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1982 280zx N/A Questions

3934 Views 22 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  Fredlordofcheese
Hey there, Im a pretty full on newbie when it comes to Z cars. I found a car on craigslist the other day for a 1982 280zx in pretty **** good condition for $1200 (just within my price range) I browsed the forums, found a checklist of things to check for, checked out the car and took it for a test drive. I have to say I fell in love with the **** thing on the first little curvy bit of road I found. I definitely want to get it but the few niggling issues i found worry me because of my lack of experience.

The roof of the car, along the wind screen has 3 quarter sized rust spots. The wind screen itself has a big ass crack, so Ill be pulling it out and replacing it anyway. My biggest concern is how much work fixing rust spots is. Ive never owned a car that had rust issues (Hooray for California) so Im not sure how much time and effort need to be involved to clean it out.

Overall the car is rust free other then that spot, a smidge of surface rust in the spare tire compartment, and a little bit on the hood (which is getting replaced because of the gigantic trailer hitch mark that knocked the badge off) The biggest spot of rust is around the gas cap (but not inside the tank) but I imagine I could just pull the whole panel off and replace it.

The other thing i noticed is that the engine makes a clicking noise when it first starts up cold for a good 3-4 minutes then fades out. There is also a clear need to swap out some hoses soon, and swap out the brakes for some less worn ones.

I already fell in love with the sound, the feel of the car, and really just worry if this is a good car for a newb who would love to learn more. I plan to use it as a daily driver ( I work about 5 minutes from my home) and for fun drives on weekends.

Any and all advice is welcome and appreciated!
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The rust that tells you if its a parts car is on the frame rail and floor pan.
You could put 3 to 5 grand fixing up the car and would only be worth 2500 .
You would be smart to find one for 2500 that looks good runs good.

I was at the flea market two years ago. I got myself a wheel of imported
Swiss for 15 bucks. it was like 200 dollars worth of cheese.
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Rust is a bitch. You have to grind it out and seal it with Por15 or chassis saver. $1200 seems to be your deciding factor. Can you do it yourself? Anything you do with this car that has to be taken to a garage will quickly add up. Two things I look for is the dash and AC. Is the dash not cracked...wow what a find. Does the AC work? If not, that can be a chore. Mine worked for 2 hours after I got it. The PO had converted to R-134. The pressures were good, just no cold air. Long story short, I ended up completely disassembling the AC system, cleaning the expansion valve (which involved removing the dash), draining, cleaning the system and converting back to R-12. Now it puts out close to 35 degree cold.

If the engine is ticking and then stops, it sounds like maybe the oil ports are restricted and finally opens up once warmed. So you might wants to run a few cans of seafoam thru it.

But Blackman is right, you can easily spend 1000's you'll never get back. I'm just glad we can discuss the value of cars at ZCAR, over at HybridZ they want you to discuss anything financial with a stockbroker. So if you question why some moron gave a garage $21,000 of his $25,000 budget to fix a S130 instead of just buying a 3 yr old 350Z and then crying b/c nothing had been done to his car, they tell you not to discuss value of investments there. That could also be the reason there have only been a page of posts in the last 6 mos.
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When looking at a z car, the main thing to consider is rust, rust, rust, and lastly rust. I know BGM and Palladin already mentioned it, but it really bears a third mentioning. Rust is cancer for cars. It can also be compared to a tooth cavity. To kill it you have to spend the time and $ to fix it right. If you want to see what just "a little rust in the normal spots" can turn into when doing a restoration, check the link in my signature. What was initially going to be a quick cosmetic restoration to fix a little rust in the lower fenders and rockers quickly turned into a full blown nut and bolt restoration once I started surgery. I would do it again in a heart beat, but I definitely would have also kept looking for a better candidate knowing what I know now. Good luck!
I gave it a pretty good 20 minute twice over looking for rust, and other then the spots I mentioned I really couldnt find more. No frame rust, floors were pristine. Really the worst spot is under the front fender where the owner probably hit a curb or one of those cement parking blocks, and around the gas cap, which Im looking to price out just replacing the whole panel. I didnt get to check under the center of the car, but I brought a flashlight and checked as far in as I could see.

