Mitch's 'Not-a-rebuild'

Discussion in 'Z Re-builds' started by Mitch, Mar 31, 2019.

  1. Mitch

    Mitch Has one gear: GO

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    It was drawn to my attention that I have not started a build thread. I've been visiting this place since 2006... my bad.

    For the whole 5 of you reading the forum these days... firstly- Hello.
    Secondly, welcome to the affray that is my ‘not-a-rebuild’. More on this later...

    Hold on to your hats, I’ll be taking a while getting this thread up to speed for the last 13 years of my Z ownership. Hopefully you get a laugh / cry along the way. Some days of Z ownership, if you're not doing one, you oughta be doing the other. Right in the feels, huh?

    Part 1 – the beginning.

    I was always one of those kids that pulled his toys apart. You know the type, the kid who would break it down and put it back together within hours of getting something for christmas or a birthday- sometimes correctly, and sometimes not as well as it was originally assembled. Some people are happy just to know that something works, but people like me need to know WHY. I grew up in an environment with a lot of other kids, parents were teachers, and I spent a lot of time at their workplace, so I was learning from an early age. With access to a classroom full of toys, I enjoyed playing with blocks, and later, in primary school, the Lego technics blocks were my go-to thing where I could build some wild contraptions. Contraptions with motors, gears and pneumatic cylinders. I made some cool stuff. Oftentimes I’d build from the instructions, then I’d modify it a bit more and make it ‘better’ (well, better in my mind at least).

    I became a speed demon, making billy carts and grass sleds- some worked, some were a complete failure. When I was a little older, bikes were my thing, BMX for those who are interested, and with those bikes, I’d pull them down and build them back up and lust over the shiny chromolly 3 piece cranks and bodacious BMX handlebars pictured in the magazines as possible future ‘modifications’. These mods were slow though, as I’d be saving my small-change pocket money and odd job income for my next mechanical ‘hit’. Simple times.

    I did my school time taking subjects in chemistry, biology as areas of interest. I was terrible at math. I thought I’d follow in the footsteps of a friend of a friend, and do an engine rebuilding trade after school, I thought that’d be pretty neat. With the math shortcomings, I came to the realisation early that engineering in a formal (academic) sense probably wasn’t aligned with my strengths.

    Towards the end of high school, I bought my first car. It was the mighty VN commodore (it was a Calais- bitches loved it), and this didn’t remain stock for long. It was repainted, had a set of extractors and cold air intake fitted, and some sweet late model (at the time) commodore SS wheels.

    After school, I patiently waited for my HSC results and what I might choose to do for the rest of my teens and early 20’s. It turned out my grades were a little too good to do a motor trade, and instead I pointed myself towards university study.

    I commenced studying a medical science bachelors degree in the early 2000’s, learning the workings of things at a molecular level. Did some ‘mad science’ with DNA splicing, gene expression and protein mutations as part of a large final project however my mind outside of this was cars and speed. In my time off from this, I’d zoom back out to the macro level, and surprisingly, found a lot of synergies between what happens under a microscope and what occurs in mechanical systems.



    I persevered with the Commodore until 2006, when I started to look for other cars. Something fast and sporty. I’d started looking at the carsales ads and noticed a few cool Porsche 928’s the ‘land shark’, back then, had for under $20K. I should have bought one- they have appreciated quite nicely in the last 10 or so years, however I'd probably be bankrupt by now being a uni student trying to maintain a Porsche.
    By chance though, one day driving home from work, I passed a Z32 parked up on the side of the road in a well-to-do area of Lake Macquarie, NSW. I rang the number, met the bloke (a retired school principal), and before long I was having a test drive. The Z bug bites.

    That test drive was about 2 hours.
    The seller was getting a bit nervous by that time, and was about to report it stolen, as he decided to stay at home, and said It's be worth taking a 'proper drive' not just around the block. I shouldn't have gone back. It would have been a good trade for a 1991 model commodore.

