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Ground-Up 280z Resto-Mod

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Between countless stretches of night shift and a new-born at home I get about two full days a month to spend with this project so it's moving along slowly. Glad I quit my on-call part time gig. :P


I am a "noob" by all means of the word in the matter of car restoration so reading, learning, experimentation and friend/fellow enthusiast support is how I have progressed. Constructive criticism and advice is solicited and welcomed - I do my best to take it without any residual butt-hurt.


Recommendations on a good engine builder and machine shop in Tacoma/Seattle are welcomed.


This car sat in somebody's front yard for some time - and every time I would drive by I would think to myself: "I wish this guy would sell me his car... it's been sitting there for over a year". One day I was browsing CL and stumbled upon the advert for this exact car. I dialed the guy, who told me it was a 280z rolling chassis, no engine and no transmission. I instantly scheduled a time to see the car. After crawling underneath and looking at all the typical rust spots I only found a couple of significant areas and no major rust-out. After a bit of negotiation I towed it to it's new home.






I got this car mid-December of 2013 as a "project" with the goal of doing a ground up resto-mod. I was not sure of where I was going to go with my engine build and bounced back and forth for a while trying to decide what I was going to do as I was stripping down the car.


So far the engine build plan is to do an L28ET with forged internals, Borg-Warner S360 tubo, ported P90A with solid lifters and performance cam, ported intake, ported manifold, R33 Skyline GTR rear end, R33 Skyline GTR complete brake conversion and 3” exhaust. Horse power goal is between 300 to 500 at the wheels. The car will be used as my autocross and track play-toy. 


A guy can dream right? The car is in thousands of pieces… literally :l


The R33 Skyline/GTR components – got them for cheap or so I’d like to think… whole lot for only $400. Once it's painted I will replace the rear with a T3 conversion kit + the below goodies. The front brakes will require custom fabricated brackets but that's further down the line.






There is a few trouble spots with rust – the battery tray area, surrounding firewall, front firewall cowl, rear valance and bottom of the fenders. No major rust-out or rust through has been detected thus far. There is also some rust spots below the undercoating at the bottom of the car but nothing that a little phosphoric acid or spot welding can’t fix. The car has been painted 2 times in addition to the factory coat (silver), cherry red and finally black. Probably part of the reason it has been preserved better then Lenin at the mausoleum.  






As of June 2014 I’m still working on stripping and restoring the body so the engine build is still in the “parts accumulation” and “sometime in the future” phase. I have stripped away most of the exterior and interior along with the front suspension – everything is in little Zip-Loc baggies and boxes.


This past weekend finally finished gutting most of the interior, dropped all of the front suspension, pulled the doors/hatch/fenders and started removing the rear components (gas tank, bumper mounts, etc.).








Next step is to peel away the sound deadening inside the car and strip the weather sealant on the bottom then patch and kill rust. Hopefully in a couple of months it can go to the media blaster and then to the paint shop but for now more prep work.  

Edited by V-Fib

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If the sound deadening is giving you trouble, dry ice works well at breaking it up initially.


Sweet project.

I've been a little skeptical about the whole dry ice deal because all the videos and guides I've seen involved a guy beating it with a hammer. Is there a more subtle way to go about doing that?

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The other method is heating it with a torch or high output heat gun.  The dry ice method is much cleaner.  When done right the body takes no damage.  If it does, your either hitting it too hard, or the floors need to be replaced anyway. 

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Not a whole lot of progress this weekend mostly just logistics. I got a used rotisserie from a local on Craigslist it's a little rusty and one of the rams needs replacement but as soon as I get mounts fabricated up and finish gutting the interior I will be putting the car up in the air so I can get the remainder of the prep work done.






On a slightly different note I saw this Z in the neighborhood - I have to say I like the ratsun look and those wheels.


Wonder if it belongs to someone on here...



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If it does, your either hitting it too hard, or the floors need to be replaced anyway.

I guess I'll just have to be careful. My floor pans and transmission tunnel are pretty solid. Thank you all for the info.


Does anybody have any insight as to which method of mounting the rear on a rotisserie works best? I've seen the bumper shocks and the tow loop mounting holes. Is one any better than the other?

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So an update is in order. The car has now been stripped to the unibody with only the rear differential/suspension left attached as I finish up my rotisserie.





The rotisserie has had new 3 metric ton hydraulics mounted on it with custom mounts fabricated to fit the front bumper and rear tow loop locations of the S30. Only thing is one of the stands has rusted itself shut and will need to be re-fabricated.





The floor-pan, transmission tunnel and trunk sound deadening material has been stripped away using the dry ice method. The transmission tunnel walls put up a bit of a fight due to them being vertical.






Surface rust and scale has been wire wheel away revealing (relatively)  mint floor pans with only mild to moderate pitting and absolutely no rust through. In my opinion nothing that some phosphoric acid followed by Master Series Silver primer won't fix. If I find that the underside is harboring some severe pitting then I may patch panel it - otherwise just chemical treatment.









Plans are to get it up in the air by next week and send it to be blasted in a month or two.

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Time for the MEGA UPDATE...


Cut out the battery tray and surrounding fender plus firewall area that were impacted by rust the most:






Now for the cancer free area:






I subsequently moved into a house with a two-car garage so the Z was relocated to my home:




My friend and I spent a solid 5 hours with oscillating multi tools stripping away the undercoating:








Followed by a mineral spirits bath to remove the residual tar:




Got part way under but the rear is yet to come:





The next step is to weld up the patch panels to the existing holes. No new rust has been found at this point. Once it has been patched it is off to the media blaster!


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