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Gollum's Never Ending 280Z

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Ok, so people (drummingpariah namely) have been bugging me about getting a project thread going, so here it is. This car isn't exactly "road worthy" to many people's opinions, but that doesn't stop me. My rear tires are bald on the outside, the front tires are insanely bald due to a past camber issue. The car likes to hydroplane quite easily, but predictably. The car also likes to make lots of vibrational noise above 65mph, I think due to wheel bearing issues.


So here's the car as it sits now:



(I personally love the overflow tank, it looks like a loose tooth to me. It's getting moved soon)



And here's the engine currently:





I've been slowly working on removing unused wires lying around, making things a bit neater, grinding off brackets that aren't being used, etc. When I got the car it had the earlier N47 intake manifold and not the stock intake J pipe. Instead it had several pieces of pipe hacked together with multiple couplers... so I installed the turbo, intake, and pipe off of my spare L28ET engine. I'm going to change that valve cover soon...


Notice anything missing in those pics though? Here it is:




I was working on cleaning up the wiring one day, and I'd pulled the battery out in order to gain some room to work on it. While it was out I realized I had plenty of cable length to just put the battery in the passenger foot well... So I did it. It moved approx. 20lbs down by more than 12 inches, and inboard a good 6 inches. Win win win right? No worries, I'm going to move it to the back and get it sealed up sometime this summer, probably when I make my dash:




That's some spare stainless my dad had lying around, so I stole it and brought it to my place. I'm not sure if it's enough, and if I've got the dough I'll just order some ali instead.


Also in the near future I'm going to get around to installing my rust free doors:




Which have now been painted the future color of my car - semigloss black w/clear. Should cost me about $75 in rattle can supplies. I might be driving around with some nice doors before I get the rest of the car painted at my current rate....


I really want to get my dash started soon though, because this wiring has been a nightmare, leading to patch work such as this:




I just keep telling myself it's temporary.


I also need to get all this damned dynomat crap off the car. I don't care about noise that much, and it's been a pita getting it off. It's leaving it's goo behind:






So that's that for my first post. The car is my daily driver when the weather is good, and when I'm driving it (instead of the 280ZX) I tend to work on it a lot more, so this summer should bring lots of improvements. The car isn't forever going to be my daily driver. Eventually it's just going to be a fun car that I'll be building to take to HPDE events once I've got the money to pursue racing as a serious hobby, not just working on potential cars... This isn't a SCCA racer, an autox car, just a fun car. I don't want more than 250 wheel HP with this engine, and if I do ever want more I've been toying with the idea of the LSx engines since they do everything so stinkin' well.


But first things first. I need tires BAD. Then I need to make the wiring safe. Then I need to dump some money into good struts, springs, and bushings everywhere. Then I can start talking about power.

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  • 2 weeks later...
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I don't have pics, but I've pulled my dash and I'm working on rewiring a lot of stuff. I'm still working out what all I do and don't need, and how I want to go about some of the wiring. The nastiest part of the wiring is the ignition key wiring, as it was pretty badly hacked up by a PO. There's wire leads going everywhere to everything. So I'm considering just adding some manual switches for the various ignition positions, and putting in a push start button.


I'll be working on the car monday most likely, despite my finger accident (posted in the non-tech section) so I'll get some pics then.


I'm also trying to figure out what I want to do for a dash. I'm thinking just like half of mikekelly's dash. Just a simple 2 angle dash, maybe with some sun visors for the gauges. I'll most likely add a switch panel closer to the driver than the dash so reach isn't a problem if/when I get seat harnesses.

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  • 2 months later...

Well I'm out of school (yay) so time to start cracking down on the laziness that's been my car. I want to get this thing back on the road for the summer so I'm using our upcoming meet as motivation to get it done. That means it needs to be drivable again by Saturday, so I've got 4 days to make it happen.


Here's the new dash panel I just fabb'ed up tonight with that piece of stainless I had sitting around. I've decided it'll do until I eventually start working with composites and I'll make a new dash then.





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Wow, two updates in two days! Expect another tonight.


I'm debating leaving it like this for now. The OEM gauges aren't round, kinda kidney bean shaped, so I'm considering leaving them out for now. Besides, Tach and Boost, what else do you need?



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Ok, second update for the day, and I'm not done yet today! I need to get over to my other cars to scavenge some parts off of them. I'm almost to the point of starting her up again once I get a few more wires hooked up and the battery back in again.


I've moved the battery back to the engine bay for the time being, I needed the space for the wiring that's all too long with nowhere to go.


