280Z8 The Hot Rod Dream Continues

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Body Changes

        Since adding the ZG flares will require removing the side moldings I pulled those off. Of course the PO had merely taped around these when he had the car painted. But since I have to get the holes welded closed anyway some major painting is in the near future. I'm thinking about a two tone effect with the lower body being a gunmetal color.

        I certainly was not planning on major body work and paint when I started this wheel change. Sometimes a project just takes on a mind of its own. I wish I had started this earlier in the year, spring is coming and my car is once again up on jack stands, oh well.

        After what seems to me a ridiculous wait the ZG flare are finally here from MSA. And like all fiberglass stuff they don't fit all that well, figures. They are a little bowed but will be alright, I think. I will heat them up real good before applying them, that should help. Of course they are no instructions to tell you what flare goes on the front and back or which one is left and right. Its really not that obvious since they don't really fit that well anyway, but I think I have that figured out. I clamped and taped them in place and have marked the fenders. Now I need to get the courage to cut the fenders!!!! Very scary!!! My fancy rear valance will need to be modified a little to clear the flares. Hopefully the side skirts will fit, I think they will since the flares don't go that far down the fenders. I will have to trim some of the front flares to make them look right with the MSA front valance I have.

        I gathered all my bravery and got the front fenders cut and the flares installed today, not too tough. I trimmed the front of the flares so they wouldn't overhang the front valance. I installed welting under the flares for a more professional look. I need to pull it all off and treat the fenders where I cut to prevent rust and paint the flares. For now they will be black. I also cut the driver's side rear fender today. What a mess. It looks like on the 280Z Datsun used a ton of seam sealer between the inner and outer fenders, that's a good thing. But it took a while using the angle grinder with a wire brush to get it off. I was happy to see absolutely no rust.

        I cut the passenger side rear fender and decided to go ahead and rolled the inner fender over the outer fender. It took a lot on bending and pounding but eventually it wrapped pretty well. I will have Chris weld this up. Looks is not as important as strength here. I pulled both front flares off and hit the exposed metal with some POR-15. I decided not to use the nut and bolt method of the front and went with 1/4-20 nutserts instead.

        I rolled the driver's side rear fender today just like the passenger side. With that done until I can get them welded I moved back to the front. I sanded them and painted them with SEM trim black for now. Its a semi-flat black and looks pretty nice. I am using a fender bead around the top of the flares but since these flares don't fit that well the bead doesn't want to stay in place so I used some weather strip adhesive to bond them to the flares.

        To get ready for Chris to weld up the holes left by removing the side chrome strip I pulled all the interior panels out along with the door panels. This will give us some access to the back side and will allow me to rust-proof it after the welding. I also ground off the paint around that weld areas. My once pretty car is looking kind of trashed right now!

        I cut my front fenders to accommodate the '71 'Cuda fender gills I picked up. All sports cars should have fender louvers, even if they are fake, LOL. I had gotten some patch panels for this but thought it would be less work to use the panels as templates and just cut the stock fenders.

        I am finally at a point where I can put the wheels back on and take the car out for a test drive. I was shocked! All the vibrations I have had in this car since I got it are gone. I don't know if it was the tires, wheels, wheel adapters, bearings or a combination of all that but the car is solid, and even rides smoother with much less of a hard hit when I go over bumps. I credit the Yokohama S Drive tires for the ride improvement. I went to the interstate and pushed it a little to 85 and it was still rock solid, I am thrilled.

        Its been a long wait but fender welding day is finally here. Not complaining since Chris is gracious enough do this for practically free. But this project seems to have taken forever and I am realy not even close to completion. The project for today was to weld the inner and outer rear fenders together and to fill the holes left when I removed the side chrome strip. Chris used his MIG welder and after a few adjustments to power and wire feed it went very quickly. I had brought some sheet metal in case we needed some backing for anything but that proved to be unnecessary.

        Sunday and today I applied some POR-15 for rust proofing the inside of the body where we welded and fender lips and got the nutserts on for mounting the rear flares. Tomorrow, after the POR-15 dries, I will apply seam sealer to the rear fender seam where we welded. Then its the dreaded body filler on the side trim holes, I hate doing that because I suck at it and there are 24 of the damn things!

