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New to me, 280Z...


dar5052

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Hello, I am new to the forum and just joined today since I picked up my first Z car today. A little about me, I live in Pennsylvania (Lancaster) and have been working on cars since before I got my license (20 years). I've done a ton of body work and a good amount of mechanical. I don't have the patience for electrical work but I am working on it. My daily driver is a Ford pickup, my other daily is a F80 M3, and I have a few Ducatis for some extra fun on the side... 😃

So as if that wasn't enough, I decided its time for a new project and picked up a '76 280Z. The car seems very straight and solid but the previous owner put the body in primer so I don't know what demons could be lurking underneath. But from feeling around the inside of all accessible panels, there is little to no rust. The floors look solid except for maybe a couple "half dollar" sized patches that need to be addressed. From the previous owners description, this is what I got:

Tokico suspension (not sure what that consists of as I have not gotten under the car yet), polyurethane bushings throughout all the suspension, New Brembo brakes all around, new u-joints on axles, all new steering components (again not sure what that consists of), high flow fuel filter, new brake master, new clutch master and slave, and Rota wheels. The inside of the tank has been cleaned and sealed as well. The engine is not original but I have a stack of maintenance records for the engine in the car. Additionally, I got two extra transmissions, two complete heads, and about 5 boxes of extra parts from partouts he has done. 

My plans for the car are to strip it down to the shell, have it media blasted, paint it, and reassemble. This seems like a $^!# ton of work the more I look at the car but I am not a fan of the original Burnt Brown/Orange color, not sure what to call it. Anyone have any input on how bad this job actually is? I also plan to buy a block and build a complete turbo motor to swap in using one of the extra heads, likely using megasquirt but open to suggestions. 

The motor runs well with an occasional misfire and the driveshaft occasionally makes some noise where it goes into the trans (the first time I heard it, I thought I was scraping the front bumper on the driveway). Since I plan on pulling the engine and trans, I will do a refresh on both, any suggestions on what to look out for or what to address first? 

The intent for the car will be to have a good weekend driver that I don't feel embarrassed of in case someone starts looking at it closely, hence why I want to strip the shell, fix all imperfections, and do a complete paint job. That said, while I trailered the car home today, I had multiple people nearly break their necks looking at the car in its current state.

I am open to suggestions and am open to hearing your thoughts, good, bad, or indifferent on my purchase. While I know proper forum etiquette and using the "search" function, please be patient if I ask any stupid questions in my haste to get the car done... Much appreciated. 

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Hi, welcome to the forum. First thing... DO NOT lift that car the way on the picture!  Lift it under the original jack points if the car is not rusted inside there or the safe way is under the axles !!!   One day you will have a problem with the floor all dented in because its very thin steel and not strong enough to support a complete body with everything (engine and trans is ) IN it! 

When you have a completely stripped chassis it could be possible to lift it that way but not a complete car..

Buy yourself a service manual or get one on www.xenonzcar.com 

(And yes the front is partly lifted the way you did in the servicemanual but i've seen to many dents there to say it's safe to do so..)

I always lift it on the axles.  (I can also lift mine on the orig. jack points because i welded my car's sides and bottom almost from scratch haha.) but when i'm in for a MOT (Here called a APK) i always let them lift it on the axles. 

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The more I think about it, I am considering skipping the media blast and just strip the car down to the shell and paint over the existing conditions. Seeing as the car seems fairly solid throughout, I am convincing myself out of opening a can of worms by doing the media blast. I can tell that there has been some bondo applied around the windshield area and throughout the body but nothing major, presumably to cover up surface pitting due to rust areas. As I mentioned previously, the inside of the panels feel solid. All in all, the work done to it seems like it was done correctly maintaining the proper body lines. The only reason I mention the bondo work is because I can see the sanding marks through the primer. Not a huge concern as I can work them out. Anyone have any advice? Open the can or let sleeping dogs lie?

