Category Archives: Product Review

Watanabes, Panasports and other 8-Spoke Rims

It’s said that wheels are usually the first things to be customized on a car. These days, there’s no argument to whether that’s true – wheels are just something people seem to find identity with, and make the car their own. 

Watanabe RS F8s under a heavily modifed Z

 
Unfortunately, I’ve yet to claim that “identity” with a set of my own. I’m still rocking the 280ZX “Iron Cross” painted in black with polished lip. However, should I change (and I hope to relatively soon…-ish), I’ve grown very fond of a particular style of rim. 

They go by many names: Wats, Panas… But there’s no confusion in my mind that the 8-spoke rim is one of the best looking  wheel rim the Datsun Z could wear. 

Of course, you always get what you pay for; and range of 8-spokes vary quite a bit, however, as we’ll see, more than just price: there’s street cred.

Watanabe RS F8 – There’s something about a Samuri holding a gun that isn’t right. Much like a Samuri should be holding a sword, Datsun Z’s should be sporting the right wheels. These are them. 

 
The Watanabe RS F8 wheels are the definitive 8-spoke wheel to which all others are measured. Beware: there are a LOT of fakes / imitations out there (check it out on eBay). If you’re not paying at least $600 / rim, they’re not real no matter how sweet that three circle crest looks with the red center cap. Yes, the cost won’t just burn a hole in your pocket, these will ignite a bonfire. But people will come running to check’m out. Pros: thoroughbred Japanese racing heritage and street cred. Cons: mad expensive, hard to get. Price: $2100+/set

Panasport – With enough racing heritage to fill all the Datsun pickups with, Panasport still really only make ONE type of wheel. 

 
While a few may exclaim otherwise (yes, you’re right), however, for street wheels, it’s the 8-spoke and variations of, including the Minilite. Because of name and quality, Panasports command a solid price even if scuffed up (and you’ll a lot of these marred up). These are durable wheels that hold their value very well. Cons: usually found in smaller sizes ranging from 12″-15″. Good luck finding bigger. Remember Wild Bill who sold me the 280Z also had Panasports to sell too for $500 (good price!)..huh, wonder if they’re still for sale. Price: $1200/set

Rota RK-R – You’ve heard the saying, “imitation is the best form of flattery”. Well, the RK-R is pouring on compliments because these get lots of chatter for being so close to the Watanabes but cheaper. 

 
Though they may be more affordable, they’re also known to be weaker under abuse. I’ve read several forums say their Rotas (NOT the RK-R model) cracked on them. Granted, they were on the track but again, you get what you pay for. I’ve been tracking these for a few years now and prices are stable, come in many sizes and widths, and available on eBay and Amazon. For those local to the Bay Area, the Rota distributor is in Fremont (psst – and they do cash / carry). Pros: inexpensive Watanabe copies readily available. RK-Rs are only a few years old, proceeding the more common RB model. Price: $650/set

Konig RewindBefore Rota RK-R / RB were Rewinds. As it sounds, I’m sure they picked that name because “throw back” or “retro” just doesn’t sound right.   

Kong Rewinds more closely resemble Panasport wheels as the spokes are less uniform and curve a bit more…banana-like. Because Konig is such a big name in wheels, these are definitely available everywhere – even Motorsport Auto sells them. Check carefully though as you’ll notice the spokes vary in shape from more curved on the 14″, more angular on the 15″, and just straight on the 16″. Pros: cheaper alternative. Price: $480/set

Atara Racing Pisanghuh! Where did these guys come from? (Edit 4/4/16: rather where did these guys go?…) Ok. So actually it was finding these Pisang wheels that prompted me to do a write up. Just check out these rims:

 
Dang! I really like what’s going on here. They’re super clean, and a wonderful alternative replica to the Watanabe RS F8s. Not to mention the rest of their line isn’t just copies (like Rota) – they take a nice perspective on classic designs. I’m definitely interested in knowing more about them but let’s get back to the wheel. I feel they’re fairly new to the US market, so that’s nice for exclusivity. Red center cap emulates Wantanabe. Price? $1100 and up / set. [edit 4/5/16] Since initially writing this portion, I’ve deduced that Atara is more and more like Rota, also from Southeast Asia, and making replica wheels. Instead of writing more edits, I’ll go ahead and spare my opinions for a separate article.

