280Z8 The Hot Rod Dream Continues

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Moving On

        Now that the body mods are finally finished and the car is back on the road I hope to have a summer filled with car show, events and miles and miles of fun. Of course me being me I will no doubt think of something else to upgrade. After all isn't that what hot rodding is all about? But hopefully the next project will not take eight months!

        There should be some local shows and events coming up soon but my first road trip will be back to Mississippi to see my buddy Mario and attend the LeBlanc Nissan car show.

        Now that I have done all this major body work the insurance I had with my old company is looking even more lame. All along my insurance has been cheap because the company based the coverage on blue book value which I am sure would be next to nothing if the car were totaled or stolen. I have just signed up with Grundy Worldwide and set the value of the car at 15K. Guess what? Its actually cheaper than what I had before, amazing. Of course there are a few restrictions but nothing that will affect the way I use the car.

        After all the sanding, primering and painting the windshield wiper mechanism seems to have taken a hit. Not that Datsun wipers are really efficient but they now seem even worse. I am headed out of town soon so I pulled the stock wiper assembly out, cleaned it up and greased all the moving joints. It helped some but the whole thing lacks true efficiency.

        This past weekend was the LeBlanc Nissan car show in Mississippi. I took the car to get gas on Thursday and the starter sounded like it was about to give up the ghost. I had noticed some weirdness with it earlier but that seemed to go away, yeah like these things ever "just go away". But with no time to change out the starter I decided to go and hope for the best. As it turned out there were a few anxious moments where the starter just clicked but eventually it always started. Looks like the infamous heat soaking GM starters are known for. I picked up a new starter and installed it after I got home. The show was fun but the turn out wasn't what it had been the previous years. There were only 8 of the 240z, 280z and 300z variety and 14 of the newer 350Z and 370Z. I didn't win anything, a really awesome restored 280Z rightfully took our bracket. But I got a lot of compliments on the car. The only down side of the trip was Mario and I both getting nailed by a local city cop for doing 89 in a 70 on I-10. Damn!! My first ticket in 25 years. I blame Mario, after all he was leading!

        After installing the new starter and the heat wrap I did some research on the infamous GM starter heat soak issue. Turns out it isn't a starter problem but a solenoid problem. Apparently the solenoid starts requiring more current as it gets hot from header heat and the system drops voltage due to the resistive wiring GM uses in its circuits. The solution, believe it or not, is to use a firewall mounted Ford remote solenoid. You use the existing GM solenoid wire (purple wire) to activate the Ford solenoid. You leave the bat terminal on the starter hooked to the battery positive terminal and using a heavy gauge wire, at least an 8 guage, connect the battery to the input side of the Ford solenoid. The output of the Ford solenoid is then connecter to the "s" terminal on the GM solenoid using another 8 guage wire. That way you get a full +12v to the GM solenoid, problem solved. I made a bracket to mount Ford solenoid just in front of the battery. In addition to this modification I wrapped the exhaust pipe that runs under the starter with header wrap. I hope this will help keep some of the heat off the starter. The old starter wrap I had is pretty much shot due to being removed and reinstalled several time, I will get a new one for extra protection.

        Ever get the feeling you live under a dark cloud? Now I realize this really nothing, just pisses me off. I went to a Caffeine and Octane meeting today. After parking I reached down to pop the hood and the hood release knob disintegrated in my hand. Fortunately there was enough left to operate the release. One of the guys on HybridZ sells some very cool looking billet stuff, one of them is a hood release knob so I ordered one of those.

        Even a blind hog............ I went to a car show on May 29th and actually walked away with a trophy, 15th out of about 50 cars. I was shocked, even though others told me I should get something. My car is hardly show quality. Yeah its different and draws a lot of attention but compared to some of the rides that attend these shows its pretty lame. But it made me feel good and I'll take it. Of course now I feel like I need to do some more detail work on the car, LOL.

