Our Cars- The Datsun Project Update


It’s been a couple of months since I bought my 240Z and I thought it might be a good time to take a step back and detail some of the work that has gone into this project so far. Anytime you buy an old car it’s like that gameshow, Let’s Make Deal where every major system is a mystery behind door number 3, and you never know whether you’ll go home a winner, or. . . perhaps NOT go home, ending up instead stuck on the side of the road. Come along while we open some doors on the Datsun, and see if it’s still a winner.

One of the things that I have discovered after doing a little research on the car is that, while licensed and titled as a 1970 model, it is in fact a ’71. This discover was made by way of the VIN number, which   being HLS30-40060 indicates that the car was built sometime between January and August of 1971. Even more vexing is the fact that I made the inopportune discovery that its 4-speed transmission is the later FW471B design, rather than the earlier A, which would have been the factory install.

shifterThis I discovered when re-bushing the wobbly shifter. Pulling up the console to extract what I expected to be a straight stick,  revealed instead a gracefully curved chrome handle. A little research online showed that a specific repair kit for Chrysler Minivan door hinges would provide brass bushings suitable for the interface between shift lever and clevis, and a far more durable repair than the stock plastic bits.

The fix worked beautifully, but that wouldn’t be the last time I had to open up the console and extract the shift lever, as soon the car’s clutch would go out, and not come back.  

As is typically the course for such things, the clutch failed in the parking lot of a Home Depot, a good 3 miles from my home depot. Fortunately, it decided to lunch  while in second gear. A carefully selected route home, avoiding stopping (sorry local constabulary), or doing anything more than about 30,  got me and the car home without incident.

Now, clutches are pretty simple things, but the fact that they are trapped between engine and transmission usually means their renewal is a bear of a job. Again, research online indicated that the 240Z’s ample tunnel room and easy access to the six (!) bolts that maintain the bell housing/engine neighborliness would make this one of the easiest clutch jobs on record. 

Let me tell you, while still an entire day’s job when undertaken alone, it’s still a job that’s pretty easy peasey. Also, kudos to O’Reilly Auto Parts for not only having the Clutch kit in stock, but offering free two-day delivery as well. If you are unfamiliar, a clutch kit typically consists of a disc, pressure plate, throwout bearing, shaft bushing, and – in this case – a handy alignment tool and some shaft lube – hey, stop snickering!

cluch kit

The first step was the jack up the car and then pull the driveshaft out, a 4-bolt affair. Once that was out of the way I used my snazzy new transmission jack to support the gearbox while I unbolted and wonder=barred it backwards in the tunnel. When it first came free of the block, I was greeted by a shower of ball bearings and what I took to be clutch disc material, black fibrous material that filled the bottom of the bell housing. Upon getting the box fully out and to where I could give it a closer examination, I found that to be a mistaken diagnosis.

clutch kart

It turns out that the throwout bearing couldn’t bear it anymore and had committed hari-kari- hence the ball bearings. The thing of it is, there was collateral damage in that it also took out the supporting collar as well. I had anticipated that the throwout bearing was the primary culprit, but hadn’t anticipated the collar’s failure because I hadn’t thought it would have been made of plastic. Land O Goshen!

In the picture below you can see the destroyed collar on the left, still with the bearing backing ground into place. On the right is its spankin’ new steel replacement from the good folks at the Z Store in Orange.  Thankfully they were open on Saturday allowing me to purchase and replace the collar the same day.

Clutch Throwout

 You know the old joke about how in automotive manuals reassembly is always minimized as disassembly in reverse, but that’s never the case? Well, in this instance that was pretty much was the case. Once the throwout bearing and collar are fitted to the clutch fork and their spring holders put into place, it’s a simple matter to fit the clutch disk and pressure plate to the flywheel and then muscle the gearbox back home. Now, I will admit that I have bruises on almost every extremity from doing so, but with the scissor jack, aligning and sending home the gearbox wasn’t all that tough.


Now the car shifts like a dream, the clutch working silently and with perfect take-up thanks to its new slave cylinder that was an additional might as well addition. I’ve done a number of other updates and fixes to the car since taking ownership, including a new exhaust system after receiving a fixit ticket for the noise, and a lot of work to make the incredibly complicated electrical system work as it’s supposed to do. Those will have to wait for another update, but I can report that the Z is coming along nicely, and its mechanical systems are returning to life without much coaxing. All it takes is time and money, right?

Images: ©2013 Hooniverse/Robert Emslie, All Rights Reserved



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23 responses to “Our Cars- The Datsun Project Update”

  1. Alff Avatar

    No flywheel resurfacing? Not being critical, I've skipped that step too, but I've heard it highly recommended with a new clutch.

    1. Robert Emslie Avatar
      Robert Emslie

      Nope, it was fine, and I don't go to the trouble if the disc hasn't failed. In fact, the clutch disc was still in pretty good shape itself. I may just hold onto it.

  2. dukeisduke Avatar

    I don't think I've ever replaced a clutch without automatically replacing the throwout bearing. Also, was the snout on the gearbox (that the bearing and collar ride on) in good shape?