        Today I added seam sealer to the rear fender welds. But ya know how things sometimes just take you over. I started sanding around the areas of the stripe hole welds to get ready to apply some primer before adding the filler. The next thing I know I have sanded the fender down to the original primer. Some spots went all the way to bare metal and I discovered some filler in what I assume were either rust repair or just low spots. Its not easy to sand a car that has been painted twice by hand! I got one front fender and half a door done today, this will take a while. I really don't want this thing painted again over the paint that is on there now. With two coats already it is pretty thick and I don't want the future paint to crack on me. I will just do the lower part of the car and hit it with some quick primer and then talk to some painters about how to finish the car.

        Removing many coats of paint and clear is not an easy thing to do, I have counted 7 layers. If I had a compressor and a DA things would certainly be easier but I chose to do this by hand sanding. The passenger door was a shock, there is a ton of body filler in the middle of the door. I'm guessing the PO got hit in the door or parked next to some uncaring moron. I took 90% of the lower body to bare metal and filled a few places then shot it with some etching primer. Once again this showed my inability to do body work. I will have to redo most of the body filling I thought was good.

        And of course there are a few things I didn't think about. The front valance, side skirts and the outside of the headlight buckets will need repainting and I have decided to remove my rear valance since it interferes with the flares. I pulled the rear valance during the paint striping to make it easier to work on the rear fenders. I also pulled the side skirts for the same reason. Thoughts of molding the side skirts and the flares to the body has crossed my mind. But at this point I want the car finished. Molding those parts would require a lot of time and work.

        The flares are trim black now but I am thinking I will paint them the same color at the lower body, once I figure out what color that will be. I am leaning toward a graphite gray as a contrast to the silver on the upper body. The other thing I want to do while I'm at it, LOL, is powder coat the door handles and locks black to match the bumpers.

        I am now at the point that I believe this car will never see the road again!!! I have sanded, filled, sanded, filled and sanded until I could scream. Body work sucks and I am horrible at it. But I think I have gone as far as I'm going before applying primer which will mean more sanding and probably more filler and more sanding before I can actually apply paint. So just to make it more complicated I have decided to bond the side skirts to the car, I may regret that but that's the plan.

        I picked up some 3M 08116 panel adhesive to hold the skirts solid to the car and will then use fiberglass to mold it. But of course the panel adhesive method hit a snag when I realized the skirts only hit the fenders at the very top, like less than 1/4". I had to build up the inside of the skirt so there is about 1 1/2" of fiberglass that will hit on the lower front and rear fenders. This area plus the door sill section and the brackets on the bottom should hold the skirts solid. I will still have the bolts on the front and rear wheel well lips. I never liked the fact the bottom of the doors seem to sit way inside the level of the skirts. I made a 1/8" thick panel to bond the lower door to make the whole thing look more professional, LOL.

        Although I still have a long way to go before I apply primer I am actually about ready for some assembly. I sanded the rockers down to bare metal or Bondo in some areas and hit them with some POR-15. After the skirts go on this area will be tough to paint, wash and maintain so the POR-15 seems like a good choice for protection. After I "glue" the skirts on I will be back to body work molding them to the body, I sure hope I don't regret this. But I think the overall affect will be worth the effort if I pull it off.

        The skirts are glued on. Whether they hold or not remains to be seen. After waiting 24 hours as per the instructions I pulled out the screws I used to hold the skirts in place and they seem to hold for now. I will now add some fiberglass to mold them to the body. Joy, more sanding!!!!

        The skirts are now molded to the car, lots of work, filling, sanding, filling, sanding, applying gel coat, more sanding. Its done as good as it going to get, we'll see how it looks after the primer is put down.

        Trying to paint a car with spray cans will eventually lead to problems. Before this project I had painted everything I added to this car using spray can paint. It barely passed as a paint match and anywhere that took punishment the paint would fail. The front air dam was constantly chipped and the rear valance was abused by gasoline spills running onto it. I had painted the rear spoiler several times and was never really happy with it. But I taped it off for this project since it was silver and would remain that color. But when I pulled off the tape much of the paint came with the tape! I guess I will have to make a decision on how to handle the color of the rear spoiler after I sand it down.......again!