        Several people have stated that the Taurus radiator fan many of us are using can draw as much as 60A at start up. I never debated that but I have been using a 40A relay for over 17K miles. But statistics are statistics and the NC contact on the high speed relay finally burned up and I lost all fan operation. I was able to swap the low speed and high speed relays and get home. I have purchased a 80A relay and installed it using the low speed computer control to only run the high seed winding of the fan. I see no reason to use the two speed capability of the fan. Hopefully this one will last longer.

        With the mechanics and body about as far as I am going to take them I decided to upgrade my sound system. The stereo I have now is very basic and the speakers are very lame and 20 years old. I picked up a set of 6.5 Kickers for the rear and 4.0 Kickers for the front (kick panel space is limited) and will build some enclosures for them. The rear speakers will sit just ahead of the rear wheel wells and have a slight upward position. Once again I will use my new found fiberglass skills to construct the enclosures. I was able to use the existing kick panel I had made for the passenger side as a mold, but had to start from scratch on the driver's side. For the front speaker mounts I found a CD stack holder is a perfect fit for the 4 inch speaker mold.

        Trophies? We don't need no stickin' trophies. Well, its kind of like saying this is more HP than I will ever need, it just doesn't hold true for very long. I had been to a few car shows just to get public opinion and that ego boost you get when people like what you have done with your car. But I really never expected to win anything. But when I did it was quite a rush. I found myself taking a little more time cleaning the car before shows and what do you know I won again, and then at what I thought was a rather high caliber event I once again was awarded a trophy! Damn, its getting addictive. I still don't believe it when they call my name, my car is no show car for sure. It must be the "wow factor" of seeing a small Japanese sportscar with a Corvette engine and some major custom work. Whatever it is I'm having fun knowing all my hard work is appreciated by fellow car nuts.

        After building my new engine I never really addressed the cam change in the PCM. The engine runs fine, strong and gets 18-24 mpg. But I decided to get a tune to take full advantage of the LT4 hot cam kit. I contacted LT1 PCM Tuning in Cincinnati about a tune. He will do it several ways, send them your PCM or if you have the software to program the PCM you email him your present tune and fill out am on-line form and he will send you a new tune to your specs. I picked the later method. After you upload the new tune you capture a few runs using DataMaster software and send those to LT1 PCM Tuning. Once he receives your first log, and verify things look good, then he can send you two calibration images to begin fine-tuning your timing/fueling tables, both at part-throttle and WOT. During our conversations about the tune and my issue with not shifting at WOT he thought he had a fix. Unfortunately that fix did not work. It might just be that I expected to see a noticeable difference but I really do think I could feel the car pull stronger all the way through the RPM range. I did a few runs and several issues became evident. Number one was the WOT shift issue. Number two, my injectors are running at 80% which is too high. He recommends getting 30 lb injectors. He also suggested getting a LT4 knock sensor module to eliminate the possibility of false knocks to the headers and roller rockers. I have ordered the injectors and knock sensor. He did send me a new program which has solved the WOT shifting issue, basically it short shifts 2nd gear like I had before.

        A very weird thing happened to the car last weekend. I got out and noticed the interior lights did not come on when I opened the door. I checked the fuse and sure enough it was blown. Connected to that fuse are the LED kick panel lights, the dome light which is still the old Camaro light using one of those weird festoon bulbs and the two accessory plugs I use for the GPS and charging my cell phone. After changing the fuse it all seemed to be working again. Hmmmm, these things just don't go away. I was right, next time I opened the door.....no lights. After an exhaustive investigation involving many blown fuses I discovered for some unknown reason that festoon bulb was the culprit. It would light but after a minute or so the fuse would blow. I pulled it out and replaced it with a LED substitute and all is good.

        I was looking at a custom wide body Corvette at one of the many cars shows I attend and noticed he had a cool looking license plate frame that incorporated backup lights. I never put backup lights in the Z so I asked where he got them. He told me he got them from VLEDS. They come in chrome, black chrome and satin black, I got the black chrome. I had to do a little modification to my taillight panel to get the frame to fit, but that is something I have wanted to do since I first built the panel.

