Project Car SOTU: The 1971 Datsun 240Z

DSCN4281 My S30 is – amazingly – the project that does double duty as a daily driver. Of late within my family there has been a good bit of car juggling, for reasons that will go unexplained. It’s tough, I’ll admit it, but it’s far better than juggling chainsaws or bowling balls. Fortunately, the Datsun has become a stalwart addition to the fleet, and has yet to let me down. Perhaps a good deal of that is due to the work I’ve put into it so far. Come along after the jump and see the progress to date, and the plans for the next round of wallet emptying! DSCN4279 One of the places were my orange Z has accompanied me is to the weekly sunrise sermon otherwise known as our local Cars and Coffee. I try to hit the meet every Saturday, but I’ve been AWOL a couple of times recently owing to other commitments. My absence has not once however, been due to the Z which remains faithful in its reliability. Oh sure, it’s rusty as all get out, but mechanically it’s as sound as a pound. I have been working slowly but surely on the Z, fixing this and replacing that. So far I have rebuilt or replaced all four brakes, installed new struts at each corner, and have replaced all the rubber in the front suspension. Those efforts, along with a set of new tires wrapped around the five-slots, has made the car’s ride and handling epically better. Next up – and probably at around Christmas – I will drop the back end out and will replace all of the bushings back there. DSCN4037 Other updates have included electrical work to ensure that I have brake lights and turn signals. As I am sure I previously mentioned, the early 240Z is a nightmare electrically as the Nissan engineers decided to run brakes and blinkers through the same circuit, a path that incredulously included the overly complex turn signal switch. I have pulled that, and other parts, fully apart and have renewed the contacts as best I can. Everything works at this time, but knock on wood that they will continue to do so. DSCN2959 Under the hood, the L24 is as stout and reliable as ever. I have pulled and cleaned the carbs, tuning them with a UniSyn for balance and flow. I have always had British cars in the past, so I am intimately acquainted with the SU-style side-draught form, and in fact these are the sort of carbs with which I am most comfortable. The Hitachis on the Z are a straight knockoff of the English carbs, so they are very familiar. I’m running them a little rich as the throttle shafts are worn and at idle that leads to a lean mixture and some lump behavior. Mine rocks however. I’ve also replaced the entire exhaust system with one from the Z Store following a shameful fix-it ticket for the old muffler, which was truly holier than thou. DSCN2611 Other updates in there include new plug wires, cap and rotor and points/condenser. Prior to my purchase of the car someone put in a massive aluminum radiator and the car runs as cool as a cucumber because of that. I also get excellent oil pressure and amp draw based on the dash gauges, which I suppose I really shouldn’t count on for accuracy.  You may also notice that I have replaced the dented and rusted hood with one I picked up off a 260Z in the junk yard. It’s not perfect, but it’s lightyears better than the old one. Next up will be the purchase of a new set of rockers and a driver’s side fender skin, and then it’s off to the body shop for de-rusting and a new coat of tangerine. IMG_1723One of the coolest things you can do with a project car is actually drive it, and my 1971 240Z – for all its foibles- has proven to be a rock star when it comes to getting around. I’m enjoying the heck out of driving it, and of course it’s now a familiar sight at my local Cars & Coffee. All images: ©2014 Hooniverse/Robert Emslie, All Rights Reserved

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