        If I can say one thing about myself it would be that I am never satisfied. I really don't like the way the flares fit on the front and the exposed bolts holding the flares on is not the look I am going for. Besides everyone does it that way and for some unknown reason I alway seem to need to be different, LOL. So I will bond the flares to the body like I did the side skirts. To accomplish this I ground down the inside of the front flares to allow the flare to sit as close as possible to the body. I taped off the area under the flares and mounted the flares to the car. I filled area between the body and the inside of the flare with tiger-glass. This will give me a good amount of area to apply the panel adhesive before bonding, I will still use the bolts for extra assurance that they will be stable. I will fill the indentations where the bolts are with several layers of fiberglass to make the flares look more integrated.

        I now have the front flares glued on and blended to the body. They look good but that's without paint. After the primer goes on I will assess the fit again to see if I need to fill or smooth any areas. I ran out of adhesive so the rears will have to wait until I get some more. I think the rears will be easier since the fenders are not as curved as the fronts are...... I probably shouldn't have said that, LOL.

        The adhesive arrived so I glued the rear flares. There is a 24 hour setup time for the adhesive so I will start the blending process asap. I had to do more "adjusting" of the rear flares than I did on the fronts to get them to blend into the side skirts. The back of the rear of the flares sort of just stop a few inches above the bottom of the rear fenders so I ground them down the best I could to get the to blend into the stock fenders. Hopefully that will be the end of pre primer work. Its been a long time coming and I am very anxious to get some paint on this car again.

        What a mess the garage has become during all this! I spent the whole day cleaning off a ton of sanding dust not to mention the 1000 spiders that have moved in. I turned loose the 200 mph leaf blower and blew a lot of the loose dust out the door. I took everything I could out of the garage and scrubbed the floor to get it as clean as possible. I hung 3mm plastic sheet on the walls to make my paint booth and laid painter paper over the entire floor. The garage door will have to remain open to give me ventilation. I took the car out for a short high speed run to try to blow off some of the sanding dust that seems to be everywhere. That didn't really work too well, but it was fun to drive the car again even if it is 10 different colors! Before I put down the primer I will give the car a good bath and blow out all the little nooks and crannies to make sure I have any left over dust removed. I must say I am more than a little nervous about painting the car. This will be the first time I have attempted anything this big or used a real paint gun. Up to now all I have painted with is rattle cans.

        The heat in Atlanta continues but I got the garage ready and got the car washed. I started masking off the car, man this takes forever! I got the main part done but I still need to mask off the tail light panel and the inside of the doors since I decided to paint the jams. Then if the weather will cooperate I think I will be ready to paint. I may have to get up at 4:00 AM to beat the heat and the inventible afternoon thunderstorm. I sure hope not, I'm sure my neighbors would not be thrilled to hear my compressor start up at that hour! But the forecast does not took favorable, 92 degrees with afternoon showers for the next 5 days, bummer.

        You can only put off what you fear for so long. Its time to lay down some primer! I have cleaned the car the best I can and went over the whole thing with surface cleaner to get rid of any oil or fingerprints. Tomorrow morning I will fire up the compressor and attempt to get the primer on. I am almost afraid to see how bad my body work looks with the primer on.

        Well all my fears about painting came true!!! I ended up with a ton of runs and what didn't run had major orange peel. I called the 24/7 tech support for TCP (where I bought the primer and the gun). The guy I talked to said that 2.5 tip was way too big. He did say I could lower the paint volume and that would probably work. He also said I had the air pressure adjusted wrong and I need to have 29 psi with the trigger pulled, I had it set with the gun off so it was around 10 psi when painting. He said that was causing the orange peel. He suggested I need a 1.8 nozzle for painting epoxy primer so I ordered one from them, better safe than sorry. Maybe I should have taken a painting class, LOL. In the meantime I sanded the car again to remove the runs and orange peel and as I figured I found a lot of low spots in my bodywork. I "fixed" all those and will attempt the primer again once the new nozzle gets here.

