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Hello everyone, I'm new to the Datsun community. I have a N/A 1981 Datsun 280zx I've had for a year and man it's the best car I've ever bought. I have been thinking about swapping it with an Sbc 350 but need the right guidance. Some of the forums don't give a lot of detail, is anyone in Long Beach Ca or near ? Yes, I have purchased the JTR manual but currently waiting for it to arrive. I would like some pointers from people who have done this swap before. Here are some pics of my car. 

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IMG_20200211_160820676_HDR.jpg

IMG_20200211_160757432_HDR~2.jpg

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im not around you but ive done this swap.  whatever you can get from JTR will help alot (motor mounts, headers, radiator ) they make the best stuff for this swap. you will need to upgrade the fuel pump but a Holley Red or Black (depending on HP requirments)will fit right in place of the original without too much work.the pump is a bit noisy but best fuel pump on a budget. i think it was motorsport auto that makes a speedo cable for an turbo350 trans to connect to your speedo (didnt quiet read right but once you figure out how far off it was then atleast you have something). you can easily make some autometer gauges fit where the 3 in the dash are for oil pressure, volts and trans temp if automatic.  save the ignition wire when your stripping the things out. youll need it for the distributor. its going to be a lil nose heavy so you'll lose some handling but it will be a blast in a straight line. and alot less work then doing a LS swap. 

 

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4 hours ago, G-Tech said:

im not around you but ive done this swap.  whatever you can get from JTR will help alot (motor mounts, headers, radiator ) they make the best stuff for this swap. you will need to upgrade the fuel pump but a Holley Red or Black (depending on HP requirments)will fit right in place of the original without too much work.the pump is a bit noisy but best fuel pump on a budget. i think it was motorsport auto that makes a speedo cable for an turbo350 trans to connect to your speedo (didnt quiet read right but once you figure out how far off it was then atleast you have something). you can easily make some autometer gauges fit where the 3 in the dash are for oil pressure, volts and trans temp if automatic.  save the ignition wire when your stripping the things out. youll need it for the distributor. its going to be a lil nose heavy so you'll lose some handling but it will be a blast in a straight line. and alot less work then doing a LS swap. 

 

Thank you for responding, yes I will get the most out of jtr. The information you have given me is very helpful. Also I want to still run a manual trans do you have any suggestions ? And about the wiring where can I get a plug and play harness or is it just easier to create one. If so, do you have a diagram I can follow as a reference ?

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Posted (edited)

as long as its a hydraulic clutch you'll be in good shape. you wanna get a better clutch master cyl from willwood the stock master cyl is not good enough, but they are not too badly priced. a great thing about a SBC is there is no wire harness necessary. you have ignition wire for distributor, mark your original wires for tachometer signal, the starter, power for alternator which i think the JTR manual explains,  you'll run new wires  for any sensors you want. it is very simple, just take it 1 piece at a time and at some point the list gets shorter. if you have power steering, make note of which hose is the pressure line and return line. make special note that power steering rack is metric so you need to make a hose to go from English pwr steering pump to metric pwr steering rack.  i dont think there is any specific radiator hoses, i just made a diagram of what i needed and went behind the counter of autozone and looked thru the selection. you can always return them and switch out for others if you dont get it right. and last thing that im thinking of is make sure you ground the motor to the body. i ran a cable from the back of the head to the firewall. i think i just wrote a book :) , write down what you need to know for a check list and just cross things off as you go. let me know what else you need as you go.

Edited by G-Tech

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2 hours ago, G-Tech said:

as long as its a hydraulic clutch you'll be in good shape. you wanna get a better clutch master cyl from willwood the stock master cyl is not good enough, but they are not too badly priced. a great thing about a SBC is there is no wire harness necessary. you have ignition wire for distributor, mark your original wires for tachometer signal, the starter, power for alternator which i think the JTR manual explains,  you'll run new wires  for any sensors you want. it is very simple, just take it 1 piece at a time and at some point the list gets shorter. if you have power steering, make note of which hose is the pressure line and return line. make special note that power steering rack is metric so you need to make a hose to go from English pwr steering pump to metric pwr steering rack.  i dont think there is any specific radiator hoses, i just made a diagram of what i needed and went behind the counter of autozone and looked thru the selection. you can always return them and switch out for others if you dont get it right. and last thing that im thinking of is make sure you ground the motor to the body. i ran a cable from the back of the head to the firewall. i think i just wrote a book :) , write down what you need to know for a check list and just cross things off as you go. let me know what else you need as you go.

Sweet !, All this juicy information is going to help me lots. Do you think we can get into further contact via email ? 

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Has your JTR manual arrived?

