Radio Faceplate

Finally getting around to completing the center console change from a few weeks back.

The last piece is the faceplate for the radio / seatbelt light / rear defogger light that will tuck into the center console. I did a quick engineering drawing in PDF that i hope can help others if they need a custom faceplate. It has a cut out for the radio, as well as cut outs and tangs for the seatbelt / rear defogger lights. The tangs will be bent inwards so they can hold each light housing firmly in place.

Here’s the Center console faceplate for a Datsun 280z in PDF if you need it.

Scuff and rubber

Any natural material or substance has a tendency to crack and wear over time – rubber and glue is no exception.

So yesterday’s gorgeous morning resulted in replacing the rubber hood bumpers on both the top and sides of the engine bay…

As well as attacking the scuff plates – all the glue was cracked / too old, and the vinyl covering was just peeling off. And just check out all that rust!

Now don’t get alarmed – the rust is localized to the scuff plate only. There seems to have been a white plastic barrier placed in between the carpet and scuff plate.. though, not really sure of the logic in that.

Kris and i figured out a great method for removing the old vinyl covering from the scuff plates – a heat gun! At 450F, that’s hot enough to soften the glue, but unfortunately also hot enough to melt the vinyl. So the trick is to heat the scuff plate from the BACK side, and slowly peel off the vinyl.

And as a minor addition, got a replacement escutcheon (door handle well) cover for the driver side door handle from Black Dragon Automotive. Quality is adequate – looks the same as original, feels a bit lighter and cheaper plastic-like, but fit is only “okay”. It doesn’t sit square with the metal escutcheon, but though there’s a slight angle to it, it not really noticeable.











And it gets…

Yes! you read that right, the datsun gets 18mpg :] Since it’s first fill up, i’ve driven 226 miles on 12.5 gallons. And… that puts it about par w/ other 280z’s i think.

So NOT the fuel sipper that the Scion xB is, but better than expected!

Oil Pressure – I’ve noticed the fuel pressure gauge is reading somewhere below normal. Supposed normal pressure should be at 45 psi, but the gauge is showing ~30 psi. I’ve also noticed on longer drives that the gauge will noticeably drop over time. But it can’t be too accurate as the engine should auto-shut off at ~2 psi, and let me tell you, i’ve seen that gauge hit rock bottom before.

Now there are a few notorious things that could be the cause of this: 1) electric gauge is only an estimate, not as exact as a mechanical gauge, 2) oil pressure sending unit (or oil pressure gauge) is known to break down after a while, 3) possible oil pump, 4) need a thicker oil.

First thing i’ll do is check the pressure w/ a mechanical gauge straight from the engine. That’ll give me a true reading from which i can assess whether the dash gauge is correct or not. If so, I look at replacing that oil pressure sending unit. The “sending unit” is located next to the oil filter right on the engine block – kind of looks like a spinning top.

**Note** 1977 was a funny year – there are early and late models that have differences (ie. trunk deck shape). The Oil Pressure Sending Unit is also different: Early model had a bullet point terminal (shown here); Late models have the spade terminals. Also, it seems like general consensus that the Nissan factory units are better than the 3rd party brands.

Motorsport Auto has the proper one for my late model Datsun 280z:

11/27/11 – Okay, so now i’m not so sure… my 280z was built in 4/77 which should make it an early model Z and it has the bullet type terminal (sorry NOT the spade terminals), but MSA has the spade terminal oil pressure sender for models made in 3/77-84! what gives?! So possibly the one i have is incorrect for the year. <- needs more research…

Center Console Sunday!


Yesterday Kris and I spent the whole day mulling over the 280z!

First, it was off the the Pick n’ Pull in Newark. They have a 260z there, which at the time was unknown as to what condition it was in, or what parts were left… well, now we know – PICKED OVER! Some nice parts still left (temp / fuel gauges, tach, blue 240z drivers seat, a few interior panels, tail lights / bezels). I picked up a center console air-controls bezel, and two seat belts… for which the seat belts were incomplete.. so.. gotta figure that one out.

Pick n’ Pull is great – i met two other Z enthusiasts who’s whole family had Z cars (dad, son, daughter, uncle); and you get to spot a whole history of cars (datsun trucks, MGs, Ford Maverick). But the prices.. ugh.. why do they have to be so pricey, they’re used!