So here's the current interior shot as it stands:




(shot was my second attempt at a HDR image for you photo geeks out there)

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No pictures, but she runs again! Took me a while to get it all sorted out, but she runs, and I've got almost all the wiring in place for the time being.


Only problems - No brake lights and no headlights


My headlights were already sketchy before, with only the brights working, so I'm going to bust out the multimeter and see if I can find the culprit. As far as the brakelights, I'm not too sure. It seems kinda odd because the wiring seems to be pretty simple and I don't think anything I deleted could have caused the circuit to stop working, but obviously something happened. So I'll have to diagnose that as well.


Could be a lot worse. I'm happy it's only those two issues.

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Well I got the brake lights fixed, morning of the meet I was so anxious about. Woohoo!


Headlights are still down... I'm quite angered by the complexity of the stock system and in the frustration of it all I just started hacking away. I started pulling out all the unused wires I've now completely confirmed I don't need. Hack Hack Hack.


Some of the remains:




I'm still far from done removing all the needless crap, but it's a start. I've decide that instead of getting the stock headlight wiring to work I'm just going to wire up a system with a relay from scratch. Should be better off this way anyways.


I also got a little bored and decided to "fix" the crappy sound problem in my ZX...




Now it just looks crappy. But that's a lot better than sounds crappy. Didn't cost me a cent!

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So today I worked on stripping an old wiring harness of one of my cars that I had lying around. I'm going to use it as a resource bin to wire up a friend's Z car (SBC 350). It's going to be rather simple, so paired with some relays + sockets we should be good to go. Hopefully I'll even have a start up video to share.


And this is what a harness from a 81' 280ZX looks like disassembled. (and I mean HARNESS, not just engine harness. I don't think this is all of it as I don't have the wires that plug into the other end of the junction box and go to the dash, as I couldn't seem to figure out where it ran off to. So let's say it's 70% of all the wiring in a 280ZX.














And that's about all I got done today, among enjoying a friday doing almost nothing after a short stint of decent pay work.

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  • 1 month later...

Been a little while, too long actually.


I wired up a relay for my headlights, so they work again. I've been driving the car just about everywhere now for a couple of weeks and it feels so good to be driving her again.


I scored all new front suspension + steering rack for FREE from a friend. Sway bar, struts, springs (suspension techniques), hubs, brakes, etc. I pulled it all in an afternoon and it's still sitting in my trunk. I need to get some new grease boots before I put it all in.


And I've also been doing something else...




Something like that can only mean something like this.




It's from an 81' and I picked up the whole engine minus turbo, wiring harness, and ecu for $250. Not bad in my opinion. The guy wanted too much money for the "new" OEM turbo he had on it, and still wanted too much for the turbo that had been pulled out before. ($500 and $75 respectively). So I told him he could just keep it and find a buyer.


Should fix my exhaust leak....

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  • 8 months later...

Been WAY too long since I've posted. Sorry guys. I'm now engaged and insanely busy. Plus it was cold and wet (compared to what it normally is around here at least) and I just hadn't been rushing much to get this thing on the road.


Now that the weather has been teasing us with a few weeks of beautiful weather it's time to get crackin again.


New cylinder head is ON!!! Yay. Take the advice of me AND the famous big-phil. Do not, DO NOT treat your wedge/brace/tool/whatever you want to call it, for your timing chain tensioner as though it's casual. This is NOT a casual part of a head swap, and if that damn tensioner pops out your are NOT in for a world of fun. You are in for a world of aggravating, cussing, pissing, and moaning of a time. I would have had this car on the road probably MONTHS ago if it hadn't of been for that damn tensioner.


So I'm now running a P90 with solid lifters and the automatic cam from 81' . This cam has more duration on the exhaust (opens degrees earlier for more overlap, and closes 6 degrees later). This cam also has .5 CM more valve lift on the exhaust over the 82' camshafts, and .9 CM over the 83' cams. The intake has .4 CM more valve lift than the 83' cam.


I'm sure not leaking exhaust out the side of the head gasket will make the biggest power difference though.


What's left to put on?


Intake Manifold

Intake Piping


Add Coolant

Tighten Alternator

Wire up EFI







Edited by Gollum
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So she runs again!!! Yay!


I'd been getting so impatient to get this thing on the road again that I never pulled the exhaust manifold off to replace the gasket, and as semi-expected it leaks a little. Mostly on #6 on the bottom right edge. Not terrible. It now makes a lowly ruff instead of the nasty HISS HISS the head gasket leak made. This is much more manageable than before, and like I said, somewhat expected.


