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240z Father Son Project

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Hello all. My son Brian and I (Jim) found a '73 240z (Nov 72 build date) on a farm in Stockton. We purchased it because we believed it had little damage and would make a nice project. Little did we know at the time we would have to completely strip the car and restore just about everything.!


I would like to take a moment to list some of the better resources I have found on the web. This type of information was not available in the 80s when I worked on my '72 240z and I have found it very valuable in the restoration of our Z.


Datsun Z garage. www.datsunzgarage.com (for non turbo engines) !!! Excellent information on many facets of the car !!!

More Engine info:

. - A great article by Racer Brown reprinted here http://www.datsport.com/racer-brown.html

. - Lengine.exe Compression calculator http://www.atlanticz.ca/zclub/techtips/enginemodellingsoftware/index.html <- note use this as an approximation then build your own spreadsheet like I did!


On our build, we found the following parts stores plus craigslist!

. - Transmission and rear end rebuild kits Inexpensive and High quality can be found at: http://www.drivetrain.com

. - OF course you cant ignore these stores either!: http://www.thezstore.com/ http://www.zcarsource.com http://www.rockauto.com/



For completeness, below is a list of the machine shop / restoration folks we used:


. - SU carburators - www.ztherapy.com Steve is great! Talk with him, Some customers replace their webbers for his carbs!.

. - Engine Machine Work - Valley head service in LA. Great guys with YEARS of experience! www.valleyhead.com

. - Cam shaft - www.iskycams.com or www.webcamshafts.com I used the former.

. - Advanced Distributors Restore / modify centrifugal advance curve http://www.advanceddistributors.com/index.htm

. - Suspension - Tokiko / rogerdanielsalignment.com

. - Dash restoration http://www.dashboardrestorations.com/ - He's not fast, but his work is great!

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The following posts will include pictures of what we have done to the car. Lets start out with what we purchased. A car sitting for 11 years on a farm in Stockton CA. When I first saw it the frame looked in great condition as it seemed not to be in any accidents and seemed not to have rust.


As we started tearing it apart, we found the floor pans needed replacing, the passenger rear quarter panel was hit and the passenger front of the car also needed some repairs.


Attached are pictures of the car when we purchased it...

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Edited by JCan
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Next step was to strip the car down to the frame. It took two weekends with my son and his cousins doing most of the work. We wheeled the car onto a carrier and off to the sand blaster to remove the paint down to the metal. We did have the car sand blasted, unfortunately it warped some of the thinner metal pieces of the car and required us to replace them. When I do it again, I will media blast the car.


After sand blasting, we had the car powder coated (powder 1 in santee) with a flat black epoxy that would protect the metal and act like a primer. Please note the underside was not sand blasted except for some key spots where we believed rust was forming. (therefore we left the undercoat in tact and powder coated ontop of the original undercoat)


Attached are pictures of the car after sand blasting and after powder coating:

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The next thing we did was start work on the suspension. Needless to say, after 11 years of soil dust mixed with fertilizer, the suspension made our garage smell like a farm! Brian and I disassembled the suspension as far as we could and sent it to the powder coater. We purchased new bushings, bearings, and shocks and reassembled the suspension. It turned out pretty good! (please note these pictures are incomplete as the shocks do not have the bumpers, shock dust covers, and the rear springs have not yet been replaced).

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Edited by JCan
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Thanks! Originally I thought I would be able to throw paint on the body and clean up interior along with fix engine and suspension. However when you step on the floorboards and interior screws are rusted shut... plans change!

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Once the rolling body was delivered to the body shop, we had a task to find replacement parts. We were able to purchase after market floor pans, and the rest was purchased used from craigslist adds. It is amazing how many people are purchasing old 240/60/80zs and selling parts.


The hardest parts to get were the hood (getting a clean hood is difficult) and an un-damaged rear passenger quarter panel and an un damaged front clip. Once purchased, the specific metal pieces we needed were removed and welded onto our body.


for completeness, we installed the following pieces - 2 floor pans, passenger rear quarter panel, and front right headlight area. Automobile panels that were replaced include hood, hatch, metal passenger headlight cover, and door. Attached are pictures of the car being repaired and a thin layer of polyester applied in preparation for paint.


The hood turned out to have too much paint and had to be stripped (caused us a major time delay)


Pictures of the process are below.

