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1980 280zx Turbo Megasquirt Build and Story

12894 Views 6 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  skittle
Hey Guys!

I thought I would finally put my ZX in the Members Rides section. If you want pictures skip the novel I wrote lol!

It all started a few years ago... My dad and I saw this red 280zx on the side of the road when I was 16. I said "Hey Dad check out that neat looking car!" We stopped and checked it out. It was an automatic turbo coupe and there was no price listed so we figured it was out of our price range anyways. As soon as I got home I got on the computer and researched all about Datsuns. I was obsessed about them and loved the way S30s and S130s looked. Well we kept passing it for the next 1 year and it moved around the lot but never left. I eventually forgot about the car when it was not out in front of the shop.

Then a few weeks before my 18th birthday my Dad says "Get in the car and lets go for a ride." I agreed thinking he was tricking me into grocery shopping or yard work. We kept driving and driving. Eventually we arrived at our family friend mechanics shop about 40 minutes from our house. We went inside and talked with the owner and I was wondering why we were there. Finally after about 20 minutes of small talk my Dad says "Hey come around back with me and check this thing out." So I follow him around back into the parking lot that holds the cars that are waiting to be worked on. He lifts a cover and there is that maroon red 280zx! I was shocked to see it there. I asked why our family friend bought it because he hates foreign cars. My Dad started it up and motioned me to come closer. As I was walking towards him he threw me the keys and said "Happy Birthday!" My jaw dropped and my heart skipped a beat! I kept asking if it was really mine and I could drive it and work on it. He assured me it was mine. I jumped in it and drove home with the T-Tops off and the air brushing my big grin. Once I got it home I was so eager to clean it and make it mine. It was so awesome to have my dream car!

The problems of the car quickly became apparent. The turbo was shot and blowing oil, the suspension was beyond gone and the car needed new floor pans asap. We took the car to a friend of ours who knows Z31s and Z32s well. He worked on it for the entire winter and stored it for us. He replaced the turbo with a T3/T4 T04e, a new p90 head with a 3 angle valve job, and new floors. Once spring rolled around I had an awesome 280zx turbo to stroll around town with. I loved it! I would go girl trolling with my buddy and show the car off. Everyone's heads turned when I drove by. I parked my DD for this beauty.

Then I got a call from my cousin. He told me he wanted to see the car and he had something to show me. I drove out to his house and when I pulled in I saw a grey car with white racing stripes. I jumped out and he was working under the hood of a 1982 Chevy Malibu. I walked over and he was tuning a 750cfm double pumper carb on a 350 cui V8 he swapped into the car. It had some sweet Cragar rims and a nice spoiler. He got in and turned the car over and it rumbled to life with an ear shattering thunder. The car had Cherry Bomb mufflers and tailpipes that dumped just before the fat rear tires. I was in amazement! He backed the car out into the street and did an insane brake stand. The car sounded amazing and was ridiculously fast. (In a 19 year old's eyes) I was so jealous because his 5.7L V8 was twice as big as my tiny 2.8L I6 and was really powerful. I showed him my little straight six and he was interested in all of the wires and vacuum hoses. Eventually I went home and told my Dad how nice his car was and how it was much faster than my car. He then asked the question that would change that little Datsun for the rest of its life; "What do we need to make it faster?"

After a few weeks of research I decided on Megasquirt, 370cc injectors, a 3inch mandrel bent exhaust and an intercooler. We compiled our money and ordered the parts we needed. Once we got the parts in I stored them and waited for fall to start the transformation. Then I got a call from my cousin with the Malibu. He invited me to a cruise night down the road from him. My good friend was over and he agreed to come along. I brought the MS unit and some of the parts I was going to install that fall. The show was great, we had some soft server ice cream and all of the hot rodders were interested in my weird 280zx. It was time to leave and my cousin left first and challenged me to a little race. I stupidly agreed and my heart began to flutter with anxiety. He started the race and he took off ahead of me because I didn't pre-load the turbo and it lagged. He made a right hand turn sideways and I followed. I smashed the gas in the middle of the turn and the car slide sideways. I over corrected and the car snapped back heading right towards a ditch. I did what was natural and slammed on the brakes, but they locked and I continued right into the ditch and totaled my dream car... My friend and I got out without a scratch and surveyed the damage; it was not that bad looking but both A arms were toast and the frame was bent. I called my dad and told him I was in an accident. He was on his way that second, and then my cousin showed up. He turned around when I was not behind him anymore. He was concerned about my health but I was fine. My parents arrived and were happy my friend and I were OK. They were very disappointed that I wrecked the car and we called a tow truck to tow it home. I was devastated but I knew it was my fault. I fell into a depression while my destroyed car sat in my garage. I didn't look at it for the rest of the summer, fall or winter.

