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Posts filed under ‘Project Cars’

Datsun 240Z Restoration: Dashless

September 8, 2016 by Matt


The dash came out a few weeks ago with little drama. After unhooking the HVAC ducting and removing (what I thought) were all the fasteners, I disconnected the cables from the heater box and tried to pull it out. No dice. Turns out there are a pair of bolts at the very corners of the dash pad up near the base of the windshield that I had missed. These removed and a little elbow grease brought the whole assembly out the passenger door without much trouble.


Once out, I took out the heater box. Many of the flappers were rusted in place; will have to go over this, free them up and recondition. I removed the firewall insulation, fresh air ducts and hooked up the steering column again. The brake and clutch pedals and a few other things are attached to the column mounting bracket. Once it’s removed they’ll come down too.

All the car’s wiring harnesses converge behind the glovebox area, so it took a fair amount of labeling with blue tape to keep everything straight. I’ve been religious about keeping fasteners in labeled bags, but it occurred to me that I’ve been neglectful in simply keeping a record of the sequence in which components have been removed from the Z. Without this, it’s going to be a real mystery come reassembly time as far as what gets reinstalled first. Beyond the remaining few bits I need to remove under the rear of the car, my task now, before too much time passes, is to go over the car and remember the order in which I removed bits. Shouldn’t been too hard, and even if I’ve forgotten a thing or two, whatever I have should be a good guideline to go by.

Editor’s note: This post is Part 24 of an ongoing series chronicling my efforts toward the restoration of my 1972 Datsun 240Z, originally my father’s. Read the other installments here:

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Datsun 240Z Restoration:
Gutting the Interior

August 24, 2016 by Matt


I’ve been chipping away at it, 15 minutes here, an hour there… It’s amazing how much progress you can make after a few weeks of piecemealing it. Would I prefer a large chunk of time—say, an afternoon? Sure. But I’ll take what I can get, and at the moment, the car is very close to being ready to go to paint.


Starting at the rear, I removed the fuel tank and all the hatch trim. The taillights, finishing panel and rear bumper came off. The rub strips, which I loathe, were very difficult to pry off, and the body guy is going to have some restorative work to do to smooth out the holes and dimples their removal left behind.


The scary-looking rust in the spare wheel well isn’t structural, fortunately. All the red vinyl diamond-pattern upholstery came off too. I fished the rear wiring harness around the right rear wheel well and removed the quarterlights.


The door panels came off with little drama (I love my set of blue plastic interior trim tools!). I removed the steering column to make way for the eventual dash extraction. I took out the windshield washer motor and linkage and gave everything a good once-over with my shop vac. There were a lot of pine needles in the cowl area, some (most?) of which had probably been there for 30-40 years, assuming they can last that long…

It’s been interesting to see what the painters chose to remove and what they left in during the 240Z’s blue repaint back in the 1970s. Some things I’d have thought would have been tough to pull were left in, and other bits were painstakingly removed. Regardless, the car’s all going back to its original 901 Silver.

Very encouraged by the progress. Next up is the dash itself, the final removal of the wiring harness, the heater core and then the rear-end mechanical bits like the diff and brake lines. Onward!

Update: Since drafting this post, I’ve removed the dash. More on that in the next installment.

Editor’s note: This post is Part 23 of an ongoing series chronicling my efforts toward the restoration of my 1972 Datsun 240Z, originally my father’s. Read the other installments here:

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Gutting the Interior

Datsun 240Z Restoration:
The Teardown Begins

April 18, 2016 by Matt


Finally, some progress.

So I obviously haven’t made a lot of headway here in the past couple of years. Our previous installment took place in the spring of 2014, and since then, the Z has just been up on jackstands, languishing in the garage.

With the acquisition of the BMW back in January, I’ve been motivated to move the Z project forward so that, eventually, I can move it out of the garage to make room for the Bimmer to take up permanent residence. First, though, I had to put in place the element missing from the project for years, and one of the main things holding me back: Storage space.