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I wish the shop was mine. I am using a body shop in Santee, Marck Motors Body Shop (talk to chris). It is a production body shop with a couple amazing craftsmen working on the car. Chris and took the job as filler work consequently they have had the car from may through end of October 2012. - FYI Jim

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Brian and I next focused on the Engine, Transmission, and Rear end. We found a 5 speed transmission for $150 on craigslist and purchased rebuild kits from Drivetrain.com and had a shop rebuild both. The engine was the fun part. There are many ways to set up a Z. Everything from Stock to a supercharged V8. As this is a car for my kid, I am more interested in the process than building a rocket. Additionally we chose to keep the car as close to stock looking as possible while paying close attention to coaxing the best performance we could from a 2.8 block .


Datsunzgarage.com is really an amazing resource. Back in the day (80s) my brother and I both had '72 240zs. His - 2.8L Webbers, 11.5:1 compression, Cam, balanced (so well he would race to 8k RPM before he would shift). Mine was a 2.8L, fuel injected, turbocharged, monster that would pull your head into the soft recaro headrest then pull the skin off your face distort as turbine delivered its 12-14 PSI boost.


Back to today... For my son, we decided on building the motor at 10:1 compression and limiting horsepower by using SU carbs. Additionally we have a goal of using regular gasoline. Using DatsunZGarage as a resource, we swapped out the dish pistons for flat top pistons and swapped the head for a P90 head and milled it 0.080 to give us the compression we designed AND to ensure we had a piston to head clearance between 0.030 and 0.022 to have the proper squish (look it up) to keep the engine from detonating. As this car will be a daily driver, we chose an isky cam. Valve lift is 0.480 with semetrical duration at 280 deg. Carbs were done by ZTherapy and electronic ignition distributor was done by Advanced distributors.


In summary- N42 block, P90 Head, 280zx electronic ignition Distributor, 4 screw 1970 SU carbs with modified needles, 6-2-1 headers running 10.2:1 compression and controlled with an Isky cam.


Machine work was done at Vally Head Service in the san fernando valley (LA). The bottom end was balanced and the head was milled, I ordered special cam shims to raise the cam and had the head completely rebuild valves, seats, springs etc (note - I did not have the intake/exhaust ported or polished). AFter this work was completed, we took the parts home for assembly. During assembly we measured clearances (bearings, Piston/head) and came up with a 10.2:1 compression (attached spreadsheet). We completed it all over the weekend and had a great time (my kid, my brothers kids, my brother and I). During assembly we measured as many clearances as we could find to ensure the engine was within spec.


It took some time to find / clean / polish / paint the remaining hardware that is required to complete the engine. we had the valve cover and front cover bead blasted then ran a buffer to close the pores and provide a shine. Misc parts were slow to come. Front pulleys and tension bars were powder coated, the air cleaner was cleaned and is currently being powder coated the original orange in preparation for final assembly.


Pictures are fun! Also... I tried to upload the excel spreadsheet I used to calculate compression ratio, however I do not have permission, therefore I took a picture. If you email me I will send you a copy.

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Edited by JCan
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  • 2 months later...

time for an update.


We got the car back from the body shop on thanksgiving!.  The body is beautiful. (pictures below).


First came installing the wiring harnesses (front and rear)

Then the undercarrage, cleaned up gas lines (3), ran new break lines, checked rear bearings and re-torqued suspension (just to be sure), installed breaks, gas tank, pump in rear, and vent lines.  Last was the rear end and half shafts.


Just before xmas we mated the engine to the transmission and installed it.  









Edited by JCan
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Next steps we temperarily installed the dash and checked out the electrical connections using the harness, This took 3-5 days and answered several questions I had as to how to properly connect things up.  We were even able to get the intermittent wipers to work!  (however we have a problem with the park location which I hope is an adjustment located ontop of the wiper motor)..


We next removed the dash, insulated the firewall, installed petals, heater and fan, and reinstalled the dash.


Lastly we installed an exhaust system (used themotorsport package, I think it hangs too low and will mostlikely add a flange and have the exhaust modified as it hangs too low at the 2-1 pipe under the car (we have a 6-2-1 headers).


The car started up easily, however thre was a tapping, that I am debugging now (another thread)


Added rims and took pictures.  






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I read your blog.  You really did a nice job!  I especially liked your box of newly sandblasted and plated 40 year screws and bolts.


So many questions.    I have 3 kids, my first two (girls) both crashed their car when they were in HS and are now off to college.  This is my son's car....  did Jade last through hs without any collisions?  I expect brian (my son) to get in a fender bender or two.  I have to take this position now to prepare.


