1 2 3 ... 11
badwaytolive
badwaytolive New Reader
2/26/18 1:45 p.m.

Hi everyone-

Long time lurker, first time poster.

In the late 1970's, my mom was working as a nurse in Fresno, California. One of her fellow nursing friends had recently moved across the country to Virginia, and owned a blue Datsun 280Z. When my mom took a trip to visit, they spent the weekend driving around in that 280 and my mom decided that she would love to have one some day.

At the time, she was driving a 1965 Impala 396 BB with Glasspacks (go mom!). On April 1, 1978, well after returning from her Virginia visit, she left work to find her Impala missing from the parking lot.

“Very funny guys, where is my car?”

Assuming it was an April fools joke, she asked everyone she knew at the hospital. They all denied knowing anything, so she contacted the police.

They found the Impala, stripped and burned in a field outside of town.

Now in need of a car, she asked her dad to contact a family friend that owned a car lot. She wanted a blue 280Z, but it had to be an automatic as she didn’t drive a manual. He came through with a 1976 automatic, light blue metallic, 280Z.

She loved the car and drove it all over California for almost 10 years. By then she had gotten married and my brother and I had been born; the family needed a more practical car. The Datsun was relegated to sunny-day occasional use and was driven less and less each year. Then in 2007, my brother and I decided to fix its leaky head-gasket over Christmas break. We disassembled it to the point of not being drivable, but didn’t even get the head removed. Always meaning to get back to it on our next visit home, it sat immobile in my parent’s garage in California for the next 10 years.

The car was always meant to go to my younger brother; he always had a special love for the car. As a young kid, my mom would strap him into his booster seat, wearing his yellow plastic toy racing helmet and take him for rides. In 2012, my brother crashed a dirt bike, broke his neck, and became a C-6 quadriplegic. Unfortunately, he can’t really do much with the car now.

I have my own history with cars and racing, starting with KT100 kart racing in high school -> One Lap in a 1989 Alfa Milano for 4 years in college -> 125cc TAG kart racing after college -> C5 Z06 NASA TT. I burned out in 2015 and sold everything.

It wasn’t long before I started missing the car life and began to look for a project to get back in; I enjoy working on cars as much as driving them. Then I did the 2017 One Lap with my dad and brother. I was raring to go. While it had been in the back of my mind for awhile, I decided that it was time for Mom’s 280 to return to glory.

The main problems were:

  1. It was in California and I am in Texas.
  2. I have 2 kids, age 2, and 4 months, leaving little time to work on cars.
  3. I live in a townhouse in the middle of Houston with no extra parking- nowhere to work on it.

#1 was relatively simple, although an annoyance. Shipping a non-running car is never that great.

#2 could be worked with thanks to my lovely wife and mother-in-law volunteering to babysit 1 night a week.

That left workspace as the biggest problem.

One of my best friends, Nik, is also a major car guy. He did One Lap with me in college in the Alfa, so we go pretty far back. He recently completed a beautiful 2,500 s.f. workshop on his property in Spring, TX to house his own substantial car obsession. One night in the fall of 2017, I was telling him I’d love to get started on the Datsun, but I couldn’t find a reasonably priced shop space in which to do it.

“No problem, I got room. You can do it in my shop.”

“!!!!!”

I feel like I don’t have to tell this particular audience what an amazing offer this was.

After confirming multiple times that it wasn’t just the bourbon talking, I lined up a shipment through Uship. My parents were glad to reclaim some garage space. The transport was pretty smooth and the car arrived recently in Spring.

The hotshot trucker, David, told me he pretty much just drives back and forth between Texas and California. In fact, he lamented that I had to go through Uship to find him. I paid about $1,200, but he only received $800. Uship took a cut, then he was contracted through another broker that operates on Uship, who took their cut as well. Now that I have his number, he says to call anytime and he’ll set me up with people he knows around the country for $50. I guess I’ll save $350 on my next shipment- and if anyone is looking for shipping, I know a guy!

Nik arrived on his lunch break to help me push the car into the driveway and into the shop. There is some terrible combination right now that makes the car very hard to push, but the brakes don’t work well at all so it’s also somehow dangerously hard to stop.

We moved some cars around in the shop to get the Datsun inside. It will live inside for the duration.

The Datsun has some interesting stablemates: a flooded Saab 9-2X Aero and a turbocharged Lotus Elise, both with long stories of their own.

