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1,986 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm gonna go look at a nice 77 280. I only got to see the outside, but it looks restored....it's sweeeeeeett looking. It has 125K on it and the guy is askin $5K. What should I be looking for, in the engine area, underside, areas that like to rust? sounds I don't wanna hear. I'm not too familiar with the the earlier z's so I'd apreciate some help on what to look for. What would the going price be for a this car in excellent condition?


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602 Posts
Just some usual suspect z-rust areas: Under rockerpanel door/carpet trim, under floormats, battery shelf and where it is welded in wheelwell, lower fenders behind front tires and in front of rears, under bottom corner edges of hatch gasket, front control arm mounts. If you can't get to floor pan at rear of seats, at least look around the rubber plugs visible under car in same area.

steve 77

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685 Posts
All the above and pull the dipstick and look at the oil , clean or dirty , if automatic check the color of the tranny fluid and smell it it should not be brown or smell burned, check the water in the rad is it clean look for oil in the water and water in the oil. Most likely if it has been restored it has been maintained, however if it has overheated the head could be warped , so in any case do look at both the dipstic and the coolent. Rust is the big thing as was mentioned above , another place is to feel under the doors for rust , if the drain holes in the doors are plugged or were , the inside of the bottom of the doors could be bad , so run your hand along the bottom of the door when you in the seat and feel for the scale or blisters in the paint. Check all the switches and lights to see that every thing works, and they should for the price of this car. Good luck to ya . One thing about these cars you get a lot of car for the money if you compair with what you have to pay newer sports car , and one that you will see 50 times a day . I love my 240 I rairly see another one around here maby one in a week. Gary Portland Or

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2,156 Posts
i have a 78 which is identical. when i was inspecting mine to buy i didnt look good at the area by the front hood hinges. it was all eaten by rust but the bottomside of the car was pristine. if i hadnt halted the rust the hood would have blown off!

i dont think i would have bought it if i had seen all the rust

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257 Posts
Here is a good check list.

Name: ______________________________________
[affix original ad here]
Address: ___________________________________
Dealer? Broker? Private?______________________
Time Zone Differential: plus / minus ______ hours
Phone: (h) __________________________ (w)______________________
(c) __________________________ (o)______________________
email: [email protected]__________
Date/Time: ___________________________
Model: ______________________________
Serial #: _____________________________
Mileage: _____________________________
Color: _______________________________
Interior: _____________________________
Asking Price $ ________________________


1. Can you describe the car and its condition?
2. Does it run well? How was the car generally driven?
3. How is the:____________
Body? ____________
Any Rust?____________
Paint work____________
Driver seat side bolster worn?____________
Condition/ curbed?____________
Original size?____________
Clutch? ___________

4. What special features or options does it have?
5. Any aftermarket parts on the car?
6. Why are you selling it?
7. How long have you owned it? ...had it for sale?
8. Is it currently registered and licensed?
9. Where is the car located?
10. Is it a US or European Car?
11 If European, do you have original DOT / EPA paperwork?
12. What problems have you had with the car?
13. What gas mileage have you been getting?
14. Has it ever been hit or in an accident?
15. Has the car been raced or had track time?
16. Any major components been replace?
17. Has there been any Warranty work done?
18. What work remains to be done or corrected?
19. Are there any missing parts?
20. Do you have any extra parts or wheels for it?
21. Are you the Original Owner?
22. Is there a traceable ownership history on the car?
23. Can the previous owner(s) be contacted?
24. Is there a complete service history on the car?
25. Who was your mechanic? name/address/phone?
26. Are there any repair or gas mileage records?
27. Oil change interval? Type of oil?
28. May I bring the car to a place where it can be put in the air for inspection?
29. Has it passed emissions recently?
30. Any interesting history?
31. What's the least you're willing to take for it?
32. Additional questions...At this point you might want to schedule an appointment to see the car yourself or have it inspected by a third party. In the interim you may want to have the seller fax or send copies of certain records such as the title(both sides) and verification of major services / repairs ?
If the seller hesitates or insists on a deposit first be wary!


