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Working on Z verses ZX?

1678 Views 19 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  Jaket2k9
Howdy from Texas!

I'm new to ZCAR and am on the prowl for my first, which explains my head popping up here. Trying to decide FIRST on a Z or ZX. Love em both for multiple reasons, but read on & help me with my decision...

I'm an experienced aircraft mechanic specializing in structures & sheetmetal, very little (almost none) experience with engines, systems, or electrical (aircraft, that is).

I have never worked on a car save for a tranny replacement of my Datsun 210 as a teenager, a recent radiator replace of my modern Honda Civic (very easy) and a bunch of oil changes. Was gonna do my timing belt but realized, looking at manual, it'd be an all-weekend affair, the complexity scared me a bit, plus I had ZERO desire to work on my Honda. It was just an attempt to save money on my only mode of transportation.

My Z, or ZX, will be altogether different. I DO want to work on one, I'm highly motivated to learn, and honestly believe I'm highly capable with tools & manual, and ZCAR.com in hand! It'll be a new hobby, in other words, to slowly restore a Z to showroom condition, which is my goal.

So, my question is, do you experienced Z-car mechanics/restorers think I'm getting in over my head, being unrealistic, or will experience a big learning curve thinking I'll be able to tackle just about anything on a Z or ZX? Also; Is it true that a Z is going to be simpler than a ZX to work on/restore, given the older year models (the ZX just appears much more complex)? If you've worked on multiple car models/types, is a Z or ZX easier, more complex or average if you compare it to any self-imposed "standard" of maintenence/restoration complexity?


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i think it's more of a question of how old do you wanna go.. Because (I could be wrong) 240z, 260z, 280z, 280 zx, 280zx-t, 300zx (Z31, Z32), and then 350z and 370z is how it goes, and each of them has different characteristics.. from engine size to configuration..
It will come down to $$$$ your willing to invest and only get the value out in personal achievement. Z's can be found cheap in need of love but the love they return can be one sided. Take your time and test drive a number of different models to find one you can't live without. Good Luck!!!
So far between the pre 79Z and the 85ZX I prefer my 83ZX for ease to work on or the 80s ZXs in general. You got the arm room to work and the more you work on it the more simple things get.

Just like today, I started trying to get my wiper and defog to work I ended up Getting the fan to work allot better the clock to fire right up and its pretty I did a little dance for that and also all 3 horn buttons. Now the disadvantage of owning a 80s car is the electrical is crammed in and bulky unlike a 70s car with less electronics and more fun or a newer car with easier to work with electronics just a computer plug away. I do think the 82-85ZX was the peak of design. Things like the Turbocharger and the American Transmission and a self checking computer with some digital dashes where catching up with the times instead of the Raw sports car of the 1970s. Now 84-89 you got essentually a Japenese made Camaro minus the V-8 and some back seats but on the plus more features and better economy. Now you get into the 90's and they changed the body again ferther away from the Z cars orignal looks into a sportier T-top or some with Tegra top Twin Turbos and etc. Now the 2000's they made it bubbly and more euro looking then Japanese in my opinion but thats beacuse Renult bought part of the comopany.

These are partial observations I made while picking through the junkyards getting car parts and looking inside other Z cars. Just reacentally I picked a set of 280Zs and I think a 240 at the local junkyards and while doing so I try to learn allitle about them while I go allong.
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>i think it's more of a question of how old do you wanna go.. Because (I could be wrong) 240z, 260z, 280z, 280 zx, 280zx-t, 300zx (Z31, Z32), and then 350z and 370z >is how it goes, and each of them has different characteristics.. from engine size to configuration..

I deleted the HTML tags, they didn't look "right" & I wasn't sure if I made a mistake doing my first reply. I'll learn, though, Ive spent many years on Usenet.

So, the above is from Sidney5101..I should've been a bit more specific in what I'm "prowling" for, giving ya'll a better idea of what I'll be working on.

