Engine Bay Aspirations

Cruising on my daily craiglist searches (alfa, tr6, 3.0csi…and of course datsun!), I found a really nice ’77 Datsun 280z for sale. It was listed for $21k+. My, how prices of the S30 Z’s have gone up, but even more so, I’m glad! haha a rising tide lifts all ships, yeah? :]

Anyways, the one thing that really stood out on this ’77 is its engine bay. Wow. But let’s first check out the outside – because it’s gotta look good inside and out!

What got me was the engine bay. Unlike the 240z and 260z before it, the 280z was born with certain genetic pre-conditions – increase in safety standards, heavier parts, more complicated systems and notoriously: stricter emission standards. Yes, the 280z was born with the ERG valve vestigial digit. The bad teeth of fuel injection. Scraggly hair of cables and wires. The MAF funny laugh.

These aren’t necessarily bad things. They’re just something that must be managed. And THIS car has done such a great job managing all that unsightliness and with a color scheme to boot.


Things that help with a well managed, very nice looking engine bay?

1) Cleanliness – Engines are dirty and need cleaning every now and again. While cars older than the 280z, especially carbureted, have less parts making it easier to clean (less parts, more empty space to get around those parts), newer cars have nice wide shrouds to cover all the small parts (big cover pieces just take a nice wipe down). The 280z was blessed with the worst of both worlds – it’s packed with lots of exposed parts. But a negative can always be turned into a positive: keeping those parts clean can help highlight the maze like intricacies.

2) Organization – Once you’ve gotten the little traps free from grime, it’s time to get them in order. Chaos can make sense when properly organized. Think a book shelf: lots of different colors, shapes and sizes but when organized things can be found, followed, and admired. Those spark plug wires? On trees and straightened. Wires around the fuel rail? Bundled and cinched together. The more parallel lines created, the more uniform and organized it will look. Even the traffic of wires above can look orderly!

“I have a colorful personality!
Look at me!”

3) Look / Color Scheme – With all the parts in any space, keeping a unified look can help bring it all together. Like the mugs of rascals in a boy scout troop – all different faces, but orderly when wearing all the same uniform. And with the right color, you can make a scene pop! The one above carries the blue from the original air intake across various engine parts: clamps, elbows, covers, caps, labels. Though deep purple and light teal are an uncommon combination, it still works to me because any purple car already screams “I have a colorful personality! Look at me!”.

In the age of Photoshop, you can definitely pre-plan, saving time and money. A super fun tool I also use when designing is Adobe’s Color CC (previously called Kuler). Monochromatic, complimentary, triad – there’s so many great combinations to choose from, you’ll end up using it to repaint your house!

Whether the cabin interior, under carriage or engine bay, if it’s clean, well organized and uniform, it will help complete the car as a whole and show just that little extra pride and care to tie it all together.

What does YOUR engine bay look like?

240z Steering wheel on a 280z… while keeping the horn pad

A while back I picked up a 240z steering – I just love that wood-grained look (though it is composite). I did a nice refurbish on the 240z steering wheel shortly there after, but never got around to installing it… till this past weekend!

There isn’t much around the forums in the way of doing a 240z steering wheel on a 280z. Actually, it’s probably because  in terms of the steering wheel itself, there’s no conversion needed – the 240z steering wheel fits the 280z steering gear exactly. The issue I had was really mating a 280z horn button to the 240z steering wheel!

Check out the visual difference between the 240z (left) and 280z (right) horn pads…

Datsun-240Z-OEM-Horn-Pad 74-76 Horn Pad

I wish it were that easy of a swap, but upon removing the 280z steering wheel and comparing it to the 240z’s, the difference was apparent. The contact plate has 3 screws in the 280z, and only 2 screws in the 240z’s.  This different proved to be all the work, thus having to make an adapter to mate the two.

YES, I could have bought a 240z horn pad (avg $40 – $75), but I have a horn pad…and some metal…and a brain. And i like the challenge! :] Let’s go make a 240z-to-280z horn mating plate!

The 240z steering wheel has two screw holes for the horn assembly, while the 280z has three.

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Upon disassembling the 280z horn (three screws), you’ll notice the contact plate has rubber washers and plastic guides (so that the contact plate doesn’t connect the horn pad and steering wheel). On the steering wheel, you’ll see that the 280z has a connection spring (12 o’clock). In the 240z steering wheel picture above, it uses a wire instead.

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The horn contact is located here in this pic at 4 o’clock.

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Datsun 240z to 280z steering wheel horn mating plate – design plan:
2 3/4″ diameter
3/4″ dia center hole
1 1/32″ distance between centers for 240z mounting holes
1 25/32″ lengthed iso triangle for 280z mounting holes (you can just trace these from the contact plate)

I didn’t have a compass, but I found a Mother’s polish can did the job.

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I had some time, so here’s PDF of the mating plate design in case anyone else wants to use it. It should be to scale – let me know how it goes!

DailyDatsun-240z-to-280z-hornMatingPlate copy

The NIBBLER! Since i don’t have a band saw (nor the room for one), the Nibbler gets all the attention.

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Drilled the holes and test mounted the mating plate. Not too shabby. Use drill bits smaller than the screws used in their respective places so they can bite into the metal, make contact, and maintain electrical continuity.

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Here it is assembled on the car. Important to note that the 240z wire SHOULD NOT be hanging outside of the 280z contact plate… yeah, your horn will be ringing all day if you do. It SHOULD be connected to the 280z contact plate on the back side. Don’t add anything to the face of the contact plate because you want to have an even surface to make contact anywhere you press the horn button.

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Since soldering didn’t work on the contact plate, I simply just protected the mating plate (from further contact), bent the contact wire head, and press fit it under the contact plate.

Tada! installed. love it. and it still goes beep-beep.

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Datsun 240z and a laptop

How does a Datsun 240z and a laptop have anything to do with each other? Maybe if you’re Mitsubishi, who made both computers way back when* and cars, you’d be in the running. No no, there isn’t going to be any Nissan computers, but there is a link between the 240z and the Ampere WS-1 “knee-top” computer: Kumeo Tamura.

Kumeo Tamura is one of the industrial designers who penned the Datsun 240z… and apparently a laptop. To have such an iconic car under your belt is amazing enough, but then have the breath to stretch into tech space, well that’s pretty awesome. Read the original post here (thanks Oscar!): read more

*I remember my dad brought home a Mitsubishi computer a long long time ago in the 80’s.