I also have a nissan OEM gasket sitting in my garage that only saw an initial startup on my previous head, I might try to reuse that and see if it seals. I need to get a stud kit before I do any of this though. I'm not pulling this manifold off just to deal with those freakin' bolts.


No video feed yet. Will get some later next week.

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So the engine was idling really poorly, and I thought it was my bad throttle position switch wiring. Well I got that figured out, but it was still barely idling. Turns out it was a bad Head Temp Sensor. Boooo


Now that I finally got her up to temp she decided to show off a few small coolant leaks. I don't have time today, but I'll have to get under there and find out where they are. One is definitely from the lower radiator hose, no biggie, it's the other that concerns me. It might be from the front cover, which would mean tearing the front end apart again. Please God don't let that be the case.


No videos yet, I know. Sorry.

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Ok, the update.


I started her up today, with the radiator off this time (didn't think about that last time until I was done for the day). Jacked the car up a bit so I could make sure to get all the air out, and to get under there to check out the leak I had.


...Let it run for 5 min... No leak...


...Rev'ed it from 3-5k for a solid minute.. No leak...


...Let it sit for another 10 minutes (at which point it was already to full temp)... No leak.


Although I did noticed a VERY slow leak from the backside of the crankshaft pully. It was very minimal. From how dirty the front of the engine was before I started working on it this winter I'm betting it was already like that. Probably needs a new front seal.


Things I'm going to get tomarrow:


1. New Head Temp Sensor


2. Front sway bar bushings


3. TPS Wiring Connector


Once those are on, she's good to drive. Just need to watch my water levels, and keep a close eye on my oil to make sure I've got no external or internal water leaks, nor any oil leaks.

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You *do* know that there are oodles of much much newer cars that you can yank the TPS plug off of in the junkyard right? I'd hate to see you waste money if that is an option in your book.


Who said I wasn't just going to a junkyard for ALL of these parts :-)


I'm kinda not thrilled with the idea of using used bushings, but I just need something to get me by for a little while.

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So... went to the junkyard and got a temp sensor, and the sway bar bushings (to get me by, hey they gave them to me for free). No TPS plug though. Poor selection of cars. Lots of 90's stuff, but seems like the older gems are thinning out. I know there's some up at another yard nearby. I'll check them out soon.


I get home, install the new temp sensor, and get the sway bar back in place. It started, and ran a bit better than before... but still not right. Unplugging my temp sensor brought the idle way up (at any temp) and neither connected or disconnected will the car hold an RPM. It'll rev nicely with strong throttle input, but it won't take small throttle inputs. Messing with the AFM open to see if I was dealing with it being rich or lean, I found that with the temp plug on, it was running WAY lean. Like it went from a 500rpm idle to 1,500rpm leaning it out. With the plug disconnected it's mildly lean. Richening the mixture takes it from a 1,100 rpm idle up to 1,500.


Tomorrow I'm going to take the temp sensor out of the ZX, which runs fine, and see if that makes a difference. If not then I've got a problem elsewhere.

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  • 1 year later...

Boy has a lot changed since I updated this. Hopefully I'll stay motivated to update this thread in the next few days. Here's what I worked on today:





My car is bulimic. It's amazing what all she hawked up today.


It's also amazing how few wires are actually needed to run an engine and have enough lights to be "legal". I'm almost down to the bare essentials now. I think when I go MS I might end up with nearly as many wires on my engine harness as I'll have chassis harness!

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  • 10 months later...

Well, almost a year later now. Almost forgot about updating this thread.


I've been busting my butt the last two weeks to finally get this thing on the road. I was in a holding pattern of excuses that generally revolved around affording MS. Well that still hasn't happened but I'm coming to terms with the reality that I could have been driving this car for the last 3+ years if I'd just put in a good $100 and lots of hard work. Well I'm putting that hard work in now. I still am not quite sure what was up with the OEM EMS but the more wiring I took off the more craziness that was revealed. It was all so bad that I decided the factory wiring wasn't truly worth saving, so out it went. ALL of it.


The only stock wiring I kept was the wires running from the passenger's seat area back towards the tail lights through the fender, simply because I didn't feel like messing around with fishing wires through there again and just want to get this done. The connectors that sit next to the passenger's right butt cheek were cut down from something like 20 wires to 7 which are:


Running Lights

Brake Lights

Reverse Lights

Left Turn Signal

Right Turn Signal

Fuel Tank Sending Unit

Fuel Pump 12v+


Those wires survived the reckoning and I cut and soldered them back together to do away with those no pointless connectors. Here's some basics of what will no longer be used so people understand what all those other wires went to.