    I ended up buying that Z. It was a 1993 (series 2) NA slicktop in the 2+0. VG30DE power, and a very neat example. Back then, the Z’s commanded a good price. My particular example was about $13K which was very keen for what it was.

    It had the leather seats, electric both sides, suede leather trim panels, and the interior was immaculate.

    The engine itself was unmolested and well maintained. The original engine trim clips were still fitted- many here wouldn’t know that the AAC loom and a heap of other parts are affixed to the 2 metal brackets attached to the side of the plenum. I haven’t seen a Z with those still attached for years... Then it had some of the cool S2 stuff like the proper climate control, directional lighting when the blinkers came on, brake ducting deflectors on the castor arms, full factory under tray, and a factory brazillian and third brake light (amongst other things). I liked that car.

    I had it for all of a few weeks before the mods began...

    Stay tuned for the next installment.

    [​IMG]
     
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  2. Mitch

    Mitch Has one gear: GO

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    Part 2 – Zed #1 – the evolution

    My first exposure to a 300zx was in high school. A friend’s father had a Z, and it was pretty cool for a 16 year old school kid. I was told it was fast. They said it was that fast it couldn’t be insured. All I knew is it looked good, and I liked it.

    Fast forward 6 years and now, I had one of my own.

    It was now 2006, and I had joined aus300zx in its hey-day. This was a time when there was over 1000 active members, and all the expert help and tech advice you could want. The cars were still in hot demand, the import scene had been powering along, and these cars were in the hands of the enthusiasts, not the wannabes. Prices of zeds were in the 20’s down to 10’s, some examples fetched much higher.

    I was on the forum every day. I absorbed the shit out of it all, reading at least a few hours a day where I could. This probably explained a lot of my uni assignments not getting done until the wee hours of the morning where the forum activity died down.

    The mods didn’t take long to begin.

    My first (and probably wisest) purchase for the Z was a spare engine and ancillaries, which I pulled out of the car using a borrowed engine hoist and an 80-piece supercheap auto tool kit.

    This did two things-

    1) Gave me a good source of spares, and the mechanical knowledge of how they fit to the car and how they are accessed, and

    2) Gave me a burning hatred for shit tools. I still sport a scar on my left hand, where the cheap socket gave way, and I slammed my hand into the ring gear teeth.

    Plus it was only $500 for a stock, low KM VG30DE engine.

    From this I started one of my first jobs- polishing the plenum, which I did mostly by hand with 50+ hours of time involved. IIRC I took it down to 2000 grit paper. It turned out quite well for a home job:

    [​IMG]

    It was at this stage that I also got involved with a group known as Newcastle Zeds. We were a small group of maybe 10 core members who all had Zeds. Some are still on this forum to this day.

    We did the usual internet friends thing- did the occasional coffee night at a shop and talked crap, and called each other up for help wrenching on cars etc. I got my hours up on these cars helping mates- pulling engines, troubleshooting faults, doing the occasional modification. I still think it’s the best way to learn is to get involved when the stakes are not high, and you don’t have to worry about messing it up too badly.

    We even did a few cruises.

    I helped organize a ‘mystery rally’ which was cool- each team got a sheet of hints, and at each checkpoint, there was a reference to the next hint and location. Sort of like a poker run, but with riddles.

    The Newcastle zeds crew was age diverse, with guys from their early 20’s like me, to old timers who had lusted over the 240Z when they were in their teens. So the crew had a range of cars from rat rodded / RB powered 240 and 260Z’s, up to the Z32. At that stage the 350Z was not really in our automotive enthusiast ‘scene’, given the newest were all of 3 years old and probably still in the hands of rich lawyers or bankers.


    All in all, my Z32 slicktop was in pretty good shape. I daily drove it for 4 years, without much of a problem at all.

    I initially chased a few issues with the TPS, which was easily fixed when I sourced a multi-meter (an learned to use it). Once again, I was able to easily swap out parts from the spare engine as needed to help speed up the trouble diagnosis.

    The early days of ownership saw an alternator go bad, which was easily swapped out with my spare in my mate’s driveway.