That’s the utility room off the back of our garage. On the opposite wall (not pictured) are a whole other swath of shelves holding household items, and the shelves shown in the picture are exclusively for Z parts. Disassembly essentially doubles the amount of room needed for a car, so without space for bumpers, fenders, seats, mechanical bits and the like, progress was stifled. What’s more, without a concrete organizational system, I just wouldn’t have been ready to dig into the project in a methodical fashion, an absolute must for a restoration effort.


By today’s standards, the Z really isn’t that complicated. But it’s complex enough—there are a number of overlapping subsystems, fasteners and other components. The storage space has really taken a load off my mind re:moving forward.

The actual disassembly so far, undertaken this past Saturday and Sunday, was quite straightforward and incident-free. I will sing the praises of the world’s best penetrant, PB Blaster, until my dying day. Most of the rubber weatherstripping and other pieces like hood bumpers and brake and fuel line grommets disintegrated, but that’s to be expected after 44 years. I broke a couple of bolt heads, but nothing terminal and the whole process felt a bit like an archaeology dig as I peeled away layers of peripheral parts like the brake booster and wiring harness. I was disheartened to see more rust than I had anticipated (there’s always more than you think there is), but encouraged by the fact that, upon inspection, both fenders may be usable in their entirety. We’ll have to see what the body guy says when he takes a look.

Editor’s note: This post is Part 22 of an ongoing series chronicling my efforts toward the restoration of my 1972 Datsun 240Z, originally my father’s. Read the other installments here:

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The Teardown Begins

Datsun 240Z Restoration:
…And the Engine Comes Out

August 20, 2014 by Matt

Datsun 240Z restoration engine motor l24 engine removal

Figured I would give you all an update, even though there are fairly significant changes to the project coming down the pike. But more on that in a future post.

After towing the Z over the Appalachians on a car carrier behind my new truck, I ensconced it in our new garage here in Tennessee. And eager to make a little progress on the project, a few months ago I removed all the peripheral bits, fired up the engine hoist and pulled the engine and transmission.

It was a very straightforward job. Nothing jumps out in my memory as a particularly difficult task. Even the exhaust manifold-to-downpipe bolts, encrusted with 40+ years of rust, once soaked overnight with a generous dose of PB Blaster, loosened easily after getting a good set with a 6-point socket.

Datsun 240Z restoration engine motor l24 engine removal

One challenge was finding a couple of locations to actually hoist the engine from. The engine was rebuilt sometime in the mid-’90s, and apparently, at some point, the engine hoist brackets were removed from their usual locations, so I had to improvise with a pair of long bolts threaded into suitable locations on the cylinder head. But it all went smoothly; the engine and transmission came apart just fine, but I did have to remove the flywheel in order to be able to mount the engine on a stand, where it sits now in our garage.

I’ve been referencing Wick Humble’s classic How to Restore Your Datsun Z-Car as a sort of loose guide for the project, and removing the engine was the first step in the disassembly process. The next series of steps involve removing more mechanical organs before unbolting fenders and other body panels, but it’s an open question at this point as to whether I’ll be doing that. More to come.

Editor’s note: This post is Part 21 of an ongoing series chronicling my efforts toward the restoration of my 1972 Datsun 240Z, originally my father’s. Read the other installments here:

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…And the Engine Comes Out

Datsun 240Z Restoration:
Treasure Hunting

April 22, 2013 by Matt

Datsun 240Z Junkyard

Beautiful day for a junkyard visit.

A week or so ago, I tracked down a used coolant overflow bottle for our minivan at the local Pull-A-Part location. I’ve been to you-pull-it junkyards before, and I have absolutely no affiliation with the company, but this one was in a whole different league—clean, well-stocked, organized and efficient. It didn’t take me long to track down the part, and I took some time to scout the yard for desirable cars.

I forgot how much I love junkyards. Sure, it’s sad to see cars in such states of decay, but the variety on the lot presented a great opportunity to get a first-hand look at the mechanicals of some cars, such as an early Saab 900 or Alfa Spider, that I’d only seen in pictures on the Internet. It’s a car tech geek’s paradise.