What's your gut reaction?
Does this car seem like a possibility?
Does the current owner seem like he cared for the car?
Why am I interested in buying "this" car?
Am I willing to pay a premium because someone else has already done most of the serious work on the car? or is this a car I can buy cheap and put some sweat equity into?
What is the most that I'm willing to pay for this car?
What is the least that I think that the car can be had for?



It can be said that owning a old car is not a logical decision, but one of emotion.
Nonetheless buying a old car (especially your first) with your heart over riding your head can lead to a less that enjoyable experience inthe long run.
Here's a LOGICAL checklist and some suggestions on how to go about evaluating a old car without letting emotions get in the way.

Remember: patience is a virtue and is often rewarded. If this isn't the car, there will be another and don't forget the age old cavaet: If it sounds too good to be true...!


1. Read some of the "How to buy Used Cars" books available at your library. They provide useful strategies and cautions that go far beyond the scope of this list.

Also, review this list carefully before using it. Also check out as much about the model old car as you can thru books, past magazine road tests, and general knowledge of owners you talk with online, at old car events or info you gather in searching foryour old car.

2. Always inspect/take delivery of the vehicle in the broad daylight,never in the evening/night or in the rain.

3. A clean piece of cardboard placed under the engine/trans after the test-drive will help show fluid leaks.

4. In some states, older non-titled vehicles may be titled with just a bill of sale. Other states may require an additional security bond to be posted. Use extreme caution in either of these cases!
Make sure title is not marked "SALVAGE" or "TMU" True Mileage Unknown.

5. Require seller have the vehicle pass all state inspections (safety, emissions) at a mutually agreeable shop (NOT one of his choosing) before you pay for it. Old (>30days) inspections are of absolutely no use to you.

6. A general guide to reading exhaust smoke:Black smoke = unburned fuel Valves bad or out of adjustment? Carb out of adjustment? Blue smoke = burning oil Accelerating: Piston rings bad? Decelerating: Valve seats/guides bad? White smoke = burning coolant! Bad head gasket? Warped or cracked Head or Block?$$




A cynical, mechanically-minded friend, Your standard toolset, Voltmeter, Compression Gauge, Tire gauge, Flashlight,Magnet, the two different spark plug sockets, spray lube, clean rags Clipboard, pen and hi-liter to use with a photocopy of this list, some cash, drivers license and copy of your insurance showing you are covered driving the sellers car. Optional: tow rope, starting fluid, jumper cables, timing light, ramps,jack (floor or scissors), mirror, coveralls, rags, gas can, oil, duct tape, wire, repair manuals, misc, fuses, calculator.


(Don't start the engine yet)


(Do all of the following agree and seem right?)
Name on title:____________________________________________________
Name on registration:______________________________________________
Model/Year on title:_______________________________________________
VIN on title:______________________________________________________
VIN on registration:________________________________________________
VIN on dash:______________________________________________________
VIN on door:______________________________________________________
Mileage on title:____________________________________________________
Mileage on odometer:_______________________________________________
Price on title:______________________________________________________
Asking price:______________________________________________________
Blue Book price:___________________________________________________


OK Not-OK___ _____

Title ready for transfer? Any liens?___ _____
Do body numbers match those on title?___ _____
Title in sellers name?___ _____
Title marked Salvage or TMU?___ _____
Do body numbers match registration?___ _____
Current Emissions certificate, < 30 days old?___ _____
Current registration? Current Plates?___ _____
Current Safety certificate if req'd, <30days?


OK Not-OK___ _____

Check door edges and underside for rust/tears___ _____
Check doors/hinges for stress/tears___ _____
Doors/hoods open/close freely? ___ _____
Rubs?___ _____
Is anything obviously broken?___ _____
Are grill/lights cracked, dented or broken?___ _____
Car sits level? (view from all sides)___ _____
Are bumpers dinged? Rusty? Loose? Level?___ _____
Paint OK? Panels same shade? Cracks?___ _____
Any of the trim or hubcaps rusty or missing?___ _____
New paint? Why? Any body ripples?___ _____
Find bottom of trunk/side wells. Rust? Holes?___ _____
Rust/repair on body? Fenders? Sills?___ _____
Raise/lower the top. Condition? Does it leak?___ _____
Any Bondo? Fiberglass? (magnet) Why?___ _____
Rubber parts and seals condition? Cracked?___ _____
Any fender dings or misalignment? Why?___ _____
Gas tank & fill hose OK? Rusty? Patched?___ _____
Door/hood dings? Misalignment? Why?___ _____
Jack OK? Spare tire good? Jack points good?___ _____
Tires: Tread? Bulges? Cracks? All the same model/brand?___ _____
Rims: Bent? Rusted? Cracks? All the same?___ _____