        Kudos to GM for building the LT1 engine with a cam driven water pump. Fifty miles from home at 75 mph my alternator decided to self destruct. I noticed the voltmeter was sitting at 8 volts and knew right away I had lost the belt. No worries I carry a spare belt, just in case. Unfortunately not only was the belt gone the pulley on the alternator was loose. I tightened the nut holding the pulley and installed the new belt but it was obvious from the horrible grinding noise the front bearing in the alternator was gone. Not really knowing where I was it took me a while to find a auto parts store and then trips to two other stores before finding a store that had the alternator in stock. Thankfully I had a fairly new battery but I drove around 20 miles so I had to be close to battery death. I swapped in the new alternator and continued on to my destination arrived two hours late but at least I was not sitting on the side of the road!

        As 2011 comes to an end I look back and reflect on the car. After the exhaustive 5 lug wheel swap which morphed into an eight month total body modification the car was back on the road in April. The spring and summer were filled with car shows and cruise-in events. I was pleasantly surprised with the awards and acceptance I got at all these events. I am still amazed when they call my name for a trophy. I will admit the trophies are cool but really the comradery from fellow gearheads is what keeps me going. Hitting six events in a four day weekend probably means I have become a bit obsessed! Sometimes due to the logistics of the shows I have put over 300 miles on the car in just one weekend. But driving the car was the main reason for building it in the first place, the rest is just bonus. Of course I could have done without that $169 speeding ticket in Louisiana!! There have been a few setbacks like the blown starter, fan relay and alternator but with just a tick over 12,0000 miles on the new engine I am not complaining. Overall these were minor and the car is averaging 18.8 MPH for these 12,0000 miles. I sure can't complain about that for a car that is this fast. I added a few things to the car over the summer like new speakers, a kick-ass license plate frame with backup lights and some polished and chrome goodies for under the hood. I also got a PCM tune for the engine which is still in the fine tuning stage. But it did make a big difference in the performance. So as 2012 approaches I am looking forward to more of the same and wondering what ideas I will have for upgrades. Maybe a new console, carpet and a stereo upgrade, we'll see.

        As you can see there hasn't been an update to this page in well over a year. The Z is well, I did a few show in 2012 but nothing like the previous year. The car now has 20,000 miles on it so you can see it hasn't been idol in 2012. I've had no major issues with the car other than a small transmission line leak but that was easily fixed with a new hose from the cooler hard line to the cooler. I still love the Z and driving it is a total blast. It will never be sold until I can't drive it anymore. But the main reason for no update is the purchase of another car, a 1970 AMX. I needed a new project and since I bought a 1970 AMX new in February of 1970 and until the Z it was my favorite car. Therefore it seemed like a logical choice.

        Something pretty cool happened today. I went to a charity cruise-in sponsored by Snap-on Tools. Two attractions were a door prize of a $6000 Snap-On tool box and Cruz Pedregon was there promoting his sponsor. I won a small door prize of a Snap-on hat. As I was walking back from getting the hat I notice Cruz and asked if he would autograph it, he did. We talked for a few minutes about the NHRA and driving a funny car. As I was walking to my car to put the hat away Cruz was right behind me. He asked if that was my car and what was it. He thought it was a 240Z, then he saw the engine. "Oh, man that is so cool." He even asked who did the work, I told him I did, he said "That's awesome." He asked if he could open the door and what it turned in the quarter. I only wish I had a camera with me. What a cool evening, well worth the rainy ride home.

        I really don't know how this happened but my rear tires are shot. Might have something to do with aggressive driving! I went to Discount Tire and got a new set of Yokohama S Drive 225/50R-17s. Good to go for another 25K miles, LOL.

        Yesterday I noticed a grinding, crunching, rattling sort of sound coming from the right rear at speed. I jacked up the car and saw the inner boot on my right side half shaft has a large rip in it! You'd think I would have notice some grease dripping out but I haven't. Fortunately I have another set but don't really know their condition. The AMX is on stands in the garage right now so it will be a while before I can attack this. I hope the half shaft is salvageable and isn't toast but I think it probably is.

