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1977 280Z Manual
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64 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So yesterday I got my new acquisition situated into the spot where it'll be living while I fix it up...

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It's a little cramped and awkward there, so my first priority is going to be getting it to be able to move (and stop) so that I can shift it or turn it around easily.
 

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1977 280Z Manual
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64 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
So yesterday I checked the oil which looked surprisingly light brown... and over full.

Smelled like starter fluid, which I know the previous owner was using to run the engine. The fuel tank is completely outside of the vehicle so maybe he had been trying to diagnose or repair a bad fuel pump? Dunno. Either way, step 1 is to change the oil.

I'm planning to use 10w-30. The engine is high mileage but I'm reluctant to go to 10w-40 unless I hear noise.
 

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1983 280ZX Turbo
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Sounds like he has been pouring in gas or something else. Good call to change oil and filter immediately!!

Watch for any water when you drop the oil.
 

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1977 280Z Manual
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64 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Sounds like he has been pouring in gas or something else. Good call to change oil and filter immediately!!

Watch for any water when you drop the oil.
Yeah definitely. The radiator is bone dry so hopefully it's (just) an external coolant leak somewhere.
 

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1977 280Z Manual
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Oh, I suspect it's going to be a lot longer than a couple of months! I plan to take my time and do it right, but also I have a lot to learn in terms of body work. I used to be an ASE Master Tech so none of the mechanical work intimidates me, but I'm going to use this as an opportunity to pick up some new skills related to welding, body work, painting, etc.
 

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1977 280Z Manual
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
As I examine the car in detail, I've come to the conclusion that the guy I got it from (or maybe whomever he got it from) was starting to part this car out. The items missing seem weirdly random, with a bunch of miscellaneous parts in a mixing bowl sitting in the cargo area, like the fuel pump and what I believe is the fuel pressure regulator. Most of the interior is gutted, and the passenger seat is missing... as is the forward section of the center console where the stereo head unit would be.

Now I feel like I rescued the car, and that makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.
 

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1977 280Z Manual
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64 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Well I changed the oil today.

About 50% of what came out of that oil pan was coolant. Yay.

About 20 years ago I had a 280ZX with a blown head gasket and it wasn't hard to fix. I'm praying it's the same thing here. Compression test next I guess... and almost certainly we'll be pulling the head.
 

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1977 280Z Manual
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
So today I took a closer look at the firewall behind the battery tray, and lo and behold... rusty as it is, it looks like someone has welded in a patch there before. I k now it's hard to tell from this photo, but if you look at the very left edge you can see the bead. It looks like it's been patched either with a thicker steel sheet than the original, or they just welded over it.

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From the inside, I can see a hole just above where the frame rail meets the firewall.

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And I don't see a welded joint from the inside, further convincing me whoever welded that patch in, welded it on top of the existing metal.

Woof. Well, I was going to use this project to learn to weld...

The compression test is still a higher priority though. I need some wins on this project before I take on that sheet metal repair.
 

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1977 280Z Manual
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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Well, before tackling all that rust I want the motivational boost of getting her running. Put in a new battery today and...

It cranks!

Tomorrow I'm going to get a compression tester before I go any further.
 

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1977 280Z Manual
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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Well that was awful. Only 2 cylinders got above 100 psi, with the worst being 25.

1 - 50
2 - 90
3 - 105
4 - 25
5 - 100
6 - 40

Off with the cylinder head.
 

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1977 280Z Manual
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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
So as I pull parts to get the cylinder head off it gives me an opportunity to inspect things. I decided to start with the radiator and fan so I can get at the front cover.

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The radiator is actually in pretty good shape, leading me to believe it isn't original. Even so, I may put an upgraded unit back in. If so, I'll have an original type radiator for sale for anyone who needs one... :)

I think I'm gonna take a shop vac to all the dead leaved and dirt there on the splash guard.
 

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1977 280Z Manual
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
So on Saturday I started working on getting the intake manifold off. So far so good, though I'm pretty sure I rounded off one of the bolts holding the manifold heat shield on. Hopefully there's enough room to get some needle nose vice grips in there...

