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Ratchet started life as a 1977 280z.

Where she ends up has yet to be determined.




Ratchet belongs to my friend Sigfrid, whom I met four years ago as he embarked on a V-8 swap into a FD Mazda RX-7.

We labored for three years, constantly battling the fact that the chassis was trash, before he sold it on. We enjoyed the process though and when circumstances allowed, we started talking about a new project.


I was fixated on a Z- specifically a pre-'75 Z- almost from the beginning.

This was primarily due to Colorado emission laws; any car older than 1975 is exempt, anything newer is not.

There is no "25 year" law anymore.


The simplicity of the era also appealed.

We knew we were going to alter the car quite a bit and the less clutter to work around, the better.


Sigfrid however is much more capricious and for weeks I was swamped with forwarded craigslist ads ranging from Lotus to Evo.

Slowly we began to converge on Z's though...it was inevitable.

We began to seriously discuss a couple of promising examples when suddenly one Friday night, he emails and says he's bought a car

and we're picking it up the next morning.

I was a bit taken aback.


Especially when I saw it the next day.


We work out of Sigfrid's home garage and had decided that mechanical work of any level was doable but bodywork was not.

Both of us had previously owned early Z's and were well aware of the common rust issues.

We wanted as good a body/paint combo as we could find and this car was...awful.



The seller is pulling the old "I have another buyer coming in a half hour, so make up your mind" routine.

I'm urging "walk", Sigfrid buys the car.

We don't even know if it starts.


"Course it does" says the seller and sure enough it does.

Sigfrid hops in and I follow him the eight miles to his house.

He actually drove it.


We had spent maybe ten minutes with the car before the sale, another twenty minutes driving over and now, for the first time I finally could inspect what we had.



How this car started and drove was a miracle beyond understanding.

The spark plugs were in finger tight, every vacuum hose and rubber boot was cracked/broken, three of the wheels were missing lug nuts and the tires were dry rotted (one tire, already removed from the car, exploded all by itself two days later).

We decided the car really wanted to get to a new home and dug deep to make it happen.


Trying to capitalize on all the mistakes we'd made on the FD and utilize the experience gained, we'd decided that the very first thing we'd do

was strip her bare and examine the chassis in detail.

She was up on stands with the wheels off (lug nuts finger tight, too!) within the hour.

And the love affair began.

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"First, do no harm"


This was to be our watchword during the first go-round of the car.

Basically, it meant no half-assed shadetree Bondo/pop rivet fixes.

Either she got fixed properly or she had to go.

Then we ran into a snag.


Couldn't find any rust.


Yes, there was some surface corrosion on the body panels (primarily the windshield valence) but the structure of the car was almost pristine. The pinchwelds were perfect as were the frame rails (passenger side rail had taken a hit from something but was dented, not rotted out). Doglegs, floorpans, wheel arches, rockers...all solid.

Same with the body panels, under the sun fried paint (three different colors besides the original silver!) the metal was straight and essentially free of the expected dings and dents.


Somehow, having done absolutely everything possible wrong, we had ended up with a superior platform with which to begin.





We sat down and formulated a plan.

Two weeks prior to the purchase, Sigfrid had undergone a second major back surgery and was still not very sprightly.

So, I was going to handle the major mechanical work and he would work on the body (less lifting and bending and he claimed to enjoy it anyway, which I certainly do NOT).

He was also near to departing on a three week family vacation, during which I'd be housesitting the pets and coincidentally, free to get medieval on the Z's ass.

A blizzard of internet ordering happened and a week later, I began.


Stripped the whole front end forward of the doors, leaving the engine/trans in place.

Then powerwashed, scrubbed, scraped, powerwashed some more, washed some more.

Then bedlinered everything.



And a second coat.

Then I went through with a tap and rethreaded the approximately 8 million threaded holes in the bay/wheelwells.

I may have missed a few.


About the factory undercoat.

Ours seemed quite randomly applied but what was there (most of it, actually), was really on there.

Since we are not equipped to do a bare metal restoration I figured that having survived for 36 years and then my recent attempts to blow it off with water, scrapers, wire wheels and the like, it had earned its right to stay.

I linered right over it.


Then the mechanical work began.



With no real experience in this particular car, we decided to freshen rather than upgrade the suspension.

She got Monroe inserts, Eibach springs, a complete Energy Suspension kit, new ball joints/tie rod ends, boots...the whole shebang.