So after my first visit for the coolant bottle, yesterday I returned for some Z parts. The orange-on-white ’72 240Z at top was my initial focus, but I scouted out some others as well, including a 2+2 280ZX:

Datsun 280ZX Junkyard

and a non-turbo Z31 300ZX:

Nissan 300ZX Z31 Junkyard

Neither had many salvageable interior bits, both both their engines were intact.

My two main scores were a 6-2-1 header off the 240Z:

Datsun Nissan 240Z L24 L26 L28 Exhaust Header

and an under-hood service light:

Datsun 240Z under hood light

I’m hoping the header will clean up. It seems to be intact. If not, no big deal. Removing it was a bear; since I didn’t have a hacksaw, I had to rip the whole exhaust off, and ended up having to pull the steering column and twist the crusty muffler off before fishing it out the hood. As for the service light, the aluminum body should clean up, and my intention is to simply buy a new plastic lens, if it’s available. I’m strangely optimistic about that; in my experience with car restoration, sometimes the little ticky-tack stuff can be had more readily than more desirable NLA parts like door weatherstripping and interior plastic components.

If nothing else, it was a fun couple of hours exploring the yard and tearing into a classic Z with wild abandon.

Editor’s note: This post is Part 20 of an ongoing series chronicling my efforts toward the restoration of my 1972 Datsun 240Z, originally my father’s. Read the other installments here:

7 Comments on Datsun 240Z Restoration:
Treasure Hunting

Datsun 240Z Restoration: Beginnings

January 3, 2013 by Matt

1972 Datsun 240Z S30 901 Silver

Click the image to enlarge.

My dad dug these up recently, and during a visit home for the holidays, handed them to me.

Along with the photography information like F-stop and exposure, the date written on the back reads “Nov 1972;” in other words, they were taken one month after my dad purchased the car from Cardinal Imports in Jacksonville, NC. This is genesis, folks.

1972 Datsun 240Z S30 901 Silver

Click the image to enlarge.

The photos were taken somewhere in the Raleigh, NC, area (my dad was finishing his studies at NCSU at the time) and to my knowledge remained hidden, moved from house to house in a nondescript box, up until this past weekend. During the handover, another tidbit of family lore emerged: My dad actually proposed to my mom in the Z in mid-December 1973. Talk about a car with family history; the Z has it in spades.

Aside from a couple of details, the pictures represent exactly the state to which I want to restore the Z. The only deviations from the condition shown above will be the wheels (the hubcaps have been replaced with slotted mags and meatier tires), the bumper overriders (deleted) and the hatch lid (debadged). Otherwise, the 901 Silver color will return and everything else will be as you see it. Once it’s all done, I’ve a good mind to find the actual spot those pictures were taken and shoot another pair in the same pose. Before and after, 40+ years later.

Editor’s note: This post is Part 19 of an ongoing series chronicling my efforts toward the restoration of my 1972 Datsun 240Z, originally my father’s. Read the other installments here:

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Datsun 240Z Restoration:
VIN Discoveries

July 2, 2012 by Matt

1972 72 Datsun 240Z S30 Registry Snapshot

I’ve never seen this before.

A helpful Spannerhead passerby commented on an older post in my 240Z restoration series, shedding some light on my engine block / VIN mismatch mystery.

To recap, although my dad, the Z’s original owner, swears up and down the engine in the car is original—and I believe him—it remains that the engine’s block number, and the number stamped on the car’s shock tower ID plate do not match. The number stamped on the engine block is 118555, and the ID plate’s number reads 110555. Up until this point, the going theories were, in decreasing order of likelihood:

  1. The original engine was somehow defective before my dad bought the car new, was replaced before he bought it, and the installer made a mistake when applying the number to the block.
  2. The engine was surreptitiously replaced when my dad had it rebuilt in the mid-’90s, and once again, the installer screwed up when scribing the block number.
  3. The Nissan factory made a mistake.