OK Not-OK___ _____

Anything dented? Bent? Welded? Why?___ _____
Any underbody/floor pan/trunk rust?___ _____
Any rocker panel or wheel well rust?___ _____
Are main frame members rusted? Dogs?___ _____
Disks grooved? Brake pads? Any leaks?___ _____
Turn, push/pull drive shaft by hand___ _____
Any movement or slop? U-joints OK?___ _____
Constant velocity joints and boots OK?___ _____
Camber? Caster? Tire wear even?___ _____
Suspension loose? Pull on side/top of wheels___ _____
All shocks & struts damp OK? Any leaks?___ _____
Exhaust pipe / cats / muffler solid & original?___ _____
Tail pipe: Grey=OK, sooty/oily/greasy=Not-OK___ _____
Anything hanging down, taped or wired up?___ _____
Any non-stock suspension mods?___ _____
All emissions / smog equipment intact?___ _____


OK Not-OK___ _____

Anything broken? Patched? Leaking?___ _____
Is engine clean? Any rust? Stock?___ _____
Has it overheated? Paint blistered?___ _____
Check fluid levels. Look for leaks___ _____
Check fluid condition with flashlight___ _____
Any play in main crankshaft pulley?!$___ _____
Any play in any of the other pulleys?___ _____
V-Belts cracked? frayed? missing?___ _____
Radiator corroded? Hoses cracked?___ _____
Check coolant; run finger inside radiator neck to check for oil.___ _____
Heater hoses stiff? Cracked? Patched?___ _____
Vacuum hoses stiff? Patched? Capped? Missing?___ _____
Is emissions equip original & working?!$___ _____
Are catalytic converters original & working?$___ _____
Distributor, cap, rotor, and points OK?___ _____
Wiring harness appearance? Any new electrical tape?___ _____
Open fuse box. Any missing? Any wiring hacks?___ _____
Any non-stock engine modifications?___ _____
Remove grounding cable, check for shorts___ _____
System polarity: + or - ground?___ _____
System voltage: ___________ volts___ _____
Battery age/voltage ______/_____ volts___ _____


OK Not-OK___ _____

Is anything broken? Torn? Patched?___ _____
Carpets OK? Underlayment condition?___ _____
Rust, rot or water under the carpets?___ _____
Any wiring hacks under the dash?___ _____
Seats dirty or torn, redyed? Look under cover___ _____
Do both seats adjust?___ _____
Dash cracked? Headliner torn/dirty?___ _____
Windshield cracked? Chips? Scratched?___ _____
Windows all open & close freely? Any cracks?___ _____
Mirrors all present and adjustable?___ _____
Steering play? Does shaft move at all? Why?___ _____
Brake pedal feels right? Smooth? Firm?___ _____
Clutch pedal feels right? Smooth?___ _____
All gauges/controls work? Stereo? Tape?___ _____
Headlights high/low work? Lenses OK?___ _____
Tail and side lights all work? Lenses OK?___ _____
Brake lights all work? Any broken lenses?___ _____
Turn signals all work? Any broken lenses?___ _____
Windshield wipers & washer work?___ _____
Heater, defroster, AC, and fans work?___ _____
Safety equipment (seat belts, horn work?)___ _____
Sound system installed competently?___ _____


Temp gauge should come on! Connected?___ _____
Oil gauge should come on! Connected?___ _____
Charge warning light should come on!___ _____


