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Considering a 1980zx


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Howdy y'all, i'm new to this forum so my apologies if this isn't the right place to ask this. I have a current daily driver (2008 Toyota tundra) and I'm finishing up my first project car (free 1998 ford expedition) so naturally being around hot rods all the time I'm looking for another project car. I've loved these Z cars for a long time and i love v8s. i found a 1980 280 ZX with a chevy 350 swapped in (i know these engines like the back of my hand) that I'm going to look at this Sunday. I know how to check engine trans ect. but is there some things that are Z specific to look out for? i know around the windshield, battery, rear hatch and spare tire are common rust spots, are there any places that are super concerning? I'll try to upload some pictures, cosmetically its not great and needs some wiring but i've started with worse before... Thanks!

 

-Jackson Householder

 

 

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On 1/11/2020 at 8:55 AM, Reptoid Overlords said:

My '80ZX has bent up frame rails from the PO using the wrong jacking procedure.

I have never seen one without!  Even the very good one i'm restoring has some damage.. one day i'll take those little bumps out..

Things to check/worry about..

I've got one concern for you.. a V8 in an already not so very strong chassis can be a problem.. even more when it's a T-bar chassis.  The longer length of a s130 makes it not strong enough for a V8.

Look for rust direct under the floor where the front safety belts are hanging..  between the point were the rear axel is attached and the side of the car. There is a piece of floor that is double layered steel.. and Always a problem.. (I'll put a pic in my thread.. restoring a 1979 slickroof 2+2 280zx this afternoon.. after that i (now!) go into the paintboot for some more painting parts! )

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well i ended up buying it, texas car ended up being rust free on the underside, almost no rust on the car in general, few whisky dings but nothing too major, fuel cell was empty so i won’t have to clean that, the wiring seems basic and shouldn’t be too bad, once it’s running and driving it should be down to paint body and upgrades. no damage on frame rails and no rust in the place you were telling me about. will update y’all when i get it running, thanks for the help!

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  • 1 month later...

alright so i’ve had the car for a bit now and i’ll update everything i’ve done to it so i can keep track, redid most of the wiring for the engine portion, rebuilt carb, fixed detent cable, redid carb throttle cable to get full throttle pull, replaced alternator, replaces swaybar end links, eibach lowering springs, bled brakes with new fluid, added a 160 thermostat and flushed cooling system, replaced a broken pushrod, changed oil twice(water got in the engine and had to change it again) changed diff fluid (did a burnout and found out it’s an lsd) fresh plugs and wires, added extra lights to the bumper for nighttime, fixed some exhaust leaks and fixed a hole in the radiator. runs good but the transmission is not setup to match the engine, and high speed is a bit sketchy. i’ve burned through a set of brakes already so once that’s fixed i’m gonna work on tightening up the suspension bushing and tie rods and such and then it’s on to go fast parts. high speed is also a relative term cause i’ve only had it up to about 100mph. 

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so another update, car handles great except my power steering is mysteriously failing me when warm, heads are currently off as i’m swapping in a new cam (ruined a lobe on the current one) and working ok the heads a bit(minor porting and screw in rocker studs) i took it to cars and coffee and met a guy with an s30 that had a turbocharged 305 swap. i’ll upload some pictures, and if anyone has some cam suggestions feel free to let me know, bone stock 350 with intake and minor porting. 

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  • 1 month later...

ok so i replaced the cam(lunati barebones cam, (.480/.488 and 224/[email protected]” 110lsa), ported the heads and did some minor other work and tuned the carb and such, added an o2gauge got new pushrods and did a bunch of work and now it runs great and drives well, has in the ball park of about 300-350 hp at the wheels, and it’s a blast to drive, spins the tires from a dead stop all the way to 60 if you’re not careful. next up is to replace all of the suspension bushings and tie rods and stuff to make the handling much tighter, really just waiting on the time to do it cause i enjoy driving it too much now to have the desire to make it better just yet... once i settle into online classes i’ll have time and i’ll get it done, and i’ll take pictures along the way. cam is still fresh so i haven’t gotten her up past about 110mph @ 5500rpm but with the setup i have it should carry all the way to about 7000rpm and 130mph without too much trouble once i get the cam really settled in. i also deleted the power steering as it would just leak constantly and would stop working anyways when it was warm, so it’s just manual steering, and having not driven a car like that before it’s an interesting experience, it’s a different connection to the road that i haven’t felt before. overall really excited for this car and i can’t wait to update y’all more! B25DCE29-73D3-4DB9-913C-BE61E3398454.jpeg5A678A3B-3296-45BB-9A6F-044692D145E7.jpeg137BFC91-2F66-4539-9452-938DF4F9F267.jpegD4D2C884-0EF2-46FD-B8F1-7FA65BF6630B.jpeg

