Meet "Bella" - The NICOclub RB25-powered 240Z Project

A forum for owners of S30 and S130 Datsun Z's... 240Z, 260Z, 280Z and 280ZX!
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AZhitman
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Car: 72 240Z RB25, 63 Bluebird RHD, 63 NL320, 67 WRL411, 67 SPL311, 68 510 SR, 77 620 SR20, 92 SE-R, 97 D21, 98 S14, 11 LS460L, 12 Titan 4x4, 20 MX5 Club.
Location: Surprise, Arizona
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Re: Meet "Bella" - The NICOclub RB25-powered 240Z Project

Postby AZhitman » Sun Jun 07, 2020 9:06 am

I feel like there's an awesome story behind that... "Do I drive the Datsun or the Lambo, hmmm..."

That's an awesome dilemma to have! Good to hear from you, brother!!! Thanks for your encouragement and support. :)


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AZhitman
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Car: 72 240Z RB25, 63 Bluebird RHD, 63 NL320, 67 WRL411, 67 SPL311, 68 510 SR, 77 620 SR20, 92 SE-R, 97 D21, 98 S14, 11 LS460L, 12 Titan 4x4, 20 MX5 Club.
Location: Surprise, Arizona
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Re: Meet "Bella" - The NICOclub RB25-powered 240Z Project

Postby AZhitman » Sun Jun 07, 2020 8:37 pm

After sitting around here at Datsun Ranch for five years, it was time to either begin the project or let the '75 Z go down the road.

Obviously, as with any major project, cost is a concern, so recouping some of the soon-to-be-spent money would get me off to a good start. With that, the L28 and trans were pulled and shipped off to a good home in Tucson. Lots of other bits that wouldn't be needed were removed, replated, and sold on ebay, and the disassembly was extensively documented with pictures.

At the same time, I had a buyer very interested in the 1972 shell, for a restoration project, so all of the critical components on Bella were removed, catalogued, and set aside for eventual reassembly on the new shell.
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With the goal of this build being to recreate the original build, but better, the challenge will be making a 75 look like a 72. With that in mind, anything that *might* not work, I kept both of.

AND, with the intent to do this 100% correct, I started shopping for a rotisserie and a media blaster. This one's gonna get real naked, real soon. :dblthumb:

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AZhitman
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Car: 72 240Z RB25, 63 Bluebird RHD, 63 NL320, 67 WRL411, 67 SPL311, 68 510 SR, 77 620 SR20, 92 SE-R, 97 D21, 98 S14, 11 LS460L, 12 Titan 4x4, 20 MX5 Club.
Location: Surprise, Arizona
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Re: Meet "Bella" - The NICOclub RB25-powered 240Z Project

Postby AZhitman » Mon Jun 08, 2020 8:39 pm

The original iteration of this car was somewhat limited by budget, and skills, and space, and timeframe.

Ten years later, there's a little more disposable income, I've learned a ton, I have plenty of space, and there's no hurry (although Becky would probably like to drive this thing before we're all too old to enjoy it).

With that said, a few plans were laid out:

* The body will incorporate the SubtleZ widebody fenders made by our good friend John Washington at reactionresearch.com, but with a twist - bolt-on ZG flares will be added to retain the look of the previous build.

* The suspension, rather than being a hodgepodge of various components produced over the past few decades that may or may not play nice together, will instead be the entirety of the Apex Engineered Track Attack kit.

* Modern creature comforts (such as air conditioning, Bluetooth audio, and power steering from Zpowersteering.com) are mandatory.

* Lastly, five-lug rolling stock, sufficient to fill the wheelwells, and capable of managing the RB25's output, will be selected later in the build.

With the disassembly nearly complete, and the original "Bella" shell shipped off to Canada, it was time to mount this shell on a rotisserie for lots of editing!
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AZhitman
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Car: 72 240Z RB25, 63 Bluebird RHD, 63 NL320, 67 WRL411, 67 SPL311, 68 510 SR, 77 620 SR20, 92 SE-R, 97 D21, 98 S14, 11 LS460L, 12 Titan 4x4, 20 MX5 Club.
Location: Surprise, Arizona
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Re: Meet "Bella" - The NICOclub RB25-powered 240Z Project

Postby AZhitman » Wed Jun 10, 2020 8:25 pm

Before any structural work happens on this build, we need to relieve it of some excess metal. Namely, the way-too-small fenderwells.

