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I checked out a Datsun today, and now I need some help...


KDMatt

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Allright well, today I went to look at '79 Datsun 280ZX I've had my eye on for a while, and first off I'm going to express my amazement with the car as a whole... I realize it's not like the highly discussed first generation or anything, but I can finally put a physical feeling behind all of the commotion made over these things. I always knew they were pretty, but I really hadn't any clue of how much fun they are to take for a spin, haha!

Anyway, with that said, this post isn't all about good stuff. I've noticed some pretty serious defects with this car, and I want your guys' opinions on them, which includes how much I would expect to have these particular repairs done and/or the kind of effort it would take to do them.

The first thing I noticed wrong is the keyswitch. It is rusty, and an absolute bitch to turn. The owner doesn't have any problems with it, but I could not, for the life of me, get the key to turn. I actually ended up pulling out the key while the car was still running! Without a doubt, this needs to be replaced.

The second thing I noticed that concerns me is that the driver's side seatbelt does not retract at all. It's pretty much stuck (taped) all the way out.

The third thing that really concerns me is that the lights in the dash and gauge cluster will not illuminate. I checked the fuse box; nothing is burnt out. I checked the dimmer switch, and it was turned all the way to the right... So... electrical snafu? Worst case scenario, what could I expect to pay for this kind of repair?

The fourth, and I guess most concerning thing about this ZX is that I noticed these horribly corroded, chipping, falling-apart rubber pieces under the front of the car. I'm not sure what they are exactly, but I'm going to guess that they're some kind of bushings for the steering? I have a feeling this is a pretty serious deal.

Everything else is pretty minor, although I don't think the oil-pressure sender is working quite right, since the dial was bouncing around pretty much the entire time (though for higher idles it read a consistently inconsistent higher pressure). The interior is all worn out and faded, and there are some of those cheapo sheep-skin seat covers in there, stinking up the interior, and making it smell of 'cheap old car.' :P

That all said, I was extraordinarily impressed with its mechanical condition. The engine started up with less cranking than my dad's '98 Escort, nothing appears to be leaking, and I couldn't detect any odd odors or exhaust fumes.

Oh yeah, the body is almost rustless too. I noticed a few minor spots here and there (inside the door panels, behind the rear bumper), but nothing that personally concerns me.

I'd really appreciate your feedback.

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There are a few things to look at when u purchase an older car like this. I recently just purchased a 72 240z myself and it turned out to be a much bigger project than i expected. First off check the floor pannels to see if they are rotted through. If there is any surface rust remove it and prime it(ETC) Another thing to check is the front end, see how the shock towers are, frame rails, inner wheel wells and so on. As far as the rubber falling from the front end goes, id look into that. Overall just inspect the car for rot holes and rust, as i learned "never judge a book by its cover" :lick: Im not an expert on Z's but listen to the people here.. they know just about everything there is to know with Z's

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sry... forgot to post the other stuff... the keyswitch may be able to be saved, just disasemble it, see if anything is jamming, and if not remove the rust and lubricate it. As for the dash lights it may be faulty wiring or corrosion on the wires... not quite sure. The seatbelt is probably just sticking. The belt on my Z was just kinda rusty so it stayed out like urs, try jiggling it and lubricating the locking and retracting part. Good luck with ur z!

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It pretty much depends on how far you want to take it in terms of restoration. 79's are fairly cheap . You should tally up a parts list of what you want to fix and price it out . It will excede the value of the car most likely.

Also check out the front of the hood on the underside , this area was prone to rust on the zx. Have someone else go with you a second time to catch things you may have missed. Check out that panel rust one more time. I think the rear behind the bumper of my 79 had a spot welded flange type seam/joint. Don't overlook it.

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Well I made it a point to do a little research before hand so that I could check out the trouble spots (in terms of rust). So I made a good inspection underneath the car, then behind the door panels, under the hood, and on it. I'll admit though, I was probably not able to get an accurate measure only because the body was repainted about four years ago.

I've tried to start pricing a bit, but the only variable here is labor. I play that game where I ask myself, "how much will I have to pay someone to tear into this dash to figure out why the damned lights won't come on?" ... and of course I can't really go looking into replacement parts pricing for the rubber joints under the car only because I don't know exactly what they are (if anybody's got a diagram of the underside of the front I could probably point out the parts I'm talking about).

The only thing I found while searching is a brand new, never-used ignition switch made by Nissan on ebay for like $85.

My challenge here is that I've got a bottom line for the money I can put into the car without screwing myself over financially. I'm looking for more of a daily-driver app for this car, and not a restoration project.