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  • 4 weeks later...

so i redid all of the suspension bushings with prothane bushings, new tie rods ball joints and a new center link, since the zx center link is $340 i took a chance on a 810 center link and it works fine, but the steering wheel is not straight(if you use a 5/6 bolt aftermarket wheel you could move it one bolt and it be straight) even with the wheel off it drives a whole lot better, and the camber is a lot less now, a press makes quick work of bushings and then they pop right in without issues. the actual datsun part of the car has been quite well and working great, but i’ve had continued valve train issues with the small block. most of which are my fault but it’s nothing that’s unfixable, my biggest issues were a few of my stock stamped steel rockers exploding while i was cruising after several 6500+rpm pulls, and the increased heat causing enough expansion to create a bind issue. with that i’ve installed better studs and i’ll have a fresh set of aftermarket rockers this week, just in time for a show on friday. i also need a new radiator but mine isn’t leaking enough yet to warrant the cost of a new one. once i get the motor dialed in better i’ll drop the transmission out for a few upgrades, 3-4 clutch pack, shift kit and new governor, and around the same time a proper exhaust system instead of a side dump before the rear axle with only a glass pack to muffle it. overall just making a little bit of progress each and every day, eventually it’ll be painted and running great for an extended period of time, instead of working for a week then stuck in the shop for 3 weeks... 172f7dc2d764f9f245f9443a7fc434b0.jpgA150D5B1-FA13-4FE1-BF5B-90952B962238.jpg


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Don't forget that these old cars had terrible passenger protection, for crashes.  Even the ZX's.  No airbags, no crumple areas.  Poor steering in an old car at 130 mph with half the people around you on a cellphone...not good.

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Don't forget that these old cars had terrible passenger protection, for crashes.  Even the ZX's.  No airbags, no crumple areas.  Poor steering in an old car at 130 mph with half the people around you on a cellphone...not good.

you raise a really good point, i have made it somewhat better with 4pt seatbelts and better seats, but i do plan on installing a full cage when i have it apart for paint, as these cars are not great on safety


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  • 3 months later...

so it’s been a while since i updated what i’ve done to the car, i swapped to roller tip rockers, i’ve tuned the carb a lot, i added lights and i took the transmission out and installed a shift kit and did some other things to make it last longer, i put a new radiator and alternator and water pump in, i’m about to do new motor mounts and tires, i’m looking at a set of falken azenis rt660s in 205/40-17 and 255/40-17, i put in a new front u joint on the driveshaft, and i put a new caliper on the rear. it runs and drives great and handles pretty well, but could use some help with the camber of the wheels. next up after tires is a set of good cylinder heads and a roll cage. i bought a parts car today, a 1980 2+2 280zx that i’ll use for body pannels when i repaint my car. it came with a set of stock datsun 4lug wheels if anyone wants them lmk. overall i’m much happier with my car than i ever thought i’d be. it’s definitely still a work in progress, but the end is in sight!

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  • 3 months later...

so i decided to prioritize painting the car, so i’ve spent the past 3months or so doing body work and trying to get most of the body straight. given that the car is an expression of myself, i am keeping certain reminders of  past mistakes as momentos of what the cars beginnings were in my eyes. would other people think it’s dumb and makes no sense? yeah, but that doesn’t matter to me. overall  the sbc swap i have has been running good, but leaks/burns a lot of oil, so sometime around christmas i’d like to put new heads on it (my valve guides are roasted and swap from 305 heads to a set of aluminum heads could bring upgrades) and rebuild it to replace every gasket and see what condition the internals are in before i start trying to make a lot of power out of it. the car at the time of this post is in primer, and it will be painted after i’m satisfied with the body and the shape of the primer. after i paint it im gonna put a decent set of tires on, and do some alignment parts. a set of camber plates for the front and for the rear i know a company that will be releasing parts to allow adjustments of the rear(camber, toe, wheel centering) I’m not supposed to give out a lot of details but when it’s released i’ll make a post about it cause i’m pretty sure it’ll be the first available alignment kit for the rear of our cars. overall i’m happy with the build and i’m excited to paint it, and put a fresh windshield in it. i’ll update this post again after it’s painted and i take pictures of the paint!