Yep, we're going to perform surgery on the cleanest, most rust-free S30 rear fenders you've ever seen, so grab your Kleenex and join us as we commit atrocities in the name of purist panty-bunching!
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Lots of measurements (all laid out nicely on the Ztrix website https://www.ztrix.com/) before breaking out the Sawzall and the plasma cutter. That made short work of the initial cuts, and exposed the metal that we'd be reshaping to form the inner fenderwells later.
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Since we can't weld with all that primer, seam-sealer, and rustproofing in the way, we'll come back to this part later.

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AZhitman
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Car: 72 240Z RB25, 63 Bluebird RHD, 63 NL320, 67 WRL411, 67 SPL311, 68 510 SR, 77 620 SR20, 92 SE-R, 97 D21, 98 S14, 11 LS460L, 12 Titan 4x4, 20 MX5 Club.
Location: Surprise, Arizona
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Re: Meet "Bella" - The NICOclub RB25-powered 240Z Project

Postby AZhitman » Wed Jun 10, 2020 9:24 pm

The very next step - Defunkification!

Not long ago, some of you may have noticed an interloper at Datsun Ranch... A certain green 60's VW Bus being restored by Jason (rotorimp) McCoy. That project got a full rotisserie restoration as well (and sold on Bring a Trailer soon thereafter). As part of the restoration, the shell was dustless blasted on-site, and it turned out great. So, this one's getting the same treatment!

The rotisserie was wheeled out behind the shop, and we welded up a handy rack to hang the doors, hatch, cowl panel, and headlight buckets... and stood back and watched!
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AZhitman
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Car: 72 240Z RB25, 63 Bluebird RHD, 63 NL320, 67 WRL411, 67 SPL311, 68 510 SR, 77 620 SR20, 92 SE-R, 97 D21, 98 S14, 11 LS460L, 12 Titan 4x4, 20 MX5 Club.
Location: Surprise, Arizona
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Re: Meet "Bella" - The NICOclub RB25-powered 240Z Project

Postby AZhitman » Wed Jun 10, 2020 9:36 pm

With the shell completely stripped of anything non-metallic, the rear fender modifications could be finished.
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Lots of time was taken to assess the condition of the shell, as well as making notes on what can be removed, what holes need to be filled, and most importantly, what should be reinforced. Look at that gorgeous battery tray!
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AZhitman
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Joined: Mon Apr 29, 2002 2:04 am
Car: 72 240Z RB25, 63 Bluebird RHD, 63 NL320, 67 WRL411, 67 SPL311, 68 510 SR, 77 620 SR20, 92 SE-R, 97 D21, 98 S14, 11 LS460L, 12 Titan 4x4, 20 MX5 Club.
Location: Surprise, Arizona
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Re: Meet "Bella" - The NICOclub RB25-powered 240Z Project

Postby AZhitman » Thu Jun 11, 2020 8:38 pm

Absolute first order of business? Reinforced frame rails from BadDog.

While this Z won't be seeing a lot of track action, the torsional rigidity (or lack thereof) was what made the previous build so unpleasant to drive. These rails fit perfectly. There were two small areas where the original rails had been dinged and deformed, but heating the affected areas with a torch and returning them to their original shape allowed these rails to slide cleanly in place.
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I decided to bridge the connection between the rails and the rear subframe framework. Keeping in mind that none of this is empirically-proven or even supported by anecdotal evidence, it IS an area that would seem to benefit from being tied together. Some 1/8" heavy steel strap was formed to evenly match the profile of the area to be bridged, tacked into place, and then welded in fully. It's not pretty, but pretty is for the top side.
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I also added some triangular gussets to the corners of the rear suspension box. Again, if it helps, neat. If not, we'll never know. :biggrin:

The design of the S30 suspension and unibody make sit a little less-likely candidate for the "strut tower brace" that you're used to seeing on, say, a modern strut-suspension car. It simply doesn't benefit as much from tying the tops of the towers together. However, the upper frame horns relative to the lower rails leaves a little to be desired. I recalled from my MazdaSpeed Miata build that "frog arms" were a hugely-effective modification, and I suspected they would help here as well.