All the gauges worked but oil pressure seemed a bit finicky about when it would work, dash looks almost out of the factory, no cracks or marks (just a little dusty). The A/C and heater both worked, although the sensor for automatic climate control is out so its either off or full blast.

My goal for this car is to have some fun with it and learn a bit about fixing cars. I don't mind having to do some work and consider that a bonus. Really the only stuff I cant do myself (Yet!) is the complex mechanical things, but with a good repair manual (which I already downloaded) I can probably muddle my way through it. The previous owner has had it since August, and he bought it from the original owner who kept it garaged and took it out once every couple months.

jas280Z said:
If you want to see what just "a little rust in the normal spots" can turn into when doing a restoration, check the link in my signature.
**** thats a pretty car. I don't have near the facilities to do something like that, but I have a lift in an auto shop I can borrow and maybe some tools. I think my goal is to learn off this car, so if I **** something up its not alot invested, then down the road I'll know enough to pick up a 240z or 280z and really make it shine.
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The ol pressure gauge is notorious for crapping out. $35 at autozone. It is NOT a sensor that went out. There are many and that whole setup is a big pain in the ass. There is a bypass function you can try. But there are sensors in the front bumper, dash, vacuum powered heatercock, and a multitude of others. I finally converted mine to manual control. (remove the dash, replace the control panel, heater ****, and reroute some eng hoses.) I wonder though if I could replaced the heatercock with manual and juryrigged something...but you'd have to remove the dash to do that. You could sell the dash alone for 2-500 bucks. Is it a T-Top? Since it had auto air I also presume it has leather seats (which sit better IMO) and does have T-tops. You want to post the link for a better look?
It does not have a t-top, and the craigslist post had no photos. When I took it for a spin yesterday, I had too much fun and ran laps down a twisty road till it got dark. I meant to grab photos but just never got to it. If I end up seeing it again today I promise to grab as many as I can.

One thing I forgot to mention, the clutch is probably the smoothest action Ive ever encountered, absolute butter going in. The thing about the transmission is that the gear lever is loose as ****, wiggles side to side 2-3 inches on its own when in neutral going around a turn. I imagine its fairly easy to fix that.

It has a red leather interior, red carpets, and o fade on the inside back carpet. The passenger seat is nearly pristine, but the driver seat is a bit thrashed, small rips, folds, and fading on it.
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For 1200 I'd say go for it. And if you ever get the seats done...I want the suede from the passenger seat. Seriously!
If the car is gone beyond repair you can have the seats! I love the burgundy red color, and when the rust cleaning and bodywork is done I wanna do a black paintjob w/ matching red highlights.

Now I just have to get ahold of the seller again, Ill update with pictures if I end up getting it later on.
Shifter is an easy fix, it is usually just that the bushing has disintegrated over the years. Some people have had success with a brass bushing, I personally just replace them with the same part from my Nissan Dealer, one of the few parts I have ever actually purchased from them.
So I picked it up, only got 1 photo of my phone so far, its being a bitch about the rest but Ill take some much nicer ones tomorrow.

First impressions so far, shocks need replacing its far bumpier then I would like on our shitty CA roads. There is an audible click occasionally when the car is at lower revs, say 1-2.5k or so. Brakes could be stronger, e-brake has to point nearly straight up (probably needs a cable tightening) I drove the car about ~20 minutes from a cold stop, then I stopped turned the engine off for 5 mins, and it had a little trouble starting up again. Its cold as **** out though so that could be part of it. The interior is in far better condition then I originally anticipated, perfect dash, passenger seat, and carpets.

**** Im excited to own this baby and cant wait to get messing around with it!

edit: got a second photo


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It should start up quick even in cold weather. The click bothers me, and the oil pressure. Are you hearing a whirr from the fuel pump when the key is switched to on?
Hey be careful about the struts. When I got my 82 with 102k miles on it, I put it next to my 83 with new struts and springs. Yes the rear was shot...but the front was better than the 83 front with new shocks. We used to change the front struts as a matter of fact...but the truth is, they probably are ok and IMO the hydralic OEM are better than gas. In fact, When I had to go into my wife's maxima, the struts were OK, what needed replaced was the rubber bearing cap.

