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Thread: a z story.

  1. #1
    Registered User inmocean's Avatar
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    Jan 2010

    Default a z story.

    The story of Christine/ Eleanor…A 78 Datsun 280Z.
    Jan 2002 til present.

    The search for an early Z started as a teenager, when either driving my MGB or dad’s 280ZX, and I would see a pristine brown 240 racing about. This was southern Indiana, mind you, and rust had eaten its share of these cars, making my search very difficult.

    Fast forward some years, to 2002, Jan 3rd, to be exact. I was in Eugene, Oregon, visiting my father, heading back from the airport as my flight home to Indiana had been postponed for a day. We passed a St Vincent De Paul thrift store, which sold donated cars. In the front row was a brown Z. “Turn around,” I said. Walking up to it I knew. I ran my hand along the underside of the rockers, no rust. 96,000 on the odometer, and the perfect interior told me it hadn’t rolled over…I sat in it, clutch pedal went right to the floor. Tried the key, nothing. Dead battery. After a jump the car started right up and ran smooth. Stopped there…they were asking $1000, we got them down a bit, and added $40 for a tow to the home-stead. The car had been on the lot for 4 days.

    I flew home as scheduled, my dad took delivery of the car and sent me a simple message…”you stole this car.”

    He put a clutch slave and a battery in it and drove it everyday, reporting to me back in Indiana what I would need to do to get it ready for a cross-country trip. Tires and shocks were it…the car had been well-treated. I ordered the parts and he threw them in, what a great dad…and he continued driving it everyday, with no issues. He installed a set of lowering springs for me as well.

    June 2nd my roommate and I flew out to pick up the car. After a few days of visiting we headed east. The plan was to zig-zag across the west…seeing everything we could. The plan changed about two hours south on I-5, as the Z died, rolled to the shoulder, and refused to restart. 70 mph, no overheating, no weirdness, then, nothing, like the key had been shut off. We lifted the hood and checked everything we could think of…nothing amiss…and then, a couple hours into it, the z restarted…and we were off…east, now…the trip had become shorter by a few zags already…no stopping til Colorado, we’d spend some time there instead.

    The z ran perfectly for 400 miles…and I mean perfectly. We began to forget the issue, and then Christine earned her name…rolling through Nevada and we pulled into a rest stop, and the Z refused to restart. For 8 hours. We were starting to realize why the car had been donated.

    Let me say we were just two 21 year-olds with mechanical inclinations, and not much experience, but we went through the car very thoroughly, out of necessity. We found nothing. The wiring in Christine had never been molested. The engine and manifold were clean, nothing awry…good spark(ow!) fuel pressure…and the car just looked perfect…not like something that belonged on the side of the road…we were stumped.

    We made our way to Golden Colorado, where a friend loaned me his garage for a couple of days. We changed plugs, cap, rotor, fuel filter…and when Christine started right up we thought, sure…lets try Kansas…

    We eventually made it, but Christine would randomly die, or refuse to start, with no pattern. She just had a mind of her own.

    I changed a few things out over the next few months, fuel pressure regulator, electronic ignition control module, and cleaned every connection I could. Christine would run flawlessly for a awhile, and just when I’d forgotten, she’d act up.

    And then I moved to Colorado, everything I owned in the z, and the car ran nearly perfect. Once a month or so the car would die, or refuse to start, but wouldn’t stay that way for more than 5-10 minutes at the most. Whatever her issue, it was getting better…it seemed like a loose or dirty connection somewhere…but where?

    For the next year I put 12,000 miles on the car without a single issue…Drove her to work everyday, road-tripped to Utah, Albuquerque, grand canyon, and all over Colorado. She ran like a champ. The big blizzard hit golden, 4 feet of snow in 36 hours, and I was driving the z…had to be pulled up lookout mtn once…

    And then the next curse appeared. The boss’s son ran over the rear-end with his suburban. I had been saving my pennies, hoping to have the car painted anyway, as there were a couple small dents here and there. The boss paid the whole exterior restoration bill, and I spent the summer working off the debt of my share. God she looked good…perfect body, with fresh 301 brown metallic…

    The day after I wrote the last $100 check, my neighbor ran into Christine, crumpling the headlight bucket and front fender. And he had no insurance. Wound up collecting a few hundred bucks, and I obtained a lightly dented fender from a Nissan dealer, and a headlight bucket from a z guy. Painted them black and tried to forget the image of the perfect z I had once owned…

    Drove her to Oregon(no issues with dying) and spent the winter with my dad.