Other mentions – there are a few others you might want to consider if you’d like that 8-spoke style make its way onto your Z…

SPDLine Zuka – [edit 4/2/16] Found another variation from the folks at JPNGarage.com. Right inline with Watanabe / Rota styling, only offered in matte Gunmetal and Bronze at 15″, but the cheapest I’ve seen for the style at $160 per wheel. [edit 4/4/16] A short correspondence with JPNGarage.com (who used to distribute Atara Racing) reveals that SPDLine are from the same manufacturer as Atara.

Rota RB – similar to the RK-R but more tapered. If RK-Rs are like Watanabes, the RBs are like Panas.

XXR 537 – a new school look; pinch at the apex of the spoke gives it a slightly more agressive look.
Hope you enjoyed a run down of the 8-spoke rims that look good on a Z. At the end of the day, it’s about personal style and functionality. Regardless of brand, a certain look is a certain look. So what’s your Z sporting? Which ones do you like? Hit us up in the comments if there was any other similar 8-spoke we missed!
Note: All brands have varying sizes and colors and / or lip options available.




Chrome Chisel End

The chrome chisel end for the fender bumper guard came in! Huh.. Oh yeah, it’s gonna be shiny and new.. So it’ll stick out like a sore thumb on the side of the 280z – nice.

On a side note, on the site i purchased this from, they used my picture in their installation notes! That nice.. Would also be nice if they comp’d this chisel end too. Who knows how many referrals came from here to CustomAutoTrim.com

  
Installation goes in first thing tomorrow morning!


Cusco Strut Tower Bar for the Z

Finally, the bar goes on! Earlier this year, I ordered up a front strut tower bar (also known as a tower bar or strut bar) from Amazon – it was cheaper than the rest. But after nearly 8 months, it finally gets installed! It’s a quick and simple job, so let’s get to it!

   

Note: the bar isn’t blue…just the protective film on the chrome bar

A quick primer in case your not familiar, a strut bar is used to increase ridgity in the frame. Much like the A, B, and C pillars do for the cabin of the car, it also has the same effect on the body. With increased ridgity comes decrease in flex, and truer suspension dynamics. And with such a beautifully long hood of the 280Z, I figured, ‘why not?’. Here’s what we’ll need:

Cusco 240Z, 260Z, 280z front strut tower bar – Part#cus 246 540A

8mm Allen wrench

14mm socket / wrench (for the strut tower nuts)

17mm socket / wrench (for the tower bar)

Optional: WD-40

  

The only thing understandable here on this box label is ‘S30’ (which is partially scratched).

  

Bar came in retail packaging…and apparently instructions in Japanese with one translated line…

IMG_2140

Upon inspection the Cusco strut tower bar for the Datsun S30 Z is a very nicely made piece – welds are uniform, polish is good, machined nice. Overall, it’s a well constructed tower bar that feels well constructed.

IMG_2139 

Let’s get to work! (Jarritos optional :] )

  

Start by taking off the existing nuts with the 14mm. Mine had been rusted on there so I let them soak in WD-40 while gawking at the tower bar. Then coerced them off with a hammer. Once off, you can put the bar on the towers, then washers and nuts. Prior to putting on the bar, use the Allen and 17mm to loosen the blue plate from the bar. Only loosely hand-tighten the nuts on one side before setting the other side, so it’s easier to adjust / fit before tightening it all down.

Now let’s talk clearance. Wow…

  

I thought I was screwed. The strut tower bar for the Z was already designed with tight tolerances in mind: it already has a narrow oval / box cross section in the bar itself, and see how it curves just over the engine. Above, I’m slowly closing the hood to see if it’ll close!

  

This one piece lightly touchs the bar..
   While others have a very close up view of the tower bar. Presto! The bar is installed! Now to take it out for a spin on those twisty roads…

 


Best Z Car to purchase…

When you’re cruisin’ around in a S30 Z, you’re definitely bound to get looks. And when you park, conversations. Amongst it all, one of the most common remarks goes something like, ‘I used have one of those! Should’ve never sold it. Man, wish I could pick one up again’. True, right?!

But which one do you go with? 240z? 260z? 280z? The raw power of carb or daily drivability of fuel injection? Simply, what year was “the best”?

Here’s an article i found not too long ago that gives great point to one particular model / year over the rest – enjoy!