The noise you are hearing is probably the tie rods, maybe the ball joints, and probably the control arm bushings. Now I am all for pulling the strut (you'll need spring compressors, Harbor Freight for about $40 or rent from Autozone), wire brush it clean, repaint. While you are there replace the ball joint (there is 10 sets on Ebay for $15 for both), unless it is obviously OK (the ones on my pathfinder and maxima are still good with high mileage). You can go to NTB, etc and they will inspect it for free.

I did get my parts from Autozone or O'reilly just for the lifetime warranty. The tension rod bushings can be purchased from oreilly for $12 the set. The control arm bushings (need 2 total) are a bitch to replaced but can be done with a torch, vise and hacksaw...a press is even better.)

Well, Good luck. I'm excited for you. Take a look at mine by clicking on the signature.
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Alright, picture update!


part 2 - exterior


It should start up quick even in cold weather. The click bothers me, and the oil pressure. Are you hearing a whirr from the fuel pump when the key is switched to on?

I just changed the oil, and replaced the valve cover because it looked like it had some leakage, the clicking is there but fades out the higher rpms the engine goes to. I heard the whirr from the fuel pump when the key was on. The oil gauge has been freaking out a little bit, usually sitting at the far left, but occasionally flicking up to the middle then back down. Not sure what that means or if the gauge is just bad.
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1) Oil gauge: This is the pressure sending unit under the #3 plug. $35 at autozone lifetime warranty.
2) Back panels. Easily repairable if you get the right vinyl. Apply with 3m spray adhesive. See my pics.
3) Blackdragon sells a "dye" that is so close to the OEM color it is not funny. Even when new, there was multiple shades of red. This will take care of your strut covers and selected dash items. When I pulled my dash, I sprayed the metal piece by the windshield...mine had turned brown too.
4) Take a grinder to the gas cap area. Then seal with POR 15 or Chassis Saver. Bondo, smooth, prime, paint.
5) To do the top, the top chrome needs to be removed. Then there is a plastic strip that the chrome snaps into. I'm thinking this is glued to the metal. That will have to be removed. Then grinding, sealing, etc.
6) Hood will take some doing but a good body man can fix that...you might find one at a JY.
7) The back carpet isn't that bad but there is a place in SC that will provide the whole kit for about $250.
8) Biggest pain will come from that auto AC setup.
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Im just going to find another hood, there is a guy in town who has a lot full of dead, dying, or revived Z cars from 1970 to early 90s. I just gotta find his contact info again and coax him into parting out to me.

I plan to strip the whole car and repaint, the white was done really terribly about 10 years ago. Im half tempted to do a british racing green but I might just redo the white. Your car looks absolutely gorgeous with that combo. I was considering a black exterior but I hate how they look dirtier then they are when you get a little dust on them.

Ive never taken a grinder to rust, and its been about 6 years since Ive done any welding or stuff like that. Do you have any tips on how to grind it out? If that rust is all the way through front and back should I just cut it off and replace with bondo? Maybe I should replace that entire rear quarter panel (and the roof, since it attaches there, and it would save me some rust work)

I have a question about your car, was the louvers on the back hard to install? I dont have the mountings I think but I really want to get some to put on. I also love those tinted light covers you have on the front, how pricey are those?

Most of my worry at this point is mechanical, since that is my least knowlegable area, I want to make sure it at least runs even if it looks shitty. I took it to my mechanic and was walked through replacing the valve cover and a few of the hoses so itll pass the smog visual check. Right now the major issue is the ticking and the issue starting. Mechanic told me that is probably the flywheel but isnt a necessary replacement at this point.

Ill probably hold off on dealing with the AC, I gave it a good smack early this morning and it works fine right now 8) Blows hot air and I can control the fan speed somewhat.
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naw you won't go thru the metal. Cutting out a top and qtr panel would be a PITA and if you were off 1/8" it'd suck.

That ticking is probably the valves...I don't know why the flywheel would tick.

The louvers attach with two strips that slide under the rubber...so there is no drilling into the hatch. I'll send you a closeup.
I wasnt sure what the ticking was, the flywheel was the cause of the car not starting properly (needed to rev the engine for a minute or so to make sure it started, but it only happens once in a while)
Tell me you are not revving the engine with the starter engaged....
From the looks of the hood damage, the brakes may need to be checked. Or did that happen while on the phone?

Bonzi Lon
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