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Project Boondoggle (or, so I went and bought a Z!)


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I've been lurking here and some of the other Z boards for a while, and after wanting a project car for basically my entire life, I finally pulled the trigger a couple weeks back so I guess it's time to join; hope y'all have room for one more!


So here it is, my new 1978 Z, as it looked when I brought it home:

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I scoured CL for a while and any reasonably-priced cars were getting snatched up in hours.  I checked out a handful of cars in my desired price range and 


they were all projects well outside my budget or capabilities, so when I found this one I jumped on it.  It looked pretty good, and I knew it would be some work, but have uncovered some unexpected surprises in the last couple weeks.


The starter died when I brought the car to the shop so someone more qualified could take a look at it. It failed smog with an illegal cat, gross polluter numbers and an EVAP leak, and almost every nut and bolt I take off has revealed some bodgy-at-best repair work by previous owners.  All part of the fun! :)


I have a lot of plans and a whole lot of work to do, and I sure am grateful for all the helpful folks who have already walked this path before me.

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Looks in good shape.  Two sources you'll want to at least open and browse through are linked below.  Engine Fuel chapter in the first, and the second is a collection of tests covering many years, in the Guidebook.  Get the 1980 book, it covers all.  


There aren't really many people out there "qualified" to work on these old EFI systems.  If you  know the basics of an engine and how to use a meter you might be best off to do your own work.





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Thanks!  I had the FSM already, but didn't know about the 1980 book, so I've grabbed that too.


As for the car, it's decent from across a parking lot, but the body work is rough when you get up close.  It looks like first-time DIY work with a MAACO-type spray job.  I'll worry about that stuff much later.  That it was as rust-free an example as I was able to find was the clincher for me.

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My plan at this point is to keep the interior and exterior fairly close to stock, though that might change once I start getting my hands dirty and spend some time driving it.  The bumpers have already been removed and I'd like to replace with 240 ones, at least in the front.  I'll probably put on some Rota wheels when it needs new tires and would like to drop it about an inch.  When I finally take on the body work, the air dam will be replaced and the side molding will go.


I haven't started to dig into the interior much yet, but I'll probably end up refreshing or replacing most of it and would like to put in an audio system (this, at least, is something I'm plenty experienced with).


Maybe an L28ET way out in the future.


Already taken care of some little things like spark plugs, air and fuel filters and cleaning off the 37 years of gunk from anything that I take off the car.  Bushings and suspension are high on the to-do list.


At the moment, I'm in the middle of restoring the fuel tank.  There was no o-ring on the sending unit and a puncture on the top, so I'm hoping that fixes the EVAP leak, though I also replaced all the hoses just to be sure.  

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I hope your car isn't officially labeled as a gross polluter. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS get a test run before doing an official test in California.


Great advice that, in my excitement, I didn't think about at the time.  Hopefully it saves someone else some trouble.  AFAIK, the car isn't tagged as a gross polluter until it fails the test with GP numbers two times, so I think I should be fine if I pass on the re-test.  I'll be doing the pre-check for sure.

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congrats on the purchase - let the fun begin! 


mine is a 78 with the 240 bumpers. black dragon and futofab both sell them for ~$400 shipped (each) or you can go 2x that $$$ for harrington stainless out of the uk.

if you want a quick, cheap option i have a basically new 240 front from black dragon with a small ding in it - pm me if you're interested.

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My fuel tank restoration is about finished, but before getting into that, some more photos and a little history.


The engine bay, as requested, which is pretty unremarkable.  I'm definitely jealous of you pre-smog guys and your spaghetti-free engines.




And a quick shot of the interior, which should give a good idea of what I've got to work with.  It's livable, but I suspect that just about every piece in there will end up restored or replaced eventually.




I took off the dash cap to see how bad it is under there.  It looks salvageable, but it's gonna be some work.  Like everything else I've started to look at on the car, the dash cap came with a couple of what-was-he-thinking!? facepalms:




It was held on by two sheet metal screws through the cap and into the dash.




And a bead of what looks like bathroom caulk.  I'm getting used to seeing this kind of stuff by now.




The glove compartment yielded some treasures!  The original owner's manual, looking like all of its 37 years.




Some free socks, courtesy of Delta airlines.




And a bunch of older insurance and registration paperwork.  It turns out that the car has had 4 registered owners since 2010; 5 including me.  Somehow they managed to owe a combined ~$1000 in back fees to the DMV.  And my favorite, apparently it was stolen and recovered a few years ago!


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Quite a life.  I wonder what happened in the 30 remaining years!

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Looks like a great starting platform. Here's my thoughts/observations, etc:


I spy with my little eye a California floor temp warning indicator. Makes sense for where the car is.


Lots of non-factory wire loom in the engine compartment. Let's hope it's not hiding a nightmare. There's also a lot of what appear to be new parts up there. Makes me think someone was chasing a problem. Let's hope they found it.


What's the thing in the engine compartment mounted to the driver's side strut tower? Next to the master cylinder and the windshield washer bottle? Is that a cruise control actuator?


Is that a 90-96 shift knob?

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Wow, good eye!  Yes, it's a cruise control system.  It's obviously aftermarket or maybe a retrofit, and I'll probably be getting rid of it once I get into the dash since I can't envision using it.  I hadn't realized those floor temp indicators were limited to just CA cars, since all the Zs I've seen have had them.  Learned something new today.


I'm hoping that whomever hacked up the interior wasn't doing any work on the engine.  In the time I've had it, it seems to be running pretty well -- hasn't stalled, idles and revs well, pulls well, no problems overheating, AC works great, etc.  If there are gremlins in there, they are hiding well.  Fingers crossed.


