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Pezhead's SVG30 Time Capsule Saga

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So, spoiler alert!  This story is about a Z car that I've owned since the early 90's.  It has spent most of its life in storage.  Worse, it is a long distance love affair as it is at my mom's place in Seattle while I'm in Sydney.  Being a time capsule and a long distance affair, my warning is that this story will have a horrible cliff-hanger until I can get back to Seattle again :(


(It is verbatim posted build thread in the Skylines Australia forum where I usually hang out).


Also, the early part of the story is light on pictures since it started so long ago.


[This is the only picture I could find of the car in its early history.  But was after the conversion had already begun]



So, how did I get the car?  This is a long story.


Living in Seattle with my brother, there was one of the worse wind storms to hit Seattle on 20th Jan 1993.  Winds topped 94 MPH.  One casualty of the day was my Brothers '70 240Z.  It was struck by a tree that fell center on down the car in my sister's front yard.  The car was totaled.  Worse insurance called it an act of god and wouldn't pay.


So I went looking for a replacement Z with my Brother.  We found this '72 240Z that was an ex-SCCA race car.  The owner had brought it up from California but it had sat in his garage for >10 years.  It was actually only used as a road car for the first few years of its life before conversion for racing.  Back then race prep was crude and done by individuals rather than shops.  So all the wiring was stripped as was most of the interior.



240Z run as a 260Z for larger engine displacement.  100 lbs were added to the car to run in that trim.

260Z motor with extractors, 7lb alum/steel insert flywheel, & Iski Race cam, retained original 4 speed

2.5" straight pipe exhaust with a single resonator at the back

Bilstein Racing Strut inserts (these things have monster 30+mm shafts)

5pt adjustable custom anti-roll bars front and rear

numerous other mods


The howl that this car gave off that could be heard from 2 blocks away gave it the family nick name "the Green Hornet".  As it turns out that is the name that Greg Scott from Scott Performance gave his own very similar Z (Scott Performance did a lot of the work on this car originally in California).


Anyways the car had sat and wasn't road legal.  So my brother and I worked on it for about a month and got it going.  Luckily there was a loop-hole that California cars had stricter emissions standards so we got to license it without an inspection.  WIN!


However, a year later it needed to get inspected so we were back to square one.  Since my brother just wanted a street car, we found a '73 240Z for him and I traded him for this Z.  After the '73 went through emissions we swapped the race motor into that car since he no longer liked the response from a stock Z.  I had other plans anyways.


My goal?  Well I was still on a meager wage back then but I wanted a club racer.  So my goal was to build a 240Z that could beat a Porsche 911.  You see in the 90's the track was full of Microsoft(ies) that cashed stock and all bought 911's to bring out to club race days.  They were slow as anything in the corners (afraid that the Porsche tail kick would bit them) but would blast down the straights cause they had the power.  I figured a 240Z with a 300ZX Turbo transplant would solve that right quick.


I bought a totalled '84 300zx turbo 5sp manual and started the engine swap. 


Little did I know that my career would take off a year later along with marriage and instant family since my wife had a son from a previous marriage.  Thus this project would get put aside for much, much longer than I expected (and different continents).


So in the next installment I'll bring you up to speed on where the transplant got to before going into storage for nearly 20 years!


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First thing we noticed when I went to test fit the VG30ET motor was that the turbo sat right where the steering control rod went.  Hmm, that wasn't going to work.  So I sat there for hours trying to figure out how I was going to solve that.


Now that the internet is here I see that others here on HybridZ had added another universal to the steering rod to move it or move the turbo out in front of the motor.


I actually don't like either of those solutions and think that my approach is still unique.  I was playing with the exhaust manifolds when I noticed that the ports are very symetrical.  So much so that I tried the left bank on the right side.  It fit but had to be turned upside down.  Thus the turbo outlet now pointed straight out horizonal rather than pointed down (because of the "V" shape of the motor).  So there was my solution.  I built a 90 degree bend for the exhaust and the low mount became a top mount on the opposite side!


I also had to fab up the cross pipe that connects the two manifolds.  You gotta love 80's turbo tech, the one bank exhaust just pipes into the back of the other bank.  But they are the same size! 