The suspension on the S30, much like the MIata, is cantilevered out from the front bulkhead (which, on an S30, is terribly weak). If we can support the upper frame horns, my theory was, I can transfer some of the cornering load into the bulkhead, the A-pillars, and the lower frame rails. If not, nothing of value has been lost, and I got some much-needed practice with my welder.
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1x3 rectangular steel tubing with gussets at each end (to match the profile of their tie-in placements) were fabbed up and tacked in place, then welded properly. A small L-bracket joins the brace to the inner fenderwell about halfway up.
frog_arms (2).jpg

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AZhitman
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Car: 72 240Z RB25, 63 Bluebird RHD, 63 NL320, 67 WRL411, 67 SPL311, 68 510 SR, 77 620 SR20, 92 SE-R, 97 D21, 98 S14, 11 LS460L, 12 Titan 4x4, 20 MX5 Club.
Location: Surprise, Arizona
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Re: Meet "Bella" - The NICOclub RB25-powered 240Z Project

Postby AZhitman » Thu Jun 11, 2020 9:06 pm

A quick detour, if I may...

I'm not sure if it was the three weeks of inhaling welding fumes, the July AZ heat, or that I'm just a dumbass - but against the advice of several trusted advisors, I decided this car needed to be separated from its drip rails. Hell, it rarely rains here. :)

Yep. Th drip rails were going away. I read every old hot-rodder's account of how to successfully shave the drip rails, and several said, "Don't do it." That's the surest way to get me TO do something, so here comes the Sawzall.

To be clear, this was a much more delicate and carefully-completed operation than that. I actually used a small electric jigsaw to cut about 1" at a time, then followed that with a gentle clamping of the three metal layers and a tack-weld every 1/4".
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The challenge is to connect the three pieces of metal without warping the roof skin (or blowing through 45-year-old thin Japanese steel). Practicing on a few chunks of a scrap car certainly helped, and while a TIG would have been the preferred tool, we work with what we have.
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AZhitman
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Car: 72 240Z RB25, 63 Bluebird RHD, 63 NL320, 67 WRL411, 67 SPL311, 68 510 SR, 77 620 SR20, 92 SE-R, 97 D21, 98 S14, 11 LS460L, 12 Titan 4x4, 20 MX5 Club.
Location: Surprise, Arizona
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Re: Meet "Bella" - The NICOclub RB25-powered 240Z Project

Postby AZhitman » Thu Jun 11, 2020 9:43 pm

Lots of stitch welding and seam welding followed, while awaiting delivery of critical components (namely, suspension). There are loads of resources and articles online pertaining to the critical areas to weld on an S30, so let those be your guide. Obviously, it's not hard to get carried away.

With the stitching reasonably complete, and some known-redundant holes filled in, it was time to fill in that gaping hole in the deck where the spare tire well used to be - that's where we're going to put our new fuel tank.

With the car flipped on its back, the underbody becomes an easily-accessible work surface. I started by making a cardboard mockup of the tank I intended to use, so that I could design the filler neck, straps, bracing, and access hatches. As it turned out, a UT-N-2HT model (Universal Pickup Truck Fuel Tank with Fuel Injection Tray from Tanks, Inc) was the perfect size for this application, and it's already nicely baffled and set up for fuel injection.
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Extra bracing and relocated straps will center the tank neatly under the deck, and the access panels will allow servicing the pump and sending unit in the future. BTW, the access panels are steel electrical box access panels from Home Depot. They're strong, square, and perfect for this purpose.
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During this process, I thought long and hard about how to handle the fuel filler situation. Keeping it stock-appearing would mean somehow incorporating the fuel door into the extended fiberglass fenders, which would mean a lot of engineering just to retain the fuel door. Filling the tank via a cap inside the hatch is tacky, unsafe, and not appropriate for this level of build.