 

The 280zx (what you have) differs from the 240-260-280Z (what the JTR manual assumes).  The swap has been done in the ZX too, but it will be less straightforward to avail yourself of the details.

 

Does your car currently run well?  Handling, brakes and so forth?  Chassis integrity (no rust)?  If these attributes are faulty, the swap will be frustrating, protracted and maybe eventually abandoned.

 

Regardless of the vehicle, it's imperative to figure out the engine and transmission first.  Do you already have them?  Are they in good working order?  A successful swap is quite literally that.. a "swap" of engines, where the new engine is already good, where the recipient chassis is already good, and where "all" that's needed is to properly mate them together.

 

My "home" is Ohio, but presently I'm not far from your locale.  Send a PM to discuss.

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1 hour ago, Michael said:

Has your JTR manual arrived?

 

The 280zx (what you have) differs from the 240-260-280Z (what the JTR manual assumes).  The swap has been done in the ZX too, but it will be less straightforward to avail yourself of the details.

 

Does your car currently run well?  Handling, brakes and so forth?  Chassis integrity (no rust)?  If these attributes are faulty, the swap will be frustrating, protracted and maybe eventually abandoned.

 

Regardless of the vehicle, it's imperative to figure out the engine and transmission first.  Do you already have them?  Are they in good working order?  A successful swap is quite literally that.. a "swap" of engines, where the new engine is already good, where the recipient chassis is already good, and where "all" that's needed is to properly mate them together.

 

My "home" is Ohio, but presently I'm not far from your locale.  Send a PM to discuss.

Yes the manual has arrived but I need to get certain parts, I still need to order the mounts from them 

 

Yes my car runs well since it's my daily, some things need fixing like the control arm bushing and need slotted brakes for the front, also would like to upgrade to a big brake kit, do you know of any ?

 

Yes I have the engine but it's a block for now, I'm rebuilding it from the ground up so I'm looking for rebuild kits for it but don't know what stage cam to get. Also I haven't thought of a tranny but I would like to keep it manual. 

 

 

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2 minutes ago, Nelson123 said:

Yes the manual has arrived but I need to get certain parts, I still need to order the mounts from them 

 

Yes my car runs well since it's my daily, some things need fixing like the control arm bushing and need slotted brakes for the front, also would like to upgrade to a big brake kit, do you know of any ?

 

Yes I have the engine but it's a block for now, I'm rebuilding it from the ground up so I'm looking for rebuild kits for it but don't know what stage cam to get. Also I haven't thought of a tranny but I would like to keep it manual. 

 

 

I would most assiduously recommend building the engine, sourcing a transmission, and mating the two - before proceeding with the swap.  Otherwise your car be disabled/dismantled for a long time.

 

Cam selection is its own science/art. It's part of an integrated effort... heads, intake/exhaust, and so forth, and so on.  It is a vast subject in its own right.  And then there's the question of just getting the engine to run reliably ... never mind the "high performance".   Flat-tappet cams in particular are a dicey proposition, owing to the danger of "wiping" them.

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Coming off of a fresh SBC swap that started two years ago and finished the first time last year and second time last week the best advice in the manual is to buy a running/driving car that has the engine and transmission combo you are going to use. I spend $800 on a "rebuilt" engine that lasted 3 races and the oil was full of bearing material, I spent all winter pulling it, rebuilding it, and replacing it. A manual behind an SBC is $$$$ so prepare for that now, I probably spent $1500 on driveline alone. In general just make sure you have at least double what you think you need budget wise.  Prepare for the car to be off the road for several weeks if you are doing the work at home. 

This is your primary vehicle?

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4 hours ago, Michael said:

I would most assiduously recommend building the engine, sourcing a transmission, and mating the two - before proceeding with the swap.  Otherwise your car be disabled/dismantled for a long time.

 

Cam selection is its own science/art. It's part of an integrated effort... heads, intake/exhaust, and so forth, and so on.  It is a vast subject in its own right.  And then there's the question of just getting the engine to run reliably ... never mind the "high performance".   Flat-tappet cams in particular are a dicey proposition, owing to the danger of "wiping" them.

Do you know what rebuild kit I should get for the block ? My options are anything to get it running with a little power and then upgrade certain components

What do you suggest I do first ? At the moment I only have the block nothing else. 

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4 hours ago, Twisted46 said:

Coming off of a fresh SBC swap that started two years ago and finished the first time last year and second time last week the best advice in the manual is to buy a running/driving car that has the engine and transmission combo you are going to use. I spend $800 on a "rebuilt" engine that lasted 3 races and the oil was full of bearing material, I spent all winter pulling it, rebuilding it, and replacing it. A manual behind an SBC is $$$$ so prepare for that now, I probably spent $1500 on driveline alone. In general just make sure you have at least double what you think you need budget wise.  Prepare for the car to be off the road for several weeks if you are doing the work at home. 