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  • 3 weeks later...

so i painted the car about 2 weeks ago, and it looks really good and i’m happy with it. also be weary with the mask you use and make sure your filters are good even if they’re brand new, i used some brand new organic vapor cartridges which were recommended for what i’m doing and should have been more than capable of filtering, but one failed and i was blowing purple snot for 3 days on top of the side effects from the chemical exposure. i do have a lil touch up i have to do along the roofline from my trim coming off and disappearing into the wind, but it’s largely unnoticed and i can always fix it later. first time driving it i was very excited and immediately got pulled over, just a warning but i’m now on a first name basis with the cop. i also dropped the gas tank below the car and lowered the cg which improved handling tremendously. with regards to the paint quality, the finish is good, but there is some minor orange peel in the clear coat that will buff right out, and i made the mistake of not allowing enough flashtime between coats for the clear (my first time ever painting my car) and as a result the clear is still fairly soft, but should harden up soon. i’ve been keeping it in a heated barn at night to help keep it warm while the solvent evaporates from the paint and hardens the clear. overall i’m very happy with the car, and i’m very excited to drive it more. it rarely gets below freezing where i live so the car will be fun to drive around during christmas break. i’m also gonna try and pull the engine sometime soonish and rebuild it with better cylinder heads and set it up to take some nitrous, my goal is around 450hp with air and 500-550+ on the sauce. i almost never do drag launches so i think my diff will be able to handle the higher power. i also have new tires and a proper roll cage happening before the engine gets faster. i’m really excited about this build, and i’m really happy with how it looks!53230dc9f1cbd42c3b533808bf9ac985.jpga0bc9d78ce53c5a44cd679453a68c43d.jpg1871fe939665f03029fa1ee2656376ec.jpg25eb780267353a60fd7e9c08db9f6633.jpg1650117c97ea318d0c445ce3cd177b2f.jpg8a766d0df05134d594a260264e353702.jpg80c84f4b2c3b0b6d98b746dd042c5a4a.jpg


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Did you get HID headlamps? If so, how do you like them?  I have my engine out for some re work and engine bay cleanup, now might be the time to upgrade.
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i got some led off of amazon for like $90 (“vouke H6024 7 inches Round Black Cree LED Headlight High Low Beam fit for Wrangler JK TJ LJ CJ Hummer H1 H2 etc, Replace 7 inch Round Sealed Beam Headlamps,Pack of 2” was the full title on amazon) same headlights that the jeep’s use, they’re very bright, but they have a really nice cutoff for the low beams so that unless you’re looking right into it it’s not super blinding, and the high beams are awesome! i drive mostly at night to avoid any people on the roads and they work great, the only downside was figuring out the wiring, because whatever headlight wiring was in my car did not plug in and play with the headlights (the car has had a tough life so it could just be mine that’s wired wierd) but i bought a $3 relay from oriellys and made it work with very minimal wiring skills. the very white tone of the light is also very good for showing the contrast on the road of the minor bumps,cracks and rocks you otherwise wouldn’t see in the daytime.


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  • 2 months later...

