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Erins ZCar 1976 280Z 2+2 Restomod

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Finally almost done with my restoration of a 1976 280Z 2+2 for my daughter! Interior installation, paint touchups, and new emblems left to complete this 2 year project.


A little background first! I love Z's and was looking for a new restoration project two years ago. My daughter had already decided when she was 10 years old she wanted a Mustang for her first car and being the loving father I am, I told her I would buy her one for her 16th birthday if she maintained her grades despite my personal distaste for the cars. One weekend three years ago, we were headed to the movie theater and I saw a 1978 280Z coupe at a used car lot on the way and had to stop and check it out. Halfway thru the test drive my daughter suddenly saw the light and announced she had changed her mind and wanted me to build her a 280Z because it was so much cooler than a Mustang and no one at her school would have a clue as to what kind of car it was! She is not follower and constantly bucks the status quo every chance she gets.


It had been quite a number of years since I had worked on a Z and was looking for one for me to restore for myself but who can deny the next generation the beauty and power that is the Z! So my quest began the following weekend for a 2+2 to restomod for her. After about 3 months of searching I found a CL ad locally (about a 2 hour drive actually) with 1977 280Z 2+2, Auto Trans, perfect dashboard, SU Carbs!!, and a dark metallic blue, yay no color change needed, saves me a little on paint and sanding! PO claimed it had been running until recently when he developed fuel line problems and parked it not having the money to fix it. I picked it up for what I thought was a steal at $700 considering he started at $1500, rented a car dolly and headed home towing my conquest.


As I began work to get the motor running I quickly determined the car had not been running for more than 7-8 years because the fuel had spoiled, fuel lines were filled with molasses, gaskets were separated and every time I cranked the motor, tar spewed from around heads. Not good at all! Thankfully, Slow78Z forrm this forum had just listed his 78 L28 with Auto for sale so he could do a V-8 swap. I drove up to Topeka, KS(3 hours) in January 2011 in record snowfall condition to claim my prize. Slow78Z had the motor and trans already on a pallet and all the extra parts boxed up and ready to go upon my arrival. Great guy and very helpful! I returned triumphantly to my garage and unloaded my prize and then spent the next 3 months in the hospital with kidney problems.


Spring arrived and my health had returned so it was time to get going on the car. So off to media blasting first because during my health layoff, paint had started to peel all over the car especially the door jams, revealing the dull red original poorly sanded paint underneath the dark blue crappy paintjob as well as bubbles under the paint I had missed on first inspection. So here we start with the first set pics and you can tell from these that my luck had not changed yet:










Devastating amount of bondo and rust throughout almost every major body part makes this a total waste of time for me. The bondo on the sides of quarter panels is not filling hail dents, these are 1/4" layers of bondo covering holes from rust thru of the body. Light steel work and patch panels I can handle with no problems but full inner and outer skin replacments, rocker replacements, on top of an engine/tranny swap was too much for to take on at that point. Best option, right off $1500 invested at this point and find a better car to start all over with.


Craigslist to the rescue and the plethera of Z Cars over in OKC, OK it seems fate is smiling again! $3K for a low mileage 1976 2+2 280Z with auto trans and a fair interior. Running and driving nicely but with a lot of brake noise when stopping. Better than swapping a motor out!




No hood vents on a 280Z? That was new to me!




Weak Silver paint job over original silver metallic with an interesting painted pin stripe pattern...




Nice scratch down the driver's side fender, easily workable metal issue...




The worst rust found on driver's rear quarter at the bottom, will require some new steel welded in for sure...




Surface rust under paint on passnger's rear quarter, smaill pin holes would be found and brass soldered after treament...




Passenger's fender had small dent at edge of body line, a little hammer and dolly...




FI L28 clean as a whistle, will replace all the gaskets, seals, hoses and do a full tune up to ensure motor is clean as it looks...




These have to be the ugliest the tail lights anyone had ever put on a 70's car! That's OK, i have a plan to surprise my daughter with an omage!

And right to the plan I go... First I remove the old tail lights and surrounds...




Then I use a partial sheet of 1/2" foam insulation to make a template...




Template cut and new tail light buckets fitted for mock up...