        The gun parts came in. The kit consisted of a new nozzle set, fluid nozzle and a new atomization. I was warned to be sure to tighten the nozzle very tight or it would cause problems. A regular wrench was much too wide but the original gun came with a spanner wrench for this, so it was easy. I adjusted the gun to allow more air pressure, less paint and played around with the pattern adjustment. While this helped tremendously I still ended up with less than perfect results. The pattern seems too narrow and I seem to still have some orange peel. Then there is my incompetence at block sanding. I get too aggressive on the edges and sand right through the primer. I will try this one more time after attempting a better setup on the gun. If this fails I will seek professional help.

        I think I finally got the gun figured out and got the primer applied. But after all this I have decided to paint the whole car rather than just the bottom half. So its back to sanding the paint off the top, hatch and hood. Maybe I will have a car again by winter!

        One thing good about painting the whole cat is now is a great time to change the windshield which has been messed up ever since I've owned the car. Man!! Getting that puppy put of the car was not that easy. I thought the hard part would be getting the chrome expansion strip out without damage but that was easy. Once I got that out I cut along the gasket and was eventually able to pull the glass free. I did crack it but it was trash anyway. But getting the gasket off the car took forever. Thirty three years is a long time and the rubber seemed to bond to the paint. The other issue was the previous owner had painted the car the did not really do a good job masking around the rubber so I has to cut that free too. But its out of there and I found no rust which is good. After the car is painted I will get professionals to reinstall a new glass.

        In addition to the windshield I pulled the dip rail chrome, the cowl and the rear quarter windows. I found some small surface rust under the bottom of the driver's side quarter window, I knew that was there, noticed it when I first got the car. It will be easy to fix. I do need to get new frame to body seals for the quarter windows, these are not in the best condition.

        Well sanding sucks! Its been 6 days of sanding about 4 - 5 hours each day and I have gotten close. I still have about 1/3 of the hood to do, the fact that I added the stripes made this even harder. You'd think rattle can paint would come off easy but the clear really gums up the sand paper. I also have to do in the headlight buckets, debating on pulling them off first. The inspection doors should be easy but the cowl will be tough because of the slots. I used stripper for both of these.

        This project will never end! I decided to remove the headlight buckets to strip them and its good that I did. I found some surface rust on the buckets, nothing bad and will be fixed with sanding and POR-15. I also have blended the rear spoiler to the hatch. To prevent the spoiler bonding from cracking I used the same method I used on everything else. First I made a fiberglass piece about 3 inches wide, an extension of the spoiler, that will sit on the hatch and taper into the sheet metal. Then I used the panel adhesive to adhere it to the hatch and the spoiler. Then used a small amount of Gold Rage to blend it to the hatch.

        Of course I am never satisfied, I guess that's why this car has been off the road again for six months! I removed the stock Datsun hood emblem years ago and replaced it with a 350Z fender emblem, just thought it looks cooler. But it never really fit right because of the shape of the hood. I tried in vain to smooth out the area where the emblem would go but the results were less than perfect. Now that I am painting the whole car I have chosen to recess the 350Z emblem. I cut out the area on the hood and built up the inner bracing with fibergless where the emblem will sit.

        I have just about exhausted the prep work on the upper part of the car, so its time to attempt primer again, pray for me, LOL. I started masking but when I got to the rear hatch glass I thought "this is stupid, take the glass out and remove the hatch for painting". So that's what I did. It was much easier than removing the windshield and I got the glass out without breaking it. But this time I did find two spots where rust had started at both lower corners. Fortunately its not too bad and will not require replacing any metal. I sanded it down and applied some POR-15. After that dried I started masking again. But when I flipped the hatch over I found the entire fold over skin at the top of the hatch was covered in surface rust. Weird, there is nothing like that anywhere else on this car. As I started sanding it I discovered it does not appear to be any paint on the fold over skin, in fact not even the zinc coating. The only thing I can figure is the PO pulled the hatch when he had the car painted, sanded the paint off and the reinstalled the hatch but forgot to paint the inside first. Its not too bad so I will sand it all off the hit it with the POR-15. This part of the hatch is not visible once its installed so I won't have to worry about painting over the POR-15.

        With that complete I will finish masking the car, clean it really well and shoot some primer on the top. I sure hope this goes well and I can finally get some real paint on the car. Of course there is still those hours of block sanding to look forward to first!

