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BoulderCharles

Help evaluating a potential project car

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I'm looking for a 240/260/280z project car and could use the forum's collective knowledge on a 280z I found. I know to expect some rust on a '77 Datsun (and with this car I would be OK spending  up to $10k for rust repair and paint) but I want to make sure I'm not missing major red flags. What do you think about the vehicle shown here? A friend mentioned that the area where the control arm mounts looks like it is separating and the seams down the side looks like it has filler (and there may be some rusting through around there).

 

And, yes, I know it's impossible to know for sure without seeing it in person. I honestly just want to know if it's worth dragging my mechanic friend across town to see the car.

 

Thanks!

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The pictures show a pretty normal old "survivor" car.  Dents from speed bumps, light rust.  No red flags at all.  It even still has the damper weight on the diff mount crossmember so nobody's been modifying it.

 

But for $10,000 you could probably find a nicer 1977 280Z.  I don't see anywhere near $10,000 of rust repairs on that car though.

 

Value depends on plans.

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You didn't mention what the purchase price was; but that certainly looks like a pretty solid shell from underneath.  If it's been west coast, or Colorado area, it's whole life, that bodes favorably for being close to rust-free.   If you haven't already done so, pull the carpets up and inspect the floor pans, firewall, rear shelf, and spare tire well from inside the car.   The ice pick idea from bunkhouse is a good one.

 

What kind of "project" are you contemplating?  If going for an all-original restoration, then obviously the condition of the interior and drivetrain can be as big a cost factor as the shell.  If contemplating a track car and/or engine swap, then that stuff is obviously less important.

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Thanks for all of the really helpful responses! The owner wants $3,000 (engine doesn't run well, it's an automatic, and the interior is pretty trashed). I just wanted to make sure I wouldn't put more into body work than it costs to by a better sorted version. My goal is to make a canyon carver so new suspension, engine/trans/LS diff swap, etc.

 

Any thoughts on that plan?

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Yes, $3K is a very reasonable price for a solid car, even with the engine and interior issues you've noted.  Also, being a 280, the shell is made with thicker sheetmetal throughout than earlier year models....so that makes it a sturdier platform for engine swaps/stiffer suspension/etc.

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11 minutes ago, jhm said:

Also, being a 280, the shell is made with thicker sheetmetal throughout than earlier year models

I've had four Zs to compare against (early 71, 72, 76, 78) and from what I can tell that's not really true. The series one cars do, in fact, have thinner metal (about 0.9mm vs 1mm for later models), but otherwise the metal thickness as far as I can tell is generally the same. What you will find in the later models is additional reinforcements used, which means more metal. 

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Actually, I've seen differences just between my '73 early-model 260 and my '74 late model 260.  Maybe some of that is due to thicker metal, double-layering, or additional reinforcement; but the bottom line is that it results in a stronger/stiffer shell.

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On 5/23/2019 at 3:47 PM, rturbo 930 said:

I've had four Zs to compare against (early 71, 72, 76, 78) and from what I can tell that's not really true. The series one cars do, in fact, have thinner metal (about 0.9mm vs 1mm for later models), but otherwise the metal thickness as far as I can tell is generally the same. What you will find in the later models is additional reinforcements used, which means more metal. 

That's an ongoing debate, with lots of anecdote but no definitive data.  That said, "anecdote" points to ~100 pounds difference in weight between the totally stripped metal tub of an early 240 and a 77-78 280.  Perhaps BoulderCharles will have occasion to weigh the stripped-down tub, if he embarks on an ambitious restoration/modification.

 

Back to the topic, this looks like a solid purchase.  The Z market has changed over the life of this forum.  Back in the year 2000, a good (but not spectacular) condition 280Z could be found for $1500 or so.  It would have blemishes, but in many cases only "minimal" rust.  Today, from what I've seen, that price-point has risen by a factor of 3 or 4.  So, this particular purchase is an excellent deal!  I look forward to seeing the progress of the build.

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