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I dont know to much about the newer Z's, but i know they dont hold as much value as the older ones (unless they are like 2000's). I'd look into this, it could be a project car and you just dont know it. If i were you i would do some shopping around (if u havent already) and maybe you will find one in better condition. Especially if ur looking for more of a daily driver car. Just my thoughts.

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Yeah, I should do that again... but in the mean time...

I've looked at some stuff, and I think the cracked rubber pieces that we noticed today are, the ball joints, sway bar bushings, control arm bushings, etc. etc. Basically anything of that nature is in horrible condition right now...

The positive outlook on that though is that the replacement parts are dirt cheap... but... I can't rightly say the same on the labor cost... since I haven't a freaking clue how much I'd have to pay someone to do it.

The seatbelt thing could be a mixed blessing too... that'd allow an opportunity to install four-point racing belts, heheh. Anybody know how easy or hard those are to install btw? ... I'm sort of curious now...

Anyway, I've got another car I could go look at now... I called the seller a few weeks back, and he told me that it's got some rust on it, so it won't be quite as 'pristine' as this one I suppose. The other one's a '76 280Z, so I suppose that'll make you die-hard first gen Z fans a bit more pleased, eh? :lick:

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Most of the items you mentioned are fairly easy fixes. If you want only a daily driver then this car sounds like a good candidate. Any reasonably priced car of this age is going to need some repairs. With a basic set of tools and a factory service manual you can do a lot of the repairs yourself. The tools and service manual will pay for themselves almost immediately in labor savings. And you will be getting a bit of knowledge that is priceless. My daily driver is an 81ZX. It has a few imperfections but is a lot of fun to drive and is basically a very reliable car. The guys on this site will be more than glad to help with any problems you encounter. Take a look at the classifieds for parts. There are a lot of inexpensive parts available. Good luck.

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I agree with u First gen Z, Try doing the work yourself, manuals like Chiltons manual go through step by step instrucutions to insure your doing it right, and they dont cost to much. In the long run you will save tons of money. Only reason im not saying buy it in a heart beat is because my Z looked perfect until i got it apart, now i need a new shell. Good luck

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Hrm, yeah, I suppose.

To be perfectly honest, I'm not really all that car savvy, at least working on them that is... but I guess it wouldn't be a big problem if I had a step-by-step repair guide, a whole lot of time, and the right tools...

The only obstacle I see is space; I don't have any. My first major purchase, in addition to the car itself would be a car cover. We have a single garage, and my parents' car takes more precedence over mine. :(

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What u mentioned is more of a drive way mechanics job anyways, if u have a manual you should be alright and you could also invest in a car Canopy... they go from $100-$700 dollars depending on what you are looking for. A single car canopy with side walls and a door usually runs from $120-$150. I think they are great because they withstand all weather and can easily be moved. Hope this information helps!

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Thanks... but... eh... I doubt a canopy is going to bode well with my 'rents either... If it alters the appearance of our house (including the driveway/front yard) in any way, shape or form, it's not going to fly.

To add on top of that, my dad's driveway is on a hill, so it's all slantish... and my mom's driveway is pocked with years of no-maintenance... So even if I could set up a canopy in the driveway(s), I don't have a level surface to work with. -_-

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well thats no good... you will need a level place to jack it up... make a deal with ur parents to use the garage while u fix it and when ur done doin the job itl be outa there ASAP... only thing i can think of :lick:

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LOL, yeah. My dad still detests the idea of my using his garage, but my mom is open to a deal at least. She's basically agreed to let me convert the garage into a more work-friendly area, mainly because it's a HUGE mess right now, and installing better shelving, throwing away old junk, and putting in new storage units to make it a good work space really appeals to her. So she gets a clean garage as long as I can use it to work on my car now and then.

Anyway, now I've got the scoop on the '76 280Z I'm gonna go look at. The owner tells me that the body is rusting in a number of places on the driver's side, namely near the bottom of the body, and around the door lock.

The owner also tells me that the driver's side door is sort of a pain to open, and won't lock (because of the rusty lock thing). I figure that can't be too big of a deal right? Surely the innards of a door like that aren't too hard to replace, right? Even so, I can live with a goofy door. That's a significant improvement over a bad seatbelt and no dash lights, right? heheh.

My budget for the car maxes out at like $3500, and clearly you can see from that, that I'm hardly searching for an immaculate Z. I just want one I can kick around town in for a while, while it maybe evolves into more of a project car as the years go by. *shrug*

EDIT:

Forgot to mention. The seller is asking $2500 OBO for this one.

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