I seem to recall that the stock 300zx transmission mount fit up to the 240z chassis with only minor modification.  After that I fabricated the motor mounts.  Then had the drive shaft shortened.  I fit the motor so that the front of the pan is even with the front cross member and just above it.  This still leaves the bottom of the pan just below the cross member, but there isn't much more clearance to the bonnet.


There is over a foot between the front of the motor and the bulkhead!  So much room in the engine bay now.


I had to notch the gear opening in the chassis about 30-40 mm forward because the T5 shifter is in a different location.


Now on to the turbo.  I had to spin the housings to fit the new location geometry.  That meant also customising the wastegate actuator.  Here I actually wasted a fair bit of time thinking I might make a custom housing and go external gate.  That ended up being a waste of time.  The problem here was that the exhaust outlet is cast and went the wrong direction.  There was no way to make it fit.  So I chose to hack it off with the bandsaw and weld a new flange on to the outlet.


This work was done over a long time span.  I was actually working between this an a 510 (1600) race car project that was supposed to be my production class racer.  So it was probably about a year of tinkering work to get to this point.


So this is about what that work looked like.




And life happened.  I got hitched up, became a dad and my job took up most of my time.  We moved house (and my workshop) but then an opportunity took me overseas.  I gave away the 510, sold my suburban tow car and trailer (way too cheap), sold our pathfinder and my 300zx.


But I just couldn't part with this car.  I actually gave it to my brother and moved it up to my mom's house.


That is where it has sat for 13 years.  


Next episode is the start of the recap of the two weeks when I went back to Seattle with a goal of getting the Z resurrected and drivable.

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Operation PhoenixZ:  I had 18 days in Seattle to resurrect and complete the beast project that by my tally has been sitting in archive for nearly 20 years (13 years at my mom's, 4-5 years on hold while "Life" took priority and only about 2-3 years of active work on the project).


So, job one was to do an inventory and create a punch list of everything that needed to be done.  So in the boxes of parts I had stowed in the back of the car were three alternators, a starter motor, a few brackets and odd bits.  None of these were actually for the 300zx motor!


Starter didn't fit and none of the alternators were the correct serpentine belt - all V-belt.  wacko.png   Well, packing and unpacking this project over three house moves obviously caused some serious confusion.


Also there was no sign of a radiator at all.


So I got on to ebay and found a HUGE 3 core alum jobbie for $150.  I also ordered a rebuilt starter from the local auto parts store that was $113.  Parts are so plentiful and cheap in the US!


This was the radiator.




That's a FULL SIZE can of WD40.  I'd estimate the core to be 80mm.  This radiator is probably set up for the V8 conversions on the Z's since they are so popular in the US.  Hence see the trans cooler lines integrated into the core.  Shame it wasn't set up with an integrated oil cooler instead.




Next was the check on the hydraulics.  I never modified the clutch for the conversion so it was still set up for the original 4spd.  But the fluid had sat so long it had turned back to silica gel!  There were little white beads in the bottom of the reservoir.  On to the auto parts store again.  The replacement item actually turned out to be incorrect, but they looked up a Datsun 610 version that looked to be the same as my original.  That was about $40.


Then came the slave and a new line.  I got weird looks when I told them I needed the 300zx slave and a 240z clutch master.  We chatted a bit about the conversion and I was on my way with new parts.  The line was a real PITA!  I needed one 4 inches longer but with 10mm x 1mm threaded ends on both ends.  Luckily their website had detailed specs on the parts, but it too me 2 hours to go through 42 pages of parts looking for the correct ends and lengths.  Total on that part was $22.  hehe!


I was worried about the brake master now but did see fluid in it that was a better sign.  But the parts list is beginning to run up.  Esp since I'm just trying to get it running and drivable to get it here in Aus to finish mods.  I plan to do a brake upgrade eventually to match the new power levels so really didn't want to invest much in the way of replacement parts that will get scrapped.


Oddly, in the scraps of parts laying around my mum's house (dad was a bit of a junk collector) was this new master cyl.  Now, the stock master is 7/8 but the one I found is only 3/4.  But since my goal was just to have it street drivable, I'm not going to do any hard driving or events in this form.  And the new item isn't siezed like the old one coming off.  So on it went.





At this point the "punch list" is pretty long but I'm thinking 18 days is a lot of time so I can do it.  In reality I lost 2.5 days to interviews and a few days to meeting up with family and friends.  I know can you believe these people that wanted to see me since my last trip to the US was 2009!  The nerve!