Door sensors

Seat Belt Sensor

Seat Sensor (yes, actually senses if there's someone in the driver's seat)

Parking Brake Switch

Map/Interior Light

Defrost Wiring

Power Antenna Wiring

Speaker Wiring (I think)


And even more junk I can't remember. But I can say this: ALWAYS do this kind of work with an FSM handy, even if it's on a computer. Because I checked and double checked everything before cutting I knew exactly what I was removing and thus, when I later forgot what all was cut out I wasn't freaking out about having messed something up. It also helps you plan out your next step in how YOU would rather do it.


So now the tail area wiring is running up towards a new (to this car at least) fuse panel that's from a '83 I cut up quite a long time ago. What's wonderful is that it's a blade style panel instead of buss fuses. AND due to my minimalist wiring scheme I have enough fuses to easily run one fuse per device allowing lower rated fuses and much simpler diagnostics down the road when I blow one.


I'm also going to have a relay on EVERY circuit save the starter (doesn't need it honestly) and the alternator (which again, doesn't need one). The REAL beauty to doing it this way is that I'll run one 12+ wire to each relay, and then run ONE wire to each switch, and run ONE wire to the device. You just bridge your 12+ at the relay to both + sides, then you run ground at each device and at each switch. This makes star grounding almost impossible for the device side, but extremely easy at the switch side. The big benefit is that you don't have a million wires going in AND out from your switch panel so that you have a cleaner install that's easier to trace when needed. I hate chasing wires not knowing if I'm looking "upstream" or "downstream" because in OEM wiring if electricity goes somewhere else before grounding it's not black, even though it's an "acting ground" for one device. Extremely frustrating in my book, but I understand why it was done the way they did it. Honestly though, I'll gladly give up star grounding for simplicity for MY APPLICATION. Don't take this paragraph on my stance in wiring altogether. By contrast in ALL of my guitar amps I strive for the cleanest star grounding path I can manage, even at my amateur technician level.



And of course, this update is worthless without pictures, but I haven't snapped a single one yet. I'll get some pictures in the next couple of days to redeem this post and bring some extra life to this otherwise boring thread.


On another note (pun intended here) in the next few days I'm going to go horn shopping in the junkyard. My S30 has never had any so away we go. I'm going to try to come up with a clever mounting solution in the fender area for a couple reasons. 1. It makes wiring shorter and easier imo, keeping more wires out of the engine bay. 2. Having them hanging out up front when you have an open/grill-less S30 just looks tacky imo. 3. Hopefully they'll project in a more 360 degree pattern since you're not always worried about the person in front of you. I'm going to see if I can get 4 roughly from 2 different vehicles so I end up with 2 low tones and 2 high tones. I'm hoping this gives me some good volume and decent character.


I've also relocated the water overflow tank back to the engine bay for the time being. Not trilled with my 10 minute solution I came up with, but it works for now.


Oh, and I almost forgot to mention. I made a fairly crummy wiring diagram from scratch in MS Paint. It's got a few flaws I corrected by hand later, but I could go back and fix them if anyone was interested in my straight forward diagram that's basically just a S30 adaptation of a basic hotrod diagram. Despite it's lack of detail in some ways, it's gotten me this far and I'm sure it'll get me through the project. It's nice to have a map if you will, to keep you oriented in the right direction so you don't lose where you're at, or forget to buy enough switches, etc.


More to come soon! I'd say I promise but I don't think that means much anymore at this point....

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Not much more wiring done at this point, but getting there. What I DID do, that was WORLDS of fun was modify a spare shifter I had lying around. It's from a datsun pickup. I wanted a longer shifter to bring it closer to arms reach from the steering wheel so the extra length was certainly welcome. Only big issue is that this shifter was straight up and down regarding side to side shape. It had a nice rake backwards but something needed to be done to get it further left towards the driver.


So I took the liberty to create a solution:


(Heat + Steel) x (Armpower + Mallet) / Iron = Epic Winningness.


Shown now is a picture of the achieved angle in just 3 heat ups and hammerings.




Notice how the ears on the transmission are straight up. Lovely.


So here's what 1st gear looks like.




And 2nd Gear.





Of course side to side gate is unchanged, and this thing is LONG, so 5th is a little bit of a stretch in this picture but I'll be at least 1 if not 2 seat clicks forward when driving.





You can also take a little peak at my fuse panel there.


And of course in any battle there are casualties. This was a spare caliper that I had which served as an anvil.




The shifter survived, but has it's own scars as well.




Hammering above, iron caliper casting texture bellow.






Well that's all for now, but more to come.

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  • Gollum changed the title to Gollum's Never Ending 280Z

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