Nik and I have agreed that our first task will be to get the shop into a more work-friendly state of organization.

Mom’s 280Z project will be long and arduous due to scope and lack of talent. I’m hoping to fumble my way through a 600hp VK56DE mated to a 370Z 6-spd manual, along with a full strip and restoration of the rest of the car. I debated even laying these particular details out, as I know how Page 1 plans like this have a tendency to rarely be fulfilled. Nevertheless, I’ve chosen to document and share via GRM specifically because of the depth and wealth of knowledge present, along with the open-mindedness of the community. I am sure I will need help.

I hope you’ll follow along with me. Thanks for reading!

damen

conesare2seconds
conesare2seconds Dork
2/26/18 2:15 p.m.

Hi Damen. Welcome. Looking forward to more on your revival project. 

Dave
Dave Reader
2/26/18 2:17 p.m.

That is already one good looking Z. Best of luck on the project.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
2/26/18 2:25 p.m.
Dave said:

That is already one good looking Z. Best of luck on the project.

yeah, that was my first thought. That thing photographs well.

Also, your conversation with the trucker is not unusual. We have a stack of business cards from the guys who drop cars off here. Everybody wins but UShip.

badwaytolive
badwaytolive New Reader
2/26/18 2:30 p.m.
Keith Tanner said:

Also, your conversation with the trucker is not unusual. We have a stack of business cards from the guys who drop cars off here. Everybody wins but UShip.

Hi Keith-

Have you tried using one of those truckers after such a conversation? I do wonder if that would actually work out so nicely...

damen

NOHOME
NOHOME UltimaDork
2/26/18 6:04 p.m.

Huge soft spot for the Z cars. Dad bought one when we lived in Puerto Rico, I learned to do burn-outs in that car. The Z Car followed us to Canada and then on to the UK and Europe for a few years. First car I ever drove in the UK was a left hooker Z car! The Z finally came back to Florida when the parents repatriated. Was bit upset when Dad up and sold it on a whim.

Your project is quite ambitious and having done what you are about to do with a young family and little time, be prepared for at least five years of calendar time. Maybe longer as life and family will impose some time-outs along the way. The key is to keep that one allowed day as sacred and do SOMETHING each time you visit the car. 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
2/26/18 6:13 p.m.
badwaytolive said:
Keith Tanner said:

Also, your conversation with the trucker is not unusual. We have a stack of business cards from the guys who drop cars off here. Everybody wins but UShip.

Hi Keith-

Have you tried using one of those truckers after such a conversation? I do wonder if that would actually work out so nicely...

damen

I believe we have, actually.

Woody
Woody MegaDork
2/26/18 7:17 p.m.

Your mom is cool.

Fr3AkAzOiD
Fr3AkAzOiD Reader
2/26/18 7:44 p.m.

That Lotus.......... 

AngryCorvair
AngryCorvair UltimaDork
2/26/18 7:48 p.m.

That is a tasty starting point

Rodan
Rodan HalfDork
2/26/18 8:30 p.m.

Car looks great!   What a time machine... those Vitaloni mirrors are right out of 1984... wink

Great project and great story, looking forward to seeing your progress.

 

ssswitch
ssswitch Dork
2/26/18 10:35 p.m.

Great-looking car, can't wait to see more of the project. Those mirrors are so confusing and also amazing.

PseudoSport
PseudoSport Dork
2/27/18 9:05 a.m.

Nice to see another Z car on here. Looks like its in pretty good shape! 

badwaytolive
badwaytolive New Reader
2/27/18 11:20 a.m.
NOHOME said:

Huge soft spot for the Z cars. Dad bought one when we lived in Puerto Rico, I learned to do burn-outs in that car. The Z Car followed us to Canada and then on to the UK and Europe for a few years. First car I ever drove in the UK was a left hooker Z car! The Z finally came back to Florida when the parents repatriated. Was bit upset when Dad up and sold it on a whim.

Your project is quite ambitious and having done what you are about to do with a young family and little time, be prepared for at least five years of calendar time. Maybe longer as life and family will impose some time-outs along the way. The key is to keep that one allowed day as sacred and do SOMETHING each time you visit the car. 

Great Z story- that's a seriously well-traveled car!