Big items on the punch list:

Replace all oils and fluids

Drain fuel tank (Hope there's nothing bad in there!)

Fabricate Throttle Linkage

Fabricate Alternator Mounting

Find the water pump pully - where did it go?

Fabricate Fuel System

Modify Turbo Oil Lines

Replace lots of old cracking hoses

Mount Radiator and replump coolant lines

Mount AFM

Plumb intake piping (do I dare try to mount & modify the tiny starion intercooler I had?)

Install Starter


Then the biggy!  Figure out the control wires for the engine loom and stock ECU to power up the injectors and ignition.

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Next up was to drain the fuel tank.  I borrowed my brother's car battery and we hooked up the electric fuel pump.  Waited for it to pump.  By the sound it was clearly a baffle type rather than rotory style electric pump.  Ran it for a few minutes with nothing going on.  We put a suction pump on it in attempt to prime and it would hold vacuum pressure running or not.  Chalk that one up to another casualty of age.  So off to the parts store again.


Now I figured I'd have to add a high pressure fuel injector pump anyways but wanted a small lift pump.  I only plan (currently) to do moderate mods to this car so only need a moderate fuel system.  Agggrodave had a spare Bosch 044 that I got to power the new fuel system.  I found a "Mr. Gasket" brand electric rotory pump that did 35 Gallons/hr at the parts store ($50).


When we got back, I looked under the car and noticed a drain plug on the tank.  That was going to be easier so I pulled it and waited to see what 20 year old fuel looks like.


Surprisingly the fluid was clear, but BRIGHT BRIGHT Orange.  No evidence of sediments either so we seem to be off to a good start.  There was only maybe 1 or 2 gallons in there, I'm sure a lot evaporated out.


I got 2 gallons of new fuel and added it to the tank.  Then had to decide how I wanted to mount the lift pump and 044.  I contemplated adding a surge tank now, but decided I just want to get it running so that will wait till later.


A bit of fab and this was the set up.  I decided to use some muffler clamp "U" bolts with fuel line sleeving and some shaped foam under the 044 to try to muffle the vibration.  That actually came up pretty well.  I also found some OEM relays in some of my Dad's old junk boxes.  I decided to put the pump on a relay line with a 6 or 8 gauge feed wire.  That should be plenty of AMPs.  I also put it on it's own 20A fuse line to the battery.  Lots of wiring work to be done on this car since my brother really just hacked up the wiring (not a real core competency for him).


Finished this up late one night and ticked fuel pumps off my punch list.  I should have tested them, but that comes later in the story.





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By the way, look closely at the condition of the spare tire bay.  Notice something missing?  There's hardly any rust!  I know that every Z ad says "no rust" but then cancer is found everywhere.  20+ years ago when I found the car I couldn't believe how good the body was.  The undercarriage and other spots look this good too!  When I get to doing the body work I'll need to strip the paint as there is light surface rust from humidity but that's all.

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At this point She's still got a lot on the punch list to onward and upward.


I drained the oil out, again sludgy 20 year old oil about 2 liters came out. Cut the oil feed so that I could move the turbo up to the opposite side of the motor.  I plumbed the feed line with hi pressure fuel line and the drain with standard ol radiator line.


At this point I still didn't know what I was going to do about the water pump pulley and alternator mounting.  I called numerous wreckers and now an 84-87 300zx is just too old.  None had them.  I found one pulley on flea bay but was V-belt.  Called Nissan and they had to special order it and it was $100 for a pulley!  I took a punt and ordered the ebay one for $26.


I finally managed to find a wrecker that had two 84-85 300zx's.  But one was NA and the other was Turbo.  I took the 2 hour trek up there and turns out the turbo already had its motor pulled.  The NA one looked just like the one I ordered of ebay.  So even though the mounting would be different, I took the alternator brackets from the NA to see if I could fab something up.  Cost me $7.  Would have been a shame to make a 1/2 day trip and come home empty handed.  I noticed that the NA has the alternator on the opposite side from the Turbo model.  Since I swapped turbo side for side, I was hopeful that it might be salvageable.  Even if I had to saw a bit off.


When the ebay pulley arrived just as I suspected it was very different (being from an NA).  The v-groove lined up to the serpentine grooves on the Harmonic balancer.  BUGGER! 