Everything was cleaned and painted satin black.



We skimmed the front rotors (and rear drums), rebuilt the calipers, replaced the hoses and fitted Hawk HPS pads.



This all took about a week.

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Get rid of the HPS pads-they suck. I would run autozone pads before HPS. Or consider HP-Plus. Totally different pad.

Really, why do you say that?

I've always been happy with the performance/durability of the HPS pads but am willing to consider a dissenting opinion.


Anyway, my attention turned to the rear of the car and I basically replicated the work in the front on all the components on the back.

Here's a shot of the stripped underside before powerwashing began:



Note the wasp nest, the car was riddled with 'em. The rear bumper was one solid nest and others were wedged into almost every nook and cranny.

Hint: Wasps HATE Purple Power.

And high pressure water.


Cleaned up the diff and refilled with RedLine oil.





Had the fuel tank hot tanked and sealed, then coated with bedliner.



All of the fuel hose/hardlines were replaced.

I cleaned the sending unit(s) in the tank and they seem to read OK but time will tell.

The fuel pump also seems to check out OK but that too is on the watch list.


Rebuilt the struts and bushed all the articulating joints:



The spindles pulled out by hand, absolutely no drama there, but assembling the knuckle back into the LCA took forever.

Probably the most difficult part of the suspension work.


Reassembled with the brakes also refreshed:



We got the car with mismatched wheels and terrifyingly degraded tires, something needed to be done immediately.

My Z had Panasports and I lobbied hard for those but Sigfrid found a smokin deal on some XXRs and tires from Tire Rack, so that's what we have.

I hate them.



That's OK, they are only temporary.

These will become winter wheels/tires when we finally find a set we both like.


The last part of this first stage of work was the interior.

I stripped it bare, cleaned it up and bedlinered the whole thing:





So, we're now about a month from purchase.

The car has been stripped, chassis cleaned and bedlinered, suspension and brakes rebuilt and she's back on her feet.

It's as solid a platform as could be hoped for, we found nothing to worry about.


So, now what?, we think.

Much discussion ensues.

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With a thoroughly inspected/cleaned/refurbished chassis, we had two things to decide.


The first was the body- what would she look like?

There was no question that the absurdly heavy bumpers were going to be deleted and Sigfrid had taken an immediate dislike to the sidemarker lamps and rain gutters over the doors. We had no grill or valence below the sugarscoops.

The paint was so faded and blotchy that it was hard to get an overall feel for the shape of the car.


Because a real paint job is so expensive- here in Denver you can figure about $4-5k for a single color respray- and since we could not do it ourselves, we decided that Plastdip was the way to go.

Matte black.

Through a family connection I got a hookup with a Plastidip garage (franchise) and went to check it out.

It was very impressive and seemed perfect for Ratchet.


If we did the bodywork/sanding and shot her in primer, he would dip the whole car for $400.


This fit perfectly with the "Do no harm" philosophy we adopted...if at a later time we wanted real paint, the Plastidip could be easily peeled off and real paint prep could take place. Meanwhile, we would have a semi finished body that was at least one solid color and easily touched up.

The thick coating and matte black color would naturally hide minor flaws, so our (Sigfrid's, actually) prep did not have to be perfect.


The second area of discussion was the motor.


Sigfrid and I have very different ideas about what a daily driver actually is.

Simply put, Sigfrid is a speed freak and I am a Grandma.

Our V-8 swapped FD would spin tires through third gear and he wasn't impressed.


I was (and still am) pretty sure that the L28 wasn't gonna cut it for him and I had technical qualms about keeping it.

I wanted to pull the motor/tranny immediately, figure out what we wanted to replace it with and carry on from there.

Sigfrid insisted that he wasn't completely against the straight six and that we should get her running and then decide.


I suspect that some of this was down to money- he and I had been spending (his) cash like drunken sailors and the car was no where near driveable yet.

At this point it was the beginning of August and it seemed very possible to get her running before winter set in.


I had a big roadtrip planned for the end of the month and needed some time to prep my daily (1990 Mazda RX-7) for the journey.

I needed time to figure out how to approach the L28 and also wanted to prep for my biggest job, the total rewire of the chassis.


This is what the engine bay looked like when we got her:



There was no way any of this was going to stay, I was offended on every level.


I could recognize the bones of the 240Z underneath all this nonsense and was appalled at how Datsun had just started layering complications (mostly emissions related) on top of the original layout.