Write up from: http://garagistic.com/index.php?page=best-year-z-car

————————

BEST YEAR Z CAR

What is the best year to get a z car in? It’s suprising how much this question is asked. First of all, there is no “best” year z car. They all have their pros and cons. The 240z is famous for its lightweight chasis, classic look, and performance. The 280z made the z car comfy, had beefier suspension and included the blessing of fuel injection. However, we do believe we have found a year that is as close to a perfect year as possible.

THE 1975 280Z

We think that the 1975 280z is the best year to buy a z car. Specifically, early 75. You may be asking, but why? That 280z car had massive bumpers, and didn’t perform as well as the 240z thanks to the curse of smog laws. That is all true, however; the pros of this year outweight any cons. We will go through each of these points in detail:

Smog Exempt:

This is one of the best features of a 75. No Smog checks. Most people think they have to get a 240z to be smog exempt, but the truth is the cut off year for the 30 year old smog law (which is no longer happeneing) is in 1975. This means you can still have the benefits of a fuel injection l28 and be smog exempt without having to swap all the 280z stuff into a 240z chasis. (This is all according to Cali law, soon the other states will follow so this can apply to all us z cars soon).

Bigger, beefier suspension:

It’s common practice to swap the stronger r200 diff from a 280z car into 240z. The r200 diff is bullet proof and can handle v8 torque to turbo power. The 75 280z already comes with an r200. The 75 280z also has bigger strut tubes, companion flanges, and stub axles. All of these are common upgrades to 240z when the 75 already comes with all of this. Most of the time the 280z is also much cheaper than a 240z.

Interior:

This is something that mostly depends on the owner of the car, however if you’re looking for comfort the 75 doesn’t dissapoint. Because it’s a 280z, the ac and heater actually work. Unlike the 240z center heater vents which point nowhere near the driver of passengers of the car, the 280z has adjustable center vents so it can be aimed at the people in the car. The defrost also works,which usually doesn’t in early z cars. This is mostly due to better electronics. The 75 also shares its trunk space arrangement with the 240z. This is a plus because the 240z trunks are lower than late 280z. Late 280z cars lose trunk space and the use of the storage compartments because the trunk is lifted using cardboard.

NOTE: Make sure the 75 you get is an early model. Late model 75 280z cars trunks were raised. You can also tell this by looking at the gas tank of the car. Late model = Twinkie shaped gas tank , Early 75 = shoe shaped gas tank.

Stronger chasis:

The 75 280z is a hybrid of the chasis. It got a 240z style trunk, but the thicker 280z sheet metal. This did add a bit of weight to the car. However, this can actually be a good thing if you are doing a motor swap or getting more power out of your z car. The 280z needs less reinforcment to be stiffer than a 240z.

Fuel injection and 5 speed:

This is one of the best things that came on this model. No longer would you have to pull the choke cable and wait until the car is warmed up. Fuel injection was the way of the future and the 75 had made a wise choice by ditching the carbs. This also helps if you are going to a turbo motor from a zx or building it off the this fuel injected l28. Because the car is set up for fuel injection already, you don’t have to throw the ecu somewhere random, there is a place already for it. (this also means when switching to any other fuel injected motor swap you would also be able to put the ecu in the stock location in the z).

You also get the 5 speed in the 280z unlike the 4 speed in the 240z. This is great for highways. It’s a common upgrade for 240z cars for this reason.

The gas tanks out of 75s are also common upgrades to 240z because 240z came with carbed gas tanks with no built in baffles inside the tank. The 75 280z gas tank (early model) was the same shape as a 240z tank but was made for fuel injection and had baffles built in.

The downsides of having a 75 280z:

THE BUMPERS! Although not everyone hates them, it’s common to upgrade to the lighter, better looking 240z bumpers. There are kits out there to help with this conversion. However, it’s not that bad. The swap is simple, saves weight, and is cheaper than getting a 240z and swapping all the 280z car upgrades to that.  Another downside is weight. Although you can save weight by getting rid of the bumpers, the 280z cars are still a bit heavier than a 240z (not by much but it is heavier). This can be a good thing (if your doing a motor swap) or a bad thing depending on how you look at it.

OUR TAKE ON THE SUBJECT:

With all the money you will be investing to upgrading your 240z with 280z parts, you might as well get a 75 280z. There are no benefits that the 240z have over a 280z. It’s also common for 240z zcars to be more expensive than 280z cars. If you are on a budget then it’s perfect. It comes with all the upgrades and it’s easy to ditch the bumpers if you dont like them. This is our opinion, if you have any questions or anything you would like to add to this please let us know!