        Since I used all the primer correcting my mistakes on the lower body I had to get more to do the top of the car. This time the primer went on much more like I thought it should. I got the whole car under primer...finally. I can not believe how much better this primer went on compared to the nightmare I went through the first time. Now for the dreaded block sanding and finding all those low spots I know will show up. The fender tops will need smoothing for sure, they were not flat when I got the car.

        Sure enough there are some low spots. there were 4 on the roof, looks like hail damage, 2 on the driver's front fender and 9 on the passenger front fender. I filled those with Rage Gold and sanded them smooth. I also blocked on the front air dam and the hatch. But I'm not happy with the rear spoiler blending yet but I will do some more work on that. After I block sand the hood and fill some known spots I will prime it all again for hopefully the last time. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel!

        I HATE BODY WORK. Every time I think I am ready for paint I find something else wrong. Sanding is my worst problem. In my attempt to get the primer as smooth as possible I inadvertently sand through the primer to bare metal. This only happens on the shape edges of the car and I'm really trying to be careful. Anyone familiar with these Datsuns knows the are yards of these edges. But I am gradually working them out, last time I had only three small areas. The blending of the spoiler and hatch is still not prefect. I thought I was there but upon sanding I found a defect in the fiberglass, I think I have sanded so much of the glass in an effort to get to as smooth as possible I hit an air pocket. I cleaned up the area and filled it with Rage Gold and then shot some more primer on everything including the inside of the hood. I sure hope after sanding AGAIN I will be done with this phase of the project.

        OMG!!! Paint day has been scheduled. The body work is as done as I can make it so after some final wet sanding, cleaning, re-masking and garage prep my buddy Chris is coming over to slap the PPG paint on. I have decided on GM Cyber Gray Metallic (Code 57U) option code WA637R used on the new Corvette/ Camaro.

        I picked up the paint today, OMG PPG is expensive! Anyway one more cleaning of the body and Saturday the paint goes on. There is no turning back now no matter how bad my body work and primer is. I just hope the end result is presentable. I feel very fortunate to have a friend that can paint and volunteered to do this. Chris has been my go to guy on this car and he won't take anything for his help. I usually just buy him something and force him to take it. But even after the paint goes on I will still be a long way from being drivable. Putting everything back on the car I have pulled off for this project is going to take some time. Since I pulled out all the weather stripping I will reinstall that first. I will have to wait a couple weeks for the clear to cure properly before painting the inside of the hood and hatch and then I will get the glass put back in. In the mean time I will start putting the interior panels, side markers, door handles, hatch lock, headlight buckets and lights back on.

        After getting all the parts situated for easy access and the car wiped down with tack cloths Chris started painting at 7:40 AM. After only a few minutes Chris came into the house saying there wasn't enough room and he felt there was too much stuff to move around in the garage without risk of him or the hoses hitting something. So we decided to pull out the hatch and paint it another day. The plan was to lay down two to three coats of base to get good coverage. That took almost two and a half hours. We let that dry for a little over an hour, tacked everything to get rid of the powder left in the air and started clear coat at 12:15. At 1:45 Chris came in to tell me he had two coats on the parts and one coat on the car. But he had to take a break because it was getting too foggy and the fumes were getting to him even through his external air supply. A venting fan in the garage would have been nice. He apologized for several runs and droops in the clear but he had warned me that would probably happen. He also told me not to worry they would easily sand out. There is one suicidal bug that died on the cowl. At 2:15 he started painting clear again. An hour later and victory was declared. There is going to be some color sanding to remove the runs and droops but other than that it looks awesome. Chris said he wanted to be sure to get maximum shine at the risk of droops rather than orange peeling the whole car by not putting on enough clear. He once again assured me the droops and runs are not a big issue to remove with a razor blade and color sanding. He will have to come back and paint the hatch and the inside of the hood. Hopefully we can hang the hatch so we can get both sides at the same time. I am very happy with the results and know we can get these defects corrected. The paint is called Cyber Gray Metallic by GM but the metallic elements go way past what you normally think of. There are blue, red, green and silver partials immersed in the gray paint. At different angles of light they give off different reflections and with the three coats of clear it looks very deep. Very cool.

