I was asked to do a write up on my car project build up i started a while back and hope to get back into this winter.
The largest challenge i had initially starting my car build up project was actually been deciding which car to start with; ever since my first car, a 1965 Triumph Gt4 mkII that I bought for $600, I have been a sports car fanatic…..I don’t know how many people have worked on these early British sports cars but they had A LOT of really great qualities: dual carbs, factory headers, no mufflers (This not an exaggeration-from the factory these cars had a 36″ straight pipe with glass packing- no way it would pass epa noise standards today) hot Cam, independent rear suspension, excellent handling, and my favorite item – A one piece clam-shell front end that hinged on the bumper mounts much like funny cars do today so when you needed to work on the engine there is nothing in your way – when I balanced the carbs I would sit on the front right tire!! When I bought this car in 84 I was a Junior in High School and some other friends with similar iron ( Capri, Fiat X-19 and a MG ) so playing field was pretty even. The problem was the fact all these cars were and are embarrassingly slow, one of my best friends had a 1600cc Pinto and it was The fastest of the group! We knew our cars were cooler than a pinto but it still rubbed so after working at McDonalds in high school and saving some $$ it was time to go shopping! The first buddy upgrade bought a 72 Mustang with a 351 Cleveland- much quicker and definitely raised the cool level, the next buddy got a 68 Cougar with the same motor, another friend netted a 67 Camaro with a very used 350 which promptly was swapped for a ‘more’ original 327. It was my turn to ante up- after having worked on their cars I realized some of the faults of these cars and wanted to avoid the same mistakes -the biggest problem I saw was the size and weight followed by the fact that all these cars were old technology (none of them were convertibles either) but I also knew that I had to get an American V8. This dropped the choices to very few cars: Chevy Monza V8 ( remember these? ), Mustang II V8 ( have you managed to forget these? ) or a Vette. I couldn’t afford the Vette so the choice was dropped to two cars; the instant saw that the Mustang came with a T Top the decision was made! When I got this car it was an ‘okay’ car- nothing special to look at and despite the V8 not real fast….after a year of work and a lot money it was still good looking and the 302 was pretty good for a 1/4 mile and breaking Trannys unfortunately it wasn’t really good for anything else. Bad commuter, rotten reliability, awful handling and plain unpleasant to drive due to the headers burning the floor boards and a clutch that took two feet. Fast forward to today -passing thru college, a couple of Jobs, some very fast sport bikes, several Japanese cars and back to the desire to build/buy another car. When I first got this urge I went back and tried to figure out I learned from my previous mistakes (I tried to place them in priority order ):
- Power is a Good thing.
- Smaller and lighter is better.
- Modern designs are better than old designs
- A powerful engine in a crappy car doesn’t make a good car!
- An overbuilt engine is a bad thing.
Seems pretty straight forward –
I am just slower than most people so it took me awhile.<g>
With this new plan I proposed to my wife the most logical car to fit those
-A Yellow Ferrari
At which point she pointed out I missed one small detail
0) Chuck shall not spend more than $20,000 on this extravagance!
That tiny criteria certainly limited the playing field -but still left a couple of cars. I will list all the ones I thought of as many people have had the same exact list and have made different choices.
- 300ZX Twin Turbo ( 90-96 )
- Supra Turbo
- Mazda Rx7 (Latest incarnation)
- Corvette (C-4 model)
- 93+ Camaro
- Dodge Stealth Twin Turbo (or it’s Mitsu clone)
- Older 911
- Older Exotics such as:
- Ferrari 328
- Lotus Espirit
The problem with that whole list was yes I could get them home under $20k but I wouldn’t have any money left over for my new toy- and as everybody knows a toy you can not spend money on is boring<g>
Okay so time for a $10,000 list that I could then ‘hotrod’ into my dream.