Yes, that's right 65-66 Mustang tail lights mocked up on template! I will have to grind down the top edge of the repro light trim because the top edges are thicker than the bottom due to the sloped tail light panel on the Mustang. Now off to the machinist with the template and have the new panel cut from 18 gauge steel. Once it is welded in and skim coated it will look factory installed, hopefully!


Next step while the machine shop works their magic I remove the park benches and alos remove only the front bumper shocks, these will be re-purposed later, but I cut off the rear bumper shocks first leaving the open tubes of the shocks, just wait, you'll see why! Don't forget if you cut off the bumber shocks at the tubes, remember to release the pressure and drain the fluid out before cutting off the shock tubes!






Here's the custom bumper supports my body man and I came up with. Using 1" square tubing we removed the shocks from front bumber mount plates and welded the tubing perpendicular out and then welded another piece of tube across to provide front bumper crash protection of up to 10MPH. We welded the tubing directly to the rear shock tubes for rear skirt support and protection of the gas tank up to 10MPH crashes.




While the body shop completes the front and rear skirt/bumper supports I pull the seats and make a run to my local Hot Rod Holstery shop. My daughter had changed her mind on color from dark metallic blue to a bright red, "as bright a red as you can find" were here exact words! I find a remnant of red and black Houndstooth heavy duty cotton fabic on Ebay and know exactly what to do with it! It's winter time now and auto upholstery shops are hungry for business so I negotiate a sweet price of $700 to repair the vinyl and insert the Houndstooth into both front and back seats.






Sorry a little washed out color due to the bright sunlight...


Oh yeah, before we added the bumper supports, I took the vented hood off my 76 Coupe and swapped it out on her car so we could trick out the hood with a little custome mod...




Before I show you that mod, I mock up all the fiberlass parts. I bought the MSA Type 3 front and rear skirts, MSA Type 2 side skirts, and Classic Z Spoiler.








Once mounted and mocked into place, you need to make sure all gaps are consistent and fit is type against the body. Simple trick I use was to place duck tape on the body centered behind the edges of all fibergalss parts. Once all the edges are trimmed to allow for a tight fit against the body I fill any gaps with polyester body filler so that all gaps are smoothed right up against the body. The aluminized duck tape does not allow the filler to adhere to the body and provides easy separation with a nice smooth fit.






All the body peices can now be removed for sanding, priming and blocking. Now back to the my little hood mod!

A little trip to the interweb and Ebay lands me AutoLouvers store where I find some louvered panels- 11 louvers, angled, 7"x16" panels...




Now we trace the original vent shapes onto the new louverd panels, cut them out, test fit and trim if needed. Warning never weld on these hoods if you can avoid it! You are dealing with two layers of thin sheetmetal and warpage can occur very easily!




Now that we have our perfect fit, get some 3M two-part epoxy. Read the directions thoroughly and follow them precisely. What we did here was use the 3M epoxy to "weld" these two metal sheets together. When done properly this 3M epoxy is stronger than steel you are bonding together!

It is also sandable once cured so apply it liberally and don't be afraid to ooze it out of the seems and lightly smooth leaving you plenty of excess to sand done for smooth lines and factory finished look.









Secure each panel in place with "C" Clamps temporarily. You have plenty of potable time for adjustment, while scured in place with the clamps place a self-tapping screw every 2" around the outside edges to ensure a secure bond and to force the excess epoxy out of the edge lines to provide a smooth tight finish. Once cured out 24 hours later you can simply remove the screws(some may have to be grinded off) and then you can start sanding the excess epoxy off with 80 grit and then use a polyester filler for final sanding and to fill your screw holes.




This is how it should look after sanding and priming!

Now to the rest of the body repairs, priming, and final blocking!




Hail dents removed from roof and ready for skim coat.




DA sanding the two layers of silver metallic and then on to skim coating...












Now to the first quote of primer!














And finally your first look at the modded tail light panel welded in. Sorry but earlier pictures were corrupted and lost...




After days upon days of block sanding progressing from 300-400-600-800. We are ready for the first color coats! I chose the redest red you can find 2012 Ford Race Red Code PQ. This is a two stage paint used on Ford Focus, Mustang, and Special Order F150 Trucks. Stock paint makes it easily available for repairs and touch ups.






















So now we have every thing painted with 4 coats of basecoat each coat color sanded with 800 grit. Then it's on to 4 coats of clear for that glass like shine. Color sanded again and then buffed out for final assembly.