Either way, Jade looks great.  We make memories and I'm siure your rebuild with your kids is a great memory.


One last thing.  My wife grew up in Greece near you her maden name was Lamberty and her dad worked at kodak.  A long time ago.  


Thanks for the encouragement.



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Jim, thanks for the compliments. We have yet to finish the interior and I need to update the thread with more pics. My son Alan [17] has been driving this past fall to a reserved parking spot at school. Daughter Emmma [15] only drove it when we first got it [while sitting on my lap as she couldn't reach the pedals]. No accidents-although there have been 2 near misses which have shaken Alan...

We live in W. Irondequoit, just north of the zoo-about 10 minutes from Kodak on Ridge Road!

I read your blog.  You really did a nice job!  I especially liked your box of newly sandblasted and plated 40 year screws and bolts.


So many questions.    I have 3 kids, my first two (girls) both crashed their car when they were in HS and are now off to college.  This is my son's car....  did Jade last through hs without any collisions?  I expect brian (my son) to get in a fender bender or two.  I have to take this position now to prepare.


Either way, Jade looks great.  We make memories and I'm siure your rebuild with your kids is a great memory.


One last thing.  My wife grew up in Greece near you her maden name was Lamberty and her dad worked at kodak.  A long time ago.  


Thanks for the encouragement.



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My son is an 18 year old idiot and has been driving since June of last year. He has wrecked his 280z twice now. Both not bad but both during the rain. Fortuneatly neither resulted in anyone hurt; property or personally and no tickets.

My sons car is ugly, and rusty. I left it that way because I knew. 


Z's in rain are very tail happy.  I tried and tried to replicate it with him when it was raining and wet, but it's not the same as all of the sudden no rear traction, sliding uncontrolable, what do I do.


This is the first one.  The car WAS nice and straight when he got it, minus the rust of course.  If it was as nice as yours the hood, fender, front end and the paint would have all needed to be redone.





Second time.  Spun in the rain going slow (supposedly).  I had to replace the entire suspension as something was bent but I couldn't exactly tell.  It's hard to tell from the pic but the rear tire was less than an inch from the fender.  I was pissed and it was easier to just swap as a unit.  Luckily I kept the rear suspension from an old car.



Edited by JSM
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Tuff Z - So close!  Now we live in on opposite side of the country.   Near misses don't count!  either way, I'm sure your kids are having fun in their Z.  It is a great fun car to drive.


JSM.   I expect fender benders.  Reasoning comes from the frontal lobe in the brain and it starts developing at 6 years old and does not stop till around 24 yrs old.  Best of luck!

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JCan, the build is looking great and very clean!


One thing to note: don't fully torque the suspension joints until the car is on the ground and loaded (gas in the tank, and preferably the weight of a person on the seat). It'll be a little more challenging to reach some of the fasteners.

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Leon.   You must race cars often  you seem to know a lot about Zs in particular and cars in general.  (When I was a kid my brother and I terrorized LA and that is where I learned what I know.)


Getting back to your comment, once I fix the head problem I am having (taking way too long) we'll concentrate on reducing noise (I have a loud fuel pump and exhaust is a bit louder then I like) then start on suspension.


We are planning three passes.  First we'll modify ride height by cutting springs. the car is about an inch too high now, have tokiko illumina variable rate springs on front, it'll be tricky as the rate is not linear and we will have to trial and error the cuts.


Once the car ride height is ok, then we'll work on suspension.  First my son will take it to his HS shop and measure camber, caster and toe, he'll fix toe on front, and using a tension and compression kit in the front be able to adjust caster (I think).  This might be the time to check the torque of  the suspension as you have suggested.


The car should be drivable then (no interior, windows, door latches, hood, hatch etc).  I'll look at the printout and see what needs to be done additional.  I fully suspect we'lll have to add offset bushings in the rear to fix camber, possibly we can stretch the rack if required.  Then we'll install what we can at home and take the car to a real suspension shop and have it professionally aligned.


Lastly, I want to understand what the car does when it is under load.  I heard of a neat idea of affixing a camera under the suspension and adding a straight edge and monitoring what the suspension does as a function of speed.  WE can record these settings and compress the springs and re-align the car so that it handles optimally at speed...  Sounds like a fun summer task doesnt it?


Either way, thanks for your inputs.



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