I made this picture my desktop and printed off a copy to carry...I wanted to see where I could go with it.


I returned to work on Ratchet in mid September.


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Protip: when posting photobucket picsture, delete the redirect to photobucket and keep just the IMG portion. Makes it easier for browsing. 


Looks like a good projects. I would have gone straight to disc brakes in the rear, as they couldn't have been much more expensive than the cost of decent pads and drums. Also I want to see how the plastidip turns out. 


do you plan on keeping the stock efi, or going straight to carbs to simplify the clutter?

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Do you plan on keeping the stock efi, or going straight to carbs to simplify the clutter?

Bit of a spoiler, but he's got a more recent engine bay shot in the 'Post pics of your Z' thread. Looks amazing, very clean and well thought out. One of my favorite bays by far!

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Protip: when posting photobucket picsture, delete the redirect to photobucket and keep just the IMG portion. Makes it easier for browsing. 


Looks like a good projects. I would have gone straight to disc brakes in the rear, as they couldn't have been much more expensive than the cost of decent pads and drums. Also I want to see how the plastidip turns out. 


do you plan on keeping the stock efi, or going straight to carbs to simplify the clutter?

Thanks for the tip...I'm used to VBulletin software which doesn't act on the redirect.


It's doubtful we'll keep any of the stock brake system but it seemed logical and easier to start with what we had and the adapt as necessary.


Same with the engine, I doubt it'll be in there for long.



Bit of a spoiler, but he's got a more recent engine bay shot in the 'Post pics of your Z' thread. Looks amazing, very clean and well thought out. One of my favorite bays by far!

I was working up to that part but I guess we're there now.


Once Sigfrid had decided that we were going to proceed with the original engine, the subject of carbs did arise.

I had modified my 240z to a cable drive system with 2" SUs off a Jaguar and have owned over 20 British sports cars, so I'm quite comfortable with them.

I ran triple sidedrafts for a while but the hit to gas mileage and the tuning complexity drove me away.

Most importantly, carbs look the biz...certainly much better than the lumpen FI intake manifold.


But there is no denying that injection is much better for a daily driver, we both agreed to keep it.


Accordingly, we ordered up a new exhaust (header to tail), new injectors/pigtails, new spark plugs, waterpump and oil pump.

And a bunch of gaskets and filters and sensors and hoses and belts.

And I went to work.


I should note that I am an inveterate and passionate rambler of junkyards.

I revel in them at the hardware level...it is amazing the variety and quality of widgets/brackets/hardware found on cars.

The junkyard is my Summit catalogue, with added rust and mud.


I was going to the yard everyday and harvesting anything that looked like it might come in handy.


The linchpin of the whole engine bay design was going to be the valve cover and the spark plug wires.

The entire bay at this point was black (we had cleaned/rattlecanned the block when we bedlinered the bay) and it was time to bring in some bling.

We considered polishing the cover and went so far as to grind off the (soon to be unused) mounting bosses and filling the holes (JB Weld) but decided we didn't like the shape enough to accentuate it as much as polishing would do, so the next obvious choice was to paint it red.

Can't go wrong with red.


As for the stock spark plug wires...well, I can't even.

Fortunately, having dealt with this same aversion on my 240, I knew exactly what I was going to do.


As I'm coming to grips with the "look" I want to achieve, we are researching other component options.

I find a 90A internally regulated alternator from a Maxima that looks good, so we order it.

Sigfrid reads that we can use the distributor from a 280ZX and the throttle body from a 240SX, I harvest both from the junkyard.

I grab the electric fan and control module from a Volvo.


I throw every idea I have at the bay, tinker around with them, discard most, modify others and finally, end up here:




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Yup, some Honda guy will love them when we are ready to pass them on.


In many ways the wheels exemplify the difficult decisions we face in this, the first stage of the project.

Remember, we have no seat time and thus, no idea of what she is and what she wants to be.

I routinely anthropomorphise my cars and feel that right now we're just getting her well enough to start talking back to us.


As for the wheels...

Nice wheels are expensive and although the money is not a primary issue, we didn't want to spend so much that we were locked in to keeping them.

What if we did go to rear disks or a different diff set up altogether?

At that point, wouldn't swapping to 5 lug hubs also make sense?

Opens up a much wider range of wheel options, for sure.


