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1979 280zx

2209 Views 26 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  facel vega
I just recently purchased a 280zx and was wondering what the best way to go about restoring one? any tips....would like to make it fast
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Riiiiight! Are we on candid camera. I bought one in 07. Dash was not cracked, seats were in decent shape. Engine used oil, AC was out. Took me a year to restore it. I did not have to paint anything but the engine compartment and engine. Look at the pictures in my signature.

There is no such thing as fast. Are you a hack or an enthusiast. If the latter, it will take a while and you will never recover what you put into it. Just so you'll know what you are getting into.

Where are you located? How old are you? What is your knowledge level? What are your assets? They all play a part.
i dont know much about cars but im going to school for this type of stuff and wanted this to be my first project car. i got a real good deal on one and figured i would enjoy bringing it back to life
I purchased an 80 280zx 7 years ago and have officially abandoned any hope of "restoring" it .There just aren't any parts available anywhere near me. So it will be slightly custom when it's done someday. In the mean time I'm just enjoying driving it.
Oh Yeah , I almost forgot - I want to make it fast too. ::)
Someday I'll put a $20,000 price tag on it and attempt to find a sucker!!! ;D
jlw069 said:
I just recently purchased a 280zx and was wondering what the best way to go about restoring one? any tips....would like to make it fast
I just recently bought an 83 280zx. It ran. I know it needed some suspension work, could use a paint job, but how bad could it be? The answer is, whatever you think it's going to take in time / money / parts, multiply times 3. Unless as you go along you do what I've done, and figure, "If I'm spending this much, I should make art under the hood" and then "and I'll convert to a turbo" and then . . .

And then you take the last number you had (after multiplying by three), and multiply by about 3 again.

Not trying to dissuade you. Jump in, have fun, but don't count on fast! You can buy faster, if you pay others, but, I think that's about the only way.
Tip #1 Learn the car. Every adjustment for tuning, chassis, brakes, etc.
#2 Fix it all as is for as cheap as possible.
#3 Sell it and give up or
#4 take all new knowledge and skills to the next level, now that you know the car and upgrades available and come back with some more interesting questions.
I hope you have a lot of disposable income. You might as well be restoring a ferrari. Parts are not numerous and what you can find is triple the cost of a ford part. Shock for mustang- 40 dollars. Shock for zx - 120. mustang temp sensor- 7 bucks, zx 39. You dont 'learn' on a z car or car you like. You are going to screw up. Better to goober a car you dont care about. Learn on a modern disposable car. I could have built 2 65 mustangs for what I spent on my 260z and its not even painted yet. But according to what we have seen, you dont care. Have fun superglueing, jbwelding, techscrewing, and butchering a 280zx. We really appreciate it.
Sounds like some people don't really like their Z's.
Toy, like this guy http://www.lemonfree.com/1988e56ac498a3c44bebe79ec74f2f9f.html ?

**** will freeze over before he sells that. Only if some Z guy wins the lottery and 31k becomes chump change.
How depressing. Start with the easy things, take something off, sand and paint, replace. Learn about the car as you go. A restoration doesn't have to be excessive. Fix up a few things. drive it and enjoy it. Have fun while your doing it.
The two first things I did was to disassemble the suspension and replace all rubber. I kept the hydraulic struts up front. The rears are gas struts and will be toast. Control arm bushings are toast by now and a bitch to get out. Tension rod bushing can be had at oreilly for $12 set. Clean, sand all metal parts and repaint. Look at the brakes. Do the calipers need replaced? brakes? Then I went thru the engine comaprtment. Removed and cleaned and painted everything. Cleaned and repainted the block. Look at your #1 and #6 intake/exhaust bolts. Has either one broken off. Probably has. If so they need to be replaced before it warps the exhaust manifold. Perfect time to scrape, clean, repaint the block. Check my pics.
JLW069 - My comments about time and expense I think are accurate over all. But, we don't know what "restore" means to you. That means different things to different people.

From the most expensive, that may mean a show quality, frame off, powder coat the frame, every bolt and nut replaced with chrome, that he pays someone else to do. Or, maybe it is the same level restore but doing it all himself.

For the least expensive and most educational probably, it means to get the car running ok with scavenged parts, put a set of seat covers on the torn up existing seats, keep a blanket in the back because the heater doesn't work, enjoy it as a daily driver, and then make repairs, mods and upgrades over time.

And there are probably as many people in between those extremes as thee are Z car owners.