        Sunday morning I removed the masking. I had one spot where the clear had apparently built up over the tape seam and when I pulled the tape some of the base coat came with it. Fortunately its below the windshield frame and will be covered by the cowl. I will still touch it up a little when Chris comes back to finish the painting. I waited a couple days before putting any parts back on. I've gotten the headlights and buckets, the grille and the fog lights in the front air dam installed. I also got the chrome door top window molding/seals and quarter windows with new weather stripping installed. Its a little scary tightening bolts on that new paint!! Other than the hood and hatch, once they are painted.

        A little over a week has passed and Chris came back to paint the inside of the hood and the top side of the hatch. I can't figure out a way to hang the hatch to enable him to paint both sides so I guess there will have to be one more paint day. After the hood dries I can install the vents and get the hood and cowl back on. Chris told me to use straight base paint, no reducer, to touch up the tape incident. It really came out perfect and is not noticeable at all.

        The next morning I removed the masking but will have to wait a few days for the clear to cure before I can flip the hatch and paint the inside. I sure wish I had a heated paint booth so I wouldn't have to wait for this stuff to air cure!!

        Somebody save me please!! All that was left to paint was the inside of the hatch. But I decided to paint the fiberglass bumpers to match the body. My previous rattle can bumper paint has not held up so I'm thinking real paint and harder clear coat will be much more durable. So I sanded the old paint off and primed the bumpers so Chris can paint them when he comes over to finish the hatch. To get ready for this last step in paint I needed to get the finished painted parts out of the garage. So my buddy Gregg came over today to help me reinstall the hood and cowl. Why is it things never go back on the way they come off?. But after a bit of a battle we finally got the hood to line up pretty well. This thing is starting to look like a car again!

        This car used to be silver before this insane project started. But if you're going to paint a whole car it seems like a color change is an absolute. Thus the change to the cyber gray metallic. My interior is all black except for the Corvette seat bolsters which I had made silver to match the exterior, so much for that idea. But all along with this paint color change I was keeping the silver seat accent in mind. My plan is to change several areas of the interior to silver. I have heard mixed opinions of vinyl paint and dyes but thought it was worth a try rather than the more expensive upholstery change. After an extensive internet search and getting more recommendations that anyone needs I settled on VHT Silver Satin SP946 Vinyl Dye . To limit the risk I picked a part that would be easy to replace or recover if the results were less than satisfactory, the hatch vinyl trim piece. I scrubbed it, cleaned it with degreaser, scuffed it with a Scotchbrite pad an degreased it again. I then shot it with two light coats of the dye and one medium coat like the instructions said. It looks awesome and will be a good contrast to the dark gray paint. We'll see how it hold up to handling after a few days of curing. Right after the panel started to dry it looked like it had grown and had become very wrinkled, that's not good. But the next morning it look normal again, weird, I guess the vinyl absorbed the dye and expanded temporarily???? It seems to be stable and flexible. There is still an odor coming off the panel but it lessens every day. So I am declaring victory and have now dyed the center section of the door panels (part that is pleated). I am thinking about dying the side panels but I am not sure, it might be too much silver.

        Finally its the last day of painting. Chris came over to paint the inside of the hatch and the bumpers. The next morning I pulled all the tape off the hatch and will wait for a week for the clear to cure before putting it back on the car.

        I was finally able to get my garage back to normal. I removed the 100 feet of plastic sheeting from the walls and the construction paper from the floor that I was using for my paint booth. Its amazing how big the garage looks! The last of the body panels, the hatch is finally back on the car. Now I will begin the search for someone to get me a new windshield and install the hatch glass.

        You ever get the feeling your luck has to be the worst in history? I am finally ready to install the glass in the Z so I call the glass installers. As I figured they do not want to install my old rear hatch glass. I had heard this could be an issue. It seems because of liability they won't install old glass. Oh well, I made the appointment to have them install a new windshield. Of course I still need to get the new hatch glass gasket. I called a couple of the known Z parts suppliers and nobody has this gasket. It has been back ordered for months with no clear idea when or if it will be produced....GREAT. So I go to EBAY and found one from somebody I have purchased stuff from before. Although it was horribly expensive (in theroy an OEM part) I bought it anyway thinking it may be my only option. Hopefully he actually has the part.

