted the hydraulic arm red to set off the 4 points a little. I know lame, but I don't care. Also painted my calipers this same color (no pic)
I have millions more pictures.
I have invested easily over 3000 hours into this project. I have driven the car in its entirety for 16 days the first year (Oct 31st 08-Nov 15th-08) and 5 days the second season, for a grand total of 21 days. So I am currently on a ratio that says for every 104 FULL 24 HOUR WORK DAYS. NO SLEEP. I get to drive my car 21 times....... So roughly 150 hours of solid work, for 1 hour of drive time.....
Man I hope I can improve on that a bit......
Thanks for looking at my thread. I am sorry that I almost positively bored you to death, with my endless banter, but this car is how I invest so much of my time, I figured it was time to show off what I put so much time, and love into.
Thanks again. Take care all. If you have any questions shoot me a message!
Edited by OldAndyAndTheSea, 24 December 2010 - 03:09 PM.