I thought this ZX subforum could use another ongoing build thread. This is part of an already existing thread from another forum, so please excuse any grammatical errors from the adaptation.
I've had this '86 300ZX turbo for nearly 9 years, so I'll try to paraphrase some of important details. Keep in mind that it's a driver's car. I do enter it in shows and try to keep it as clean as possible, but when it comes down to it, it is being built as a car intended to be driven and enjoyed on the backroads of the Ozarks.
Another note: I posted this as a "period-correct" restomod, but it obviously has had some modern details added over time. The goal is to have an overall period correct theme and with some subtly upgraded safety and technology.
A little background: I bought my Z31 in early spring of 2010 from a friend that had it as a second car. He was a fellow Z-enthusiast, so he knew more about it than your average individual. I originally intended it to be a cheap manual daily to drive while I put together an LS swap for my then-intended project car. Long story short, sold that car and everything to do with it and my 300ZX ended up being the project car.
When I bought it: Standard "Hot Red" 86 turbo with GLL package (leather seats, digital dash, etc) and 5-speed. It had 155k miles on it and was pretty much stock. Also had an exhaust leak on the passenger side that sounded like a knock, but we narrowed it down to broken exhaust studs. I drove it off and on when the weather was nice for a bit over a year before the water pump seized. I was in school at the time, so the car sat in storage to be later addressed.
In late spring 2013, with the help of my fiance Noah, I finally had enough garage space, time, and motivation to get the car going again. So we hauled it to the house for new timing belt kit, water pump, CHTS sensor, harness, replacement rear caliper, and some other common parts. Got it running the Monday before Branson Z Fest and took it to a friend's shop to get the broken exhaust studs pulled/replaced. Once that was taken care of, it was a lot nicer to drive. It apparently flowed better too, since the muffler split down the seam on the first full throttle pull. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get a replacement muffler in before we had to leave, so it went to Branson with a loud crappy exhaust. The rest of our group seemed entertained by that, at least.
The Z drove great on the way to Branson, at the event, and back - even on sub-par all season tires. So that summer I picked up a set of Hankook V12 Evo tires in the stock 225/50/16 size. This definitely helped to improve handling, along with new semi metallic brake pads and poly sway bar bushings. Unfortunately later that year the heater core ruptured, so the lines were looped to bypass it. Being a secondary car, it isn't driven much in the winter months, so fixing that wasn't a priority. And since it was a busy year with with graduation, getting married, and moving we weren't able to get much else done until early spring prep for Branson Z Fest in 2014. In preparation for that, we swapped in a set of low-mileage Shiro springs with Konis, wheel spacers to push the wheels out flush with the fenders, and took it in for an alignment. Still fairly stock, but slowly improving. I also spent a number of hours polishing the oxidized original paint to bring back that natural shine.
After sitting in storage through the winter months, we pulled it out again in the spring of 2015 for the usual BZF prep. This is where things start to get more exciting. With school and wedding expenses out of the way, we had more time and money to put toward the car. So it was time to kick things up a notch: G2 Boostvalve MBC (highly recommended with their Z31-specific kit), simple Bosch boost gauge, Experimental Engineering solid tension rod bushing kit with new OEM rear bushings, RTPro nRCAs, aluminum 30mm Z32 front calipers with Brembo rotors and Stoptech pads, DIF stainless conversion brake lines, V2 rear diff mount, poly rear subframe bushings (not pictured), and ST/Mach 1 springs. We also gave it the annual oil change and detail to keep things clean and running smooth. Then it was off for an alignment (becoming an annual thing, haha).
We had a great time again at BZF. Also enjoyed driving in local cruises and the Ozark backroads. But with improved handling and grip, it was evident the worn leather seats were not enough. So I found these Recaros and bought them off a local wheeler-dealer. Cleaned them up and had the small tears in the material repaired by a local seamstress. Shortly after, we received a package in the mail from a friend in Colorado. I had bought a set of blown out Shiro seats with rails/mounts from a guy in Colorado who was able to meet up with a buddy of ours. He then shipped us the rails/mounts and kept the seats for his own use. Got it all mounted and what an improvement from the original seats.
Unfortunately one evening a neighbor backed into the Z while we were over at a friend's house. No note or anything, but the damage was minimal. Although it did cause some rubbing under hard acceleration. After getting some quotes for repair, I took it to a PDR specialist who was able to pull the dent to keep it from destroying the tire as a temporary solution. With the rest of the body still being 29 year old original paint, I didn't want to have one part of the car repainted and mismatch. The plan was for a full repaint in a few years anyway. So this will make do until then.