        I was shocked that SafeLite had the windshield and gasket in stock and the windshield installation guy showed up right on time. It took about one and a half hours to install the glass, most of that time was getting the chrome strip onto the gasket.

        The hatch glass gasket came in. I was a little surprised to see it had two 90 degree corners built in. I guess I didn't pay attention when I pulled the old one out. I asked on HybridZ if I had the correct part and was assured I did. I got the gasket and the chrome strips on the glass, that was not fun, so now I need to recruit a buddy to help me install it on the hatch.

        Its hatch glass installation day and I approach this with some intrepidation. Not that this looks that difficult its just than I have never done this and neither has the buddy I got to help. I watched a lot of demos on-line, watched the Safelight guy install the windshield and even downloaded a write up from HybridZ. It took us 2 hours but the hatch glass is installed. I had already put the gasket on the glass and installed the chrome strip. That chrome strip is not the easiest install I've ever done. We then started to install all that on the hatch but soon the chrome strip popped out so we went ahead and installed the gasket and glass without it in place. It took an hour to get the strip back in after the glass was in place. The small corner pieces were by far the worst parts.

        To get ready for the color sanding I picked up some wet/dry sandpaper in 400,600 and 800 grit, some aggressive polishing compound and some 3M Perfect-It 06064 machine polish. To apply that I also got a three step polishing kit for the buffer. Now all that left is to wait for my resident expert to find some time and hours of work!

        Chris is finally able to do some finish work on the car. Not that I'm complaining about how long this has taken, after all its not like I'm paying Chris, he's just doing this out of generosity. I am forever in his debt. But winter has reared its ugly head in Georgia basically shutting down Atlanta. So it will be another week before we can get this started. It will be interesting to see how much we get done in one day. He thinks we could do one side. If I wasn't such a coward I would do some of the prep work myself, but I don't want to mess this up at this point! Maybe I can get some stuff back on the car after this day...like door handles!

        In the mean time I have decided to change my side marker lights! On my original transplant build I switched as many lights on the car to LEDs as possible, that included the side marker lights. I used some Peterbuilt marker lights for that. But they mounted pretty far out on the outside of the body but now I want something a bit more flush. I wish I had filled the stock marker light holes in the body but I didn't so now I need an alternate plan. I picked up some smaller rectangular LED lights and have made a bezel to mount them. Chris welded some threaded studs to the bezels and I sanded them flush so there will be no exposed screws and I will be paint the bezels body color. The LEDs only stick out about 1/8" so they are much more integrated than the Peterbuilt ones. I applied POR-15 to the back side before priming and painting the front. I will use stick on rubber on the back to protect the body when mounted.

        Color sanding day: At 7:00 AM I loaded up the Z and fired it up for the 50 mile ride to Chris's house. We, well actually Chris, used razor blades and 400 grit paper to scrap off all the runs and droops in the clear, I was impressed. Then we wet sanded the whole car with 600 grit to get rid of any orange peel. That pretty much wore us out and we were about to call it quits for the day when Chris announced he wanted to sand one fender with 800 and buff it. I think curiosity had gotten the better of him. I stood back and watched as he buffed the driver's rear fender into a thing of beauty. It looks awesome, so much better than I had ever imagined. There is a theory that you should be able to read the serial numbers on a dollar in the paint's reflection. I can read the small print with no problems! So my homework for the week will be to wet sand the rest of the car with 800 grit so he can buff it next weekend. If the rest of the car looks anywhere as good as that fender does I will be extremely happy.

        Color sanding day two: The problem of having your painter that has a real job and lives 50 miles away is that he is only available on weekends. I finished the wet sanding this week and took the car to Chris Sunday to finish the buffing. There are still some swirl marks that will take some cleaner wax to remove but all in all I am very pleased with the way the paint came out. Its certainly not a "Chip Foose" show car but that was never the plan. Just a really nice looking street car. But still I know I will be very sad when that first paint chip shows up, LOL. I can now get all the trim parts put back on and start enjoying the car again.

