During the summer of 1993, I was looking for a Datsun 510 to restore and modify. I had been driving one ever since I was 16. After graduating from college, I was looking forward to building the 510 I had always wanted. Only one thing kept me from doing that just yet: availability. During my search, however, I kept finding another Datsun in abundant supply. Having heard one in all of its glory, and seeking a car with more appreciation, I decided to buy a 240Z instead. This car is my 1971 Datsun 240Z. It is Vin HLS3016511-manufactured in 12/70. Following are many pictures of the car as I built it. I thought it might be interesting to show you the kind, and extent of work that had to be done to resurrect it. Prior to buying the car, I read about problems with rust, especially in the frame rails and floor. This car had decent frame rails and floor, but was a basket case otherwise. In this picture, most things forward of the windshield have already been removed except for the steering and suspension. Notice the after-market sunroof that leaks like a sieve. It has to go! There is plenty of rust under that fiberglass flare that is taped to the quarter panel. The next picture was actually taken prior to the one above. The upper frame rail (gray in the picture) has been sanded of all old primer and surface rust. It was then primed. This next picture is of the area under the windshield cowl. Here, all of the old paint was chemically stripped. All of the old seam sealer was removed from the inner compartment , and it was resealed. Then it was primed. Here are some close shots of the empty engine bay. As far as rust is concerned, things look good here. The battery tray is still in place, and the driver side frame rail looks good too. Hmmm. Too bad there is a hole in the passenger side rail. Here is a close up. I was very upset when I found it. After I had the engine out, however, I made an interesting discovery. Nissan uses an L shaped bracket to reinforce the frame rail for the anti-sway bar mount. It is spot welded to the floor and inner wall of the rail. Because this forms a double panel, moisture is trapped in between the layers and rust rapidly eats the metal away. Thus, only this small area was ravaged. Since rebuilding this car, I have seen many 240Z's with rust in the exact same spot and it is always is worse on the passenger side. This next one is looking at the driver side compression box. Nissan spot welds a uniquely shaped panel just above the box structure. The panel is here to reinforce the thin inner panel that creates the driver side of the engine bay. Another double panel with rust popping through. Are you starting to see any kind of pattern here? This is the passenger side with the panel removed by drilling the spot welds. A die grinder with a high speed cut off wheel was used to grind through the spot welds that attach this inner panel to the bottom of the frame rail. In this picture, the offending sight of rusted metal has been cut out with the tool mentioned above. Notice the light coat of surface rust on the inner surfaces of the frame rails-good news, as I was worried about what the inside would look like. Incidentally, the little dotted lines on these and following pictures are welds. I stitch welded the car on all seams from the windshield forward in an attempt to strengthen it. This next shot shows a fabricated replacement tack welded in place. From the factory, this piece was an integral part of the inner fender. Fast forward to this picture which shows this area done, including a new reinforcement panel which I fabricated to look just like the factory one. This one is stitch welded and sealed with automotive seam sealer, something Nissan never did. The driver side didn't need as much work. Here is that frame rail again. First, I used the cut off tool to cut away the rusted metal. It doesn't look as good in here but the metal is still thick enough. Also, notice the metal bracket for mounting the fuel line has been temporarily removed from the top of the frame rail. Next, I made a replacement panel to fit. A sheet metal brake was used to bend this piece so that the bend radius would match the factory one. The little slot left over is here because the frame rail tapers to a smaller size as it goes to the front of the car. The front of the car is to the left in this shot. This shot has the new fabricated piece tack welded in place. Also, the slot is filled. Next, I seam welded the repair and ground the welds flush. The fuel line bracket is back in its original position. Wow! It looks pretty good when it's all primed.
Remember the filthy engine bay. Here it is stripped of all the paint. All the surface rust had to be sanded off. Here is the same view primed. And here it is in bright silver.
Next, I put the engine in. No small amount of time went into making the engine look like this. This engine is an L-28. Sorry to disappoint, but I have the original short block in storage. With 70,000 miles on the L-28 short block, I elected to leave it alone. The cylinder head is an E-88 casting with competition stainless valves. Mild port work was done and I have the stock cam. I had the early S.U. carburetors rebuilt with new throttle plates and shafts, and new shaft bushings. The header is a very nice one from Clifford Inline Six performance. I had the headers Jet Hot coated in gray. Here are the left and right views of the engine.
By this time the front of the car looked really good. And the rest looked like a lot of work, but I was having fun. This picture shows what had to be cut out to eliminate the rust in the left rear quarter. Notice the bottom front corner. Z's really rust out here. I had no idea it was this bad here. Someone had stuffed a ball of newspaper in this corner and piled on the bondo. I was amazed to rip off a chunk, newspaper and all, that weighed about 5 pounds. There are many pieces of sheet metal that come together here, and on my car, they were all missing. Although I did not remember to take many pictures during the fabrication of this corner, you can see the same area on the passenger side nearing completion. The driver side was worse and because the outer rocker panel had previous body damage, I decided to replace it. On this side, however, I used strips of metal to re-create the compound curve that composes the rear portion of the rocker. Some of the inner rocker was re-created as well on both sides. It was interesting (to say the least) to try and figure out how it was originally, from the left over, rusted out pieces. These next two, show the strip of metal I used to close the gap between the inner wheel well and the outer quarter panel. Since this is a uni-body car, all of the structure is used for chassis rigidity. Thus, I felt it important to weld this piece in. After seeing how rust occurs in the overlap of panels, I made a point of making this piece butt weld to the inner and outer quarter panels. I still have a way to go in this next shot, which looks up into the rear fender well. For perspective, there is a number one on the backside of the fiberglass flare, which is taped to the quarter panel.
