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Restore vs Repair

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New owner beginning the process of getting my 1978 280Z up and running and fun to drive on the weekends.  How important is finding a real specialist in Z car restoration do to the work?  The couple of specialty shops that I have contacted are too busy to take on another project.  Is using a good mechanic and body shop sufficient to achieve a good result?  Are there things that I need to make sure are being done?  Just starting out and have many questions.  Thanks for your guidance.

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I have a limited skill set when it comes to actually doing the work.  I am more of the payer.  My first car was a '65 Ford and I was able to do a few things myself.  With the few garages that specialize being busy I didn't want to wait to get started.  I have a mechanic that I trust giving it a look over tomorrow.  If he says he isn't up to it I have limited other options.  If he says he thinks it needs XYZ then I would say go ahead and get started.  I don't think I'm a purist but have much respect for the art of restoration.  I have also never had a car that I was so excited about.  ? 

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I am sort of a self proclaimed expert on this subject, at least regarding the body shop elements of your question.  I haven't gotten to the engine part yet.  I am an expert because I learned the hard way.  There are no "Z" experts in my area and they probably couldn't spell Z if they had to.   Even finding a body shop to do the work was difficult.  I found a great small 1 man body shop in my area that enjoyed restoring but did insurance work to pay the bills.  He promised on a particular date to pick up my car.  I striped it down for him including the engine, interior, chrome, glass, etc. He picked it up as promised.  Then it sat outside in his driveway for 3 months in the weather uncovered and without glass.  It was obvious that it rusted more while sitting in his shop.   Water and leaves were accumulating in my spare tire tub. I gave up and picked it up.

Then I found someone else.  He worked out of his home.  He was in his late '60s and did body work all his life.  He had a rotisserie and all.  My car needed sheet metal work and he did it.  In the early stages, he was doing a great job. He had a very laid back personality. The paint work under the hood, lower valance, etc was stellar. Toward the end, it was getting bad.  I called him out on little things that needed done and he would get mad.  Of course, I picked up the car immediately prior to me going on vacation and at night.  When I got it home, the final car looked terrible.  BTW, for those of you that would have stood up to the guy and said this needs fixed, there is no question in my mind he would have destroyed the car and scraped it.  He killed himself shortly after I picked up the car.  I had it repainted.   It has been a long journey for me.

I cant avoid suicide if that is one of your career goals.  But if I had it to do over again, I would have been much more specific.  It wouldn't have eliminated most of MY problems but if the guy was non suicidal, I think I would have been fine.  Don't count on him to notice stuff.  Point them out to him and put them on paper so he has a checklist. For example, my battery tray had surface rust on it.  I should have told him to smooth it out.   He wasn't a Z guy and for whatever reason, he didn't "Correctly" fit the holes on the lower front fenders to the rockers even though everything lines up great.   Specify the paint (PPG only, no exceptions).  If you are concerned, buy it for him and supply it.  Tell him the order in which to do things.  If he doenst want to put a gun in his mouth, he should be ok with it.  Do the body work. Paint the doghouse. Mount the doors, fenders,  and line them up. Then paint everything. I explicitly told him I wanted to retain the seams on the rear valance and at the rockers.  If I didn't, he would have filled them in. But for whatever reason, he filled in the oval stamping on the rear valance behind the bumper. I have no idea why. I will never see it behind the bumper but I know it is wrong. He told me a guy in town had two of Z cars and the side body lines "disappear" into the rear quarter panel.  I was fortunate to have a 60k mile car that I was able to send a picture and counter his claim (which resulted in great side body lines btw).  But point that out.

I bought a large box of screws of various sizes.  When I sent the car to him, I had new (cheap junk) screws in every hole to prevent my threads from being painted.  It made him mad.  I had no idea why but it saved me tons of time when I got it back.  The original body shop guy said that was a great idea. I removed those screws and tossed them in the trash.  I would also encourage everyone to leave the door hinges on the car.  There is adjustment there. There is no adjustment where the hinges bolt to the doors so mounting the doors is simply a matter of bolting them on to the hinges.  You have eliminated the need to adjust the doors if you leave the hinges alone.  I would also trace the door latches on the jams with a sharpie pen and replace them with rusty crap hardware.  Then tell the body guy to paint over them.  You can install your originals when you get the car back. The paint lines will reveal where they need to be.  That is the way the 240 is anyway.  I assume 280 is similar.

Regarding the engine, I plan to load it on a trailer and take it to a Z expert.

My $.02 anyway.  Good luck.



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thanks!  there is some rust on the right dogleg and with the tires all blown out I wasn't able to get under it too far.  I am hopeful that we don't find too much once we get it up on a rack.

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