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the front wheel gap (front to back) seems very offset? Pushed forward. When I turn the wheel, I rub on the front bumper. Perhaps its just to due to the lowering kit and the currently installed front bumper? 00a0a_fpzqIfvdhT5z_0CI0lM_1200x900.jpg

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8 hours ago, dar5052 said:

I am considering skipping the media blast and just strip the car down to the shell and paint

If the groundwork is good but your not sure..

8 hours ago, dar5052 said:

I can tell that there has been some bondo applied around the windshield area

This is a good test.. take the paint of at this place (windshiels area.) and when you discover clean steel you know that the rest will be probably okay to! If there is a lot of Feo... Fe2o3...  (chemist joke..) say: RUST !! ... then you know you have to take it all down because your car will be a mess in a few years after your costly paintjob!

8 hours ago, dar5052 said:

seems like it was done correctly

Yep.. again.. you don't know that for sure... unless you have X-ray eyes! 🧐  Just pick a few spots where you think it's gone wrong.. you will discover the quality of the work already done..

Makes no sense to paint a car that will rust again just because the groundwork is sh**..  I painted a car and took it from clean steel.. costed me some 7000+ euro's but i have had many thumbs up!

Here on the forum i did a " Datsun 280zx slickroof 1979 2+2 restauration"  (look it up!) and started from this..  (i bought this car because it had almost no rust.. for a dutch car almost impossible due to the climate!) 

 

Unbelievable clean..

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13 hours ago, dar5052 said:

When I turn the wheel, I rub on the front bumper.

Looks like you have bigger wider wheels also.

The wheels on the Z's sit forward in the wheelwells.  It bothers some people and they try to center them, but that takes a lot of work.

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Finally made it back to the shop today to clean up and catalog all the parts I got with the car. Then looked around the car a little more and it looks like the engine is a reman from ATK. Still has the tags on it. 

I inspected the body a little more and it looks like there is some filler on the rockers but not a lot. All in all the body is solid. I then started the car and the first time it started up just fine... however, the second time it started and shut back off. I restarted it and it was running really rough, like a bad misfire on a couple cylinders. I didn't have time left in the day to start diagnosing it but I took a look around and noticed oil around the spark plug on cylinder 6. I removed the plug, which was very loose, and could see evidence of oil on the threads and around the spark plug well. I suspect there is a valve stuck open or not fully seating or worse, the piston rings are shot or seized up. Any suggestions? The car ran beautifully last week when I put it in the garage. 

 

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So awesome! You can do a few things that are fairly easy. Take the valve cover off and make sure your valve lash is within spec. My car sat for a while before my rebuilt engine ran and I lost a rocker from a sticky valve. From there if everything is back in spec, you can switch your attention to your injectors and spark. Not sure if you drained your gas tank but there could be a possibility your injector clogged and it’s not firing. But you could also just smell your plug to see if it’s oil or gas 🙂 Spark is a quick and easy test. Start with the valve cover and lash and report back! 
 

edit: you can also do a compression test to check for your rings. I don’t suspect this is the issue but it’ll be another quick check!

Edited by Barefootdan
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Yeah I am going to start with the easy things like test for spark and bench test each injector. Good point on removing the valve cover to see if any slipped and check the lash. It looks like cylinder 6 is still firing because the end of the plug was dry, black... but dry. If I can get it running smooth again, I will probably dump kerosene into the cylinders to soften up the rings in the event they are stuck. That might help with the oil bypassing the piston. 

I really wanted to keep running this motor and do all the bodywork and then build a second motor after I have a clean running car. Worst case, I'll end up rebuilding this one while I do the body work. 

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19 hours ago, dar5052 said:

I then started the car and the first time it started up just fine... however, the second time it started and shut back off. I restarted it and it was running really rough, like a bad misfire on a couple cylinders. I didn't have time left in the day to start diagnosing it but I took a look around and noticed oil around the spark plug on cylinder 6. I removed the plug, which was very loose, and could see evidence of oil on the threads and around the spark plug well. I suspect there is a valve stuck open or not fully seating or worse, the piston rings are shot or seized up.