Thanks for the family + project tips- I'll need 'em. I definitely don't have an end date in mind as I believe you're totally right. I know I'll be frustrated along the way, but on balance I'm sure I'll be happy to have such an engaging project.

Thanks to everyone else for the kind words as well. It's not clear to me how good of shape the car is in. It hasn't driven in over 10 years and there are obvious rust spots showing through some of the paint that I can see. I guess I can hope that it's not too bad, but we'll certainly find out once I'm able to start disassembling.

damen

badwaytolive
badwaytolive New Reader
2/27/18 12:56 p.m.

Hi everyone-

I haven’t done any serious car work in a few years, so I’m really excited to get started. 

However, Nik and I both agree that it is worth spending some time and effort to get the shop into a more organized state. He hasn’t been able to work out there as much as he’d like, so my project’s arrival is acting as a good catalyst for him as well. I know this is a car-build forum, but based on some of the threads here (like the “Grosh” ), I thought you guys may be interested in the shop organization piece that precedes the build.

The 280 is buried pretty deep at this point, but it was a victory to get it inside. Living outside for any length of time in Houston’s climate is asking for trouble with a rust-prone car.

The tube-frame chassis in the back there is a Factory Five 818. Nik has the kit for it as well as a donor WRX. Maybe he can start a build thread here when he gets started :)

Just to reinforce the Houston weather point- this chassis has never sat outside AND it has a “rust-proof” paint on it. The humidity is undeterred.

Anyhow, I’ve long dreamt of a Formula-1 style shop setup. This particular photo was taken from Redbull Racing’s site.

Nik and I had a brief chat about how we might be able to setup and organize, but admittedly, it doesn’t take much discussion to agree that this style is appealing. The goal we’re moving towards is to create an F1-wannabe bay for the Datsun, perhaps with a 2-post in there at some point. We’ll do that in the corner that the Saab is in currently. Since this is long-term project, hopefully that will be out-of-the-way-ish. Neither of us, however, is interested in spending $50k on toolboxes and cabinetry, so there will be some artistic license taken with the implementation.

The shop is about 60 ft. x 40 ft. and is “divided” into (3) 20-ft wide bays by the metal structure. 2 of these bays will be dedicated to car work, and the far bay will be for fabrication. This angle is from the fabrication side.

Our first step is to get the Datsun corner cleared out, so we spent most of our inaugural evening emptying, moving, and reloading the black and silver cabinets on the back wall. We were able to move some shelving and other items as well, but that’s not quite as noticeable. Here are before and after shots. It doesn’t look like much, but work was certainly done.

Before:

After:

The Lotus will be having some pretty serious work done in the near future, so it will be out of the shop for a little while. Here’s a gratuitous photo of that car before it leaves.

I imagine there are some folks here with shop dogs- we have one, too. Well, he’s not mine really; I’m moderately terrified of him. This is Zeus. Nik says he's harmless (to people at least), but I'll let you decide.

The Datsun is waiting patiently, which is good, as we have a decent amount of shop work left before tearing into it. In other good news, the Dad’s-night-out went really smoothly, so thank you to my beautiful wife and my wonderful mother-in-law!

damen

Lof8
Lof8 Dork
2/27/18 1:08 p.m.

Beautiful car!  I'm in to follow along.

Rushcanuck
Rushcanuck New Reader
2/27/18 1:12 p.m.

beautiful car man! cant wait to see the progress.

damn I wish i had friends with shops like that too!

 

-RC

GhiaMonster
GhiaMonster Reader
2/27/18 3:00 p.m.

I saw the screen name first and hoped it would be this story.  Really excited for the whole family to get the car going again.  It looks mint so unlikely, but I have access to a parts car of similar vintage if you need anything. 

-Matt

NOHOME
NOHOME UltimaDork
2/27/18 3:44 p.m.

So, what is the plan?  Is there a general idea on how this is going to play out?  You have confessed to the resto-mod direction, so how do you see the tub refurb playing out?

Been involved in about a dozen restorations and resto-mod projects since my first one. What I have learned is that the single hardest thing to learn is the patience required to take stuff apart so that it can go back together exactly the way it was. I have had to admit that I will never measure up to the bar required for high quality restoration work. Thank the lord for the internet and cell phone pictures!

The body looks pretty good from where I am sitting, but I know from experience that a Z car likes to rust. The front frame rails where they kick up in front of the firewall and under the battery tray are famous for being rusted-out.

