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simplicity and reliability, ZX turbo track toy

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Hello I am Marshall,


I've been in the datsun scene for about 5 years.  

I owned a 510 wagon that I recently sold in favor of building this as my track practice car ...and still daily driving it.


I originally wasn't going to create a build thread for this, but as I get more into it I really would like feedback/advice mainly on how I'm proceeding with the motor setup.  
I've overspent a lot in the past with minimal gains I'm really trying to avoid that with this build and keep the build on track.
The goal is track legal with streetability.  Nuetral handling, decent power, reliability, and driving pleasure. 
Full interior is coming back, AC and climate control I hope to restore as well.   To make it a comfortable, usable build.  
I treat this build as a 'practice car'.  The only reason I own this car is to practice driving on track.  May it be drift or grip.  
If I get serious about competition, I will probably start from another shell when I have the budget and means.

I'm starting to regret not saving my money and getting a more modern car.  I love JNC's, but I just barely have the budget to keep it on a modern performance level.


This is my car- 1983 280ZX NA -> Turbo, CA smog'd, caged and on coils.


16796476495_6c0d92ebcd_b.jpgP1220747 by pherexion, on Flickr




But before all that- we have to go back a bit to show how this build came about, as it was not intended for track use until recently. 

My brother bought this car about 4 years ago after he totalled a 350z, I was trying to get him into working on cars like I had been but it didn't really work out.  
We got it for $2200 stock, only had an aftermarket stereo.  Was in decent-good shape, ~170,000 miles. 

He daily drove it for about a year and then gave it to me when it started to have some motor issues. 

I apologize about the picture quality. It steadily improves as I went through several phones over the past years, and then recently I bought a proper DSLR so no more low quality !!!  

But for the early stuff, this is all I have. :( 

Going to take my time posting this so maybe the rest of the photos are going to take a bit of time.  I'll try not to drop too much at once! 





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Having trouble uploading the video, but if it worked here's a lap from my recent visit to buttonwillow.  Had some running issues, but overall felt great to get out on track.      edit; re uplo

@260det,  thanks for that.  I've got a few ideas going right now, going to do some prototyping and hopefully make some improvements. A few updates from recent activity. Earlier last year when I

I did lots of things to the car this year, but didn't feel it was necessary to update here until I had some results. The main outstanding issue with the car after Thunderhill was the cooling system

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About 1 year after my brother was daily driving it, started having EFI issue and general maintenance issue that he did not want to do.

So he gave it to me and got something more modern. 

I got it like this, while I was still doing a lot of work on my 510.


It had a lot of wiring issues from the previous owner stereo install and was generally filthy ... I started stripping everything pretty much immediately when I got it.




RCA cable not hooked up to anything... why?!



At this point, my dad and I were considering sharing the cost of just general mantainence and getting it back to daily driver state, so he could avoid putting some miles on his S2000 for commuting. 
I ordered a bit of maintenance stuff to fix all the suspension issues.
-MSA urethane bushing kit

-MSA sway bars

-ball joints + tie rods

-earls stainless steel brake lines





After this I was troubleshooting the EFI, it would stumble around 3000rpm and generally just drivability issues.
I was looking around on hybridz for solutions when I cam across a for sale thread from rayapp2 ... 
And then some things happened.  Impulse buy to the max.  Decided rather do turbo motor swap than troubleshoot stock EFI...





So the 510 got kicked out of the garage for a little bit and this thing got some work done.
Mind you, I did all of this with no helper ... wtf am I doing ?  IDK LOL lets find out.  




Hey... Now I have a close ratio box for the 510~! cool.



And then I realized I had no idea how to do wiring.




And it kind of sat with little progress while I was doing work on the 510.




A few months later, I finally got it running.  barely running, but it moved.



ECCS was all kinds of broken.

Got a connector kit from Fricfrac! 



Old L28 longblock became doner for Alex's 240z drift car!




Harness goes where?



Success!! I got it going well enough finally.



It took another few months to get the ECCS finally operating well enough so it wasn't leaning in boost and doing all kinds of wonky things.

Took it to exhaust shop to have the system put back.  New cat + muffler




Had to play around a lot more and have a shop tune the AFM to get it to pass smog, but passed no problem!  No issues with the swap!  Regular star check is fine for turbo conversion. 