Barefootdan's engine was in much worse shape than yours appears to be.  Don't get too far ahead in assuming major problems.

A loose spark plug can cause a miss, but stuck valves or shot piston rings cannot cause a loose spark plug.  Oll, gas, or moisture on the plug threads of a plug is not a surprise, the gases creep in to the threads and condense there.  Put a clean set of plugs in and give the engine a good tuneup before assuming terrible things.

The pictures show that a PO did some "hacking".  The PCV hoses are not correct, the crankcase is open to the atmosphere.  If the PO did not know about the hose under the intake manifold where the valve is the intake manifold might have a major leak.  76 has the fuel pump relay contact in the AFM and the AFM needs all of the air entering the engine to pass through it.  Low air flow can kill the fuel pump power.

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As of this morning, the car wouldn't start at all. It would just crank over. I decided to start with the easiest of tests... Didn't take long to find the culprit... I pulled the spark plugs out of 5 and 6 and tested both. The cylinder 6 spark plug was shot while 5 worked fine in both wires. I didn't bother checking the rest of them and just went and got a new set of plugs. As I removed the rest of the plugs, I could see that each plug was still wet with gasoline so I figured I was getting fuel in each cylinder. After changing all the plugs, it fired right up and now runs better than it did when I got it! 

@Zed Head I found the connection under the intake manifold. Is this what you are referring to? Where would a hose go to/from here? I guess that the valve cover connection should run to the tee connection to recirculate any gases from inside the head. I've seen some people just put a filter on it and let it vent to atmosphere. Not sure if that affects performance or not but certainly doesn't help the environment.... that said, my car hasn't run in so long that the smoke coming out of the tailpipe is nasty which I am sure is great for the environment. But hey, its a classic and I don't need to do emissions....😁

On a side note, I looked through the stack of receipts I have and confirmed that it is a ATK reman engine installed April 1990.

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These fuel injection systems like the system to be closed up. If the valve cover is vented to the atmosphere, the EFI shouldn't like that. If it does, it may have been "adjusted" to compensate for that. Air leaks tend to make the EFI run like garbage...

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8 minutes ago, dar5052 said:

@Zed Head I found the connection under the intake manifold. Is this what you are referring to?

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Yes, that is your PCV valve.  There is a port in the side of the block on that side that should have a hose that runs up to that valve.  The hole in the middle of the valve is letting unfiltered and unmetered air directly in to the intake manifold.

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On 11/25/2021 at 3:40 PM, dar5052 said:

Any suggestions? The car ran beautifully last week when I put it in the garage

Don't get discouraged if it starts running poorly as you correct the PO's errors.  There are many tuning tips out there that people use to make things work again after they get wrong.  If it ran well once it will run well again.  It should be possible to have an engine that runs great AND does not smell like a cloud of gasoline vapors.

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@Zed HeadI agree, if it ran good once, it will run good again... but I guess that would have been my next question... what was the PO hiding by doing things the way he did? At this point it doesn't matter because I own the car... just curious to know what I might expect as I correct the "wrongs". I doubt the car was "adjusted" to run the way it is right now seeing as it was a work in progress that the PO gave up on. From what I was told, he just took the best motor he had and put it in the best body he had... made some suspension and brake improvements and the rest is up to me. 

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No turning back now! Finally moved my car off the rack and started disassembly.... This will be a laborious task since I'm bagging and tagging every part. 20211127_161454.jpg

Found rot on both the front corners of the rocker panels behind the fenders. The driver side was repaired at some point long ago and did not hold up well. Are the front sections of the rocker panels sold separately or with the complete rocker? I checked zcardepot and they just have complete rockers.... and yes, I did shear off the two bolts holding the fender on... The driver side wasn't as bad..20211127_143236.jpg

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It was a slow day in the office today so I figured I would make good use of it and pull the motor and trans. The benefits of working from home🤣 I have off tomorrow so I'll continue the disassembly through the weekend. 

For some reason I can't upload photos anymore? Error -200? Any suggestions?

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