 

Pete

 

Woody
Woody MegaDork
2/27/18 3:51 p.m.

Zeus looks like he carries a shiv.

What is that twin cam V8 on the cart?

Vigo
Vigo UltimaDork
2/27/18 4:04 p.m.

project will be long and arduous due to scope and lack of talent

Lol! Let's hope both can be minimized. Motivation is usually the hard part, but that's what build threads are good for! Cool project, made even cooler by the fact that i'm close enough (san antonio) to maybe lay eyes on it at some point in the build. 

badwaytolive
badwaytolive New Reader
2/28/18 10:13 a.m.
GhiaMonster said:

I saw the screen name first and hoped it would be this story.  Really excited for the whole family to get the car going again.  It looks mint so unlikely, but I have access to a parts car of similar vintage if you need anything. 

-Matt

Thanks, Matt!

My guess is that it's not nearly as mint as it looks, but we'll find out once I start taking it apart.

For those interested, Matt is friends with my brother, he visited us in South Bend at the end of One Lap, and his parents hosted us for wonderful meals in Montana on both our departure and return driving legs to/from Seattle. Great folks. If you're ever interested, I spent a lot of time chronicling our trip at badwaytolive.com. Matt and his family are featured!

pinchvalve
pinchvalve MegaDork
2/28/18 10:17 a.m.

That Z has such clean lines, and for once, I think the added aero actually improve the look.  Enjoy.  

badwaytolive
badwaytolive New Reader
2/28/18 11:20 a.m.
NOHOME said:

So, what is the plan?  Is there a general idea on how this is going to play out?  You have confessed to the resto-mod direction, so how do you see the tub refurb playing out?

Been involved in about a dozen restorations and resto-mod projects since my first one. What I have learned is that the single hardest thing to learn is the patience required to take stuff apart so that it can go back together exactly the way it was. I have had to admit that I will never measure up to the bar required for high quality restoration work. Thank the lord for the internet and cell phone pictures!

The body looks pretty good from where I am sitting, but I know from experience that a Z car likes to rust. The front frame rails where they kick up in front of the firewall and under the battery tray are famous for being rusted-out.

 

Pete

 

Hi Pete-

The current plan is to carefully disassemble from the front towards the back, down to the shell. It will be a good way to learn how the car is put together and to see what I'm working with.

One of the decisions I'm having difficulty with is about wheels and tires. I'd really like to put something like Bridgestone RE-71R's on the car, as wide as possible, but then I love the look of the car as it sits now. It seems like you have to go to 18's to get a nice tire size selection these days and I worry that would look ridiculous. This will also mean some sort of fender flaring, but again, I don't want to go crazy with the look.

Maybe it's not possible. I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts on this.

I want the engine to sit as far back as possible in the car so I expect to (heavily) modify the firewall. Before I make those fabrication changes, I'll need to connect the engine and transmission to record dimensions. I'm pretty sure this will require some custom machining for adapters and various pieces, but fortunately, I have a major machining hook-up. Once the marks are made, I imagine I'll do the cut/weld/grind/repeat for a couple years to complete any repairs and/or bodywork, then prime it all.

Then it will be assembled to the point of driving to get the mechanical/electrical/suspension/etc sorted. Then take it all apart again and do the final bodywork/paint. Then assemble it again in time for my great-grandchildren's high school graduation party?

To be honest, I really have no idea how this going to play out. We all have hopes and dreams for our projects; I'm no different.

One thing is for certain, I love hearing from those who have experience, so please share if you have the time!

damen

badwaytolive
badwaytolive New Reader
2/28/18 11:31 a.m.
Woody said:

Zeus looks like he carries a shiv.

What is that twin cam V8 on the cart?

Ya, Zeus has like 10 shivs in his mouth. That's what concerns me.

The V8 is a BMW M60B40, the 4.0L from the mid-90's 740i, among some other applications. I think it's an orphan from a past project of Nik's, but I'm not 100% sure. I know I've asked him about it, but he has so many interesting things at the shop I have a hard time keeping it all straight.

damen

1 2 3 ... 11
Our Preferred Partners
ueL80IF61FK67DiPJLZ7RDj0kIR2I55MyKvp8fYLIW9ZvhQwBpDk0ndKovgrJjOU