        Today I started putting stuff back on the car. I got the roof vents on, that was simple and I installed the antenna. So much for the easy stuff. I should have taken notes about how the door handles and locks go on. Its been so long I had to really study it for a while before I realized how it all works. I put the locks in first, not too difficult. But getting the rod to fit in the hole inside the door is not easy. Maybe there is a trick to it I do not know but I eventually got them in. I then started on the door handles. There is a right and left side and I knew that. But for some reason I installed the wrong side on the first attempt. As soon as I picked up the actuator rod I knew I messed up. Damn, all that work for nothing, there is just no room to work in there. Getting that rod positioned and snapped into the handle was a total bitch but I eventually got it. I had bought new door handles (they are cheap) because the gaskets on the old ones disintegrated when I pulled them out and they are not replaceable. I guess because the handles were new and a bit different I had to adjust the handle rod so the handle would actually open the door.

        I got the passenger side door handle on, much easy this time. I also mounted the mirrors using nutserts, man I love the nutsert. The rear bumper went on next and then the front bumper. I seem to have an issue with the front bumper not aligning right. Now that I remember it sort of sat on a downward angle before, I just never addressed it. I had made the center bumper mounts but there is now good way to attach it on the sides. I came up with a different bracket for securing the sides of the front bumper. Not the perfect fix but at least it is more centered than it was. Next I put on the drip rails. Since the clips were rusted so bad I removed them and used some poly adhesive to add a little security.

        Not easy considering the lack of room inside the front fenders but I got the 71 'Cuda gills installed. The mountings for these use self threading palnuts, it would have made this a lot easier if the studs were threaded and used real nuts. So I held my breath and threaded all eight studs to use some real nuts. These the gills are not cheap and the thought of breaking off on of the studs during threading was scary. But I got them all done without incident and it made installation much easier.

        I had MSA headlight cover on the car for several years, its one of the first things I did. Although they look okay, they leak every time it rains or I wash the car requiring constant removal for cleaning. Plus once I saw the JDM version of these with their chrome bezels I knew someday I would have to get them. The shock of seeing the going price was over $1000 was a bit too much. But then I found a fellow HybridZ poster that sells JDM parts through his Zcar Custom's-JDM website can get a set of replicas for a third of the "going rate". This is still very high but I got them anyway. Sometimes in life you just have to give into temptation!

        Its finally time to start putting the interior back in. First up was the Corvette seats, no problem there since they had been installed before this build. Next I put the door panels on..hmmm Houston we have a problem. For some reason I didn't paint the doors far enough in for the panels to cover the old silver paint, DOH. No big deal, its only about 1/4" of exposed silver. I sanded it with 220, cleaned it real good and used an artist brush to apply two coats of base and three coats of clear. One thing of note, using a brush does not allow the metal particles to rise to the surface. But for this it really doesn't matter that much. After waiting two days for the clear to cure well I reinstalled the door panels.

        The only thing I have left is painting my new side maker bezels. Granted these are small but this will be a test of my two stage painting talents! The base went on pretty well but the clear is an art I have no experience with. I laid on two wet coats and it looks pretty good, I am so proud, LOL. After curing for a few days I installed the side markers. I am happy with the result but the idea of no exposed screws proved to be a pita. As always there is no room to work on these cars. The fronts weren't bad at all but the rears were damn near impossible because of the wrap around sheet metal coming from the tail light panel. I lost some blood on these but they are installed. I then installed the rest of the interior panels.

        Now that the body has been painted dark gray it makes the flat black tail light panel look a little lame. So I have painted it a gun metal gray to make it a little more distinctive. Since I have the paint for the tail light panel I decided to attempt painting the door mirrors. Being plastic makes painting a hit and miss proposition. But they have sustained some damage over the years so I have nothing to lose if it doesn't hold up to the elements.

        I can finally declare victory on this project. There is still some finish polishing of the paint to go but for all intents and purposes its done. The big question of course, was it worth it. I have to say yes. Are there things I am not perfectly happy with? Yes, but then I have to remember I am not Chip Foose!!! The end result is what I wanted, a resto-ride look with personal touches and a daily driver. I can say nobody has a Z exactly like mine and that's always been my main goal with this car. Other than the actual paint I can say I did it all myself and for that I am happy and proud. As always I owe my painter, welder Chris big time. Without him this project would have been too expensive for me. The painting alone saved my mega dollars!