Review: KDC KT-1370 Datsun Side view mirrors

My side view mirrors were in sad shape: loosing its ability to hold position, even after being tightened, so I ventured to eBay for some new ones.

One thing I wanted to keep in mind was using any existing holes in the 280z from the previous side view mirrors.

I eventually narrowed it down to a set dubbed “DOOR MIRRORS DATSUN FAIRLADY” 280z side-view mirrors $32/pair ($19.50 shipping) from eBay seller coniglio1975.

PRODUCT INFO
KDC KT-1370 “RearView MIRROR”
Made in Taiwan

KDS KT-1370 Side View Mirror KDS KT-1370 Side View Mirror

REVIEW
Highlights –
– As the description states, “Raw material = plastic”. (honestly, i can’t remember if that was there previous to purchasing it. I would have really opt’d for metal).
+ Closely fits the original side view mirrors (at least the ones I have)
– Plastic part lines severely apparent
+ Very easy to install
+ Single screw mirror tightening

INSTALL
All you’ll need is a screw driver, and perhaps a dremel / hacksaw to adjust the length of the main screw (see below)

The old mirror…

20140720-121650-44210681.jpg

20140720-121705-44225533.jpg

 

Quick inspection shows an “Altezza” sticker… nothing to do with Toyota tuning…

20140720-121714-44234915.jpg

 

The old side view mirror bracket.

20140720-121724-44244318.jpg

 

Note the difference in length of the mounting pads. Original is on top.

20140720-121755-44275052.jpg

 

Note the difference in design. There’s a pitch in the old one (right), while the KDS version is flat. This shouldn’t really matter as the mirror itself is adjustable in all directions.

20140720-121802-44282763.jpg

 

You’ll see a few things in this picture: 1) The supplied screw with the KDS KT-1370 kit is a bit too long, and will end up digging into the door (where there is no hole). 2) If you look close enough, you’ll see that I must have put the side view mirrors on too early after painting… there are spots where the paint has been pushed / rippled. Minor issue, however because the new mounting pad is slightly smaller, it will reveal more.

20140720-121812-44292532.jpg

 

The Dremel tool made quick work of the main screw, shortening it to proper length as not to dig into the door (~1, 11/16″ including head).

20140720-121818-44298909.jpg

 

Although the housing and bezel of the old side view mirror is larger, the mirror itself is the same size.

20140720-121830-44310607.jpg

 

Huh? The driver side door has two additional holes more than the passenger side?! aahh was this a 240z door? My first is that this maybe left over design from the 240z’s classic single side view mirror…or the door was replaced (not likely as the original paint was spot on). Eh, whatevs – let’s install this thing.

20140720-121838-44318819.jpg

20140720-121913-44353429.jpg

20140720-121929-44369567.jpg

20140720-121938-44378596.jpg

 

While I’m not fond of the shiny black base, it’s not completely hideous either. I do mind more that the mirror’s housing is a dull black, while the base is a shiny black (i mean, come on!). If i have time, i may spray paint them the same black I’ve been using on the rest of the black parts on the car (matte black). Overall, not a bad purchase – you always get what you pay for. We’ll see how these hold up over the course of the year.


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…

20131020-103056.jpg

 

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.

20131020-103125.jpg

 

Installed!

20131020-103136.jpg

 

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!

 


Smog time, sort of

It’s been two years and that “Stop!” DMV letter came in the mail – gotta get the 280z smogged!

Again, thanks CA for requiring cars 1976 and up to be smog certified. 🙂

Well so I’m back at Smog Tech Test Only (Nov ’11). Since we passed with flying colors (actually barely passing colors) thought I’d give them some repeat business…but looks like they don’t want me.

Their website says open on Sat 8am, yelp says 9am, guy next door says “usually comes in now (9:25am)… But it’s 9:30am (as of this sentence) and still no show.

Guess they didn’t want me.. Or the Stingray that also showed up. And left.

20130921-093315.jpg

20130921-093327.jpg


a 280z restoration one morning at a time

JDMGALLERY

a 280z restoration one morning at a time

Dirty S30

a 280z restoration one morning at a time

mister240z

Looking through the lens with rods and cones.

hungry4horsepower

life on wheels

A Lot On Your Plate

A budget friendly blog (now an official website) that gives creative & practical tips, recipes, and more, to help inspire, organize, & simplify your life!

pipithepig

Just another WordPress.com site