    I did all the maintenance on it myself. Initially this was not by choice. My commodore mechanic pretty much pointed me out the door when I came to show him my new car… nevertheless, this was a great blessing in disguise, and was a further prompt to learn more about this car.


    On the performance front, I had the idea of a high strung, high revving NA V6. I didn’t really know why I wanted this, and how I’d get there, so I thought I’d do what any young rev-head would do, and go see an engine builder.

    So I rocked up to a place in Broadmeadow Newcastle, to see Jack Jones, an engine rebuilder a mate’s family had used a heap of times, and had recommended. This was to be an interesting experience, and a milestone in my ‘performance tuning’ journey.

    [​IMG]

    I walk thru the door of an asbestos clad shed. The smell of kerosene and cutting fluid was heavy in the air. Out of a dark corner where the parts washer was, ambles an old guy with blue overalls, slowly rolling a cigarette with his trademark White Ox tobacco. He leans a greasy forearm on the fly-cutter, which was taking a pass on a caterpillar head, slowiny chipping away with the tick tick tick of tungsten carbide on cast steel.

    “What do you want?” he said in a gravelly voice. For a moment I dind’t know if it was him speaking, or the 50+ years of white-ox durries talking.

    I eventually managed to explain to him that I had a set of heads in the back of the car, and wanted to make my car go fast.

    “So what do you want to do with it?” he probed.

    It was at this point that I really had no idea. I think I wanted to hillclimb it. I also liked the idea of circuit racing, but realized I was living a long way away from a track. I also liked blowing people away at the lights, as any 20-something dude loves to… but the VG30DE was not exactly a V8 Killer… I was not a customer, I was being schooled, and it sucked. But in retrospect, it was totally worth it.

    So, that day, life lesson #1 of a rev head was learned- know what you want. And have a plan on how you can get there. Simply rocking up at an engine builder’s place with a boot load of car parts is not really a plan to make good HP.

    As defeated as I was that day, I left with my wallet still firmly in my pants, and a bit of a prompt to have a bit of a battle plan together for next time I decide to go that way. I also needed to understand WHAT I wanted, and to know what I wanted, I also needed to understand how It all works so I can have a realistic understanding of how to get there.
     
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  3. Mitch

    Mitch Has one gear: GO

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    I returned to the forums, still reading.

    I met a guy thru Newcastle Zeds who gave me a book recommendation, which I sourced and read with fervor.

    For anyone still reading, I can highly recommend “4 stroke Perofrmance Tuning” by A. Graham Bell.

    His other book “forced induction performance tuning” is also a great read, and comes highly recommended.

    These books cover the basics (and to some degree the engineering behind) building power. Some car owners are lucky enough to have 6.2L of V8 to make power for them, and a parts book stuffed full of bolt-ons to get you to your power goals, but blokes like us need to put more thought into it. So once again, I was learning.



    So, I started accumulating parts:

    I purchased a manual conversion from one of the jap wreckers in town. This sat in limbo for a while as it was a long term job. I knew I didn’t want an auto forever.

    I’d also started collecting exhaust parts.

    I sourced some extractors for the VG30DE, and had them HPC coated as part of a group buy.

    I bought a UAS X-pipe muffler

    High flow cats were also procured.

    The mufflers were a set of ‘zetti’ stainless units with upswept tips, which looked and sounded great.

    I had it all tied together with 2.5” mandrel bends and TIG welded up. It was a bloody good job, and sounded amazing.



    Things were going well, until I had another ‘failure to proceed’. This time it was the auto box which decided to give up the ghost one day in a most spectacular way. This fast-tracked the manual conversion plans quite significantly.

    The manual conversion was done by a Newcastle guy whose business was called Kyle’s Conversions. Kyle had done some work on a few of the Newcastle Zeds guy’s cars, including working on a RB26 powertrain swap on a 240Z. Kyle got the gearbox fitted, tailshaft modified, and fitted it all up with a superlight flywheel I had sourced for the Z.