        Yikes!!! it was a lot worse than I thought. All four boots are ripped. The Black Dragon boots lasted less than 30,000 miles. I got one of the backup half shafts in but need to get a crimp strap for the other one. Then hopefully I can get the lower a-frames back up by myself....debatable. Ten hours, a few cuts and a lot of cursing its all back together. Hopefully the old boots on these halfshafts will hold up long enough for me to get the old ones rebuilt or to find a better solution.

        For the second time it the past year my brake lights quit working. The first time it was the brake light switch button simply stuck in, this time I really don't know why but after messing with the switch for a while it started working. Time to replace the switch. The problem is it is no longer produced for '93 -94 Chevy cars! No parts stores have the one with the cruise option and the one without cruise does not fit the bracket, how weird is that! Even the GM dealerships don't have it and have no recommended replacement. Fortunately there were a couple on EBay for a good price so I picked one up.

        Cheap glass pack mufflers donít last forever. After 6 years and about 50,000 miles these things have fallen apart. Since I needed new ones I decided to get the mufflers I have wanted for a long time, chambered mufflers. I contacted Classic Chambered Exhaust and picked up their 24Ē mufflers. I had our local shop weld them on and while I was there I had them reposition the tail pipes so they are tucked in closer. I was surprised to hear these are actually quieter than the glass packs and as an added bonus the 1500 rpm drone is gone. I am very pleased with these mufflers.

        As an upgrade to the stock u-joint half shafts a long time ago I swapped to 280zx cv shafts. These have worked great except for the boots. The original ones had what appeared to be the original boots and they eventually ripped. So I rebuilt them, not a fun project. As a precaution I picked up another set just in case the rebuilt ones also failedÖthey did. All four replacement boots ripped. Of course the precautionary shaft had old boots as well and I know Iím living on borrowed time here. So I bit the bullet, the expensive bullet, and bought Wolf Creek high performance CV kit. These are bolt-in replacement for the stock u-joint shafts. Of course since I converted to the 280zx shafts I donít have the stock side stubs for the diff or the stock 280z companion flanges. But I was able to find what I needed and will begin the swap as soon as I can free up the garage from an AMX project going on now.

        At long last I have pulled the Z off the road to convert to the Wolf Creek half shafts. The first thing I noticed is that both inside boots on the 280zx half shafts are once again ripped. I started to remove the 6 bolts that hold the half shafts to the companion flange and found all the bolts on both sides were very loose, in fact two of them were backing out. Gotta find a better way to torque these when I install the new half shafts. Today I got everything loose and pulled the 280zx shafts from the car. Next is removing the companion flanges since the Wolf Creek shafts use stock 280Z flanges. If memory severs me the nut holding the flanges on is torqued to 180-240 ft. lbs. depending on bearing load. I started with the driver side. No way was this torqued to anywhere near spec, it came off only using a Ĺ drive ratchet! I had farmed out the job of installing these when I had new rear bearings installed since I donít have the equipment to do the bearings. I wonít be going back to that shop any time soon! The passenger side however took some work. I ended up hitting it for several minutes with my wimpy impact gun and then used a breaker bar extended with a pipe and it finally came loose. Not sure how I am going to be able to put the new companion flanges on. First I need to clean up everything and then decide if I want to pull the whole assembly and check the strut isolators.

        I did decided to pull the whole suspension to check the isolators and of course they are fine. It is easy to pull it all out, not so easy to put back in by yourself. But it did make cleaning up all the CV grease that was everywhere much easier. I got the diff stubs installed and using some blue Loctite on the nuts installed the Wolf creek adaptors torqueing them to 50 ft. lbs. I also installed the companion flanges but only torqued the nuts to 150 ft. lbs. because that is a high as my torque wrench will go. I need to get a bigger wrench for the final torque as soon as I figure out what that will be. I am having a tough time finding the 8 companion flange to Wolf Creek adapter bolts. They are unique to Datsun, the dealer wants $12 a bolt and on-line isnít much cheaper. I have offers for used ones from a few people on HyBridZ but I really donít want 30 year old stuff holding all this together. So I ordered the new Datusn parts.