I like to stay positive and think that something good can come out of a bad situation. And so an opportunity was presented to us. A fellow enthusiast and friend offered up a set of two-piece 16x8 SSR-Watanabe RS8's in need of refinishing for a good price. So we accepted the offer. Bonus: I ended up with my dream wheels for this car and got to learn about rebuilding them in the same process. We broke the wheels down to the centers and barrels for cleaning. The centers were sent off to be blasted and powdercoated anthracite grey, while we kept the barrels to be cleaned and polished. Once it was all back, we put them back together with new hardware. Props to Noah for all the hours he spent in polishing and refinishing the wheels. It's not a task for the faint of heart.
BZF 2016 was quickly approaching so I gathered the last of the parts to install the wheels and some other goodies: CM Performance downpipe & test pipe, a lightly-used 3" MSA catback exhaust, Personal Grinta 350mm leather steering wheel, Works Bell hub & adapter, a Nismo horn button, and a replacement driver's window regulator. After measuring and some in-depth research, I was able to find a set of SSR center caps that would fit - Watanabe's choice of center caps was limited by the size of the wheel bore and I wasn't fond of the style that was available. I also located a set of lug nuts that would fit the theme of the wheels and hopefully reduce the potential of damage in installing/removing the wheels. Got that all fitted, along with new ball joints and tie rod ends, and it was time to take it in for tint and an alignment.
BZF 2016 was more involved for us. We went earlier so I entered the Z31 into the show for the first time and Noah drove it in the autocross competition. We were rewarded for our hard work with first place awards in Z31 class for show and autocross.
2017 rolled around and our schedule was taken up by work and travel. So more time was spent accumulating parts for the Z and less time installing them. We did end up with a wrecked and blown 88T as a parts car to disassemble and scrap. The freshly rebuilt motor was locked up from a loose connecting rod cap that fell into the oil pan. The underbody also had a lot of "hidden" damage from what looked like a ditch. What a shame. We ended up keeping the rear suspension and brakes, along with sway bars, heating/air components, and several other smaller replacements and upgrades for our Z. The rest of the parts were sold off for other enthusiasts cars.
Before and after disassembly:
During that time we also acquired a few other upgrades for down the road: S13 rear subframe and suspension, Z32 NA 30A transmission and Z31 30A bellhousing, Isky 274/270 cams, poly steering rack bushings, Zspec engine bay hardware kit, along with an early 200ZR hood, single-piece JDM/EUDM headlights, and Fairlady Z badge from our trip to Japan. We were able to install an OBX helical differential, "Wackadino" ackerman knuckles, and install the emissions/idle block-off plates.
BZF 2017 was a shorter trip for us. Having recently returned from Japan and with other upcoming trips, our time off work was limited. So we missed the autocross and drag strip runs. I didn't even have time to give the car it's annual detail. But we made it in time for the show and typical shenanigans. Ended up getting 3rd place among some much cleaner competition.
Fast forward a few months and we were on the road to Austin, TX for ZCON. We borrowed a trailer from a friend to haul the Z down - there was no way we were going to endure a 9+ hour drive in mid-August heat without air conditioning or attempt to cruise the rough Oklahoma/Texas roads without breakdown. Our diesel Jeep handled the drive down beautifully with that massive trailer and the Z considering all the construction delays as we neared Austin. Then we enjoyed a couple days of visiting with old friends and making new, seeing a lot of cool Z cars - including some historic and newer models brought by Nissan's Heritage Collection - and enjoying local cuisine. We went to the Saturday show and entered without placement - more motivation for next time.
We were also going to participate in the parade lap at COTA, but the 102* ambient temps were hard to bear without air conditioning. After waiting an hour in a hot parking lot and told it would be at least another hour before lining up, we decided to skip the parade lap to join some local friends for food and drinks. Turns out this was a good idea since the Z started to overheat once we got off the highway. Apparently the high temps were too much for the Z31's 31 year old cooling system too. Fortunately we weren't far from the house, so it never got too hot and was able to cool down shortly after. Later on it drove normally and fortunately didn't show any signs of damage. Everything else went smoothly other than a trailer tire blowout about 30 min after leaving Austin. But that was handled quickly and didn't delay us too much on the way back home.
After ZCON we parked the Z31 in storage early so we could get caught up on a few projects, particularly our old Audi that has been sitting with a broken subframe for several years. Admittedly, we procrastinated and that took too long to get addressed. So with that car now running and rolling again, we brought the Z31 back home this past weekend to once again get it ready for the next upcoming Branson Z Fest.
