ZCar Forum banner

Engine swap or repair ... Opinions anyone?

715 Views 7 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  ezzzzzzz
New to ZCAR. I have recently got a 1978 280 Z for free! I previously owned a 1982 280ZX non-turbo when I was 16 (15 years ago) until my sister totaled it. I have been a fan of Z cars since I was about 14 and really started looking at cars. My new Z is not currently running, it has been sitting for over 15 years (in a covered garage) - PO stated that it ran when parked however. Only minor surface rust and great interior. My question is get the engine running that is in there or I have a donor 1981 280zx delux model that I can get for only a couple of hundred bucks with a good running engine and bad interior/body. What's the consensus as far as time/money on fixing the original versus dropping in the donor engine? I have never done an entire engine overhaul but I am pretty car savvy and can follow direnctions. I also have friends with needed equipment if I don't own it. I am just looking to have a speedy little sports car to drive around. I am not going to race it. I want a reliable engine. I will possibly be looking at doing some modifications to increase HP after I drive the car for a year or so and really get used to driving it. Of course I will be working on the suspension and brakes in addition to the engine. I know some dislike posts like this but I am just getting started and like when people post their opinions -- based on experience hopefully. Thanks.
Not open for further replies.
1 - 8 of 8 Posts
1981 ZX with 225K miles. but new transmission and clutch assembly less than 5,000 mile ago. newer (used) fuel injectors in it, a new radiator, new starter, alternator, water pump, rear stub axle, distributor.

1978 280z with apprx 160K unknown history other than engine sitting for 15 years
i agree with palladin.
my question is this - what's wrong with the engine in your 280z?
the PO said it ran when last parked, and it has been sitting in a covered garage.... so did he tell you if there was anything really wrong with the motor other than that is has just been sitting for some time?
did you try to crank her up? does it have a battery? is it charged? does the tank have any gas in it?
you should take a look and be sure that everything is there, the complete engine with all the stock goodies.
now, since it has 160k milage on it, it probably has the typical engine wear that most of our Z's have, which means it probably runs better than you think! chances are with a proper tune-up, oil change, filter change, new gas, adding some seafoam and cleaning all those corroded electrical connections will get it going nicely. expect problems, but they might not be anything major that you need to worry about at this time.
at least get it running, do your tune-up, and try to figure out what else might be wrong with it. no sense in taking out the ZX motor and doing the swap (it may even run worse than the one you got in your '78!) AND if you are planning on adding things to give you more horsepower for less money, do a complete turbo swap instead of the ZX n/a swap.

if you own both the Z and the ZX, why not get them both running, use one for your "Project Toy" and the other as a daily driver. this is what i do with my '76 280z and my '83 280zx....

See less See more
160k is nothing. well, i have some cars that have been sitting for more than 15 years, and i go up to them, lift off the gas cap,smell, and it smells better than the stuff we have now days. Pour some injector cleaner in it, make sure that the radiator is full, and crank her. Most likely it will run fine. also.. i wish i could find a z for free....
Hmm. Seems like the 280z motor is fine for refresh. To buy the same motor in the Deluxe. I wouldnt do that unless you were positive the 280z motor is toast. like a hole in the block, and caked up head, toast. The deluxe 280zx is rare past 79, and some find them more desireable than the gl. I if you got the cash, get the Deluxe anyway. It could be the perfect longer term fun build with nostalgia for you and the family. Meanwhile the ride is fine in the 280z. Whats a couple hundred bucks between old friends? That car was part of the family before the total loss event horizon. Now, you, have the power, to recover the missing family member! Can you imagine their faces when the paint is still a little soft, you just wiped it down, sun glinting off some crisp body contour. All the times it started right up, the places it made possible, the intimacy of the passengers, those memories, the stories, the stories.
I agree with the general trend at least as far as the engine goes: you'll probably be able to get it running again and maybe rebuild it or at least redo the gaskets to get it into proper order. You might very well want a parts car if you have space for one, but better to make it another 280z so you can take advantage of more stuff. Of course, it behooves you to get the current car running as soon as you can, because if there is a problem either with the engine or transmission, then that zx parts car might not be such a bad investment even if you can't keep it around after you loot the stuff you need.
Do the obivous. Drain the old gas out of the tank and put fresh in. Change out all of the vacuum lines and look for cracks in other ruuber hoses and boots that would allow false air in (non-metered air). Pull the distributor cap off to check for corrosion on the cap secondary lead contacts from sitting so long and replace if needed. Lift (carefully because their old and likely brittle) the other connectors off and spray with a bit of electrical contact cleaner. Pull out the fusible links and clean those contacts. Check a couple of fuses inside the car for corrosion and clean each if needed. Swap out the radiator hoses and heater hoses and refresh the coolant. The big advantage is it is EFI, not carbed. Carbs do not like sitting dried up like that for years. It should fire up with little problem. Don't forget to flush and fill the brake system too.
1 - 8 of 8 Posts
Not open for further replies.