For years I've wanted a 280zx (but see below) because my college roommate had an 82 2+2 which is when I fell in love with these cars. I don't like the body design change with the 300ZX (with all due respect to you 84 & newer folks) so 83 is as new as I'll go. It was too radical a departure from the "traditional" Z look IMO. Any year, I guess (I've no preference until you tell me pros/cons), though there's something about the 1983 2 place that really "grabs" me in the looks department. I DO want the cruise control, power windows, locks & mirror & a T top would be cool, too. I've never had these luxuries & do realize they're just more things to break/leak, but when done right one time (& I plan on doing things "right") I'm assuming I'll get many years out of these convenient amenities. I also want cold working A/C (here's where you call me a "Wuss," though in lurking a few days I know there's a seemingly-strict-but-fair moderator who may not take too kindly to that!). Central Texas in the Summer is pretty miserable plus this'll be my driver & I do travel in the Summer as well. Shoot, I've never had cruise & I love it in every car I've borrowed or rented that had it.

I've never even considered a 280 Z, thought they were "missing" something with the shorter/smaller looking rear cabin & triangular windows (o.k. here's where you tell me what they're "officially" called. The cool little windows, I mean). However, I have fallen head-over-heals for the look of the 280 Zs now! In fact, I'm not sure which I want to hunt for, a ZX or a Z. Year on a Z? Gee, I can't say as my research is in it's infancy. Again, A/C is pretty important to me though I think it's harder to come by with a Z???

If I'm not mistaken, it appears that on average a Z (260, maybe 240?) is more expensive generally, on average, than a 280ZX in comparable condition. Is this true? Is it due to these cars being harder to find? More preferable? A 1970s Z also appears much less complex & roomier to work on, though Sidney seems to think otherwise.

Do the 83 or older 280ZX's have computers in them? O.K. I need to stop. I guess you can tell I'm pretty hyped up & have tons of questions about my dream car.


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For ease of maintenance - the n/a (naturaly asperated = carburator) is the less complicated L28 engine with less pollution controls.

The 240Z was the Japanese sports car that destroyed the British sports car market. Z cars were 1/3 the price of Porche and Jaguar and could hold there own in speed and hanling with both if not beat them with a tuned engine and a good driver that knows what he/she is doing.

BTW: the best modification to any car for speed and handling is an experienced driver who know ehat they are doing on road or track.

The 240Z and I'm told 260Z are light true sports cars and hence will be a bit harder suspension to feel the road.

But the Z's got heavier. by the time of the 280ZX they put on almost 1,000 more pounds in wheight (a/C and other stuff) and were not the old zippity 240Z. But a new s130 280ZXT = turbo gave the Z car new life and a lot more spring in it's step so that old timers felt the Z was back on track.

Think of 240-260Z's as no frills sports cars and the 280ZX Turbo as a very fast luxury cruiser that looks like a classic sports car.

Get a Field Service Manual for any Z you buy and that is your bible. You will have a whole congregation of supporters on this and other Z sites. Join your local or nearest Z club.

The clubs have the best info on local mechanics, parts and cars.

You sound like a guy who can follow instructions so the mechanicals are not beyound your ability.

The real test is diagnostics. AI put over $4000 to get my 280ZXT back to original factory spec. after finally learning that there are a ton of mechanics that don't know what the **** they're talking about. Sure you can replace parts and hope for the best - maybe.

My local club put me in touch with a master Z car guy - who will tell you right off that he is not a mechanic - he is an electrical engineer. Who has diagnostic equipment most dealers don't have.

The later the Z car the more complicated the mehcanicals and electricals will be.

I think you best bet for your 1st Z car will be a 280ZXT. I say 1st becasue the Z car has a very big problem attached to it. A virus if you will.

You just can't stop at one. See my Signature.

You will get a bug for every Z car you see and you will want to dive and then own all the other models. Like dogs and cats they all have there own personality and you will go AI like this one, but then on the week end I like this one, but for everyother day driving I'm partial to this one.

What ever you choose - you will be in good company. Read all the sites and separate the wheat from the bullcrap. Join a club and become an insider.

As my wife's ball cap used to say" I'm mechanically inclined. I screw everything up". That's why my mech - ah electricall egineer won't let me buy another car untill he inspects and ok's the car first.

Welcome to and enjoy the addiction.
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Agreed.. Sorry if i seemed to mis lead you, But like what erzelda said, they all have a different flavor.. Personally I own a 93 300zx N/A and I love it.. I started out over the summer with no idea about cars and their internal workings, and a handful of motorcycle maintenance under my belt.. But because of the Bug I quickly learned a lot and have spent a lot of time researching topics.. So personally I don't think it's a what's simpler question but a what are you more interested to learn about.. Looking forward to hearing about your purchase.
I went the 90-96 300zx route and I couldn't be more happy.