This is your primary vehicle?

Money won't be the problem, what I'm worried about is how long I won't have my car running, what I want to do is get everything ready to just bolt on and go because this is my daily driver and the only car I have.

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I like to encourage people to do the sbc swap cause it is alot easier to do than a ls swap into the 280zx but u should get another beater for a daily driver temporarily...you will never be able to think of every part u need and do the swap in a weeks time...there will always be a fitting or hose or random pieces u will need to get along the way....I rented a barn for 2 months and I knew it had to be done in that amount of time. It was a grind getting it done in that time. 

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I will say with all the support from this forum which I didnt know about when I did mine you can mayb do it in a months time. But there will be things like the driveshaft that u dont know what length u need until u fit everything then have to have someone make one.

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4 hours ago, Nelson123 said:

Do you know what rebuild kit I should get for the block ? My options are anything to get it running with a little power and then upgrade certain components

What do you suggest I do first ? At the moment I only have the block nothing else. 

 

Wait, you only have the bare block?  As in, no crank, rods, pistons etc.?  Or are you contemplating replacing some of these components?

 

If money isn't the most aching concern, you're a good candidate for buying a crate-engine from GM.  It will be comprehensive, camshaft etc. already matched, and it will carry a warranty.  But as others have noted, please don't let this be your only daily driver!

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I agree with the others, I would never discourage someone from doing the swap but I think many, like me, fall for the illusion that getting the engine in to the bay is the hard part. That is the easy part, there are so many random bolts and fittings that cause delays I bet I have 3 boxes of swap parts that "should have been correct". Also rent/buy a 3 ton engine hoist, the small ones will make you want to rip your hair out.

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6 hours ago, Twisted46 said:

...many, like me, fall for the illusion that getting the engine in to the bay is the hard part. That is the easy part, there are so many random bolts and fittings that cause delays I bet I have 3 boxes of swap parts that "should have been correct". ...

 

Indeed.  And that's the scope of the problem if we do "only" a standard swap.  It assumes a well-running car, and a well-sorted engine.  Building a new engine is its own separate task.  As is restoration of the car.  The JTR swap-manual is just that... a swap manual.  It tells, in general terms, how to take a working car and a working engine, and to make them work together, more or less.  That already is hard enough!  It gets much harder if any major component is at all questionable, unready or deficient.

 

One of the first things that happened to me, after "completing" my swap, was that a cam-change in my engine resulted in wiped lobes.  That led to descent into all sorts of travails, lasting several years.  And eventually a second engine rebuild... where the cam-sprocket adjustment bolts backed out, and wore against the timing cover.  Third rebuild.  By then the car had spent a decade in the garage, and needed something approaching a restoration, just to return to the condition that is had, when it was first parked and disassembled.  That "restoration" has taken another decade.  I doubt that my case is entirely unusual.

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Posted (edited)

I agree that there is a big difference between just an engine swap and doing an entire restoration of sorts. However, I wouldn't let that stop you from going for it as long as the Z isn't a daily driver. My Dad and I took a 280z that didn't run, needed significant rust repair, and had almost no interior and LS/T56 swapped it with a complete restoration in about 2.5 years. Neither of us had done any big car projects before and I have been in engineering school for most of the time and just worked on it over breaks. We did the whole thing for well under 15k and it is a blast to drive and pretty reliable so far. It even has AC!. All that to say it is possible if you know how to learn and enjoy the process. Just my thoughts. .

Z_beforeAfter.png.b7c240d65b5b5ed3af10e72d8053b56e.png

Edited by Whitley_280z_2+2

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On 4/23/2020 at 9:27 PM, Michael said:

 

Wait, you only have the bare block?  As in, no crank, rods, pistons etc.?  Or are you contemplating replacing some of these components?

 

If money isn't the most aching concern, you're a good candidate for buying a crate-engine from GM.  It will be comprehensive, camshaft etc. already matched, and it will carry a warranty.  But as others have noted, please don't let this be your only daily driver!

Yes I have the bare block since I sold everything else and would like to upgrade everything, do you have any ideas what's a good matchup for the block ? Like rebuild kit from eBay or another website

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it's an idea.

 

Flares allow you to run wider tires. So there can be a practical reason to use them.

 

However, most people put them on because they like the way they look.

 

As it's a personal style preference, it doesn't really matter what we think so long as you like/dislike them.

 

If you like them, then you should definitely put them on. If you don't like them, then make sure to leave them off.

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