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This is a build thread to document the progress on a 1977 Datsun 280z 2+2.


The previous owner had started stripping the car with intentions of restoring it but it ended up just sitting in a storage container. Before that, the car sat in someone's yard because of a lien against it and eventually a tree fell on the back portion busting out the rear glass and leaving a nice dent. Because the car has been sitting for so long, it has a bit of rust but nothing structural, like the frame rails, is damaged. We've never done any car restoration work before so any pointers would be appreciated.


The long term goal is to swap a LS v8 engine (probably a 5.3L or 4.8L), upgrade the suspension and brakes, and have a solid daily drivable Datsun. 


Below is a list of what we have done to the car already:

-Stripped the interior and exterior

-removed the sound dampening material with some freeze spray and an air chisel

-removed the engine, transmission, and engine bay wiring

-misc metal work (cutting out the usual Z rust and welding in patch panels)

-coated all internal frame rails and cavities with east-woods internal frame rail coating or POR-15


Here is what we started with.







Inspiration / Goals





Pulling the engine - relatively easy.

When you don't have a load leveler, you just use screw drivers to make sure the chain doesn't slide!



Hopefully, the steering rack will be salvageable.



Cutting out the rust (floor pans, battery tray, and a big spot in the bumper area)



Here's some of the welding / patch panels. We used weld through primer so the the welds won't rust through.


Battery Compartment


The front nose area - patched on both sides





driver's side floorpan (not nearly as bad as passenger side just one patch panel near the seat mount).


Passenger floorpan - we fabricated a floorpan that was mainly plug welded in place and also replaced a rusty spot in the trans tunnel.



a shot of some POR-15 rust convertor work underneath the cowl panel.



That brings the project up to present time, lots of work to do still.





Edited by Whitley_280z_2+2
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Did some more work on the 280z today.

Finished welding the last piece for the battery area.





Here is what it looks like from the outside. To weld this metal, I am mostly using plug welds because I only have access to a flux core 90 amp welder and I am new to welding. So, I purposely left overlap on some areas so that I can fold it up, weld it in place, and then apply seam sealer. 




Now, we are going to work on the rear of the car... filling the holes in the bumper, repairing some rust areas in the rocker panels, and there is some rust behind the rear wheel wells. 

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Since we finished all the welding / metal work in the interior, we went ahead and primed it. For the worst spots with surface rust, I wire wheeled all the rust off and then coated it with POR-15. Now, these spots will be extra protected from rusting in the future. For the rest of the interior I wire wheeled all surfaces to remove any left over sound dampening residue and prepped the metal for primer. 


Here is the finished product:




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finished welding the battery area - final result after folding up the edges and welding:

(sorry for the bad phone pics)



I also removed the rear suspension:


Hopefully they will clean up nicely. 


The overall plan for the suspension and brakes:

+new coil overs all around (possibly the ground control brand because they are affordable, but haven't decided yet)

+new front disk brakes - the Silvermine Motors kits seem to be the most affordable

+convert rear to disk brakes

+new polyurethane bushings

+install a limited slip differential into the current diff housing or replace with an entirely new LSD. Not exactly sure what to do about the differential because it needs to handle about 300 HP for a 5.3L LS swap but the cheaper the better.

+keep the current A-frames, mustache bar, etc


Any recommendations about the suspension/diff/brakes would be appreciated!


Also here is the rust damage on the rear of the car:


driver side (you can also see the doors and front air dam in this pic)

We also worked on cleaning up the doors and removing the side trim.



passenger side



rear (going to fill all the holes and install a 240z rear bumper)




Edited by Whitley_280z_2+2
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Based on my research, it looks like the best option for the rear differential would be the LSD from a 1987-1989 300zx turbo (especially the Shiro special). If I can't find one of these off of Craigslist or from a junkyard the OBX LSD differential for a R200 from Ebay might be the next best bet, although it sounds a little risky and would require a rebuild. 


I also looked at the Subaru R180 diff but I can't find any of these that are below $600 and they would also require the R180 mustache bar and new splines. 

Other than that, I don't think it would be a great idea to daily drive a welded diff :) 

Edited by Whitley_280z_2+2
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  • 2 weeks later...

I haven't made a whole lot of progress on the car. Here is what I have done.


Removed front suspension



I also removed the spindle pins...took a lot of hammering and of course I ruined them.



I also welded up the passenger rocker panel.