    1. Robert Emslie Avatar
      Robert Emslie

      The splined input shaft was in fine shape, although getting the bushing out of the flywheel center was a bit of a bear.

      1. dukeisduke Avatar

        Well, I meant the snout outside the input shaft, on the transmission, the one the throwout bearing slides on.
        And you had to replace the pilot bushing? What method did you use? There's a few different ways.

        1. Robert Emslie Avatar
          Robert Emslie

          That's what I was describing. I used my little hook puller to extract the bushing. New one went in with the aid of a deep socket.

      2. mdharrell Avatar

        After repeatedly trying every trick I know (including an actual pilot bushing puller), I once had to cut a slot in one with a stubby segment of hacksaw blade in order to remove it. The whole business took hours, particularly as the engine was still in the car, limiting access.

        1. Robert Emslie Avatar
          Robert Emslie

          I have a long-handled hook tool – actually it's not mine, I borrowed it – but I was lucky in being able to worry the bushing out by rotating it around the far end until enough was out to grab hold of.

        2. dukeisduke Avatar

          Thankfully I haven't had to replace one, but I'm aware of a couple of ways – one, to pack it full of wheel bearing grease or chassis lube, then tap on a used input shaft or a suitable sized drift, to force it out hydraulically, or two, use an old square nut pushed in the recess, thread a bolt on, and pull, hoping the corners of the nut hook under the bushing.

          1. mdharrell Avatar

            Yup. I tried those, as well as a long-handled hook and an expanding puller. Nothing would budge it until it was slotted all the way through. Curiously the contact surfaces didn't look corroded or galled in the slightest once it was out. The new bushing went in without difficulty, too.
            As a trained experimentalist I understand the importance of checking for reproducibility in these matters, so I made a point of selling the car before it needed another clutch job.

          2. toxicavenger1 Avatar

            I was waiting on that one,simple hydraulics.

  3. Van_Sarockin Avatar

    Pussy. A real clutch replacement means bench pressing the transmission, and blindly aligning the input shaft.
    Sweet project car, and it looks like you're doing things up right. I've always loved Zs, and they're so nice to drive. Clever tip about where to find brass ferrule upgrades.

    1. Alff Avatar

      After bench pressing my last two transmissions, I'm definitely investing in a fine Harbor Freight transmission jack the next time around.

      1. dukeisduke Avatar

        And when it fails (made in China crap), you'll end up bench pressing it anyway.

        1. Alff Avatar

          I know that Garage Journal (or maybe H.A.M.B.) has a lengthy thread about which HF tools are worth buying and which are not. My personal rule of thumb is anything electric or most things that should be made of hardened steel are best avoided but other items offer great value. My heavy floor jack, purchased in the late '90s, is just now starting to sag. It has lasted much longer than the Craftsman that preceded it.

    2. I_Borgward Avatar

      Agh. I once used my chest as a transmission jack under an Econoline while lying in a puddle of icy mush. I was broke after buying a clutch kit and desperately needed to get the stupid thing going again, hypothermia or no. Meeeemorieeeees…
      I have the very same Harbor Fright transmission jack (as seen on Hooniverse). I've used it for many clutch and transmission jobs. It can be a bit fussy to set up, but it once held a Ford E4OD while I put in a new torque converter, so mostly adequate is mostly adequate, you know?
      That really is a gorgeous Z, and its orangeness is the icing on the cake. Congrats on keeping it rolling!

    3. skitter Avatar

      I helped bench and hold the transmission for a Grassroots E30.
      Detritus was flaking off the bottom of the car, and I started sneezing.
      And we can't move, so it had nowhere to go except my buddy's arm.
      So I'm sneezing and laughing and apologizing.
      And he's going IT'S SO AWFUL!

      1. LTDScott Avatar

        The E30 transmission is pretty light, though. I've pulled mine 2 or 3 times now.

  4. MVEilenstein Avatar

    I, too, used a kit from O'Reilly when I replaced the clutch on my truck. Good quality, great price. Always support a Springfield company.

    1. MVEilenstein Avatar

      I say *I replaced* but I really mean my friend/mechanic. I paid for the parts and the hassle of getting it to him.

    2. Vairship Avatar

      I dunno, I don't trust the Springfield nuclear power plant employees, especially those in Sector 7-G…

  5. facelvega Avatar

    About to redo the clutch hydraulics on my own Datsun in the coming month, have had the new parts sitting around for over a year but that soggy pedal means it is finally time. Luckily the clutch itself is fine, knock on wood. Now if I can identify where that new fast coolant leak is coming from, and that identification is not the head gasket, then I'll be in business for the summer. Didn't notice any clouds of sweet white smoke and the temp gauge stays put so it may just be the reservoir or lines, knock on wood.

  6. Tim Odell Avatar
    Tim Odell

    I love how, on old cars, you can just do stuff.
    No plastic panels or mystery sensors or insanely tight packaging.
    I bought the tranny adapter for your regular jack thing from Harbor Freight: http://images.harborfreight.com/manuals/39000-399
    Better than a standard jack, but I'd recommend getting the dedicated tool for the job.