The "to do" list included: install new power steering rack and poly rack bushings, rear camber kit, stainless rear brake lines, cruise control module, new O2 sensor, replacement triangle window seals, replacement side mirrors, and swap over a few remaining parts from the 88T (sway bars, rear control arms and brakes with new rotors and pads). We also installed a new FPR, TPS sensor and harness, and distributor cap and rotor over the weekend.
I'm also started working on something I've dreaded for quite a while. I've always been reluctant to open the hood at meets or shows: 30+ years of dust, dirt, and grime with a mix of dry/brittle stock wiring & components just isn't pleasant to look at. So between getting parts in and installed, I spent some time cleaning in the engine bay. We started with installing some matte grey allen bolts from the Zspec engine bay kit to remove some of the worn/rounded OEM hardware. IMO, it currently looks a bit out of place, but I think that will improve once we clean/powdercoat the timing cover, valve covers, and top plate. I also want to pull and strip/repaint the red charge pipe (that I've dubbed the "rice pipe") back to stock color and clean up the patina on the HKS blow off valve. That was a piece that Noah scored for a steal and "temporarily" installed one day.
As you can see, I've got my work cut out for me. Haha.
A bit more progress: pretty much finished buttoning up the last few things on the Audi for a potential buyer and had to take some time away from the cars for the loss of a family member. Got a few parts ready to go on the Z.
Got the front end taken care of. New power steering rack installed with Gary Molitar's poly steering rack bushings and flushed the system. Huge improvement from the slippery rack that moved while driving (annoying and dangerous). Also leads to a cleaner garage floor since the old rack would leak fluid out when the nose was jacked up.
Painted and installed the pass-through solid motor mounts (not pictured). Then swapped out the worn out transmission mount for the RTPro mount that deletes the OEM dumbbell setup. Ignore the mess from the old leaky power steering rack.
Buttoned that up with a new aluminum under tray that we got from Zach.
And it's back on the ground. Ready to be turned around in the garage and get started on the rearend.
Post-BZF '18 update. Got a few more things installed, did a rush job on the annual detail since it sat for most of last year (only a post-wash sealant and wax this time), and took off work last Thursday and Friday for a long weekend in Branson. Always fun to catch up with the extended Z family and make new friends. We even came away with a medal from the car show this year.
Noah took advantage of a one-day sale and picked up a Cusco strut tower bar for a deal. No complaints on my side. We also got a few things in the mail from Zach: including a desperately-needed replacement relay box label (not pictured yet). Installed that along with the 24mm/26mm sway bars I've had sitting around.
Fitment of the Cusco bar as pretty snug with the pass-through motor mounts. I didn't realize how much taller they were than stock. And oddly enough the hood wouldn't shut until we removed the stock strut mount nuts. Also had to clock the HKS blow off valve to get the bar in place and clear the hood. Overall I think it helps to clean up the engine bay... or at least draws attention away from the hard-to-reach spots that are still dirty.
I also scored a Z31 flag from a guy in one of the FB groups. Thought it would make a nice addition to the garage wall.
Post wash sealant applied and given a 24 hour time to cure before waxing. I really like how Chemical Guy's Jetseal brand sealant works. It's old school compared to modern ceramic coatings, but still holds up nicely and really boosts the shine.
Thursday morning we set off for Branson with some of the guys in the local Z club chapter. Stopped for breakfast in Eureka Springs along the way - I highly recommend checking out Mud Street Cafe if you're ever in the area.
We got to Branson around early afternoon and spent the rest of the day hanging out and helping with the BBQ. The next morning we got together a group for a drive to Peel Ferry (the last ferry left in Arkansas) and took some of the fun backroads on the way there. Lined up for the ferry:
After a hot drive (without air conditioning for most of us) we stopped at a small Cafe in the national forest area across the lake and then took a casual drive back to the hotel. Most of the cars were fairly bug-covered and in need of a wash from the previous night's shower, so we took turns washing off the cars. Picture courtesy of Westin Easley. Kitty litter not included.
Cleaned up and ready for the show on Saturday. As Saturday morning rolled around, we lined up the cars at the park next to the hotel and enjoyed the weather and company. In the end, our 86T came out in 1st place for Z31 modified and we won the raffle for a set of bumper to fender braces from XenonZ31. So I'm pretty satisfied for how it did this year. Since we've decided to skip ZCON this year, I'm really aiming to get some bigger things done for the combined BZF/ZCON show in Branson next summer.
And finally, we had planned on going to Midwest Z Fest. But with work, getting a new car, recent travel, and the power steering hose leaking like a siv, we unfortunately had to cut our losses this time around.
Check out the event t-shirt.
And that catches things up to the present. I've got some fun things planned to have this car ready for ZCON 2019 in Branson and the combined BZF show. So stay tuned.