And a section on top



I also found that the area behind the rear wheel wells on both sides of the car has been repaired in the past. There was a lot of bondo in both spots. I need to decide if I should try to weld in new metal or just patch up the bondo. 



I didn't think that this was a common rust area for these cars so I wonder why it was bondoed in the past on both sides.


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  • 3 weeks later...



After finding the bondo behind the wheel well, we ground all the bondo away and patched the rust holes. Apparently the previous owner had repaired this area by welding in a big sheet of metal and then using a bunch of bondo. This area will still need some body filler to make it look smooth again.IMG_2416.thumb.jpg.9f818595a90088f8308f376a1f561717.jpg



I also welded up all the holes in the rear of the car (Some were from 280z bumper mounts etc and some were from rust). Here's what is looks like now.



We then coated the inside of this bumper area with POR-15 to prevent future rust. (That is why there is some black paint in the pictures above)





Next, we started working on the underbody. 

I just used a heat gun and a scraper to remove the undercoating and then striped the primer with aircraft remover and a wire wheel.




After primer:




Battery are came out pretty good!



The next steps will be to apply seam sealer and underbody coating.


We looked at a local junkyard for LS engines and did find a 5.3L LS out of a 2002 Tahoe in pretty good condition. This is exactly the type of engine we are looking for so we might go back and get it. While we were there, we came across this 280z and a 300zx.




Will definitely be grabbing some parts off the 280 and I need to figure out if the 300zx is a turbo or not.


Also, I was thinking about stitch welding the engine bay of our car but decided not to after seeing this 280 and doing a little research. If you look closely at the seams of the 280 in the junkyard (like the shock towers) you can see that the previous owner had stitch welded and all these areas. Now, these spots have some major rust, granted this car has probably been sitting out there since 97 judging by the inspection sticker. Apparently, stitch welding makes these areas susceptible to rust because all the paint and primer is burnt off inside the seams. 







Edited by Whitley_280z_2+2
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  • 2 weeks later...



Over the past week or so, We have spent a lot of time working on the underbody. We stripped off all of the undercoating and paint and then used self etching primer to coat the entire underbody and wheel wells. 


Floor pans:



Trans tunnel:



I also welded in some patch panels behind the rear wheel wells.


Passenger side:



Driver side:




Rear Wheel well:




We bought a steering rack from a junkyard 280z. One of the tie rod ends on ours was messed up.


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  • 2 weeks later...

The car finally has a solid chassis.

I finished welding all the patch panels and we seam sealed everything. 



Passenger floor pan:



Battery area / firewall:





We also used some POR-15 patch filler on questionable gaps.



We got the underside coated in 3M underbody coating. The 3M stuff has a nice finish and I think it should hold up well. 


Front passenger wheel well:



floor pan:





frame rail:



Rear wheel well:



Trans tunnel:





We also got the strut assemblies mostly disassembled. All we need to do is rent a slide hammer to remove the rear stub axels.


The rear of the stub axel:



We are removing the axels to get rid of the drum brakes and convert to the maxima calipers and 280zx rotors. 



We found that the best way to remove the gland nut is by clamping it in a vice and then turning the entire strut assembly. Also, the fronts will be converted to 79-84 Toyota 4x4 truck calipers and 280z rotors. 



We will be using the stock shocks for now with Eibach 1 inch lowering springs and 240z strut insulators in the rear, which lower it an additional inch. 

Edited by Whitley_280z_2+2
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  • 3 weeks later...

Quick update:

We removed the stub axels and rear wheel bearings with a slide hammer and 8' , 3 jaw puller. 



We also rented a bushing tool to remove all the old suspension bushings. Those old bushings are so rusted in that the tool actually bent and broke the control arm instead of pushing out the bushing.




So, now I have another welding project. Now I am just going to burn out the rubber and cut the inner ring like others have done.


Since we are done with the rust repair and disassembly (except for bushings), we now get to do the fun part: putting it back together!  For the bolts and small hardware, I am just soaking them in vinegar to remove rust and I will then use an oxide to coat them and seal with WD-40. I am reusing most of the main suspension components such as the control arms, drop mounts, and mustache bar. I am just wire-wheeling these and then coating them in self-etching primer for now.


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Great progress. My 78' 2+2 has suffered similar rust and I am in the process of patching it back up too. Would it be possible for me to PM you on a part I need from that 2+2 in the junk yard you posted? I need the rear left tail light surround I broke mine. They are 2+2 specific and I can't find one anywhere. Thanks. 

