How This Got Started

Many years ago, a good friend bought a 280z and I was immediately jealous. A few years later I poked around for one of my own.

Ace's 240z This was my '72 240z back in 1996.

I loved it. Over the years I rebuilt the engine, the suspension, found a 5-speed transmission, eliminated the rusted areas and even gave it a brand-new interior. Can you say "pride in ownership"? The local Z-club had a trackday and I was able to drive it the way it should be driven - fast!

For reasons I can't remember, I lost faith in the car and sold it to a co-worker. Bad choice. Within a few months I regretted it.

Ever since then I wanted to own another but things kept getting in the way. The one night I watched an episode of Wheelers Dealers where Edd worked on a lovely 240z and I couldn't resist any longer. The hunt was on. I saw several "daily drivers" in the $7-8k range, but some had too much rust, others had flared fenders or crappy paint, and so on. I decided that buying a beater and restoring it all at once would be better than buying something driveable and dealing with problems and breakdowns along the way.

1971 240z For several months I scanned dry climate states on Craig's List for a rust-free 240z. This car caught my eye. It was located a mere 90 minutes south of Arvada, Colorado, (my home) but an ugly aftermarket sunroof and lack of a title were deal killers. Two weeks later the owner dropped the price and claimed getting a new title for a car this old was fairly easy. It turned out he was mostly right.

I gave him a call and we started talking. I bought the car sight-unseen for $1800 with the caveat that if I saw it in person and decided it wasn't worth the price, I could walk away without him getting angry. The difficult part was explaining to my amazingly patient wife that I was buying yet-another project. She wasn't happy (understandably) but knew what a 240z means to me.

1971 240z My friend Eddie is also a gearhead and came along. I have a history of buying less-than-stellar vehicles based on emotion, so my wife made me promise to listen to Eddie's opinion: if he said no, I wouldn't buy it. We drove down and met the owner. It turned out he also owned a 240z spec racer. He'd bought this one to be a daily driver, but other things got in the way so he decided to let it go.

Eddie and I inspected the beast. It was pretty rough but everything seemed to be there. It had a brand-new aluminum radiator, wider 280z wheels with nearly-new tires and a surprisingly small amount of rust. The engine started right up and without a muffler it sounded great. The seats were in tatters and the flaking brown paint was hideous, but Eddie gave his nod of approval and the deal was done. We winched it onto a trailer and headed home.

Datsun 240z Here's the ugly duckling, safe and secure and ready to be reborn. I've got a 3-car garage with a heater, air conditioning, a lifetime's accumulation of tools and a beautiful array of 60s and 70s Playboy centerfolds circling the walls. I've done quite a few projects over the years but this is the biggest and most ambitious of them all.

Despite the car's age, it's amazing how many new and reproduction parts are available. Within two weeks I spent about $4k on everything I could think of, such as suspension bushings and carpet and brakes and weatherstripping and glass rubber and sound insulation and struts and seat covers and so on. I have boxes and boxes of stuff ready for when reassembly begins. As of February 2020 I've spent nearly $20,000 and I expect it'll take another $2k before it's finally finished. That's over double my initial estimate but the finished car will be literally brand-new.

Pantera When it's done, I could probably sell it for a handsome profit, perhaps enough for a down-payment on a De Tomaso Pantera. They were built at the same time as the 240z but powered by a 428 Ford V8 pumping out 330 hp and capable of 200+ mph, but why trade a dependable Japanese classic for a finicky Italian supercar?

Wait - don't answer that.

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