I'm 19 years old, have replaced the valve cover gaskets, timing belt, water pump, interior parts, and a LOT more all on my lonesome. I'll be tackling an entire engine pull this weekend. So if I can do it, I'm sure an aircraft mechanic will have no problems.

The 300zx can be a fickle beast, but the reward is worth the time put in.

Being from and in Houston and I didn't ask you where in Texas are you? I'll put you in touch with my mech/elec. engineer. What did you want to spend?

For anyone interested - Kin Chen has a '91? 300zx TT - yes Twin Turbo - it's on consignment and the owner is asking $8,000. Runs well sounds great but I have not driven it. Too wet and I won't risk someone elses car on a test drive.

Red with two front black fenders - interior grey cloth that looks good, well cared for.

I'd think about selling ZXena - but after putting in $5k to have her running like a dream I need to keep her a few more years before I even think about trading and then it would be like giving away your favorite dog.

I would have said child - but in past experience - at certain ages and temperaments I'd have given my child away in a heart beat. Took a **** of a long time to get him out of the house anyway. But then he became a mechanic so things are evening out.
You may want to do a little research on availbility of parts for a z versus a zx. I know that all the catalogs I have contain many more parts for the 240z,260z,280z and the 300zx's than the 1979-1983 280zx. For some reason the 280zx doesn't have much in new replacement parts.
Kyle, What are you going to school for? I'm 19 and A Biochemistry major and wouldn't trust myself with half that list yet.. I think I'm borderline insane for doin research on a pellenium pull let alone the whole engine!

But yeah, aircraft mechanic? I don't think you'll have any problems, From what i understand it's more of a Knack for figuring things out rather than being book smart about it..
I am a Biology and Neuroscience double major. I also work as a waiter and volunteer at my local fire dept as an EMT. Not to mention I'm engaged. So like I said, if I can do it, he can do it.
Now, I repalced the Alternator, plugs, plug wires, cap and roater replacement, starter cylanoid, Clutch master cylander, Clutch slave cylander, brake pads, brake master cylander, brake pins, fixed some of the hoses fixed the fuse placememnt, sew the seems in my new seats, ignition switch, and had fun with fusable links.

Iam not a Biology double what ever in the nuromajig depot but Iam the same age as you guys maybe a little older but Iam just an Eagle Scout with Machining, Trucking, CNC, CAD/CAM, Chemistry and learning Welding. Yet, Iam getting a crash course in automechanics everytime I open that hood on the ZX.
Something else to think about is what you intend to do with the car beyond just driving. What are you build goals: Stock or Modified and if so, how much?

If you go the ZX route, a ZXT (turbo) gives more power over n/a, which helps with dealing with the added vehicle weight. Additionally, you can easily build on the HP through a few mods to increase boost pressure. An intercooler (IC), a boost controllerm boost gauge and a little tuning can net you ~100HP more with no other mods needed.
Texas, I have worked and learned on both. The zx would be a good start simply becuse of body hasnt had time to rust as much as the older ones. This equals generally less bodywork. A solid not so rusty, maybe a shaggy car with good metal. A good structure.
heroe said:
>"Texas, I have worked and learned on both. The zx would be a good start simply becuse of body hasnt had time to rust as much as the older ones. This equals >generally less bodywork. A solid not so rusty, maybe a shaggy car with good metal. A good structure."
I'm gonna leave the HTML tags & see what happens. I really need to read the lesson(s) on posting, replying & such.

I believe I'll look for an 83 280 ZXT, mostly stock, few mods, if any, very good/excellent condition. That is today...tomorrow I may want a Z again! The only certainty now is I want my first being an 83 or older.

It's really interesting that you, and I believe others, say a ZX might be a better start. Side by side the pre-79 Zs (not ZX) appear much simpler & easier to work on.
I asked about the ZX having any technology inside of it (ie; computer chip?)? The ZX looks more crowded under the hood, in cabin and about twice as involved just from photos I've seen so far. Not that I mind. The only issue is, and this answers someone's question, this car will almost certainly be my only car and will be driven quite a bit. Time spent working on car will ideally be limited to weekends with occasional major issues spanning several days/weeks possibly.