We're basically walking a tightrope.

We need to spend the money and effort necessary to get decent feedback without spending so much in any particular area that we get locked in.

We definitely view this as a multistage project with an exit point available at the end of stage one.


I have no doubt that we can get her running well and looking good, the question is, will Sigfrid love it as much as I'm sure I will.

If not, we should be able to sell and at least break even (not counting our time, of course).


He and I have both drooled over the ArizonaZ suspension kits (and others of that ilk), the difference being that he might pull the trigger and I never would.

Hell, for less than the cost of that kit we could buy a nicely sorted used Spec Miata that already has all the stuff we'd be trying to graft onto the Z.


I am much more accepting of the nature of the car and the limitations inherent due to age.

Hard metrics are trumped by patina and personality, in my book.


Given our crumbling infrastructure, something as crude and tough as the Z may turn out to be the ultimate streetfighter after all.

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Love the engine bay, very unique.

Thank you, engine bay detailing is a particular fetish of mine.


The overall aesthetic I aim for could be described as "optimised OEM", the appearance the factory guys might have achieved if the bean counters were removed from the equation.

An example would be my dd 1990 Mazda RX-7, which started like this:



And ended up like this:



Or our swapped FD, which looked like this when I first saw her:



And eventually morphed into this:



To get to that state, I find it useful to try and understand how the designers approached the car and the decisions they faced.


I mentioned that I'd printed a pic of our bay and studied it during my road trip (lots of time for rumination when you drive 3300 miles in 3 weeks...) but I'd also printed a shot of the 240z bay because it seemed obvious that all the emission stuff had just been layered on top of the earlier/simpler layout.


I decided that the linchpin of the original layout had been the mechanical fuel pump.

Its location at the front of the block lead to the fuel lines/filter being located all the way at the front of the bay and the fuel lines routed around the face of the valve cover.

It all makes sense...until you remove the fuel pump from the engine block, at which point it makes no sense at all.


I also figured that Nissan was well into development of the next gen ZX by this time , so rather than redesign the bay, they just tacked in brackets and components wherever there was space until we end up with the nightmare that is the 280z.

And I never did figure out why anyone thought that a hybrid mechanical/vacuum control of the HVAC was a good idea.


With our bay stripped and only the basic block left, I immediately saw that there were lots of extra mount points that we probably wouldn't be using but I decided to leave them in place until I knew they wouldn't be useful.

I should have deleted the firewall bracket for the throttle linkage right then- I KNEW that wasn't staying- but waited till later.

(I never have figured out why the Z has a monkey motion mechanical throttle linkage.

It seems needlessly complicated and even in 1970 most cars used a cable, so the "tech" was obviously available. It's almost like a design exercise to see if it "could", rather than "should", be done because I can see no advantage to it.)


As long as I'm on the subject, here's how I adapted the gas pedal to accept a cable.

After removing pedal assembly, I saw that all I really needed to do was remove the original "ball" and put a small L-bracket in its place. I figured I'd use  5mm  hardware to attach the bracket, so I used a 5mm drill to ream out the ball stud to remove it.

Perusing the hardware section of my local Ace Hardware Racing Supply, I found a stunningly perfect piece...a 5mm studded bracket used to hold shelves in knockdown furniture.

It was $.89.

The stud slid right into the hole I'd made and was peened over to fix it in place.

Then a hole was drilled for the cable (along with a slot for install) and I was done.

Total time, about fifteen minutes.



I used a Toyota cable because they use a very simple clip to retain the cable at the firewall...it fits perfectly to the stock firewall hole and the one I got was extra long, so I could fit it to the throttle body and correct the length/freeplay to suit.

It works very well, pedal action is very smooth and linear.

A bit of fiddling with the pedal stop screw and I had full opening of the throttle plate just as the pedal hits the stop.

Don't think I could have done much better.


I flipped the 240SX throttle body upside down so the cable pull was on the outside of the engine (rather than nestled next to the distributor)...this put the cable run on the outside edge of the intake manifold and resulted in an almost perfectly straight path from the firewall to the throttle body.

Flipping the body meant the original cable wheel was upside down (and thus, reversed from what I needed), so I pulled some likely candidates from the junkyard and modded one to suit.

I also machined and installed (press fit with JB Weld) a bung on the intake bell of the throttle body to feed the intake on the valve cover. This essentially duplicates the stock system but doesn't require a rubber intake boot with a hose fitting. Currently using a boot from a Volvo but that may change as we finalize what MAF (or AFM, maybe?) we'll be using.