Kris and I got back, worked on the center console I got from whale-tail Andrew. The replacement console also had some micro cracking in the plastic in the same area as the original (must be a common failure point). Kris fixed it up w/ some epoxy and used fabric as a sub-straight for increased strength.

Ah shoot – exposing my unsightly garage…

Sanded / spray painted the ashtray – looked so nice the lady in the paper was smiling at it

Cleaned the switches – the original ones (right) were just as caked w/ 35 year old grim as the ones from the replacement console (left). Toothbrush and pointy cotton swabs (good thinking Kris!) did the trick for all the crevices.

The whole console looked like it hasn’t been cleaned… that’s where Armor-All came in – fantastic.

The air control bezel is very easy to take off – 4 screws, 3 wiring connectors. 2 screws hold in the air vents, and everything else is easy to disassemble.

A few things I didn’t notice before – the replacement console has a slot for the choke lever… and the rear defroster / seat belt light panel was cut out! So I made my own out of a computer case side i had laying around.

Spaces for the Rear Defogger / Fasten Seat Belt lights are 1.125″ x 2.75″, while the radio i measured out for 2″ x 7″.

Kris installing the cleaned up console

Took the morning off

Took the morning off – no Datsun 280z resto today! Just planning the interior and scouring through google images :]
There’s a slight drizzle today so it’s time to test out those rear wheels. Anticipating this weekend as my brother’s coming down from SF to help wrench.

Till then, this blog has even inspired my dad to write about his first car – it’s awesome – enjoy!

Good Evening!

After reading Justin’s November 1 blog, I wondered how many cars I’ve actually owned. With memory short in supply, this is what I’ve come up with. It began one late afternoon back in August 1968.  As I recall, I came  across a car that had some interest.  It was a 1963 Chevy Corvair, with a 3 speed manual on the floor, needless to say having it on the floor was the only way to go, since current manuals on most cars  were located on the colluum…all   for $400, as I thumbed thru a Want Ad magazine (for those who remember). I told my Dad about it and agreed that we’d take a look at it. I preceded to contact the owner and set up a time when we could see the car. When that day came, my Dad, Gong (I think) and I took the journey to some parking lot somewhere in the Boston area – it had to have been in the evening.  As we arrived the owner was already waiting, we exchanged greetings, and proceeded with the process.  It was as Justin said, my first love!  I test drove it around the parking lot for about 30 seconds and that did it, without further investigation we offered $350, well… lo and behold…. he accepted the offer. From that point, we made arrangements with him to deliver the car to my Dad’s place of work, which he then insured and registered the car.

About the car – one would think that a car that was only 5 years old would be in pretty good condition…RIGHT.  One has to remember cars in those days lasted only a few years before rust took over.  Well, rust took over alright!!  After a thorough inspection of the car, I found the entire left rear floor panel rusted out – leaving a gapping hole as large as a water melon under the vinyl mat. This was your basic model, not the Monza, which was then the top of the line Corvair.  So rather than having wall to wall carpeting, it had wall to wall vinyl covering… hey it makes for easy cleanup, a good wet sponge would do the trick.  Anyhow, I thought a hole this size was not a good sign as to what the rest of the car would bring. bBig dilemma, what to do???  Go to Tofani’s body shop (no longer in business) down the street and have it repaired or try to fix it myself?  Well I chose the latter option.  A simple fix I said – I would just cut a piece of 3/8 inch plywood and place it over the hole and it would be good as new…yeah!  GOOD AS NEW..  After all, it was much cheaper since the plywood was laying around in the basement in the work shop that my Dad had. So from there, it was all about getting the car to “look” good. I did a super wax job but that didn’t improve it much so I decided to add a cool racing stripe.  A wide white stripe over the length of the car over the drives head would be cool with the maroon paint, similar to the color of my current Harley.  Went to the local department store, Caldors, and proceeded to the automotive department.  Well they were out of white, but had plenty of blue, sort of sky blue, which totally didn’t match.  But what the heck, having the racing stripes was more important than color.  The application wasn’t too hard as I had managed to get most of the bubbles out.  Over the next several months I added rear speakers – rear speakers was a BIG deal back then.  Well I thought it sounded really good especially it was only an AM radio …and mono, not stereo.  Only more established people had AM/FM radio, and stereo was even over the top.  With a clutch job and a good tune-up the car ran well…even though it burned some oil and leaked even more.  But the simple fact was …. it was my first car!!