Remember the sunroof. It was grand on a couple of sunny days that I remember when I first got the car. But it was no fun being leaked on when it rained. And the more I worked on the restoration, the more I realized that I could never live with an after market sunroof spoiling the originality of the car. Yeah, I know, 240Z's never came with big flares, stitch welded chassis, and L-28 motors, etc, but everyone has there own idea as to what is acceptable in a restoration. After market sunroofs are where I cross the line. So off with the roof! I certainly did not want to sacrifice any of the original strength of the structure. So, I used a spot weld cutter to cut around each of the two hundred million or so, spot welds that held on the original roof panel. This is a unique view through the roof into the cabin. The next two pictures show the front cross bar and rear cross bar. There was surface rust on all of these frame sections. At each of the four corners, where the roof panel meets other body panels the factory used lead to cover the seams. In these corners, the surface rust was a little more substantial. When looking at 240's you can sometimes see these roof seams popping up. This is undoubtedly due to corrosion happening within. This shows the new roof panel in place. Well, it isn't really new. I had to use that spot weld cutter to do the same procedure on a roof I bought from a salvage yard. Next came the leading. I was really worried about this whole process. I considered using bondo, but I figured that this car probably has a fair amount of body flex, and I did not want to have it crack later. This shot shows melted lead over the rear seam on the driver side. This one shows the front passenger side corner. I have just finished shaping it with the tool which is on top of the roof.
This picture shows the driver side rocker panel with a new piece covering all of my inner rocker fabrication. This panel is readily available from many after market sources. Be prepared for a panel that is poorly manufactured. The radius that makes up the part of the door opening is not a good fit with the door. The bends are not quite in the right place either. All of the after market reproduction panels I have seen are this way. At least it is a better than making one from scratch. This flare has been glued with an epoxy and riveted into place. I put the wheel in place to get an idea of the finished look. Here is the same quarter panel with all of the paint removed. This is the passenger side in the same state. In this shot, I have started grinding the edge where the fiberglass flare meets the body. I used a four and half inch grinder. Grinding fiberglass is hazardous, so if you ever do this, wear a particle mask. I have finally arrived at the rear of the car. Just look at this taillight panel. The area around the exhaust pipe outlet looks like it is made of paper mache. You know what comes next, right? Off with the tail panel. This is the right rear section. Next, a shot of the whole panel with the top pulled away from the car. The car had been tapped in the left rear. See all that white bondo? This shot shows a new factory panel clamped in place.
Next, it was time for the amazing art of bondo. This shot of the driver quarter panel shows a fully integrated flare. It has been sprayed with a light coat of epoxy primer. There is some bondo off to the right, at the edge of the primer. Bondo can go underneath the epoxy primer or on top. If you use a regular primer, put the bondo on first. This is a shot looking in at the inner wheel well. I touched up the seams with sealer if they looked suspect. Here is a shot of the passenger side from above. In this picture, the car sees light of day after months of work. At this point, the engine is fully assembled. I started it from time to time to hear it. It sounds great! The next series deals with the front fenders. I elected to throw away the original fenders because of the amount of work the old ones needed. At this time in the project, I needed to expedite things. So, I bought new ones from Nissan. It was not my intention to flare the front fenders originally, but I could see that the existing wheels and tires were going to rub. This picture shows the new front fender about to be cut. I felt sick about cutting it, so I had to get a picture of it whole. This next picture shows the flare being held in place by clecos. These reusable brass tools are used in place of rivets and can be put on and taken off over and over. They help me achieve a better fit. Next, the flare was glued and the edge ground down.
Finally the car emerges from the garage in early November, 1994. This is the day that I had to have the car ready for paint. I am not quite ready. I haven't made my way to the front. The darker green is the primer surfacer. The lighter color is primer filler. All of the lighter color is done. The new tail light panel looks great. I got rid of the seam that the factory leaves with bondo. I wish I could have done the painting myself, but I didn't have the time left or the facility to paint it. Well, here it is back from the paint shop. This is the only picture I took before it went back in the garage for reassembly. Here the car is almost completely back together. This is the first photo shoot. There are a couple of tidbits left to do on the exterior, and I didn't do much at all with the interior, but I am happy with the outside. The reflection looks awesome down the side of the car. Here is a great picture. It was taken in late afternoon, during the fall. This light shows off the car's nice lines.
The last two pictures are of me driving the Z at Summit Point, WV. This is what they call Friday's at the Track. The car is a lot of fun. And fun is what this is all about. My 240Z is a never ending project. I have many planned upgrades. Of course economically speaking, none of them make any sense. That's the way it always is. But, as my talents and abilities improve so will my 240Z.
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