Right now she's mocked up with the MAF from a RX-7.

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So far I've concentrated on the mechanical progress because that's the part I was most involved with but Sigfrid has been nibbling away on the bodywork.

Because he is a normal human being with family/work obligations, he has far less time than I to devote to the project, so our progress has been increasingly lopsided.

I was having too much fun indulging myself in the engine bay when I should have moved to the bodywork...winter was coming.


With the whole front end stripped for bedliner, it was easy and logical to begin with those parts.

The car was originally silver but had become orange and then two different burgundies over the years.

It sat in Arizona for several years before coming to Colorado, the paint was overdosed on UV but the chassis as dry as a bone.


I guess it was fortunate that none of the previous painters had done proper prep, especially on the hard to reach/see places.

The first pressure wash literally blew the paint off the underside of the hood:



I cut credit card shaped blanks from a sheet of styrene and used them to scrape most of the remaining paint off.

The original factory silver was in very nice condition and only required some scuffing up before bedliner:



Our car had at some point suffered a run in with something and our front grill, lower valence panels (we have the sides but no center) and the fenders all suffered some tweaking. We aren't worried about the grill/valence yet but the fenders were a priority.

They were the first body panels we removed and I was fully expecting to see a compost pile marinating in the wheel>door cavity.

Bit not so much as a leaf was found, the foam strip on the inside of the fender was intact, albeit dry rotted.


They were easily tweaked to shape and the only corrosion was some minor pitting under the side marker lights.

Sigfrid wanted to delete the markers anyway, so that was no biggie either.

He scabbed metal plates to the inside of the cleaned fenders with JB Weld and then skimmed the outside with it as well.

Minimal body filler will be required to finish it off.

At least, that's the plan.

Here are the fenders ready to go back on.

Final sanding/fitting will happen when all the panels are installed:]R49_zps2e855a69.jpg


All the glass has been removed:



And all the hinges have been soda blasted. They were in excellent shape, very little pin wear although we did have to replace one detent roller (driver side, of course).

Some of the big holes have been filled- the marker lights and antenna- but there is still quite a bit to go, specifically, the rear valence below the (now deleted) rear bumper. Not sure yet how we'll deal with that area.


I keep saying we're "not sure" about a lot of things because I have a hard time seeing the car with the blotchy paint distorting the view. Once she's a solid/consistent color it'll be a lot easier to visualize where she might go.


Also during this time, we lost two weeks of prime weather as Sigfrid had his roof replaced.

They took over the place and access was impossible.

Then came Thanksgiving followed by a brutal arctic coldfront (five days of subzero/near zero weather with no sun...very unusual for us).

And then of course, Christmas.


This is to say that I'm not sure how much work will happen to the body till after the holidays.

I'm going to retrieve the wiring harnesses from his garage attic, bring them here to warm up and start deciding what gets used and what doesn't.

I have the electrical mostly figured out and have gathered the components to implement it but it's much easier to build it in the car and I don't want to do that with the car wide open and being sanded.


Somehow we have to get this in primer.

In the winter.


Terrible planning. 

Edited by clocker

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Thank you, and a happy and prosperous New Year to ya'll.


Progress on the Z has continued, albeit in fits and starts as weather permits.

Yesterday, Sigfrid and I managed about 10 hours and we plan another full day on Friday (supposed to be 60°!).

Sigfrid has a natural aptitude for bodywork and has taken the lead as I follow along trying to make his lot easier. Accordingly, I spent most of the day prepping the doors, primarily removing the cursed tar that everyone uses to adhere the inner door seals. This summer when the doors were first removed, the tar was very sticky and messy and I admit I just shoved it aside for "later" and "later" ended up being yesterday.

Of course, now the tar was hard and frozen (well, kinda) and took much more effort to remove.

My takeaway lesson here is that shit jobs remain shitty and time doesn't help.

Anyway, all clean now, the jambs are ready for sanding as well.


Although the door glass has been removed, the mechanism is still in place (as is the inner doorhandle/lock) and I'm going to leave it in place during the paint process. It needs removing for cleaning/lubing anyway and I'm afraid of losing stuff in storage, so it'll just get a little more crapped up before removal after paint. After paint I'll gut the door, bedliner the inside skin and install the mechanisms after they've been rehabbed.