Over the next 2 years or so we had our ups and downs.  Like love, I had to overlook the challenges and heart breaks and move forward.  Well the old girl just didn’t do it for me anymore and I had to look elsewhere. My love was replaced by a new 1970 Dodge Dart Swinger in yellow with a black vinyl roof.  Well that’s a whole new chapter and many modifications made as well…lol.

…to be continued.

First 100 miles…

So here it is – the 280z’s first 100 miles! After it’s been on the road for a bit, and driving confidence is setting in (not always listening for engine noise, or contemplating its mechanical condition), now all the normal driving considerations are rearing its head: handling, maintenance, and gas mileage! Though it’s only been my first 100 miles, I’ve seriously enjoyed everyone of them and can’t wait for another 100,000 more. Literally it makes every road exciting to drive on!

Moving on – Looks like the mornings are getting a bit longer… so far I’ve been tinkering on the small things and really putting aside the BIG STUFF. Things like interior, paint, bumpers, undercarriage coating, wheels / tires… by big stuff i mean big $$$ :]

Today I checked the front brakes (good), replenished low coolant (didn’t check that before, so i’ll have to monitor it) and sanded / primed the last big rust spot which was on top of the driver side c-pillar.

What’s next? – I think bumpers and interior will be next. I’m looking at ordering these 280z-240z bumper conversion brackets – they’ll allow a 280z to mount a 240z bumper for that close, clean look. I can certainly make these on my own, but if pre-fabricated is already available, it’ll same time re-inventing such a bracket.

Interior – Want a sneak peak? Awaiting samples from Fabric Empire for some quilted vinyl! I’ve always loved that look of the 240z center console, but it was rolled vinyl – this is gonna be stitched! Can’t wait.





Morning spark

[edit – do you want the BEST spark plug for your Datsun 240z, 260z, or 280z? Check out the newer post!]

Just a light morning today – a few little things here and there.
But i mostly just sat in the car the whole morning… sigh! ^__^

Spark plugs – ordered some spark plugs the other day. Previously had Bosch Super’s and inspection showed a lot of carbon build up (normal wear stuff), some corrosion around the outside plug nut, so it’s time to change. Replaced w/ Bosch Platinum Plus’ and what a difference; engine ran much smoother. Bosch Platinum Plus, Mfg#4015

Spray spray – tagged a few spots that were surface rusting till i can get a handle on what to do with the paint – it’s horrible. The re-paint job seemed like it was done without even prepping the original paint! Get this: as the re-paint flakes off, the paint underneath is still good! For a 34 year old car, that clear coat could still shine! ugh.. for now, i don’t mind primer gray on the rust spots.

So after that, I opened the door, sat in there one leg out. Soaking up the sun…and to think about the interior. Oh man, that 70’s shag has got to go. You may have seen from previous pictures, that “black” carpet is light brown! So i’ve been drumming up ideas, materials, deciding whether to keep it stock carpet or not, etc… but for now, i’ll just soak up that sun.

Bad paint! Bad!

 So if removing the bad re-paint ultimately means scuffing up the original paint, then this is the color that i’m thinking: Marigold! Original color is a 240z color called  ‘gold poly’, Datsun color#920.


If you want THIS one, it’s actually up for sale at All Datsun Classifieds.

Ready for the road!

The first chapter in this Datsun 280z’s story is all about getting this thing back on the road where it belongs! Seriously, when driving it, I feel like I want to take it on every road I’ve ever driven! But can’t do that without getting it from non-op to registered at the DMV. And can’t do that without passing smog. Which can’t be done till that EGR valve is replaced. So let’s get to it!

