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Orlando/Central Florida Members-Help Needed-


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I'm looking to buy my first S30, and I would really like the whole process to go smoothly. I've read every article I can come across as far as buyng one of these cars, and I've found a car (in orlando) that seems to be exactly what I'm looking for. I live in Miami, so I don't know too much about the Orlando area. Could you guys point me in the direction of any expert mechanics/shops located in Orlando that specialize in these old Z cars and would be able to give the car a thorough once over, checking for problems that a beginner like myself might miss before I commit to buying the car. Any help would be greatly appreciated.


Chris J.

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I'm not in the area so I can't really help on that end. However, if it turns out you can't find a good shop, here are some things that you can look for to determine if the car is in good shape.

Exterior: Look at the condition of the paint. Old paint is better because you can really evaluate what is under it. Look for small pin holes, these will indicate rust on the inner part of the panel....will have to be cut out to be fixed. Surface rust with no holes is likely just on the exterior of the panel. These cars like to rust from the inside out. Areas to really look at for rust....anything that is not glass, plastic, or rubber. Pay attention to the dog legs, rockers, cowl, hatch area. Use a magnet to check for bondo, especially on a newer paint job. If the magnet don't stick, there is lots of bondo....probably a quick fix that you will have to address later on.

Interior: Pull the carpets up and check the floor pans. They will likely have sound deadener on them so poke around with a screw driver. Check the firewall on the passenger side to see if the heater hoses are leaking. Pull the spare out and check the well area. Look at all the jambs, the trunk jamb is a particularly bad place to rust due to exhaust fumes.

Engine: Check the bay for more rust on the frame rails, and pay particular attention to the area under the battery tray. If there is rust here, it is likely due to battery acid which can't be repaired by normal techniques. It more than likely has seeped between the inner fender and firewall. If this happens, you are looking at a structural point that will need to be fixed by a competent shop or can be done at home with proper tools and knowledge. Not for the faint of heart....I've seen repairs for this estimated at $4000+ and there is no direct weld in panel. Fabrication is the answer unless you have a donor car. Make sure that the engine is cool to the touch at this point. Check the oil, smell it. It will indicate if the maintenance is up to date on the car. Look at the everything and make sure that nothing is flopping around loose. This is a good time to look for previous body damage clues. Make sure that the front of the car fits together tight without wrinkles.

Under the car: Look at the floor pans again. These are common rust victims and are easy to replace. Check the wheel wells front and rear. Rust will usually eat through close to the fenders here. On the front, look at the frame rails and the torsion bar mounting points from the bottom. Take a screwdriver and poke around here as well. These don't rust from the outside, they die from the inside out. It will look solid, but you will be able to put holes in the metal if rust is present on the inside. Pay particular attention to the area under the batter on the passenger side on the back end of the wheel well. Again, you will be able to see if the battery acid has seeped inbetween the firewall and floor pan. If you see rust out here, you should back away from the car in my opinion. Be cautious of fresh undercoating. That is an old trick to hide rusted areas and clean things up for the sale. Old paint and dirty undersides are the best indicators of the condition of the car.

Start it up: This is where the cold engine comes in good. You will be able to tell if it starts easy, and if the choke works. Pay attention to how it does warming up, and how it performs at operating temperature. Don't let the seller have it idling for you when you get there. They like to do that "for your convenience" so it is ready to roll for the test drive. In actuality, that is a nice trick to mask cold start issues. The owner knows how to stand on one foot, scratch his head, and manually crank the motor with a rachet...but doesn't want you to see this ritual. He will, of course, turn it off while you are looking at the exterior. When you crank it for the drive it will still be warm and easy to get going.

Other than that, look at all the normal things. Suspension bushings, links, blah blah blah. Make sure that doors and hatch open and close smoothly without binding. Turn on all the lights and wipers. Give a good smell and see if you smell burning. This could indicate an electrical problem.

Good luck, I hope it works out for you. I'm starting the process myself.

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