I am undecided on stock vs. mods but I will say this does not presently strike me as big a deal as it is to some who're reading this. I'm not a fast driver/racer and am not necessarilly interested in increasing power and/or speed. I really, at first, want to own a Z/ZX in good to excellent condition, which won't need lots of TLC/work immediately. I do desire to have my Z/ZX in almost-showroom condition eventually, which I know's a challenge always driving it. All these opinions could change...quickly!

I just want to drive, turn heads, and get to know/ learn to work on this car I've long been fascinated with.

As far as the body of Zs, rust, other corrosion & such, this is a huge part of my career/living! I'm an A&P mechanic/pilot presently working on heavy maintenence & modifications on P-3 Orion airframes, which are 40 year old military 4 turbine-engined rust buckets! (sorry..."corrosion", aluminum don't "rust"). I deal with lots of airframe deterioration due to corrosion and we regularly cut out & replace huge portions of our airplanes. We also treat lighter corrosion with a number of methods and fabricate skin, patches, doublers and generally due whatever is needed to keep a 4 decade old airplane flying that's been flying low over lots of salt (water) and sand. All to say bodywork might be the aspect of closest familiararity to me. With the work I do, it often strikes me as odd reading about concern over wrecked cars being sold, rust and bent/broken auto frames. I know I need to realize a typical person can't afford to spend thousands to have his car's frame straightened and/or rebuilt (which is possible but usually unrealistic) when every week I'm straightening & repairing massively bent/broken airplane bodies. The difference is the government is paying for the work I do, they won't pay for your Z's bodywork!

Anyway, I appreciate all the interest/help/replies & can tell this will be a tool of utmost value in my upcoming ownership of a Z/ZX. Oh - someone asked my Texas city, it's wonderful Waco, which is an incredible city no matter what you think, say, or believe! One thing about Waco, I'll be one of the few (the only?!) owners/drivers of a Z car here. Yes, that is part of the reason/attraction in wanting a Z!

Awright, I'm long-winded, but this newbie is growing more excited with each day that brings me closer to Z ownership!

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OK, I'll toss this out there for whatever its worth...a nickel on Sunday, a dime on Tuesday and nothing on Thursday...

I absolutely love my 83 280ZXT! First family Z was 78 280Z. Do I want a 1st gen? YES! Would I get rid of my 2nd gen to do it? No way! Darn thing has been in the family since new. Its a part of the family. Mines been modified to meet my wants & needs. Its getting real close to finally being done to my tastes...as done as a BOOST ADDICTION will allow.
The s130 = 280ZXT was from 1981 to 1983. !984 the Z31 or first gen 300zx (V6) came out.

I'd say get 82 or 83 ZXT - parts are not hard to find - don't worry about pollution controls (register as an antique) computer is simple and ususally not a problem.

The 81 like I have is a slightly different animal than 82 and 83 but if you mechanic knows about Z cars then this is not a problem. Just some parts are a little different ande placement too than in 82 83.

Get the most complete and best condition you can afford. Rust in these models is a bug bear and must be watched for and corrected.

But it's like an old Sandra Bullock movie - take off the glasses and the lab coat and let down the hair and you have a super star.

You'll be happy with the 280ZXT - keep as a daily. Don't over look 2+2 models - some guys just don't like the style - but to me they are just as stylish as any Z and with a bit more room and fold down seats make it a very practicle get around town car.

Try puttin in a Golden/Labrador - 90lbs - 100 wet. It can be done easier with t-tops but you have to put up with the dog riding on your shoulders.
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I prefer the early Z's but anyone would suffice. You'll get the overall satisfaction of having your own car when it's done. Not too many cars share the same features as a Z. Just the sheer beuty and the lines, is fascinating. Which ever one you decide on, you'll enjoy working on.
I think it all depends on what surves you best and what you want to learn and what neccacities do you want and can live with. 83 and before I think are the prettiest and easiest to work on. 84-89 has the best features like an adjustable suspension really plushy leather seats and instead of a Long Block you got a small V-6 or V-6 with a turbo.
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