OK Not-OK___ _____

Temp gauge works?___ _____
Oil gauge works?___ _____
Charge warning light goes out?___ _____
Do all idiot lights go on/out right?___ _____
Are all other instruments working?___ _____
Does it start easily when cold?___ _____
Does it run smoothly when cold?___ _____
Depress clutch several times. Noises?___ _____
Oil Pressure: idle_______ 4000 RPM__________ _____
Volts/Amps: idle_______ 4000 RPM__________ _____
Any odd engine noises when cold?___ _____
Exhaust condition/noises? Pressure even?___ _____
Cap pipe with clipboard. Any exhaust leaks?___ _____
Any deposits on clipboard? Does it smoke?___ _____
Turn car off. Does it restart? Restart again.___ _____
Now pull forward. Check for leaks on ground.___ _____
Do you have any gas? Does gauge really work? ____ _____

---TEST DRIVE (Allow 30-40 minutes)

OK Not-OK___ _____

Test the foot and hand brakes first!___ _____
Relax, drive a bit to get used to it.___ _____
How does car ride? Soft or hard?___ _____
Revs smoothly to red line? flatspots?___ _____
Any unusual engine noises / vibrations?___ _____
Any drive train noises or vibrations?___ _____
Any noticeable slop in drive train?___ _____
Reverse works? Rev.lights go on/off?___ _____
Trans shifts smoothly to all gears?___ _____
Overdrive engages / disengages properly___ _____
Turbo engages / disengages properly?___ _____
Any clunk's, whines, rumbles, rattles?___ _____
Clutch smooth? Slippage on hill test?___ _____
Hand brake works? Test against engine___ _____
Is the low engine speed operation OK?___ _____
Brakes strongly to stop from 50mph?___ _____
Do brakes still work? Stops straight?___ _____
Make 2 tight 360' turns each way. Any noises?___ _____
Accelerates smoothly from dead stop?___ _____
Are there any hesitations / flat spots?___ _____
Does the power seem right? Hill test.___ _____
Is it running too hot or cold? Why?___ _____
Drive beside a long wall. Any unusual sounds?___ _____
Is it too noisy in general at highway speeds?___ _____
Any noises or vibrations when accelerating?___ _____
Any noises or vibrations when coasting?___ _____
Any noises or vibrations when decelerating?___ _____
Any noises or vibrations when braking?___ _____
Steering action loose or tight? Parallel park.___ _____
Handles OK on bumps, curves and sharp corners?___ _____
Bad understeer, oversteer, lean?___ _____
Tracks straight with hands off steering wheel?___ _____
Brakes straight with hands off steering wheel?___ _____
Brakes still work? Pulls? Pulse? Drag? Noises?___ _____
Having fun yet? Comfortable? Does it fit you?___ _____
Do the heater, defroster and AC work right?___ _____
Are all the instruments & lights still working?___ _____
Now let it idle a while. Is temp stable/OK?___ _____
Any exhaust, gas or coolant odors? Pull forward.___ _____

Turn it off.

Go back to check ground for leaks.
Have friend get out and watch the car driving or ideally have him follow behind:OK Not-OK___ _____
Tracks straight? ___ _____
(Frame bent?)___ _____
Smokes?___ _____
Wheels wobble? ___ _____
Any noises?___ _____
Leans? ___ _____
General impression?___ _____


OK Not-OK___ _____

Open hood.
See or hear anything unusual?___ _____
Does engine seem too hot?___ _____
Check for fluid leaks after shutdown. ___ _____
(Oil, Coolant, Hydraulics, Trans, Fuel, Differential)___ _____
Check oil cap and dipstick for signs of water. ___ _____
(Oil off-color, brown / grey / white or bubbly)___ _____

For the truly paranoid:OK Not-OK___ _____

Compression test: (disconnect coil, remove ALL plugs)1. Dry:1____ 2____ 3____ 4____ 5____ 6____ 7____ 8_____

2. Oiled:1 ____ 2____ 3____ 4____ 5____ 6____ 7____ 8____

3. Plug condition? (OK? Burnt? Oily? Sooty?)1 ____ 2____ 3____ 4____ 5____ 6____ 7____ 8____ Does it restart when warm? _____ _______
Why not? _____ ________


· Registered
1,986 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks everyone!!

Wow, this must have taken you quite a while to type this all up. It's a great list though, thanks.

Everyone thank you, I'm gonna go drive it on Sat......can't wait. I'm curious to see how the power in this is compared to my 83 zxt.

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