    She now breathed freely with the pod filter setup, had good flow thru the engine, and the exhaust setup had just enough backpressure to make things flow, while sounding amazing. The responsiveness thru the rev range was also great.

    Another side project with this plan was to ditch the viscous clutch fan, and run a thermofan. The idea was to reduce the load on the ancillary belts and ideally free up 1 or 2 HP in the process.

    This idea was simultaneously a great success, and a huge failure.

    I’d enlisted some help of a company called ‘Iceman Intercoolers’ to make my plan a success. I dropped off to them a PWR twin pass radiator, and a 16” SPAL curved blade fan, with a simple task: Build a shroud to force all air thru the fan blades.

    This is what I ended up with:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    It looked sexy AF. Worked rather well too. But my electrical skills were non existent.

    I jerry-rigged a system up with a relay and a switch, and ran it all off the thermocouple on the side tank. It worked well, but the latency between the ON signal, and the cutoff time were out. Realistically, I don’t think the fan was able to keep up with the cooling demands of that engine. Eventually, I parted out the shroud, and fan, and returned to a new viscous coupling and plastic fan.

    For the record, my electrical skills have progressed quite a bit over the years. This was a past project of mine for the 4wd – I’m sure it’ll make an appearance in this thread somewhere in the future… This is a fully removable / backwards compatible headlight relay system for my Land Rover defender. It bolts into the factory headlight loom, and if you give it power and connect it to the stock light, you get full current to the globes, as opposed to suffering a shit-tonne of voltage drop via the factory loom.

    [​IMG]

    Back to the Z.

    A while later, probably some time around 2009, a guy approached me at the service station, and begun telling me that he had a Z32 also. We got talking and he proposed the trade of the century- he had a stack of 16” tryres to use, but his car was sporting 17” rims. He wanted a straight swap. Turned out these rims were the white AVS rims, which were fitted to the stillen 25th anniversary model. I traded the shit out of that deal, and the Z got one of its first cosmetic mods since I’d owned it:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The slicktop was going great as a daily. The exhaust was tuned, and sounding great. But I needed more power.



    Stay tuned folks…
     
  4. J3bba

    J3bba He Who Struggles

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    Love it so far. When we getting part 3?
     
  5. Mitch

    Mitch Has one gear: GO

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    ...still writing it. I have been a bit time poor lately.

    The journey is still only up to 2009... still locating what pics I still have and trying to remember it all... or at least make up a good story about what I can find. ;-)
     
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  6. Mitch

    Mitch Has one gear: GO

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    Here’s a bit of a pic heavy post.

    Some pics of the silver slicktop’s exhaust:

    The high-flow cat convertors
    [​IMG]

    Stillen style headers (IIRC TTZ made these)
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Zetti mufflers. Not much baffling on these, sounded amazing IMO.
    [​IMG]

    Being a welding sorta guy these days, I appreciate this a lot more now.
    [​IMG]





    [​IMG]

    The level of detail in the exhaust was really good. Kyles conversions did the job, and it was almost worthy of polishing and putting mirrors under- all mandrel bends and TIG welded.




    Here was a late night phone call to a mate when I had some issues with the Z. This was part way thru a plenum pull- The extractors were installed at the same time with the engine in.

    [​IMG]
    Nokia 7600 lemon phone for the win.

    It’s about time I explain my stance on cars.

    I’m a function over form kind of guy- it needs to work, and work well. If it looks good in the process, great… but I’m not going to be the guy out there polishing the car every weekend and have it fall apart mechanically.

    That being said, I attribute this 'lost spark' of having a bling engine bay after doing a plenum polish myself, pretty much by hand. This was an early Z project, with another part off the donor engine. Circa 2007. Spent uncountable hours polishing it up, down to 2000 grit paper. Looked a million bucks, but eventually became just another shiny engine part in an average looking engine bay.

    [​IMG]

    I also did a much quicker, and dodgier job on these water pipes.

    [​IMG]
     
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