        I borrowed a 250 ft. lb. torque wrench from Oreilly Auto Parts and torqued the stub axle nuts to 205 ft. lbs. That is in the middle of the recommended range and better than what was done previously. The Datsun half shaft bolts came in today. Using these, some Nord-lock washers, blue Loctite and nuts I bolted the adaptors to the companion flanges torqueing them to 50 ft. lbs. Next step is getting the suspension back in the car. I will attempt this myself but will probably need assistance.

        Damn Polar Vortex! Even though I have a semi-heated garage I am having problems going out there and face the cold to get this car back together. Maybe its old age rearing its ugly head, or maybe Iím just getting lazy. But I finally fired up the heater and went out to at least put the suspension back in. The problem is getting the three mounting bolts on the struts to line up with the strut tower holes. But after thinking about this I realized I could put a 17mm socket with an extension on the strut mounting nut which would allow me to turn the strut and align it with the tower holes. I put my jack under the control arm, raised it until the strut was close and turned the strut until it all aligned and jacked it up through the holes. So after a slight loss of blood the struts are back in.

        Back into the garage today to get the rest of the suspension bolted in. I had no issues getting it all in place and torqued down. But when I started to put the calipers back on things went to hell! The driver side went right on fine but on the passenger side the outside pad fell out and I was unable to get it back in. Maybe I just didnít know the proper method or maybe my arthritic thumbs are too weak. The 240sx caliper requires you to use a tool to screw in the piston if the pads are too tight. I pulled out the inside pad to do that and the little spring things that the pads sit in fell out. Trying to get all this back together proved to be something I was not able to do. Eventually I used tie-wraps to hold the spring things in place and was able to get the inside pad in. But I still couldnít get the outside pad in. It seemed like the inside pad was still out too far to allow me to pivot the outside pad enough to rock it into the spring. I used a c-clamp to pull the sliding bracket as far back as possible and was finally able to get the pad in place. Next is to fill the new CVs with grease and install them.

        In order to install the half shafts there are 6 bolts to attach each end to each adapter. The instructions tell you to use safety wire to assure the bolts will not come loose. One of the HybridZ members in high standing said he used flange bolts and Nord-lock vibration proof lock washers and has had no issues for two years. Using this method would be much easier than using safety wire, although much more expensive. I ordered some washers and bolts, weíll see how that works before committing. The bolts and washers arrived pretty quickly but then I got the bright idea that I should use the Nord-lock washers for on the companion flange to adapter connections too. Life has a way of getting in your way, plus I have become very lazy lately. But today I packed the CV joints, I hope properly, and installed the ďventĒ tubes as recommended. I installed the halfshafts today. It wasnít as easy as I thought it would be. The only real issue was trying to line up the mounting bolts to a blind threaded holes in the adapters, but I was eventually successful. Definitely getting too old for this kind of work, it only took two hours but my back feels like it was closer to eight! All that is left is final torqueing and bolting the exhaust back in place.

        What is life without a little drama? I learned many years ago not to but cheap tools, they will eventually let you down. But on this project I went against my better judgment with the 5/16 12 point socket for the 24 half shaft bolts. All was going well, other than getting the torque wrench on the bolts in such a confined space. I was two bolts from victory when suddenly the wrench slipped on the bolt head. At first I feared the bolt head had stripped but looking into the socket revealed several broken ridges. I took the whole socket set back to Northern Tool and they gave me a new set. If I used 12 point hardware more I would have sprung for quality rather than cost. After torqueing the 24 half shaft bolts, checking the torque on the suspension bolts again I put the exhaust back into place. I have a few other things to address on the car before I take it car out for a test drive plus itís raining in Georgia today.

        Mustering all the courage I could I put the car back on the ground and took off for a 10 mile test drive. No problems and no weird noises were found other than the 500 wrenches, sockets and ratchets rattling round in the back hatch. I probably should have taken all that out first. I then jacked up the rear again to check for anything weird and re-torqued everything again. Should I declare total victory? I will wait for a few more miles but right now I feel good. I will say Wolf Creek makes an awesome product. They are expensive but everything is extremely well made and the instructions are very well written.