This past weekend I replaced the EGR valve (exhaust gas re-circulation valve) which basically puts hot exhaust gas back into the intake air mix in an effort to help reduce emissions. If you saw the previous post about failing that portion of the smog test, you’ll notice that the EGR valve area was rusty / corroded like crazy. I can’t imagine what i’m going to find inside. Since there was a significant amount of rust around the bolts, I let some WD-40 penetrate the nut before trying to crank that thing off. Once i got the old EGR valve off, i can see why it failed – a ton of carbon build up like arteries from a fast-food-obsessed!

Interestingly, there seems to be an EGR manifold between the intake manifold and the EGR valve… Not sure what this does but help distance the valve from the manifold, as no re-circulating parts connect to it. It DID allow collection of carbon build up to happen along it’s walls as opposed to the valve itself (though the valve was pretty far gone). Also strange that the manual doesn’t have this part in it.. just shows EGR valve placed onto the intake manifold.

I decided to leave the EGR manifold and cleaned it out vigorously with a wirebrush, toothbrush and a vacuum. The manual says while cleaning off the old gasket NOT to let any pieces fall back in or it may clog the re-circulation system. I assume same goes for the carbon build up on the manifold walls. Wouldn’t want the 280z to have a heart attack! Just take a look at that thick black ring in the left picture – it looked like a black hose. So with the vacuum just above the manifold, i picked / brushed / cleaned out the build up.

EGR Valve – Since i’m new the parts scene, I’ve been trying the gambit of distributors. This time it’s Rock Auto. They had a good selection of EGR valves and good range of pricing. I’m a firm believer in ‘you get what you pay for’, so I went with the cheapest. Why? Because it’s a 1977, and according to the CA DMV this car should be smog exempt the next retest in a few years. EGR valve kit came with valve, gasket, and orifice washers to further optimize the valve opening. Only thing is that the picture shown on RockAuto had a heavy orange tint, making the silver valve look brass-ish (which is what i would’ve wanted.. but hey, at only $26, can’t complain. According to the instructions, there’s a parts reference chart to which you match your existing EGR valve manufacturer number with the orifice washer number… After much searching, there seems to be two EGR valve part numbers for the ’77 280z (early and later year), however both part numbers pointed to the same washer #34BECK/ARNLEY Part # 0460065

8:30AM – Rolled into Smog Test Station 1 to see Zack. He seemed excited and chipper to see the 280z back in to re-test. PASSED!

1PM – Rolled into the CA DMV off Flora Vista – in and out – REGISTERED!

Ready to tear up the street!

Thanks to my cousin Nick, who gave me that sweet vacuum for Christmas a few years back! Super handy for all of our car / motorcycle projects we’ve had! Not to mention, the use on the EGR valve. I’d highly recommend: ShopVac.

Battery tray!

This is the battery compartment – definitely has seen better days! Rusted wall (the most rust on the body), old tray, and just check out that orange bungee strap holding it place! So part of thursday’s daily datsun restoration also included taking care of the battery compartment mess. Let’s pop this battery out and see what we’ve got!

These progression shots show the battery area from original to prep’ed. Supposedly Z cars are notorious for having major rust around that battery area – this 280z isn’t an exception. Not the best job of scraping and sanding down the rough patches as i would have liked, but it’ll do for now. Someday i’ll be painting the whole engine bay.

Got the battery kit from Motorsport Auto – pretty good. Came with battery tray, tray mat, battery frame, and necessary bolts. The complete kit was only $50, and will replace the bungee cord nicely. My only compliant would be the sizing of the battery frame (as seen below); it’s just too big and not fit for a modern battery.


Manual and EGR arrive

Datsun Z car Haynes manual finally arrived – took a while but can’t beat the $11 deal from a 3rd party on Amazon. (11/8/11 edit – dammit, the manual says 240z / 260z.. NOT the same as it’s picture – crap, i’ll have to check to see if ti’s still applicable… no wonder i didn’t see the EGR manifold in there… 11/27/11 – looks like the 280z stuff is added to the back of the manual as a supplement – okay.. good enough). Luckily still in good shape and only a few greasy finger prints! EGR valve came in too – got it from Rock Auto for ~$30. Time to get this smogged and registered!

“First Rain” post follow up – good and bad: GOOD – replaced wiper fuse, wipers work! BAD – took a left turn and water dripped pee’d onto the carpet from under the dash… Uh, that’s not suppose to happen! Although it was only a small amount, it’s bit worrisome!