Zpotted: AC’s deep cherry 280z

AC and his 77 280z - Daily DatsunWe were visiting friends the other day month and spotted a nice looking 280z in their parking lot. I was admiring pretty hard, peaking in the windows, checking out the upper door chrome (more on that later). I guess I was checking it out TOO much because soon after I walked away, a lady comes out and stares at me like neighborhood watch.

I’m in my car, typing some notes… then a guy comes out, occasionally glares in my direction. They mull about getting closer and closer, looking at me ever so often. I finally get out of the car to go talk to them, find out what’s up, and he motions me over (ah ha! must be the owner).

Come to find out he was the Z’s owner and we smoothed everything out – even more so, got to know him and his 280z…

Here’s AC and his work-in-progress ’77 Datsun 280z. He’s owned it for 21 years. The paint is new and looks great. You can tell he’s got great care and concern for his Z.

He said he’s driven this car all over: Reno, SoCal… even to Tijuana, Mexico!

Since we owned the same model year, we had a bit to talk about… like smog.


AC's 77 280z - Daily Datsun

AC's 77 280z - Daily Datsun

He continues to rock the mucho solid bumpers. After talking, I’ll be selling him the rubber sides for the bumpers I have.

AC's 77 280z - Daily Datsun

AC's 77 280z - Daily Datsun

Whoa – what?! so THAT’S what 280z door/river gutter chrome trim looks like! I must have marveled at this piece for a good while.

AC's 77 280z - Daily Datsun

Check out the engine bay! See those red plates? Heat shields! They must be dealer installed because I don’t remember seeing that in the factory service manual. Just when you think you’ve seen them all, there’s always something new! … huh, which might explain why my fluid has been disappearing (no, no leaks here).

Great paint, mesh wheels, keepin it clean. You can tell AC really loves his Z, and it shows in his careful / patient restoration.

Review: Z Alternator Bracket by Futofab

A little while back, the 280z started to squeak and shrill again. Last time it was alternator belt, and I suspected it might be again – sure enough, it was. This time though, it wasn’t that the alternator slid by the bracket’s grease…



Oooh yes, that’s broken my friends.

So naturally i thought, ‘ok, i can make one’…then, ‘how do i make this better?’
Of course someone already has, and the guys at Futofab have already made a Datsun alternator bracket (or an adjustment strut). This strut just doesn’t look sturdy and pretty (best qualities in anything), but it’s also very convenient when adjusting as the rod ends are reverse threaded. And of course once again, I thought i could definitely make that! However, save yourself the time and money, i’ve already done the research – you’ll probably pay just as much (if not more) finding a left / right threaded rod end and a reverse half-threaded 4″ long nut (McMaster-Carr don’t have any!). So go find Futofab on ebay!

Futofab Alternator adjustment strut / bracket for Datsun - Daily Datsun


Here’s what I needed:

12mm socket (bolt on bracket)
13mm socket (bolt on alternator)
adjustable wrench (for strut and nuts)

Time to take the broken one out!

Broken alternator bracket / strut - Daily Datsun


The original crossed the direct line to the alternator (hence the bend in the original), however, the Futofab version can attach directly inline without hitting the alternator blades.






No more squeaks, so much more power with a confident belt driving that alternator…and no more embarrassing squeals heading out (seriously give your car so much more age!). Hats off and thanks to the guys at Futofab!




280z still didn’t pass. But got some useful data.

From the previous post, I installed a new catalytic converter, popped in new spark plugs, and re-filled an empty tank with 87 octane. Here are the old / new numbers:

CO% Levels   1st Try   2nd Try  
15 MPH 1.36 0.17 2.03 1.73
25 MPH 1.16 0.15 2.66  n/a

1st Try: Catalytic converter was supposedly original, but no numbers when inspected. Bosch Platinum Plus spark plugs had heavy carbon buildup. Ran 91 octane gas.

2nd Try: New Magnaflow catalytic converter, NGK spark plugs and 87 octane gas.

Thankfully Nguyen from Smog Tech did a quick CO% test just to see where we’re at. It ran steadily at 1.73% CO, just 0.37% more than MAX. Okay, time to adjust the 280z’s AFM (Air Flow Meter) to run a bit more lean air/fuel mixture.

3rd times a charm, right?… right?

New cat, ready to pounce (smog)!

Roar! yeah, you know it. Barreled into San Jose Mufflers (i like local) just off 24th street ready to meet Acardio.

I talked to Acardio a few days back looking for a catalytic converter to replace the non-CA legal one I have on now (read the beginning of the smog story). Hopefully with a fresh cat, we can tear up that smog test like cheese-less mouse it is (California, i love your shores, but not your government).

Over the phone, Acardio said he’d have it done in an hour and i could wait. He had that old street cat cut, dumped, and the new Magnaflow lion welded in like 10mins.. no really, more like 8.

He was so fast, I only got two pics shot before he said ‘take it ah waaaay’. Damn.. do you mind, um, could you just stand and pretend while i take some pictures for my blog?