so i pulled the engine a lil while ago and tore it down, every rod bearing had some pretty nasty damage and i had detonation marks on two of the pistons. heads were fine so i sold them since i wouldn't be using them anymore. the block has been stripped and rotates in and out of the parts washer, the block isn't too heavy so i'm able to pick it up and put it in and out with relative ease, but it did damage the tray for the parts washer so i'm gonna build a new one. i plan on building it as a small cam big head type of motor so that i have room to grow later on. exhaust headers is the big hiccup i'm trying to sort out, i'm gonna try and make a set of lt1 longtube headers for like a 93-97 camaro fit, with 1 7/8" primaries they can take a little hammering around the steering gearbox if needed for clearance, since the motor pulls away from the gearbox they can be pretty close. i got a borla muffler specced specifically for a 383 so it'll sound really nice too. i'm also re doing a fair bit of wiring to clean things up, and i removed everything behind the dash except for like gauges and stuff so if anyone needs some ac parts let me know cause i don't have a use for them. i'm also removing whatever insulation stuff was there against the firewall because when i held a flame to it it created a bigger fire and i'm not very fireproof. i am also planning to do a cheap s13 coilover conversion in place of camber plates since the s13 coilovers have adjustable top hats already and id like a much stiffer springrate for the rear especially with the beefier engine. overall im very excited to continue building this car and making it faster. my build plan for the motor is as follows(let me know if something with this combo seems wildly off or something): promaxx 225cc IR aluminum heads with 2.02 valves, full 383 rotating assembly with flexplate and harmonic balancer matched to the rotating assembly, 1.5 roller tip rockers with grooved balls for better oiling, lunati barebones cam, 224/234 duration @ .050" 110LSA and 480/488 lift (int/exh), high volume normal pressure oil pump, aftermarket oil pan with windage tray and 7qt capacity, weiand single plane intake manifold(i might port it if it becomes a restriction), edelbrock 600cfm carb(only carb i have will upgrade to a 750cfm when the budget allows it) and lt1 headers if i can make them fit, 3in collectors into a 3in y for exhaust, valve springs are 115lbs closed pressure and 310lbs at .575" lift. im aiming for 9.5-10:1 compression ratio and a wider ring gap incase i decide to run boost or nitrous later on, arp bolts for everything important, 2 bolt main block but ive seen them make decent power when built properly, and the rpms wont exceed 6500 to help keep things together. the horsepower calculator estimates around 500hp for this setup, but with mechanical water pump and alternator and 600cfm carb i estimate closer to 450 ish, which will be more than enough for a street/strip/roll race car. torque converter has a 2500 stall speed so drag style launches wont be anywhere near enough power to really be breaking things, and if i do blow a diff i have another diff and axle set sitting on the shelf. i also have a full set of drilled and slotted rotors with semi metallic pads that will be going on the car very soon. im also trying to sort out a speedometer situation, i think ill end up using an 85mm gps speedometer with a 3d printed adapter to fit the hole so that i can know how much to slow down before the speed traps, theres a few spots where cops hide on back roads because theres lots of wineries and breweries so drunk drivers are frequent on the weekends so i don't drive much at night on the weekends anymore. i have a lot of ideas about the car and what i want to do with it and what direction i wanna go, i just gotta get there. its a beautiful car and its become truly my car and not just another z. i have a youtube channel that i'm gonna try and upload to more often, i have one video up from the top end disassembly (https://youtu.be/wzP2thSjRtQ). im also trying to change out the shifter to a gated shifter instead of the stock 3 speed auto shifter for the zx so that i can have better shift command, and so that i can keep the drivability it has on the street while also having the option of running it to 6500 if i so choose. if anyone has any questions feel free to ask or if someones got some advice i'm missing let me know. i have a rear strut bar that my seatbelts connect to and im gonna make a new front strut bar similar to the one apex engineered makes for the s30 to help up front as well, as even with stock struts and old tires i could feel the difference the previos one made on handling. 

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7 hours ago, heyitsrama said:

That looks like a rad car, do you get track time with it? 

unfortunately not yet, as up until now the car leaked about a quart of oil every 30 miles and it still wouldn't come close to passing a tech inspection, and track time is fairly expensive so its a little further down the line of places to drive. however i live on some very twisty roads that are plenty of fun!  

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Just a comment.  This post might be readable on a phone but it's just a huge block of letters on a computer.  In case you're wondering about responses.  Kind of looks like Ginsberg wrote it.  Stream of consciousness stuff...

 

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dude a quart of oil for every 30 miles is alot. what was the issue?

a few things, valvecovers leaked, timing cover leaked, the intake manifold by the distributor has a leak, there is a small pipe plug that rotted out and leaked, rear main seal leaked and the valve guide seals on the heads were old and rotten so it burned a fair bit as well. but i have the engine fully apart now and a full gasket set ready so it shouldn’t leak a drop once i’m done with it :)


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10 minutes ago, JHzcar said:


a few things, valvecovers leaked, timing cover leaked, the intake manifold by the distributor has a leak, there is a small pipe plug that rotted out and leaked, rear main seal leaked and the valve guide seals on the heads were old and rotten so it burned a fair bit as well. but i have the engine fully apart now and a full gasket set ready so it shouldn’t leak a drop once i’m done with it 🙂


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Typical Chevy engine, hemorrhaging oil from every possible place it can.

You know it is time to add oil when it stops leaking, eh?

 

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Typical Chevy engine, hemorrhaging oil from every possible place it can.
You know it is time to add oil when it stops leaking, eh?
 

more when the oil pressure has a very slight surge at idle is when it’s time to top off, it only had a 5qt pan so it didn’t have to lose much to start surging


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