This may be a mistake, we'll see.


Note that I said "after paint" above.

S. decided he really wants paint (preferably black) instead of Plastidip.

His money, his car, his decision...so be it.

Not sure who he's been talking to but after the main prep/bodywork has been done and the car is in primer, the Z is getting towed away and painted. The turnaround is two weeks and we'll be responsible for the final wetsand/buffing of the clearcoat.


This is all great but I have a couple of qualms.

First, the color.

I like black and think the Z would look great that color BUT 90% of the Z's I've seen in black look like crap. The problem is the sheer number of separate pieces, none of which were particularly straight or well aligned to begin with. There are nine panels that make up the nose (2 fenders, 2 inspection panels, 2 sugarscoops (headlight nacelles), the cowl valence, the hood and the lower front airdam (which we just ordered and will be here next week)) and although the overall shape is quite pleasing, the actual fit is not too good.

Black just highlights all these flaws and the amount of bodywork necessary to "fix" it would be enormous and require more skill and experience than either of us possess.

(Plus, I HATE bodywork).


Also, whoever this painter is (and I have no reason to think he's not legit), he wants the car assembled for paint and I say "**** that noise" to that stipulation.

I've spent too much time on chassis prep to get overspray on everything and I feel that things like the doors and hatch can only be properly painted when off the car.

Besides, after the chassis is painted there will be a lot of time spent doing electrical work and actually getting the car running...none of which will require bodywork and indeed, will be easier without it.

We can store the fresh painted bits in the attic where they'll be out of harms way till we are ready for them.


I figure another 3-4 days of us both working should get us to the first primer coat.

That will be interesting.

Edited by clocker

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Yesterday was 60° and sunny, this morning it's 25° and preparing to snow.

This whiplash weather makes planning a challenge, we did take advantage though and the project lurches forward.


Sigfrid is driving the bus through this stage, I just do what he tells me and hope for the best.

I find this stage of paint prep to be very confusing.

It all basically looks like hell until the first primer coat is applied and I haven't the experience to know what "good enough" is, so he is handling the big stuff and I'm doing the scutwork.


Yesterday, "scutwork" = the hatch jamb and the hatch itself.

After eight hours I'm about 75% done, it's absurdly time consuming (better tooling would help) but coming along nicely, I think.

Two things make it difficult...the jamb itself is very convoluted and complex, so lots of hand sanding is required and the multiple coats of paint are in every crevice and crack and must be removed.

I also found the first (and only) evidence of rust repair as I worked on the bottom of the jamb (the part above the taillamps). The drainage of the hatch is terrible originally and the fact that water pools right where there are overlapping panels just invites rot.

I was finding bondo where it wasn't expected and further sanding exposed a patch panel had been cut in and welded. It's not really a bad repair (could have been riveted/glued) and it's not structural, so we'll just skim over it again and carry on.

A half day or so should wind the jamb up.


Meanwhile, Sigfrid has been concentrating on the two main problem areas of the main chassis...the rear valence and the drip rails.

The rear valence:



This area was originally hidden by the elephantine safety bumper (seriously, the bumper and it's shocks/mounts had to weigh 75lbs. at least) and Datsun made absolutely no effort to make it look good, so there is a lot of covering up to be done.

Serious guys would cut that valence out and fab in a whole new unmarked panel but since we're just two shadetree rubes, it's JB weld and bondo for us.

If it looks too crappy, there are aftermarket rear bumper/valence panels that cover the whole area and could hide our incompetence.

We shall see.


The drip rails have always been a focal point for Sigfrid and they are finally shaping up.



The original stainless trim really dates the car we think, so it's gone. The rails were ground down as far as possible (there are spot welds holding the roof panel to the doorframes) and then bondo was filleted in to make a smooth transition.

Again, this is a "wait and see" kinda thing.

I hope it works out but fear that body flex might pop the filler right out.

I'm sure it'll be fine for a while.


So, the main body is about 75% done, the fenders and inspection panels are done, the hood is half finished (the underside is bedlinered, the top hasn't been touched), the windshield valence has been stripped but needs sanding and the sugarscoops haven't been touched.

The new front airdam/valence is scheduled to arrive today.


Of the remaining panels, the sugarscoops will probably take the longest because they'll require mostly hand sanding.


We figure three more days to paint.