Daily Datsun at San Jose Mufflers

GT40 bodykit on Fiero at San Jose Mufflers - Daily Datsun

nope, a Fiero with GT40 body kit

Daily Datsun at San Jose Mufflers

Took him longer to lift the thing than cut / weld a new cat on.

Daily Datsun at San Jose Mufflers

Daily Datsun at San Jose Mufflers

Daily Datsun at San Jose Mufflers

Wow, never seen the under side so well! It’s clear i need one of these lifts…

Daily Datsun at San Jose Mufflers

Daily Datsun at San Jose Mufflers

Shoot! got a call, and couldn’t get a pic of the welding! Oh well, regardless, i feel like…
Let’s go get that smog test.

Best spark plugs for a Datsun 280z

What ARE the best spark plugs for the Datsun 280z?

ClassicZCars forum, Haynes service manual, and many others swear by only one: NGK’s copper core spark plug.

During this smog-crisis I’m having, I did a switch up to help pass smog (more on that later), and after a bit of research,  sometimes the plain, simple and cheap solutions work best. This is certainly the case.

The best spark plugs I’ve experienced for a 280z are the NGK 7734 (BR5ES) or the  NGK 7634 (BR5ES-11).

Daily-Datsun-Sparkplugs (3)


But why? Why not platinum? iridium? Hell, if kryptonian-nuclear-nitrous-laced-ium spark plug was real and can wallup Superman, I’d think it would have been the best for that straight L6 engine, right? Nope. Save the precious metals for wedding rings. Platinum et al. may fire hotter, but you’ll notice right away that the contact point is much much smaller. Our 70’s era engines aren’t perfect, so there’s certainly going to be carbon build up over time – so less surface area, easier for carbon to build up and over.


NGK BR5ES (7734) / BR5ES-11 (7634)
B – Thread Size / Hex Size: 14 mm / 13/16″ (20.8 mm)
R – Resistor
Heat Rating Numbers : 5
ES – Firing End Construction: Standard 3/4″ Thread Reach (2.5 mm) Center Electrode
11 – Spark GAP: 1.1 mm (.044″)

The Nissan / Datsun factory service manual says the spark gap should be between .039″ – .043″ (.028″ – .031″ for Canada). So though they’re somewhat pre-gapped at the factory, you should still buy a gap gauge to measure and adjust, checking for variability.


Here’s what the plugs looked like, taking them out of the 280z after 2 years…

Daily-Datsun-Sparkplugs (1)

Ooo not good. So I replaced each one, and let her rip.

Woohoo! More power, instantly. From the moment I pressed the throttle (and i’m usually kind of a turtle), I notice the difference right away!

I’ll definitely be monitoring the spark plugs more closely, and be adding it to a biennial or yearly maintenance routine since the NGK 7734 (BR5ES) or NGK 7634 (BR5ES-11) are cheap enough.

Now on to that cat…

Smog saga…

Sigh – “if it ain’t one thing, it’s another…”

Heard that before? We’ll let’s take this journey of the Smog Saga story together.

Last post was about having to get the Datsun 280z smogged because it’s a 1977 (and in CA, cars 1975 and prior are smog exempt!). Lo and behold the San Jose’s Smog Tech Test Only station was finally open. I was hoping Zac, the last technician who helped me out, would’ve been there, but I guess he’s gone. So, Nguyen (first name) help me out and put the Z on the machine.

Vvrrroom… vrroom.. [small chat].. i’m nervously looking at the digital gauge nearly falling out of the green passing zone. He pokes / prods.. gets under the car.

“You don’t have a legal cat”, he says.

Doh. Seriously. So i guess i know what a bagel and oj got me last time.

He mentions that CA gov passed a law recently about catalytic converters needing a special number. I quickly clamor, “But but mine’s a ’77 and they probably didn’t have numbers back then. I swear it’s all original!”. Nope, no go. Not only that, I failed out of CO spec on the actual smog test. Not by much, but still beyond the max % allowed:

CO% levels
15mph – MAX: 1.36; AVE: 0.17; MEAS: 2.03
25mph – MAX: 1.16; AVE: 0.15; MEAS: 2.66

*AVE = Average Emissions for Passing Vehicles

So as you can see, I’m just out of the range of passing 😦 Some google searching shows this is related to a few things, but probably due to running too rich (too much fuel in the mix). After a post on ClassicZCars.com forums, rcb280z pm’d me and we had a good chat about bringing those CO% levels down. His suggestion was to also check out the spark plugs for excess carbon (ah!). He swears by NGK, and lo-and-behold, most Z drivers do!

Time to get that 280z catalytic converter changed, new spark plugs, 87 gas, and head over to Smog Tech!

oh yeah.. if it ain’t one thing..it’s:

a broken alternator bracket (that’s why my car’s been squeaking!) and…

cracked EGR tube! oy…

i need a beer.