Datsun 240Z Restoration:
Here’s the situation. I own three cars: my BMW daily driver, the family workhorse minivan and my project car, pictured above (it’s the only picture I presently have). It’s a 1972 Datsun 240Z. And it resides in my parents’ garage, 90 minutes away.
Here are the facts about it:
- My dad bought it new in ’72, and gave me the keys as a college graduation present in late ’01. It’s something of a family heirloom, so selling it is out of the question.
- Part of the reason he gave me the keys was that I enjoyed working on it so much. Before the passing of the baton, I’d taught myself to rebuild and synchronize the twin SU carburetors, adjust the valve clearances, and do a full tuneup. I’d replaced both the brake and clutch master cylinders as well as the rear drum brake cylinders, and removed the ancient and inoperative dealer-installed A/C system. I love tinkering with the old 2.4l SOHC inline-6, and the car’s electrical system wiring diagram spans, in its entirety, a whopping two pages—meaning the car’s electrical system is admirably simple to diagnose and fix. And not made by Lucas.
- The car needs a full down-to-the-metal restoration. The passenger side floor pan is rusted through, the battery tray is eaten away, the firewall has holes in it, and I can push my finger through what’s left of the rocker panels. It’s pretty far gone, and my only reason to think the car isn’t destined for the scrap heap is the fact that I’ve seen 240Zs completely restored from being even farther gone than mine is. The body style was popular in its day, had a long 8-year model run, and replacement panels are readily available. And I have faith in miracle-working powers of good body men.
- The engine quite possibly needs an overhaul, if not total rebuild. Some years ago, due to a combination of circumstances, I ran the engine with zero oil pressure for about 3-4 minutes, and it’s never been quite the same since. If nothing else, it probably needs the mains replaced and cylinder bores honed. Of course, none of this is terribly difficult with the engine out of the car, which it will be during the body’s restoration.
So here’s the question: In addition to restoring it, what should I do with it? There are a number of possibilities:
- Keep it as stock as possible. Given that, as noted above, the car is something of an heirloom, there’s a certain appeal in leaving the car “numbers matching,” or at least ensuring the body’s and engine block’s serial numbers match up, even if I do install some aftermarket bits like headers or uprated suspension and wheels.
- Install an L28 (2.8l iteration of the 240Z’s engine) with either triple Weber carbs, or keeping the stock SUs. Click here to view an example of that combination in action. The power bump over the L24 would be healthy, and the setup wouldn’t have the complexity of a turbo, but would have the downside that the engine wouldn’t be original to the car.
- Drop in and tune an L28ET, the factory turbocharged version of the Datsun/Nissan L-series engine. Here’s an excellent video of that setup. It’s a fairly straightforward swap; the motor mounts and drivetrain bits match up, the only custom fabrication required would be the engine management and peripherals like the exhaust and intake piping.
- Go nuts and install a completely different engine, like a small-block Chevy V8, SR20DET (Nissan 4-cylinder turbo), RB25DET (Nissan 6-cylinder turbo), 1JZ-GTE (Toyota 6-cylinder turbo) or Mazda rotary (not sure if this has ever been done). Advantages include the cool/interest factor and power potential; challenges are legion and include just about everything you can imagine, from sourcing an engine in the first place to all the custom adaptation required.
Any thoughts? I’m leaning toward Project Path No.1, but the lure of boost is difficult to resist. Whatever the case, when the car finally arrives and I begin tearing into it, barring any “unforeseen acquisitions,” the Z will officially be the first Spannerhead.com Project Car™. Stay tuned.
Editor’s note: This post is Part 1 of an ongoing series chronicling my efforts toward the restoration of my 1972 Datsun 240Z, originally my father’s. Read the other installments here:
- Part 23: Gutting the Interior
- Part 22: The Teardown Begins
- Part 21: …And the Engine Comes Out
- Part 20: Treasure Hunting
- Part 19: Beginnings
- Part 18: VIN Discoveries
- Part 17: The Bad News
- Part 16: On The Road
- Part 15: Getting It Back On The Road
- Part 14: It Lives!
- Part 13: Restoring the Fuel System, Part I
- Part 12: Meat on the Wheels
- Part 11: Inspiration (Sort Of)
- Part 10: Carbs’ Return
- Part 9: First Triad Z Club Meet
- Part 8: Wheel Work
- Part 7: Tactical Changes
- Part 6: Little Things
- Part 5: Coming Home
- Part 4: The Rollout
- Part 3: Confessions of a Poor Car Enthusiast
- Part 2: Opening the Tomb