The next spring my Dad was like lets go look at your ZX and see what we can do. We pushed it out into the driveway and began dismantling it. It was a sad moment for me and him because of all the time we spent on the car. We were going to part the car out but while on Craigslist my dad found a white 1980 280zx a few towns over. We contacted him and checked the car out. It was a slick-top GL 5-speed. We compiled money again and purchased the car. As soon as we got the car we tore into it getting it ready for the turbo motor transplant. My spirits were lifted but I still felt terrible about the first ZX but I knew I had to get over it and do this Datsun right unlike the last one!

I have been slowly working on the 80 ZX for 2-3 years now and it has come a long way from where it was. We did a complete suspension, brake, engine, and steering overhaul. We also installed MS II v3. It was a very intense moment as the car started up for the first time since the accident. I cannot wait to finish the car this spring and take it to all the ZCCR meetings and cruise nights. I will NOT be street racing this ZX ever!!! I learned my lesson the hard and expensive way. I plan on making this car my baby and my new love.

I apologize for the wall of text and long story but it is the story of my ZX and important to me. So here are the pictures I promised!! I hope you like them! Remember this car is still in progress and the newest pictures are from last fall. As soon as I make some progress this spring I will post more pictures.

The first 280zx when I brought it home that hot August day.

First 280zx

First ZX Interior

Turbo Engine

Parting it out :(

The 80zx!


The work begins!

Red Calipers, using the scrap heat shield as a paint tray. Powerstop drilled rotors and pads

Tokico Blue Shocks/Struts, Eibach Pro-Kit Lowering Springs, and Urethane Bushings

5 Speed Transmission and 240mm Clutch

3.54 R200 rear end

Engine bay primed and ready for paint before engine install

Engine bay all ready for the engine! At this point I was going to use the stock turbo harness and ECU and not MS. I was nervous about the MS install.

Not too long after the MS install, hence the wires everywhere.

Engine Bay without hood

Synapse Engineering Synchronic BOV. I didn't want a loud obnoxious BOV

CXRacing 24x18x3 core intercooler. Fits perfectly in between the core support holes.

Painting the base coat on the Turbo rims.

Hand painted blue accents.

The final paint for the ZX will be the blue and silver two tone. I have heard it is called the Dallas Cowboy paint job. I plan on changing the interior over to black.

Some other mods/parts on the car are:

  • [li]Innovative LC-1 WBO2
    2 10in Electric Radiator fans
    2.5in polished aluminum intercooler piping
    3in mandrel bent exhaust with Borla XR-1 Bullet muffler
    Custom 2 gauge pillar pod with -30-0-30 psi boost gauge and Innovative WBO2 gauge.
    MSD Blaster Ignition Coil
    NGK Plug Wires
    NGK Iridium IX plugs[/li]

If you guys have any questions feel free to ask!

I will update this when I begin to work on the car this spring once the weather changes for the better.

Thanks for looking!!!

-Matt aka Yeti
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Very nice, Matt! Looks like shes coming along beautifully. I enjoyed the story and pictures. Gawd those rims that came on the white car were hideous. Nice touch refreshing the swastikas w/the blue accents. It sounds like during your swap you opted to dive straight into Megasquirt, instead of starting out with the stock ECU and harness, like some advise before switching to MS.
Is this correct? Anything you would change if you could go back and start over? The reason I ask is alot of times all you see is what people have installed and modded but you never hear how it came out in the wash or if their happy with their decisions.
Looking forward to pics of your car in the future!
That is badass love the way you painted the swaztikas.
Nice paint in the engine bay.Can we see pictures for rear end after paint.Also the intake looks clean without all the junk and the vacum and the EGR stuff
Thanks guys! Ya the rims came out awesome!

I never got notified that anyone responded to this.

Ya I will post more pics as I finish more but we have had the rainiest spring ever here in Western NY so its been a battle to say the least.

Tenno, I got the instructions on how to install the turbo harness and computer in the 80zx but I would have had to do almost as much rewiring as with the MSII. I had to rewire it for stock computer use and then rewire it again for MS later so I just went for MS. If I had to do it all over again I would have used nicer connectors, like the weatherpack ones DIYAutoTune sells. That would have made wiring much easier and cleaner, but at the time when I was wiring it that extra hundred or so $$ wasn't worth it. But hindsight is 20/20 lol. Overall I am very happy with MS it has been a challenge but I know so much about this car now and that knowledge is priceless.

Thanks again guys and I hope to finish some more soon and I will post the pics/videos as they come!

-Matt aka Tha Yeti! :)
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Hi, I love your built car looks nice, did you used the 280zx turbo distributor and the original coil with ignater bracket that raps around the coil with megasquirt?
I have done the turbo swap using the stock ecu then swapped to MS. My opinion, going straight to ms was a wise descision. Why do twice the work?
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