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  Restoring a 280ZX

Nissan 280ZX
   
 
1-1-2003 - by Gerry Graham
My Son & I have spent the past 3 years restoring this 280ZX that I had originally bought new in Aug 1980 for my wife. The car has been in our family ever since. My wife drove it for 4 years until she got a new 300ZX -- my daughter drove the car for the next 15 years and then gave it to my son -- he began the restoration. After doing much of the clean up, weight reduction, all new Eibach suspension, new factory steering parts, Tokico shocks and new factory brake calipers, rotors, etc., he traded it to me for my 1931 Model A hot rod pickup. I have spent the last 14 months finishing it.
 

It is virtually a NOS (New Original Stock) car. Every part that needed replacing has been replaced with NOS parts from various Nissan dealers where possible. Parts that were NLA (no longer available) we got from other owners mostly from Zcar.com. For example, the entire interior (including dash) came from a rusted out 1983 turbo ZX in the Chicago area, the 130 mph speedo from a 1979 from AZ, -- and so on. I also found the wheel spacers on this forum. The wheel spacers allowed me a much wider selection of wheels. To compensate for the spacer weight, I selected 17" Tenzo-R racing wheels (light) and lightweight hi-performance tires from TOYO. Tire size is 215/45/17 - they are only 0.27" difference in circumference, so no speedo changes or gearing changes were needed.

The wheels/tires along with changes my son made in the suspension/shocks have transformed this car into a real "handler". One fellow that drove it said " Man this things handles REALLY GOOD -- like a roller skate on rails".



The interior looks "brand new" and has a high-end stereo that is virtually hidden. The amps are mounted behind the seats in the old flip open storage bins. the bin covers now have Plexiglas covers to show-off the 1000 watt amps. Dash speakers were "tossed" and new Alpine 5 1/4" speakers were mounted in the doors. The rear mains are Infinity Kappa Series 6 1/2" mounted in a custom enclosure I fabricated. However, I mounted the Kappas on either side of two 10" Rockford-Fosgate subs. The dash unit is an Alpine 3cd in dash changer.

Numerous interior plastic parts were replaced with parts from light gauge stainless steel using "Water Jet" cutting technology. The parts were then sand blasted to give a satin finish. They look nice - easy to clean - and will last forever.

The body was in good shape since the car had never been in a serious wreck. Since is has always been a Texas car, I had no rust to deal with. My son had already replaced the front fenders, air dam, and hood with NOS parts to keep from having any body filler on them. The final bodywork and paint job took 7 months of part time work the rest of the car as perfect as possible. The color is "out of the can" white - no tints. I am told this color "Artic White" was used on Camaros and C4 Corvettes. All of the trim strips and various badging were removed to keep with the "Mr. Clean Look" and to make finish maintenance simpler. Rear hatch back and rear quarter panel windows were tinted "limo" dark to provide contrast to the white car and to keep the Texas sun off me.



My son had installed a MSA fiberglass front bumper/air dam kit and then removed all but the upper bumper portion to get a clean front bumper look and keep the factory air dam. I did the same on the rear bumper. Aluminum bumper mount brackets were fabricated - front and rear and then powder coated -- net reduction in curb weight was over 20# on just the bumpers. Reduction in weight was a primary goal as we went through the car. Final dry weight (even with 2 Rockford-Fosgate subs) is 2670#.

The trim stripe down the side begins as baby blue and slowly fades to a dark blue. A similar scheme was used to trim out the hood. All of the striping was outlined with freehand painted pin striping done by renowned hot rod pin stripper James Crawford.

Almost every part possible on the car has been powder coated. Parts included are hood latches, hood pivot parts, back of headlight and taillight mount brackets, fuel tank hold on straps, fuel tank filler neck, AFM mounting bracket, and on and on. Most of the fasteners on the car have been replaced with stainless steel ones - using socket head cap screws where possible.

The engine compartment has been sanitized and cleaned up, but more drastic changes to the engine compartment are planned. For now -- it's fun just to drive around in a brand new 22 year old vintage sports car.

Gerry Graham


 
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