    That winter Christine received a heater core, hoses, new plugs, wires, cap, rotor, tires(I had been hard on them) weather-stripping, battery cables, and we painted the fender to more nearly match the correct color.

    In the spring I went back to Colorado, and stayed there for several years. I drove the z all over the damn place, and the issue of dying randomly all but disappeared, now it was just a little glitch I didn’t even notice anymore. I rebuilt the front end, ball joints, tie-rods, calipers, rotors…

    It was then that Christine was renamed…an old friend flew out and her first reaction to seeing the Z was “Eleanor.” Given that the Shelby was also a little cantankerous, it fit and I rolled with it. We drove 800 miles that weekend, all over Colorado. I’v now forgotten the girl’s name, but I remember the z climbing up to the Eisenhower tunnel in a white-out, passing 4x4’s…and the car ran so well for the next few years that I forgot the name of Christine, and the Z was Eleanor…

    Then, for whatever reason, I dropped it all and moved to Whidbey island, Washington, once again with everything I owned in the Z. I got a job at a shipyard, bought a boat, restored it, and moved aboard. Sadly, Eleanor became a storage container for things that didn’t belong on board. These were dark times for the z, she sat, neglected, in a marina parking lot.

    My plan (of sorts) had been to buy a boat, sail around the world alone, and then eventually find some island girl to marry…

    I wound up dating the girl at the fuel dock, and day sailing about Penn cove with her. She also called the Z Eleanor. We eventually got married. Wound up selling the boat, packing everything into my trusty z, and moving to Seattle.

    Around this time I was given a jeep Cherokee, with a blown engine. Something about not adding any anti-freeze…I rebuilt the engine and then parked the z. time for the ultimate tune-up. She had 180800 on the odometer, but honestly for all I knew it could have been 280…anyway, a rough list of a six-month project:

    New oil pump
    New gasket set
    New head bolts
    New timing kit
    New rings
    New main and rod bearings
    New water pump
    New seat kit
    New clutch kit
    New clutch hose
    New slave cyl
    New master cyl
    New shifter pin
    New boots
    New flywheel
    Head reconditioned, surfaced, new valve guides
    New wheel cylinders
    New steering rack boots
    New mustache bar bushing
    Rebuilt halfshafts, new u joints
    New spark plug wires, plugs, cap, rotor, thermostat
    New heater hoses
    New radiator hoses
    New radiator
    New tranny and engine mounts
    New fi seals
    New emblems
    New msa twice pipe exhaust
    New belt
    New brake shoes
    New konig rewind 15x7’s
    New Goodyear 205 60’s
    New optima battery

    Eleanor was given a new lease on life. I was up to 1000 miles on the rebuild when that second curse returned…rear-ended in Seattle…

    The insurance adjustor turned out to be a z fan, and was easy to work with. Since the accident and the related bodywork there I’ve also undertaken:

    New Fiberglass rear skirt
    New fiberglass front bumper
    New tailgate weatherstripping
    New steering coupler,
    New steering rack boots
    New brake caliper paint kit(silver)
    New carpet
    New door panels
    New shift,brake boots
    New temp sensor
    New air regulator
    New fuel injection connectors
    New heater core, and hoses
    New wheel lugs
    New wiper boots
    Used wiper linkage and arms
    New fuel injector seals and mounting blocks
    New fi hose
    New fuel filter
    New fuel pressure regulator
    New vacuum hose all around.

    After all this, with 1500 on the rebuild, Eleanor still likes to randomly die. 8 years of this…the other day I went out with the intention of making the car die. Enough is enough, I said. I found that when the car hiccups if I tap the computer with my foot the car will immediately restart. Then I tempted fate by tapping the computer while the car was running. Immediate death. And then another tap and the car would restart. So I’m going to track down a spare ecu, try that, and definitely have mine rebuilt…I mean, hey, I’ve changed everything else…

    Aside from her attitude, the z has been a great car. The second curse has contributed a few door dings from parking lots, and being Seattle these dents have led to bubbling paint. Once summer arrives…(any day now…) I’ll start knocking the paint away and treating the rust before it gets serious…the car is still rust-free in the usual problem areas, after all these years…and then, who knows, maybe a fresh coat of 301 brown metallic…try to get that perfect z back that I remember…I’ve got that first curse on the run, maybe #2 will go as well…

    Some photos of the process…

    thanks for reading
    ."There are two types of car enthusiasts:
    1-those who have never heard of the red car
    2-those who read the red car at an impressionable age and had their lives ruined by it.
    I, of course, am in the second group."