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I'm REALLY not looking forward to disconnecting that EGR tube.
 

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1977 280Z Manual
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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
After buying a 12mm flex end ratcheting wrench (6 point) the bolt I had feared was hopelessly rounded came right out, no fuss. So out came the heat shield.

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And then... the dreaded EGR tube. I decided to go for the upper nut that holds the tube to the intake manifold, since there was more room to work and it looked better than the lower by the exhaust. Just for giggles, I put a 1 1/4 wrench (yes, it's a bit too big) on it just to see what happened and...

It. Came. Right. Off. It was almost finger loose! So a couple easy nuts/studs later and...

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That... doesn't look great. Exhaust manifold next.
 

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1977 280Z Manual
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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Well... cylinder head's off.

I'm realizing that this car is, as one of my old Lincoln Tech instructors would call it, a "Gomer Pyle Special." Took off the thermostat housing and... snapped off one of the bolts at the head. Why? Because the bore was gunked up with gasket material and it was so hard to turn the bolt that the head snapped off. Well, at least I was able to remove the housing by turning the whole thing. Oh, and there was no thermostat in it.

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And to get that off by turning, I had to pull the distributor, and that bolt snapped off too.
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Today was the day for snapping bolts. Snapped an exhaust manifold stud and... A cylinder head bolt. Neato.

The camshaft looks awful. Just awful. Rust on the lobes and you can see where it scraped off when I was cranking it for the compression test.
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Awesome.
But with the head off I could inspect the gasket and pistons... You can see the snapped head bolt at the center of the top row. At least it didn't break off flush or inside.

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I was hoping for something more dramatic. Last time I did this on my old 280ZX the gasket was torn away in two places at the #2 cylinder. This one just seemed to have leaked. And then... the head. 5 cylinders were sooty, as expected.

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But yeah, take a look at #1.

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So now I have some decisions to make. I can:

  • Pull the engine and rebuild it.
  • Try to find a good L28 and hope it doesn't have issues and do a replacement or
  • Swap in something else, like a SBC.
I'm leaning toward the rebuild. I'm doing a resto-mod so it isn't that I'm committed to all original... I just like the engine and want to keep the car as close to original as possible, other than the modifications I have planned. (Rear disc brakes, bluetooth head unit, backup camera, LED replacement lights)

I think I'll wait and see what the machine shop says when I take this head in for pressure testing.

In any case, that engine's coming out. And while it's out, may as well go to work on fixing the rust holes.
 

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1983 280ZX Turbo
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My vote goes to replacing it. I see a LOT of machine shop work there, and I don't like the condition of that engine at all.
 

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1977 280Z Manual
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64 Posts
Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I'm gonna take the head to a machine shop on Monday and see what they say. I'd rather rebuild it than get a used one, since I could possibly be buying the same problems again. A crate engine is out of the question as far as budget goes at this point. It's been a while since I rebuilt one but I'm honestly looking forward to it, and my son (9) is super jazzed about the idea.

In the meantime, I'll need to be able to move the car and 2 of the tires won't hold air so I got some used replacements for now. The old ones were the wrong size (215/60R14). I guess somebody liked lower profile. I got the correct tires (195/70R14) and now the car is a bit taller in the front than the back but for now I don't really care. I'll have replaced the rears too long before it's time to test drive.

One of the rear wheels isn't like the others, and to be honest, I feel like I've seen a wheel like this on my dad's old Datsun B210!

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I have 4 that match, so at some point I'll get rid of this one. Anybody need a wheel like this? Let's talk.
 

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1977 280Z Manual
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64 Posts
Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Got the cylinder head back from the machine shop. Pressure test is fine so they fixed it up, did a valve job with new seats, milled it and glass beaded.

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And now the bad news... The cam lobes are damaged by the rust.

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Soo... looks like we need a new camshaft.
 

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I'm out of my area of expertise here but would a mild cam grind fix that lobe rust? My plan is to get a "stage 1" cam grind when I get to the point I'm doing engine work but luckily, my cam looks good already.
 
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