Here it is as it came out of the paint shop on June 14th, 2013 partially assembled. I am currently installing the custom grill screens I made and painted satin black. I also have 350Z emblems to replace the fender emblems and the Nissan Z front emblem in black chrome for the nose. I also, used Dupli-Color's Chrome Blackout to give that black chrome look to all the original chrome around windows, roof rails, door handles, and locks. Still have to finish installing interior, stereo, speakers, fog lights, new carpet, re-surfaced interior trim pieces, and whatever else I forgot to do earlier!








I will post the final pics in the next couple of days as I finish things up! Thanks for reading along and let me know what you think!

Edited by Erins.ZCar

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Delivered the car to my daughter 6 months late after her 16th Birthday! Would have delivered it a month ago except the weekend I was going to deliver it to her in Kansas several new problems arose. First door handle and lock mechanism broke on passenger side door and I had to replace both and then repaint with Black Chrome. As soon as we replaced those two items we started the car up and went to pull it into the shop for final buffing/touchups and low behold the engine died and would not restart. Needless to say my daughter was heartbroken.


At first my plugs were all soaked with fuel so we thought "flooded" clean the plugs, suck out the cylinders dry and and try again. No luck, no start. Pulled the plugs and checked again, dry as a bone no fuel in cylinders. Next, even though the fuel pressure measured correct before and after the fuel rail, we replaced the fuel pressure regulator just in case and still not the solution. Started intense troubleshooting with the EFI Bible and FSM. Replaced the MAS after cleaning the contacts and still nothing! Cranks just fine when cold and would start and run for a minute and then die and refuse to start until cold again. Checked the throttle position sensor, air temp sensor, water temp sensor, cold start valve, and thermotime, nothing! Still would start when cold most of the time but die after less than a minute. Double and triple checked the injectors listening to ensure the injectors continued to fire after the engine started and we weren't losing pulse, still no good. So what does the bible say after all these checks, replace the ECU!


Luckily, I thought I already have a spare ECU for my 1977 FI 280Z. Guess what, doesn't work, wrong part number. Here's where ECU's get tricky I found out. The 1975-76 Auto Trans FI models use ECU A11-600, the 1977-78 Auto Trans FI models use A11-601. My 1976 280Z 4-Speed Coupe uses the A11-601 ECU! So off to Ebay to find an ECU to match A11-600 in my daughters car. Two weeks later it arrives and we plug it in and walla, nothing... It starts and runs less than a minute and dies and won't restart! Totally frustrated and confused we start the troubleshooting process again re-checking every pin on the ECU harness and we suddenly notice that Pin 1 is giving us varying voltages of .3 to 12.7 volts. At 12.7 volts the engines starts, runs less than a minute and dies, when we re-check the Pin 1 voltage and try to restart the engine we get .3 - .7 volts. Bingo! Finally we have a negative reading we can start tracing!


So where does Pin 1 on the ECU connect to? The Ignition Input Circuit! We started tracing the wiring harness for the Ignition system around the engine compartment and back under the dashboard and find terminal corrosion on the connectors under the passenger side glove box. Cleaned the terminals and connectors and applied a generous dose a electolytic grease and instant start and run! Thank goodness for excellant mechanics and friends who spent 2 weeks with me crawling under the dashboard and hood testing and retesting component after component to find the issue and resolve it!


Now onto the final pictures!








I added the 350Z Circle Z Emblem to the lower valance of the Front Spoiler after Black Chroming



I removed the original 280Z Fender Emblems, welded the holes, and placed the 350Z Fender Emblems in their place



Took the 15x8 205x60x15 Wheels and tires off my 76 Coupe cuz they look so much cooler on her car!



Replaced the side markers with clear lenses and amber LED bulbs just becuase I could and installed clear headlight covers!



Replaced the B Pillar Vent Emblems with generic C-Type Vents because my daughter says it looks cool!



Along with the 65 Mustang tail lights I inserted the original fender emblem to maintain some throwback memories! Also, I added LED multi-function brake, turn, and reverse lights into the rear skirt vent for added visibility. The license plate cover also has a third eye brake light as well license plate light.





Finally, the customized interior with the Houndstooth cloth inserts! Beats sitting on scalding hot vinyl in the summer!



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