Shift knob looks like it came from a Z32, though I'm not sure.  The shift lever in there doesn't have the bend that the stock lever has, so the leverages are messed up and shifts are awkward and unnecessarily difficult to make.  My guess is that it was a misguided attempt at a DIY short-throw shifter, but it managed to pull off the rare feat of being both nonfunctional AND ugly!  It too is on my shortlist for replacement.

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My guess is that it was a misguided attempt at a DIY short-throw shifter, but it managed to pull off the rare feat of being both nonfunctional AND ugly!


Haha!! It's a two-fer!!


I believe they changed the shift lever bends a couple times over the course of the first generation and some of them can change how the shift lever comes up through the console. I've not studied the differences in detail at all, but I think it's possible it's stock, but just from a different year? Besides being hacked off short of course.


The guys with early year Z experience would know more about the different shift shaft designs.

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Curiosity got the better of me after all this transmission talk.  I didn't see any markings to confirm, but looking around at pictures, I'm pretty sure it's the stock 71B.  Shift lever looks like it's bent -- is it supposed to be shaped like that?  Inner boot is in bad shape, transmission boot is missing, and that ZX boot was spray painted black.  More stuff for my birthday list.




Removing the console also revealed a mini knife, toothpicks and a flosser to go along with the rest of the general nastiness.  I might have diseases now.  Vacuuming made me feel better about it, but didn't really help.  Interior restoration is rapidly moving up the to-do list.

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That's a 280ZX or 80's Maxima or truck lever (ZX style I know, not so sure on the Maxima or truck.  That's a guess based on year).  The two tan plastic bushings give it away.  The bushing is spring-loaded, the lever can be pressed down against the spring.  Not really sure why they did that, maybe to change the action, or make it more comfortable.


Could be a different 71B transmission than the one that came with the car if the shift lever came with it.   Better gear ratio spread if it's from an 80-83 ZX, but works best with a 3.9 ratio diff.

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First annoyance of my own making came when trying to finish up with the fuel tank.  Here's one of the straps, which I sprayed with two coats of Eastwood Extreme Chassis Black and the accompanying primer.  They looked nice, until I put a fuel-safe adhesive on there for the insulating straps that then dissolved the finish coat.  I tried some 3M 90 on the other one, and the same thing happened.




The primer is fine, but the finish seems like it has no adhesion to the primer and could be peeled off in sheets.  I'm not feeling good about buying all that paint, and more than a little concerned about how the tank will hold up now, plus I'm running out of glues to try.  Maybe silicone adhesive and hope there isn't enough gasoline to break it down?

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...Removing the console also revealed a mini knife, toothpicks and a flosser to go along with the rest of the general nastiness.  I might have diseases now.  Vacuuming made me feel better about it, but didn't really help.  Interior restoration is rapidly moving up the to-do list.


been there - feel your pain. i found quite an interesting array of "treasures" when i gutted my interior. 

my favorite: seat belt retractor was not working correctly - took it apart and found a couple of fake fingernails (painted) stuck in there. lovely.


keep posting pics so we can all vicariously enjoy the progress :)

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So fuel tank restoration is the newest entry on my list of Things I Never Want to Do Again.


One of my failures on the smog test was an EVAP leak, and since my garage had been smelling like a gas station, that wasn't a surprise.  I dropped the tank, and it was pretty obvious why (I hope, at least): the sending unit o-ring was missing, there was a hole punched in the top of the tank, and a previous owner had put on a patch of unknown quality.  Great.  Better go learn how to deal with this.  Thanks to the helpful posters here, the other Z boards, and across the internet for all the tips and how-tos that have been published.



First started rinsing with water, and the rust started coming out.  Had I known how much there would be, I would've done a better job trying to catch it.  This is maybe half of it.



Followed by throwing in 88 nuts and getting my workout for the day.  All 88 came back out.  Then rinsed with muriatic acid and followed that up with some diluted naval jelly.  Flushed with water and acetone and it looked pretty good inside.  I thought I took more before pictures of, well, everything...guess not.  Here's the after.



I debated for a while about what to do with the inside.  Heard good things as well as some warnings about using Red Kote, but decided it was worth the risk.  I made a point of blowing out everything with compressed air and draining thoroughly.  It looked nice when it was all done (take my word for it; the photo got corrupted).


On to the outside.  Wire wheeled all the old paint off and filled the holes with JB Weld, which I hope will hold.  Then tried brushing on some Eastwood primer.  The instructions say to spray it, and it looked kinda lousy, so I went to Harbor Freight, picked up the $15 HVLP gun and set up my very makeshift spray station.



For my first time every spraying paint, I think it came out pretty well.



But I maybe just got lucky, the finish coat didn't look quite as nice.



Washed all the rubber bits with soap and water and hit them with some silicone spray.  Sending unit (with gasket!) was cleaned and reinstalled.  Tank is ready to go back in.



With everything torn apart,I figured it was prudent to replace all of the old fuel and EVAP hoses and cleaned up years of accumulated gunk.



And then everything came to a halt, when I couldn't find the drain plug. I'm pretty sure my 3 1/2 year-old helper absconded with it.  Thanks for the fast shipping zcardepot!



So everything went back together with a minimal amount of cursing and I put a gallon or so of gas back in.  It started and ran, so hooray for that.  There's a gas station a little less than a mile from my house, so I went to fill it up and promptly ran out of gas a 1/4 mile in to the trip  :LOL:


Next up is a new cat so I can hopefully pass smog, get a title and actually drive the car.  Then maybe the dash, because this whole mess of harness that isn't connected to anything just fell out of it.


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