What made that last theory particularly improbable is simply the fact that the block number and ID plate have no other purpose but to match. I mean, that’s their only job, and it stands to reason that the dozens, if not hundreds of pair of eyes that saw the numbers between the time the car was being assembled and the time my dad drove off the showroom lot would have caught something.

However…it now appears the ID plate, not the block, is wrong. Check it out: My car’s VIN is 93069, and according to the registry information provided by the helpful commenter, 118555 would mesh perfectly with the block number range the VIN corresponds with. So, wonder of wonders, the ID plate, stamped from the Nissan factory in Japan, an item with no other purpose but to match with the block, is wrong. It’s like waking up one morning to find a misspelling on your driver’s license… Just bizarre. And surprising.

Editor’s note: This post is Part 18 of an ongoing series chronicling my efforts toward the restoration of my 1972 Datsun 240Z, originally my father’s. Read the other installments here:

26 Comments on Datsun 240Z Restoration:
VIN Discoveries

Datsun 240Z Restoration: The Bad News

June 18, 2012 by Matt

This is where I get depressed. Or overwhelmed. Take your pick.

The video above represents a brief walkaround of the Z, and touches on many of the issues to be addressed in the restoration, including the visible rust and some interior problems.

It’s…daunting, to say the least. I posted the video on a reputable Z-car forum and while most of them agree it’s salvageable, the process will invariably entail a significant amount of time, effort and money. No less a mainstay of the Z community as Carl Beck chimed in with figures of 650 hours and $30,000, though admittedly, those were his numbers for this concours-quality restoration. I don’t want a show car, just something clean and completely rust free in which I can have fun on the weekends. The Z obviously won’t see a snowflake ever again, and if I can help it, nary a raindrop either. So that figure could potentially be revised downward, but…it’s still enough to cause sticker shock. I’ll have a better handle on the real figure in a couple of months when I start disassembling the car and all the hidden rust comes to light. Onward…

Editor’s note: This post is Part 17 of an ongoing series chronicling my efforts toward the restoration of my 1972 Datsun 240Z, originally my father’s. Read the other installments here:

6 Comments on Datsun 240Z Restoration: The Bad News

Datsun 240Z Restoration: On The Road

June 10, 2012 by Matt

Alternate post title: I need a camera mount. Badly.

Alternate post title #2: Glimpses of future greatness at 4000 rpm.

Note: The “thoroughly depressed” line at the beginning references another series of clips I shot right before the drive, inventorying many of the car’s “trouble areas.” That video will be featured in a future post in this series.

So, after working like a crazy person getting the driveline reassembled on Monday, the needed brake bridge didn’t arrive until Wednesday, leaving me with hours to install it, bleed the hydraulic and work out what bugs I could via a few test drives that evening, in order to confirm the car was at least passably roadworthy for the following morning, when I drove my son to school in the Z for his last day of 1st grade.

And aside from mushy brakes (investigation still underway) and mysterious timing problems (solution TBD), the car performed like a champ, and he greatly enjoyed his ~2 mile drive to school.

So what’s the plan now, since I’ve gotten it running again? Enjoy it for a bit, while fixing the remaining running issues. In the meantime, I’ll tackle additional home projects, make time for family activities over the summer, and prepare the garage for the teardown. Even after completing the perimeter storage system, there’s still quite a bit to be done:

  • Cut back the castering work table to make room for the table saw and eventual purchase of a tool chest
  • Build a hanging shelf in the center of the garage for doors, fenders, hood, and other large car pieces
  • Score a parts cleaning tank and possibly a media blasting cabinet

Among other things. So there’s still a long way to go. But the memory of how it feels to row through the gears and haw at the thin wooden steering wheel is fresh, and motivating.

Editor’s note: This post is Part 16 of an ongoing series chronicling my efforts toward the restoration of my 1972 Datsun 240Z, originally my father’s. Read the other installments here:

4 Comments on Datsun 240Z Restoration: On The Road