Also because I had to mount the motor from the front (sits way back in the Z engine bay) the alt bracket didn't fit either.  I had used some of the alt bracket holes for the new motor mount locations.


Fab time!


I made some 20mm spacers for the v-pulley.  This brought the v-Groove in line with the A/C v-groove on the harmonic balancer.




I also found some old mounts from the other Alternators that only used two bolts to the block.  So a bit of fitting and measuring set me to mount the alternator high where the A/C location would normally be.  This gave me the most swing movement.  Down low the swing movement was reduced to about 1/2 inch.  Up high I have a good 1.5-2" swing.


I found some 7075 alum bar stock in Dad's garage (ex Boeing Surplus stock) and got to cutting with the bandsaw.  This stuff took 20 minutes to cut a 4 inch strip!  Tough stuff!  Chucked it in Dad's mill and squared the stock.  Then mounting holes and tapped two for the alt bracket.  Lost about 2 hours trying to find the right tap.  Dad wasn't very organised with his tools.





This worked a treat for lining up the Alternator.  Last bit was to make a spacer for the lower alt bracket I picked up at the wrecker.  Again the mounting location couldn't go to the original front housing bolt.  So I used some more 7075 bar stock to extend a custom lower mount point.  I didn't take too many pictures of this but it worked a treat.


Ready for the belt!



Edited by Pezhead
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Next up was modifying the throttle linkage to cable.  Had a quick check on prices for an '84 300zx throttle cable and couldn't be bothered for the $40-80.  So down to the local bike shop to pick up a front hand brake cable - $5.  (Yes, I'm cheap!)


A little bit of fab on Dad's mill with some billet and alum angle yielded a couple of gem mounts!  Love doing stuff like this.  I ended up having to modify one when I discovered that the throttle butterfly would hit on the mount.  I had to move it back just a bit.


I think they turned up ok.





At this point I've used up most of my time.  Only a couple of days left and still have 1/3 of the items on my punch list left.


Feeling a bit like this little guy (I found under the car when a socket rolled next to him).



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Good luck with the VG30dett!  Love those motors!  My brother has a Z32 that goes hard!



Ok, so at this point time is getting down to the wire.  But I'm starting to feel really good because systems are getting done one by one. 


It's time to mount the turbo, connect the oil lines and start the intake piping.  Long term I plan to enclose the intake as a custom box and redo the piping for a front mount intercooler.  Found a rubber 90 degree bend at the hardware shop for the join to the AFM.  Also found a 90 for the turbo outlet. 






I checked with a muffler shop if they could do a custom bit of pipe, but came up with a bit of a "Plastic Steampunk" idea.  I found that plumbing PVC came in 2.5 inch and was really cheap at Lowes Hardware.  There was also ample selection of bends and joiners.  So, I know this looks like hell but is just temporary until I redo the system with the intercooler in metal pipe.








Picked up some LONG universal radiator hoses and replaced the ancient heater hoses.  That was honestly a bit of a hack together as the tight bends in the heater connections were a PITA!  I just used some copper bends for now.  I didn't think about them until just a few days before I fly out so no time to order some replacement heater hoses.  A quick fill of coolant and it seems ok for now.


Now, I've only got two day's left before I get on a plane back for Sydney.  I'm actually going to loose one of those days because of a job interview.  So I've only got one day left to sort things out... one day!

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Looks very cool so far... one small thing.  Are you sure that the turbo will properly spool when mounted in that orientation?  I know the stock setup has the turbo on the driver side, but I think by mounting it in reverse like you have might force it to actually suck from the intake side of the turbine.  I've got it in my head that vains are directional.

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Ooh, That ABS is an interresting setup. It's probably good for Temporary. But I'd be pretty wary of heat around ABS.  that stuff has a pretty low melt temp (My DIY 3D printer I set to 210 deg for ABS)  that being said it looks like it'll work at least for a little while. It might be a good idea to wrap that pipe in heat tape, or alum tape/foil at the minimum.  Last thing you need is an engine fire. 


So how are you going to do this?  Are you going to ship the car to AUS? or will it wait another 10 years for you to come back and wonder what you were thinking?

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Back to the story....


One day to go and I fly out the day after.  I was so excited I woke up at 5 a.m. and couldn't get back to sleep.  How much can I really get done in one day?  Coffee shop wasn't even open at that hour so out the the shed to tinker until things open.  I spent a couple of hours tracing wires with the voltmeter, labeling them and marking them in my notes.