Of course, between the weather and Sigfrid's return to a normal work schedule, those three days may be spread over a month or so.

I'm going to try to expedite this as much as weather (and my tolerance for sanding) allows.

I'd like the car at the paint shop by Feb. 1 if possible.


Probably won't happen.

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We bumble forward, oblivious to both weather and lack of facilities.

After two weeks of frigid cold, Denver is back to more normal winter weather and Sigfrid and I took full advantage.


Speaking as a paint/bodywork ignoramus...


This shit be hard.

Not only are we woefully underequipped for the job but we lack the experience necessary to properly parse our progress. How good is good enough, what does this actually look like?


Uncertainty has reignited our discussion of final finish...basically, are we capable of (and willing to) prep to the level necessary for a dark gloss paint?

I've always thought NO, we are not, which is why I advocated for the Plastidip.

The thick(er) matte finish would hide a multitude of flaws and it's much easier to remove if we later decide to upgrade to real paint.


Sigfrid has always thought YES, we can, citing several cars he's already worked on.


We needed to find out and decided on a test panel.

We chose the windshield valence panel (it covers the wiper/fresh air intake cavity between the windshield base and the end of the hood) because it is the absolute worst case body panel being curved in every plane and stamped full of louvers.

It's also very visible and any flaws are constantly on display to both the driver and any onlookers.


We spent several hours, mostly on the louvers, and got it stripped nearly to bare metal.

To the touch, it felt very good.



It was not:



This pic, shot soon after the final wet coat, does not accurately show how crappy the panel really looks. There are waves, micro-dings and wrinkles that suddenly jump out and plainly show how much further we'd have to go to achieve even a bad paint job.


But wait an hour and let the paint dry:



Things get a lot better.

With a flat/satin finish the damn thing looks great.

Well, maybe not great but certainly acceptable.

To me, at least.


I'll be moving on to part two of the experiment this week.

I've brought the two inspection panels home with me and will spray them both in black primer.

One will then get several coats (apparently, seven is the preferred number) of Plastidip and we'll see what it looks like finally.

I'll eventually try to peel the dip off, to confirm it actually works as advertised.


We sanded and painted the hood:



...because once Sigfrid gets going, he's hard to stop.

The sugarscoops are also sanded, leaving the doors as the last parts to deal with.


I changed my mind and decided to fully strip the doors now, attempting to minimize handling post-paint. We've begun the hole repair process where the mirrors used to mount and the jambs have been wirebrushed. The insides of the doors were remarkably clean and all the drain holes were clear...I have no idea why or how.


Should we decide on Plastidip, our prep is well on the way to completion.

If we want paint, we've barely started.


Discounting the amount of labor involved (hard to do...) and the extra cost (even harder...), I object to paint right now as it completely warps the parameters we'd set for this first stage of the project.


Remember, we've never had the car fully assembled and in running condition and given Sigfrid's penchant for power, I'd say it's a certainty that a swap of some sort is imminent. Plus, we're not sure what we're going to do with the body in terms of styling...flares, skirts, wings, bumpers...have no idea yet.

To invest a big(ger) chunk of cash into paint right now and then have to tippytoe around "good" paint as we continue the mechanical work just doesn't make sense to me.


Besides, I've always kind of seen the car as a "gentleman's rat rod" anyway.

I want her clean, straight and functional more than I want shiny. The freedom from worry that a finish like platidip can provide is quite liberating.

It's a freedom that extends beyond the obvious like rock chips and door dings, what it really is is an admission and acceptance that there will be a stage two, what we do now is neither final nor irrevocable.

(Or terribly expensive...)


No matter what we finally decide, yesterday's paint playtime was fun and instructive, a welcome break from the tedium of sanding.

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Well, it's Sunday morning and as I prepare to watch the Broncos/Patriots I thought I'd bring y'all up to speed.

Yesterday went swimmingly.


Neither Sigfrid nor his wife. Alex were terribly impressed with my dipped samples.

Alex, who is amazingly cooperative with our garage adventures but at the same time totally uninterested, only likes "shiny" paint.

Fair enough, I'd like that too.


Sigfrid could see the advantages but still harbored hopes of a driveway done gloss coating, was harder to convince.

So, while Sigfrid prepped the doors (the final major pieces to be done), I performed a more direct experiment.


This was my hypothesis:

-Given our equipment and facilities (very little and the driveway) we are not capable of prepping to an acceptable level. We can get things clean and smooth but not straight and the darker the color and higher the gloss, the more critical "straight" becomes.