Cobra Replica that was abandoned by somebody else
- Triumph GT6
- 914-6 (has a 911 engine)
- MR2 -Turbo
An interesting thing about all the cars in this list is the fact that all the cars listed are excellent handling but anemic cars as their base model but in these incarnations the engine has been replaced or supplemented at the factory and they are now very fast and handle to the point of being strong racers in their respective categories.
….Very interesting fact to take under consideration and opened possibilities such as getting Tr7 and doing the change myself or??? Once started down that path the sky seemed the limit like putting a Big block hemi in a Fiat X-19 or…<g> Okay so I needed to remember the Mustang Fiasco with too large of an engine plus keeping in mind cardinal rule #2 “Smaller and lighter is better”. So obviously I need to pick a small & light car with fairly heavy stock engine that still managed to have world class handling.
The Tr7 conversion was still interesting particularly since the V8 was LIGHTER than the stock so I did a bunch of research into this, there is a company who sells this conversion as a kit and has a lot of experience with doing it.
Unfortunately this had a couple of distinct drawbacks
1)The company (and most of the rebuildable blocks) are in England
2)The Engine only put out 135-240 in stock trim
3)None of the local performance/race/Machine shops wanted to get into a build with this engine or would but didn’t know anything about it.
4)Off the shelf performance parts are very scarce, very expensive or don’t exist
5)The one person I did meet running this engine who did manage to get a lot of power from it considers the crank shaft a “wear item” and has a oil cooler as large as most radiators. – doh!!
Okay so I probably needed stay with a ‘modern’ American V8 or go with a Turbo Charger
Along about this time my neighbor put up a for sale sign in front of his house- Very much a car nut: in his garage was a 67 Big block Vette, outside the Garage was a decent looking MGB a rough Tr4 and next to that a a very very Sad looking280z with 3 flat tires and an awful green paint job. ….Hmmm a 280z….Very frequent winner of SCCA in both Auto Cross and ITS with a long Race history.
After a casual inquiry it turns out the green paint was mold and the car was actually Pumpkin Orange (don’t know which I would have preferred given the choice), and the car seized after being driven with no water w/ a blown head gasket. After a lot of bargaining that prize was mine for a mere $350- In retrospect free would have been too much<sigh>. Now I had a car but I needed to decide how to motivate it!
I had two choices go with a stock engine/turbo combo- pretty easy particularly since the laters Z’s with the same block came stock with turbo’s.
Or go with a Chevy V8/Datsun combination.
At this time I joined the internet Z car alias ( http://www.zhome.com )and simply read as much as I could on early Z cars. After a couple months of
This a couple things came out:
1) People that don’t have V8 conversions typically don’t like the idea of replacing the stock motor, unless it comes from a different year or other datsun.
2) People that have well done V8 conversions love them!
2) Building a 300hp Datsun motor was going to be VERY expensive!
3) A Hi Power Turbo motor requires a lot of knowledge to setup correctly
4) Putting V8’s in Z cars is almost as old the car itself!
My only reservation at this point was the weight (rule #2 after all!) After cursory look it turns out a stock Chevy 350 is 150 pounds heavier than the Datsun inline 6 but it gives the car a better balance as the engine is both shorter and further back the than the I-6.(I wasn’t thrilled about the prospect of the extra weight but as I later found out if you add in the weight of Intercoolers, Turbos, Waste gates etc you are probably very near that same weight)
Despite that I decided to keep the car at stock weight so I needed to lose some weight from somewhere!
After going thru the list of parts I could easily change for lighter versions the list came out like:
- Headers 20 lbs
- Aluminum Intake 30 lbs
- Light wt starter 10 lbs
- Aluminum Radiator 20 lbs
- Aluminum Heads 40 lbs
- Fiberglass front end 35 lbs
- Lighter Battery 5 lbs
- Electric Fan 5 lbs
Not bad….this should put me slightly lighter than stock with twice the displacement and HP…With this in mind i kicked off my Datsun V8 conversion…
Here is a pic of the first discovery- rush holes through the body, seized breaks and shot bearings…nice!