Today I had to get the alternator/water pump belt sized and fitted and finish a bit of wiring for the fuel pumps and see where the wiring was left all those years ago.  I used some string to measure the size of the belt I needed.  I must really suck at it cause it took three trips to get the right size but the new belt fits perfectly and has plenty of travel for wear.


When my brother and I owned it I did the mechanical work and he did the electrics to get things working.  Well, we'll just say that he definitely wasn't an electrician.  And remember, this car was originally gutted as a full race car.  The wiring looms were taken out and only the bare essentials were left in.  It's a bit of a nightmare of wiring.  Cut off leads to nowhere, spices that are just wound together and taped.  I'm going to have to go through it eventually and do a lot of re-wiring. 


I made sure the ground straps were put on the motor then decided to "go for broke" and connect up the battery.  First up doing a quick touch of the positive to see if it was going to arc showing that I had a short somewhere.  It only made the smallest spark so things seem ok.  Gave it a quick second to see if I could smell anything burning..... ok.  Now, no power to anything.  Everything is dead.  Being a race car it had a master cut off on the cowl but we bypassed that.  I found one master 75A breaker switch installed near the fuse box.  That did it and the electrics came to life... well sort of.  Headlights didn't work but tail lights did, no dash lights either.  Now to try the starter (crossed fingers).  Yup kicked up.  Yay!  Also power going into the fuse box so at least we're in business.


Brother and I then decided before we get into that we should get the clutch and brake fluids sorted.  They've sat for 20 years and I don't want to let them sit clogged/dry for another year.  This ended up being a real ordeal!  We first tried a vacuum pump and it just sat there at about 15-20 psi of vacuum not drawing anything.  The old fashioned pump the pedal method was only a little better.  Since the whole system was full of air and clogged, we could only generate very minute amounts of fluid movement initially.  When we did get the fluid out it was horrible brown sludge!  We were able to get the entire system done by doing every line twice until new clean fluid was flowing.


I started at 5 am.  Guess what time it is now?  10 pm!  I fly out tomorrow and we haven't tried to wire up and start it yet!  I figure I'll give it one good attempt for an hour.  I'm exhausted at this point but determined to at least try to start it.


The next hour I'm wiring and patching into the loom based on some wiring diagrams I've found from the service manual and Hybridz forum.  Last step is to wire in the new fuel system and the power to the ECU.  That done we give it our first attempt... or try to.  As soon as the key hits "on" the fuel pumps kick to life and a spray of fuel comes bursting from the old SS braided lines.  At least being in the spare tyre well, the fuel didn't get in the rest of the car.  But we aren't going to replace those lines tonight.


So I figure unplug the fuel pump relay and at least see if we're getting any spark.  Then I know I'm close.  We then lose another 1/2 hour fiddling trying to get the ECU to kick to life and spark.  No go....


It's now 11:30 pm and I have to drive back to my sister's place (where I'm staying) and then fly out in the morning.  Sadly I concede victory.  But while disappointed, I look at how far the car has come in the last two weeks.  All of the necessary systems are fitted and plumbed and I can actually visualize myself driving it now.  It doesn't look like an abandoned project anymore (at least to me it doesn't).


So we put the hood back on and put away the tools.  This is where I've left it for now. 





So, you're wondering where this story goes now?  Well, I plan to be back in Seattle July 2014.  I plan to ship the car back then.  I would prefer if it were running.  I also have a small side story.  The interviewing I did in Seattle was with a company based there but for a Sydney based position.  They are working on securing a Sydney client.  If that goes forward and they hire me then one of the first things would be to come back to Seattle for training.


Let's hope!  A year is a long time.  So there I warned you about the cliff hanger. 


I miss the Z already!

Edited by Pezhead
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Sorry there was no Go man... Hopefully next year, in the meantime maybe your brother can work on it and keep us updated.  I'm sure I'll still be around in a year so I'll be looking forward to when you get to pick this up again.   You did a ton of work and it's only Age that's keeping the car from running, so keep it in mind and good luck in Aus...

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Good story and good luck in Australia as well. 

Hope you can be together with your long lost " friend" soon.

Also I am curious when saw you have 2 fuel pumps? What is the purpose of that and is the small one before or after the main pump. Also I thought the little glass fuel filter ain't rated for injection engine?


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