-All of our work to date -and it's quite a lot, really- has brought the chassis to a level perfectly suitable for a thick, slightly textured, matte finish like Plastidip but not even close for a "real" paint.


-If one can ignore the custom/conditioning of what a car is supposed to look like (i.e., "bright and shiny"), a matte finish can be just as attractive as regular paint and in fact, has several advantages.

More about that later.


I decided to take the car just as she sat and spray a test panel on it.

I wanted a spot that covered some of our bodyfiller work, some contouring and would be fairly easy to remove afterwords.

Here is the test area (the rectangle behind the gas filler door):



This covers where we deleted a sidemarker light and filled a bumper mount capture nut.

The space got 5 coats of dip.

It had been sanded to 150 grit only and washed before paint.


We let the dip side dry for a few hours and then...attacked it.

We keyed the dip, intentionally scratched through the coating (surprisingly difficult to do) and then sprayed over the damage with a few heavy coats. Plastidip melts into itself and after about an hour of dry time, the scratch was basically invisible from a slight distance. Careful examination shows the outline of the damage (because there is a difference in coating thickness) but the matte finish hides it very convincingly. If one built up the scratch/ding with a brush and then sprayed a final coat over the whole area, it'd be damn near invisible.


A few hours later we peeled the whole thing off and yes, it actually does remove as easily as the videos show. Pretty incredible.

Keep in mind that Plastidip is supposed to cure for a day before handling and we only gave it a few hours before attempting to destroy it...and it still worked very well.


Sigfrid and I are finally on the same page...it's black dip for now.


Here's the plan.

We moved all the removable body panels into the attic. They have all (except the doors) been sanded,cleaned, bedlinered (on the inside) and primered. This frees up a lot of space, means we needn't tiptoe around finish painted panels and isolates the chassis as a "long term" test bed for the dip. As we continue work we can monitor how the finish looks and holds up to casual abuse.


In spring, as the weather warms and the car has neared assembly completion (he says optimistically), we can paint and install all the panels individually and maybe even a fresh touch up spray of the chassis.


My local Ace carries a full range of Plastidip (they just put in a standalone display) and sells gallons for $90.

We're told we need between 3-4 gallons for the car.

Sigfrid went online and ordered a four gallon pack (with extra prepaint "conditioner", whatever that is) for $226 shipped and it'll be here this week.

Sorry, Ace.


We'll spend a day on a few minor detail areas and get her cleaned up, then wait for a nice day to shoot the dip. I'm hoping to finish by end of this month.


Meanwhile, the mirrors showed up.



These are cheap (which is why I felt comfortable gambling on 'em), eBay "Spoon style"(no clue what that means) mirrors for a Honda Civic. Some rough measuring in the junkyard showed that the triangle corner of the window frames was very close between the two cars and the whole thing was under $25, so what the hey?


Mounting them should be technically straightforward but I have no idea how they'll look or what visibility will be like...we'll just have to see.


Finally, here is a terrible and not very useful shot of Sigfrid's favorite spot:



He's worked so hard on this driprail area and it's turning out very well.

It should completely disappear when finished and that is the whole idea.

Good job, S.

After the dip is sprayed I'm going to go over the interior with a coat of bedliner to make it all pretty black again, then the car will sit and cure for a while as I gear up for the electrical work.

After the cabin wiring is done, we'll layer the interior with Fatmat or Dynamat or something and begin interior install.


We'd both really like a Megasquirt and hope we can score a good deal before it's time for engine wiring but we can deal with the stock ECU if necessary at the beginning.


Our long malaise has ended and we're moving again.

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The weather sprites gifted us with an unseasonably warm weekend and Sigfrid and I took full advantage.

We started here:



By Sunday night we were here:



We are calling her good for the dip, any further prep would be useless when slathered with the thick matte coating.

In the future should we decide to get real paint, we've gotten the body to a good start point for a real pro to work with and done no permanent harm.

At least the old "urban camo" faded paint is gone and we can finally see the body for what it is.


The Super Bowl will eat up next weekend, we hope to apply the dip the weekend following, weather permitting.

The interior will then be cleaned up and a final beauty coat of bedliner applied.

Let everything cure for a week and progress can begin again.


I'd like to have the chassis wiring complete by end of February but we'll see how that goes.

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