None are "right", none are "wrong". This depends on you: what is your ability level (I'm about a "1.2" on a scale of 1-10!); what can you afford to spend; how much free time do you have to work on this; can you work on it without it being a daily driver; etc., etc., etc.

This is a great site to learn on. From what I can tell (being a member since October?), if there is a fact about these cars, there is experience on this Board that wants to help. You will get the absolute most help (and start to make friends around the county), if you first spend a lot of time reading posts, doing searches for your basic questions, download from w3.xenons130.com the FSM and owner's manual, buy a Haynes manual also, and slowly learn from others here. Bottom line, there is a lot of help here from super knowledgeable people, and almost all are super patient.

Good luck and have fun!
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If you go back through this forum you can find information on almost anything that you will need. I am a high schooler and find my 1979 280zx in a field. It did not run or drive, paint was bad, interior was bad. I thought that it would be an quick restore project. That was about 7 months ago. Every thing these guys say on here is very helpful, however I would suggest that you purchase a Chilton's manual(O'Reiley's will have one). Like they said focus on one thing at a time. The Z cars are not like most cars from the time. I found it hard to strip everything off of it and start over, and know where everything belongs. It took me 6 months to get it running and I still do not drive it yet because I am trying to track down a Brake master Cylinder(better hope that yours is not broken). The guys on here have parts if you just put a want ad on here for what you need.
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Just a note to help anyone asking this kind of question, which right now includes me:

First, decide if you want to do a real, frame-off restoration where you disassemble the entire car and completely attend to any rust on the frame or body before repainting it and reassembling the car (i.e. serious investment of time and money, best done on a car that is already very solid), or whether you just want to clean up and update a running car.

Assuming you want a runner, a Z or ZX is actually a fairly mechanically robust car with fairly good parts availability compared to many less common old sports cars. The biggest problem on these cars is rust, and the best thing you can do for that is to wait before buying until you find one that looks very clean both walking around it and especially up on a lift. Particularly check the frame rails, crossmembers, floors, under and behind all wheel wells, under the doors, under the battery tray, etc.

Once you have a car in hand, get under it and arrest any rust you find as much as possible by cleaning it up and putting on rust inhibitors like por-15. Cleaning up the cosmetics of the body work is more tempting but probably actually less important in the long run. Next, identify any mechanical or technical problem the car has and start to identify how pressing it is and how to solve it, particularly anything that isn't right with the engine or transmission. Do reliability repairs under the hood-- plugs, wires, replace any brittle hoses, fix any leaking seals, replace long-wear items like the alternator, belts, radiator, brake components etc. unless they seem to have been done in the last ten years (history and receipts are good if you have them). This is all basic stuff you would do with any old car.

Next, and focusing now on the example of the ZX, it's common to update the whole suspension: all new bushings, struts, better sway bars if you want them, maybe also do a normal overhaul of the brakes and steering as well. It's easier to make a ZX handle very well than to make it accelerate a lot faster, and all of this is shade tree mechanic stuff with easily-sourced parts. If cosmetics are important to you and you've taken care of the body, then you can redo the seats, carpets, fix or cover the dash if necessary, fix any little faults in the cabin, replace the hatch struts.

Once all this is sorted, you probably need tires and your exhaust is getting close to dying. Clean up the wheels while you're at it, get a bigger exhaust, and maybe improve the air intake too for a little power bump. A couple of other parts will need to go, maybe the fuel tank or lines, or the clutch, or who knows what. Finally, there are two big concerns: replacing parts with what you wish the car already had (wrong steering option? wrong transmission? seats, wheels, turbo, etc.) and, eventually, rebuilding the engine, probably with a few power tweaks. These are big projects, you'd have to search for them separately. Once all this is done, the car is effectively restored-- so you'd better go back in and check on all that hidden rust again.
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My question what color is the car? If its the Citrus green we need to talk!
Hey cadet, screw chilton's, get the factory service manual on xenons130.com
Haynes is very helpful to a newbie as they have lots of pictures of a real car and relatively easy to use wiring diagrams.
Actually the color coded 4 page foldout wiring diagram in the back of my FSM hardcopy is a whole lot easier to read and follow wires than the haynes book. I have both and in the wiring diagrams the difference is night and day.The FSM beats the haynes hands down in wiring schematics.
I had those diagrams scanned by kinkos and saved as a large jpg. I sent them to Xenon and he posted them there.
Very Cool! :)
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