I was storing the 510 at a shop for a while.  I had access to a lift which was nice.
At this point I was daily driving the ZX pretty regularly. 

Put T3 TC rods

And then a coolant hose burst while I was driving.  And my temp gauge doesn't work. 



I put a temp gauge on it.




So much trouble... for such a small thing...



I put Z31 ecu connectors... This fixed some running issues. 



Then I thought about selling it.  But nobody wanted to buy it.



Windshield was cracked & had some rust bubbles.



Not so clean up close.


Put aluminum radiator to replace the rusted stock one.
Sorry for blurry pic :( 



Daily life.




Stock oil cooler lines were leaking BAD so...




Water pump started leaking got a new one.






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And then I got it back about a week later.


I had parked it at the Bart lot in Berkeley to go to work.
Come back at 4pm, stroll to my spot. 

No ZX.

Go back to station, ask the attendant, police arrive, file police report.

Week later I get the call, they found it!  I was out of town so my mom towed it home for me. 
Very lucky... Only missing thing was stereo, battery, and some misc things I had hidden in the back.
They had left trash/soda cups around but it wasn't too bad.

Cleaned it out and got it going again okay... still sucks but not too bad.  Having it gone made me realize that this is really a car that I want to own. 

I got it back late September (2014) 



Ray was scrapping a car, because he had to move.  I helped him with some of the work and he let me take extra stuff from the ZX before he scrapped it.

Thank you Ray!!


Now since the 510's money pit kept growing, I decided to use the ZX to make a drift event at the end of the year (2014) so I started prepping what was needed to pass tech.

The windshield was still cracked and needed to be replaced, may as well fix the rust around it and the t-tops while i'm at it.




Things starting to get interesting. 




Not enough masking... oops lol.


Rattle can no bad with good prep work. Better than rust and faded paint.
I ground out and sealed in the rust areas with eastwood rust stuff before painting of course. 



Something from parts shop max?! 



All better!




I got a hydro. I mounted a hydro.











I got stuck on the driveway getting into work.  Someone walking by helped me push it back.  Open diff life.
Oh yeah I bought these wheels over a year before lol. 



Why am I at marcus fry's shop?!






Do you even lift




skid racing




dafuq u doing




week before




Night before.




On the track !!!



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going to write a few post to keep the thread from lagging...



Part 2 soon

It's only been 17 minutes.


Drift is an odd freak show kind of entertainment.  Not like modifying a car for handling and performance.  They're two very different areas of expertise.

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Lol I mean I was going to try to break up the pics a bit to make the page a litlte faster to load... idk...

Drifting is fun but I like grip too.  I'm actually prepping the car for a grip event on thunderhill next month. 


"not like modifying a car for handling and performance"

This is completely untrue. :) 



Anyway, part 4- lol wat I made it to the track? SKIDS!

Please note, this is my first track seat time in this car.
I ran it at Sonoma Raceway's Winter Jam 2014. 

(photo credit to those who posted on facebook... none of the pictures in this post are mine!)







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After the successful track day event I have just been doing little things and daily driving the car still.



Still a street car, need comfortable passenger seat!


Grip is good.  Once you pass novice in drifting, its about grip levels and slip angles. :)




Inspected for damage after the track day.




Not the only Z in the work lot. :)




Spare subframe for alignment kit.




Spare motor.




CV swap.




Spacers to raise the rear for daily. 




Tucked the sway bar mounts so its no longer below the frame rails.
cable ebrake setup was destroyed by previous ride height. 



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And now we come to the current state of the car.

And my 'new' (used) camera.  So no more cell phone quality!!!








This car is nearly ' done '.


All of the major component are in place, it just needs a bit more finishing touches and details worked out.

Big brake kit coming this month, and alignment for the rear and I should be set. 

The block has about 280,000 miles on it so I'm building a spare drivetrain setup but that's about the limit of current plans. 

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Looks like a two car demolition derby.


Have fun with it.

Very different when done properly...


Driving in tandem the point is to get as close as possible with no contact.  It requires a good smooth line from both drivers.

Some very good driver can rub their front tire on the door of the lead car, but that was my first tandem battle and I am not willing to risk my daily that much.   Entry into the first part of that course is around 80mph at the top of third, that's what the hydro is for. 