        After a few short runs around the neighborhood itís time for a longer cruise. Last night I took it for the 50 mile round trip to our weekly Friday night cruise-in. I took some curves a little aggressively and did a few hard, but not crazy starts. Today I jacked it up and checked out everything, it all looks good. I hit all the bolts with the torque wrench again just to be safe. So I guess I can call this project complete.

        Well it looks like I spoke too soon. After a few trips in the car there is a lot of vibration that wasnĎt there before. And when I let off the gas sometimes there is a very noticeable clunk that also wasnít there before. I jacked up the car, started the engine, put in in gear to allow the tires to turn, the rear axles have a definite rattle coming from both sides. In the world of debugging you always suspect the last thing you did so I pulled all the Wolf creek parts off. This proved to be much harder than I anticipated. After removing all the bolts that hold the CVs to the adapters I could not separate the assembly from the adapters. I called Wolf creek and Todd was confused, said that shouldnít happen but offered no reason why it would. He told me I could beat on the CV housing without risk of damage since it is chrome-moly. I did that and eventually got them off. But during this time I made one critical mistake the allowed one of the CVs to angle too much and all the ball bearings fell out! In addition to that on the other side I found a c-clip had come off the axle and was sitting in the grease against the adapter. Todd also said the rattling was because I didnít properly grease the joints, I donít think that is true. I am going to bolt in a set of stock 280Z half shafts just to be sure the Wolf Creek stuff is the cause of the vibration and the clunking noise. Gotta remember I am putting 350 HP to the wheels and donít get crazy and blow the u-joints in those stock half shafts! If that cures the issues I will contact Todd to see how we can fix this.

        Iíve had a few personal issues to deal with but Iím finally back into this problem. I put stock 280Z parts back in and took the car out for a long ride. Guess what, the vibration is gone and so is that clunking during deceleration. I Emailed Todd to see what he says because he was so belligerent when I talked to him on the phone. Weíll see what he has to say but Iím guessing I just blew $1000 on his stuff!

        Todd responded to my Email this morning. He told me to clean the grease off everything the best I could and send them in for evaluation. However during the cleaning attempt the bearings in three of the four CVs fell out. This design seems a little lame to me if you canít angle these more than 30 degrees without the bearings falling out. At least they are clean. If he canít identify anything that is causing the problems I really donít know if I want to go through the hassle of reinstalling them just to have the problem come back.

        The CVs finally came back. Todd says he found nothing wrong. I guess the c-clip falling off is NOT wrong. But he said one of the CV balls was missing so he replaced two of the CVsÖ... yeah right. I know I counted the balls several times when I packed the box for shipping, nothing was missing. He also said the ran the adapters through his mill to be sure the milling was correct since I had such a hard time getting them to separate from the CVs. Again he claims there was nothing wrong. I think he is just not willing to admit there was a bad part. But as fate would have it there was a delay trying to get them back on the car. Other projects have taken over the garage. Then after a few weeks I ended up messing up my thumbs again so I decided to farm this out to Balanced Performance. The CVs are back in the car, no vibration and no clunking during deceleration, it all seems good to go. I have only put a few miles on it but the benefits of these CVs is obvious as soon as you push the car. It has much more bite coming out of a hard corner and I swear it rides smoother too! Certainly not the cheapest way to go for a street car but if I was really concerned about cost I would not be in this hobby.

        So after several weeks and around 450 miles including highway speeds, curvy roads and fast take offs all seems to be good. Again I am impressed with the end result but not in that fact I had to shell out a lot more money to Wolf Creek to make this right. Todd just plain refused to admit to the possibility that there was something wrong with his parts. If he has figured out how to produce something at a 100% out of box success rate he is the first manufacturer in the history of time to do it. Oh well, as they say its only money and I doubt it would be worth the effort to get any of it back from him.