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47 minutes ago, northwoodz said:

Great progress. My 78' 2+2 has suffered similar rust and I am in the process of patching it back up too. Would it be possible for me to PM you on a part I need from that 2+2 in the junk yard you posted? I need the rear left tail light surround I broke mine. They are 2+2 specific and I can't find one anywhere. Thanks. 


Sorry, the one in the junk yard is not a 2+2. I didn't know that the tail lights were 2+2 specific.

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41 minutes ago, Whitley_280z_2+2 said:


Sorry, the one in the junk yard is not a 2+2. I didn't know that the tail lights were 2+2 specific.


Oh, just going by the shape of the rear quarter glass in the picture it sure looks like one, sorry. And the 2+2 have two little raised stripes between the backup light and the license plate in the rear taillight surround. I accidentally broke mine towing it into the garage with my jeep. I'm thinking I can repair it with fiberglass though. Thanks. 




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  • 2 weeks later...

Northwoodz: It does kinda look like a 2+2 since the rear windows are hinged outward but there was no place for a rear seat as well. 


On 4/27/2018 at 1:39 AM, tr4j3dy said:

Great job so far! I love the 3M undercoating! I am starting a '75 2+2 build very soon and gonna be using a lot of that :)

Thanks! I found the cheapest way to buy the 3M stuff is on amazon. You can buy a pack of 6 for much cheaper than individual cans. 

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I welded the control arm:




Then, after many hours with a wire wheel, Dremel tool, and paint stripper we got all the suspension components down to bare metal.

Here's everything with two coats of primer: 





We also ordered all new bushings, bearings, seals, outer tie rod ends, and ball joints:




All that is left for the suspension parts-wise is springs, spindle pins (we are going to just use bolts), and some rubber boots.







Edited by Whitley_280z_2+2
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  • 1 month later...

I haven't updated this thread in a while but here is some of the progress:


All the suspension parts have been painted black and most bushings have been installed:



The bushings went in easily with a 12 ton press.

I also cleaned up and painted some other parts like the steering rack housing:



We then spent a large amount of time installing the rear wheel bearings. We used a 12 ton press to fit the inner and outer bearings to the stub axel and housing respectively. At that point, I realized the stub axel threads were messed up from the previous splined nut. We got a M20 1.5 die to straighten that out.  





Next, we pressed on the companion flanges and replaced the stub axel nut with the non-splined version from a 280zx, which still needs to be torqued down. 



Rear wheel bearings are done! This took a lot of time because we have never replaced wheel bearings before. Also,

these rear axels seem way too tight now but I think this is only the companion flange washer rubbing on the inner grease seal. Before we put the companion flange on they would spin like a top but now it takes a significant amount of force to spin. 




Up next will be to assemble the suspension with new Eibach lowering springs:



and KYB gas shocks:




I've also spent a lot of time restoring the nuts, bolts, washers, etc. Some important hardware such as the spindle pins and stub axel nuts will be replaced with all new parts but the other hardware was in pretty good condition so I will be reusing most of it. We went with the popular 5/8th bolt for the spindle pins:




To restore the hardware I initially tried to use a Black Oxide kit from Caswell Plating. First, I soaked the bolts in white vinegar overnight to remove any rust. Then the bolts went into the black oxide and then got coated with the sealer provided with the kit. Unfortunately, after I let the bolts sit overnight the majority of the hardware developed some pretty serious surface rust. This was probably my fault as I may have done something wrong in the process or used to much hardware for the kit. 



I ended up soaking all the hardware in vinegar again, rinsing them in mineral spirits to remove any residue. and using some Boesheild T-9 to seal the parts. 




This process worked great and it even left the black look from the previous oxide:




With the hardware and parts all restored we can start bolting everything back onto the car!

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  • 4 weeks later...

The front and rear suspension is almost completely finished.


We started by attaching the knuckles to the ball joints:



Next, we attached the new Eibach springs attached the knuckle/ ball joint assembly to the strut housing:



We also assembled the steering rack with as close to factory alignment settings as I could.



Then, put it all together:





The rear suspension went in pretty easily as well:










I also started working on the engine bay to get rid of the rust and make it clean looking:





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Hey bud I'm enjoying your build! I'm also doing a 2+2 and it seems we are literally doing the exact same rust repairs in all the same spots ahah! It took me 3 years to finish the rust repairs on mine, and i just got her blasted and primed.

Looking forward to more of your updates.


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