    -1978 280Z-

  2. #2
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    Jun 2006
    Indianapolis, IN


    What a great story! Its always great to hear about the history of someones z and the stories and adventures involved. Sounds like most relationships, mostly good times with a few trials and tribulations. Keep us up to date with the work!

    HLS30 00333
    1970 240z

  3. #3
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    Jul 2008
    Ventura County, CA


    That is a great story. I hope you get your Z restored to your ideal!
    I've had my '78 280z for 22 or 23 years. His unofficial name is Z BEBE. They can be a bit tempermental and he's been a brat but after spending years stored in a garage, he was so happy to be out and be refurbished that he's been running like a champ. My husband gets me presents for him, Christmas and my birthday, he knows how much I love that car! A couple of Christmas' ago, he got me a door hinge (the car looked great but when I got in or out, it would go -Clunk, really loud) I'd gotten my husband an ipod and disguised it in a big box with bottles of hand lotion to weigh it down. I opened my box and saw this metal thing and thought he'd just dumped some metal thing out of the garage in there to trick me. I looked thru the box, frantic to find what my actual present was. Then I sat there holding the big metal thing, apparently looking dumbfounded, while my hubby looked happy and proud, finally my son said,"it's a hinge for the Z!" Thus ending the stale-mate of confusion.

  4. #4
    Registered User inmocean's Avatar
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    I'm going to jinx my road-trip next weekend to the coast by saying that I've fixed my Z's dying a computer on ebay for $25, installed it a month ago, and haven't had any issues since...i plan to send my original computer to MSA for a rebuild, and that will be that...I hope...

    I've also noticed a significant increase in gas mileage after changing the vacuum hoses, back up to 20 or so in town and 25-28 on the highway...(from 15 and 20 or so)

    I also had my first flat tire in 8 years a week ago. At one time I carried a plug kit and electric air compressor, but these disappeared some time ago...I wound up inflating the spare with a bike pump, but now acquiring a new spare of some kind has moved up the priority list...relying on the thirty-year-old collapsible is dangerous...

    Thanks to all who've read and responded...
    ."There are two types of car enthusiasts:
    1-those who have never heard of the red car
    2-those who read the red car at an impressionable age and had their lives ruined by it.
    I, of course, am in the second group."

    -1978 280Z-

  5. #5
    Registered User S30Driver's Avatar
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    Mar 2010
    Seattle Washington


    Great story, very interesting read....
    I'd leave that ecu in there & just look for a good used one as a spare for backup.
    Best of luck on the road trip.

    I'll have to test inflate my spare one day and see if it is servicable.
    1977 280z 06/77

  6. #6
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    Central CT USA


    Quote Originally Posted by cbudvet View Post
    What a great story! Its always great to hear about the history of someones z and the stories and adventures involved. Sounds like most relationships, mostly good times with a few trials and tribulations. Keep us up to date with the work!

    Agreed, Carl!! I couldn't have said it any better.

    It strikes me as being a lot like a marriage: a lot of love and a lot of great
    times, but sometimes you have to work thru a few difficulties to get back
    to the great times again (I said it that way intentionally; the love never
    stopped being there)!

    P.S.: Carl, I bet you have a great story on your 333 car!

    All Z Best,...................................Kathy & Rick
    1969 Z.CAR (#00013 10/69) since 8/30/76
    1969 ITSA.Z (#00171 11/69) since 8/24/73 28K mi
    1970 (#01905 2/70) since 1/24/11
    1970 (#06289 6/70) original owner
    1971 (#19851 1/71) sold
    1975 280Z (#01343 1/75) mint original
    1971 PL-510 2dr (our 160Z) since 12/31/75
    1969 1600 Rdstr (another 160-Z) since 10/3/10

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