Once this car is fully setup it should be very decent at it.

My team mate is currently rebuilding his 240z with an RB so there should be some nice Z tandem content up in the next year or two.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Installed my new subframe.

I am playing around with an ireland engineering E30 alignment kit, there are a couple quirks that I didn't account for but I am correcting them. 
Can get positive camber with these brackets. 

Also relocated the ebrake cable to run through the subframe due to my raised sway bar ... functional with extra ground clearance. 

Bushings are Z31, I had them turned down on a lathe to fit. 






Something is weird with this subframe.. maximum toe-in I can get is -0.27 !!! Oh well, was +0.30 with the old one... 

Going to thunderhill this weekend.  A good shakedown for how well this car handles grip.

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  • 2 weeks later...

@johnc, yup yup!!  I am pleased with this setup for both grip and drift.  Its a well balanced street car.  And I did get sideways last weekend around 100mph coming hot on the back straight!!  
Its not as scary when you're used to drifting it. 
At winter jam at the end of the first day during the tandem trains I was hitting the entry in 4th !! 

Rear likes to come out if I turn-in too much while braking.  New brakes did great!! Even when they were fully heated up performance only degraded slightly, and stayed consistent throughout the day. 

My motor is getting hot, I think it has to do with the seeping head gasked.  I think I'm going to buy a daily and give myself more time to repair everything on this build for when I can get out on the track again. 


Clutch was smoking on the first three runs, after that it started gripping better ... I think its going out, or It never got broken in properly.  

Either way towards the end of the day its holding power better than it was before I got to the track.  Weird. 

I have video of one of my early runs up, I'll finish the rest (including the one with the big slide) in the next few weeks.  :D 
One lap on the main straight I hit fuel cut in 2nd... 


60fps youtube ftw. :)

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  • 3 months later...
  • 4 months later...

A lot of things have happened since my last post, but not much relating to the car. 

I did another Thunderhill West track day with grip and also some drift, finally killed off my 16" drift spares.

The car was still having cooling problems, and with various things needing repairs I decided to tear it down and fix the final details before Winter Jam at Sonoma raceway on Dec 19th&20th. 




The Roll cage was starting to have rust issues, and I needed to get the seat down lower and further back if possible.  I'm 6'3", the little ZX is a tight fit!


So I did some cutting, removing the stock seat braces and welding up the holes in the floor pans.  Also notched the subframe mount behind the seat and welded some bracing back.  Not an issue since the main hoop supports this area now.

Since I sold the 350z seats, I also installed a S14 passenger seat. 




The frame rails also were super torn up and deformed from the car being low and driven hard, they were collapsing and getting close to losing support for the fuel/brake lines so something had to be done.

I replaced most of the passenger side rail, and welded up the holes in the driver side rail as it was still in reasonable shape.

Excuse the ugly welds... At least they have good penetration. :D



After, I sealed everything in with eastwood rust encapsulator and rattle canned it black.





During this time, I also replaced urethane bushings for the LCA and steering rack as well as new ball joints.
After this, all my bushings are urethane with an exception of the new OE differential bushing. 





Checking rack steering geometry...  Over centering at full lock means I'm going to have to modify my crossmember eventually.  Not a lot of angle, but enough. 





I also have been collecting some extra parts. 





With my cooling issue persisting, I decided to rebuild a spare head with a regrind cam and rebello valve springs.
Nearly 300,000 mile stock block will need to be redone soon. 

Deleted the pop off valve.





And we're done! Or are we?




I took the car to tech at cortex and passed all except I had a scratched radiator hose and my brake fluid was low.
After going to replace the lower radiator hose, I found a leak in my brake master cylinder!  Replaced it with a Z32 unit yesterday and the brakes are working much better. 


He also mentioned I could use some zip ties to tuck all the loose junk in the engine bay... The simple things you don't think of when you're focused on big stuff. 





Oh, and my friend moved his 240z project in to get it done by spring. :D





Hopefully there will be some good footage from Winter Jam this year!! 






Well my oil in the coolant issue turned into water in the sump the morning I was supposed to go to the track. 

Turns out its not the head or head gasket seal that's the issue, as I've already replaced all the front cover seals last year it must be a cracked block, as its the only thing left.
Now I'm just saving to rebuild my spare block. 

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