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Back to psuedo stock, but oddly happier with my car


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This may sound a bit odd here on HybridZ and I get it. Just thought you guys may find it entertaining if nothing else...


So I have a 76 280 I bought stock, running and driving in 04 with 90,000 (and ran like it). It was ugly but ran well. $650 BTW


After a year or so I blew a head gasket. Instead of just fixing it I got talked into a head swap. It took forever, car sat apart for a year, never did run right.


I came across a 83zx turbo that a guy wanted to sell the running motor and trans out of. Great op right? Installed, had electrical issues. Only got to drive it a couple times and it was a blast! Then the turbo crapped out....


At the time I NEEDED the car for work. I never owned a turbo car before and didn't recognize the symptoms, I just new it ran like ass and burned a ton of oil. Well, there was a 78 parts car I had picked up not running and rusted out for $100. See where this is going:-)


I'm an electrician and quickly found the issues that kept the 78's p/o from starting the car. Its was running and that engine went into my 76. It ran "Ok" but it got me to work.  


At this point I had gotten VERY good at engine swaps!


Used this setup until a couple years ago when it starting burning coolant. The parts car had unknown miles, sat for unknown years, and was to be used an unknown amount of time.


During all this I had been (still am) active duty USAF, got married, had 3 kids, and moved 4 times!


I have always had the ideas of this engine swap, that suspension, this paint color, that interior etc. You cant really get to any of that with a car that doesn't always run right though...


2 years ago I almost sold the 76. The turbo engine was gone, 2nd gear was out and the 78 motor had crapped out. I had given up trying to get it running, tires were shot and motivation all but lost.


I was perusing craigslist one day and found a 81zx n/a rusted out but running, new tires and a blown diff (wish that 3.9 had been good still!) a few hundred $$'s and it was home.


When I opened the hood it looked COMPLETELY stock, ran great, but oil kept pumping out the side. Quick oil psi gauge swap and GTG! Transmission wasn't great but oh well.


I transplanted the 81 engine complete with all the emissions, wiring, egr, the works. Didn't even disconnect the stuff. I had a good 4 speed with extra clutch so I bolted that up. Swapped the 81 wheels with the new tires onto my car and gutted the junked the rusty shell.


May will be 2 years since I put that motor in the car. There are currently no performance mods on my poor 76 except some new bushings. Dead stock motor, old 4 speed, old suspension, plain zx 14in rubber, spray semi-flat black paint, worn out seats and no interior except a dash, seats and a console. no door panels, carpet, trim, etc.


The point to this rambling?


I don't think I've ever been happier with my car!


Its pretty slow compared to the turbo motor, the trans isn't right for highway driving, the seats are shot, its loud, smells (like a Z) rattles like crazy.

However, it starts every day - 30 degrees or 105 and gets decent mpg. 


Its still so much fun to drive and gets a crazy amount of attention. I drive it everywhere as long as its not raining or snowing outside all year. Work, store, whatever. The kids fight over who gets to ride in "Daddy's Race Car" hahaha


Don't get me wrong, I still want 300 hp, a killer paint job, coil overs, etc....eventually.




and sometimes that's enough. 


If you made it this far you either are bored, laughing at me, or understand.


Thanks. I just felt like telling some people that might understand.



Edited by afbrian13
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You have obviously missed the cross-country ramblings of me and "The Blue Turd"...

Everybody says the same thing...it just keeps running. I bought it for $125 out of Police auction and have put 110,000+ miles on the car.

That includes running at every MSA Auto X that had an event while I owned it. It, on stock suspension and tires was usually 3-5 seconds off top S30 time of the day against cars specifically prepped for Auto X.


Yes, it was a wallowing pig, but if the driver DROVE the car, it was FAST in stock form. Instructors would run it as "The Blue Turd Challenge" to see who could get the best time. It consistently wound up one of the "Fast 5" of he event!


I remember one year an instructor was coming into the pits in a black C5 or C6... E-Braked the car to a stop and jumped out waving to someone parking the 260 exclaiming "WAIT WAIT, I WANNA DRIVE THE TURD!" I actually ran an ENTIRE tank of gas through the car one year at the event and had to run out to get more fuel. Everybody said the same thing: "for something that looks like sh*t, man, we beat it all day long and it just keeps running!" My favourite comment at the Canadian Zedaway in 2001 was "you drove all the way from California in THAT?!?!?" Yep, and averaged (AVERAGED) 100+ mph across most of Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois in 100 degree, 85% humidity with the A/C on, and a 70 degree interior!


Nissan got the car RIGHT, the hardest thing to do when modifying ANY vehicle is to improve it without compromising the "total package" the OEM Engineers put together! It really is brought out on a car like the Z, when you own one BONE STOCK and properly maintained...how WELL it does most things. Most people start out with thoughts of "improving" something that is malfunctioning...and catalog that "improvement" but never knew how little they really improved! All those bolt ons to get 120hp...about 20 less than a properly tuned up stocker!


Enjoy your ride...you may find, almost 20 years later, you're still DRIVING it every day and WORKING on it one weekend every other month or so (I really probably should readjust me valves...how the hell did 110,000 miles slip by that fast???) instead of vice-versa!


Think about that last sentence...


Tell me that isn't a LOT of "improved" cars out there!

Edited by Tony D
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There is nothing more frustrating than a car not running right. The Z is meant to be driven I'll take that over looks any day. My 260 looks ruff on the outside and the inside but she has no mechanical problems and runs like a top. I wish I was driving her today but it raining here in Virginia

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My 280zx has been my most reliable car. Since I got the engine into a shell 5 years ago it has been mechanically the most versatile and easily repairable. When I went with a triple weber setup on my 260z, it worked, and was a blast to drive, but it kept having mechanical problems or kept getting out of tune. 

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I picked mine up in Tucson Az and drove it back to Ga.  Stock engine, SU's, no problems on the trip.  It was the most enjoyable road trip I have had.  Mileage was in the mid 20's. The only issue I had on the trip was trying to leave the gas stations, it seems everyone has a Z story to share.  I was originally looking for a V8 car before finding this one.  I had every intention of doing the conversion until about midway through the trip when I finally realized what Mr. K had given us.  The Z is such a well balanced machine, sure  I love HP as much as the next guy (510 with a Turbo Tom L28 was my last Datsun) but I am learning to appreciate what the Z isn't......it isn't heavy, overpowered, complicated and most importantly, it isn't for everyone.  Yet it's funny how Z's seem to affect everyone......

Edited by bombsquad
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