"Boy, remember the good old days, when the fuel filler was hidden behind the license plate?"

Damn right I do. And that's perfect. A musclecar-style filler port behind the license plate would be perfect. In fact, let's get really trick and use a spring-loaded plate frame AND a modern push-through fuel cap (so no need to remove the cap).

More to come - Gotta get back in the shop and make some more sparks! :mike

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AZhitman
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Re: Meet "Bella" - The NICOclub RB25-powered 240Z Project

Postby AZhitman » Sun Jun 21, 2020 8:15 pm

Not a lot of progress to report, but the components to build the rear-panel filler have all arrived.

The internal bracing behind the hatch latch had to be removed, but it'll get replaced with something more robust.

The angle of the rear panel should put the filler neck in a perfect position for fueling. I'm thinking I'll build a flange to attach the filler neck to the body, if only for serviceability later on.
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The spring-loaded flip-down plate bracket sounded like a great idea in theory, but the springs were WAY too stiff. Deleting one spring would bend the mechanism and stress the hinges, so I decided a couple small neodymium magnets would be a way better idea.
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AZhitman
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Car: 72 240Z RB25, 63 Bluebird RHD, 63 NL320, 67 WRL411, 67 SPL311, 68 510 SR, 77 620 SR20, 92 SE-R, 97 D21, 98 S14, 11 LS460L, 12 Titan 4x4, 20 MX5 Club.
Location: Surprise, Arizona
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Re: Meet "Bella" - The NICOclub RB25-powered 240Z Project

Postby AZhitman » Tue Jul 07, 2020 10:24 pm

The flange to attach the filler neck to the body was proving to be a huge pain. Cutting a perfect circle out of 12ga steel wasn't exactly a job for my plasma cutter, so I found a blank plate for an electrical panel that was the perfect diameter.
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Media-blasted the paint off, found the center, bored a hole to match the filler neck, welded it on, and it's ready to install.
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Found some time this week to test-fit the rear subframe and fuel tank, so the rear suspension should start coming together soon!
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AZhitman
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Car: 72 240Z RB25, 63 Bluebird RHD, 63 NL320, 67 WRL411, 67 SPL311, 68 510 SR, 77 620 SR20, 92 SE-R, 97 D21, 98 S14, 11 LS460L, 12 Titan 4x4, 20 MX5 Club.
Location: Surprise, Arizona
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Re: Meet "Bella" - The NICOclub RB25-powered 240Z Project

Postby AZhitman » Tue Feb 16, 2021 9:41 pm

Fuel tank fully plumbed and secured in place:
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Super-handy tool for making fuel and brake lines - Highly-recommended!
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Fuel lines routed to engine bay:
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Another super-helpful tool.... After struggling with several different solutions for making perfect brake line flares, I decided to splurge on this bad boy... AND it's a total game-changer. I can make a perfect Nissan inverted flare every time, with no hassles.
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Speaking of brake lines, they've gotta start somewhere, so we're going with the Chase Bays booster eliminator. It's compact, clean, and should perform perfectly with the big rotors and calipers that she'll be getting.
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AZhitman
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Car: 72 240Z RB25, 63 Bluebird RHD, 63 NL320, 67 WRL411, 67 SPL311, 68 510 SR, 77 620 SR20, 92 SE-R, 97 D21, 98 S14, 11 LS460L, 12 Titan 4x4, 20 MX5 Club.
Location: Surprise, Arizona
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Re: Meet "Bella" - The NICOclub RB25-powered 240Z Project

Postby AZhitman » Tue Feb 16, 2021 9:54 pm

Here's the BBE in place with lines:
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Decided to route the brake lines as cleanly as possible to eliminate clutter, shorten the run, and... well, because it looks freakin' cool:
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Rear junction:
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These stainless clips are awesome when coupled with a nutsert tool and some 6 x 1.0 inserts... I could build 100 cars and still not run out of 6 x 1.0 fasteners!
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AZhitman
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Car: 72 240Z RB25, 63 Bluebird RHD, 63 NL320, 67 WRL411, 67 SPL311, 68 510 SR, 77 620 SR20, 92 SE-R, 97 D21, 98 S14, 11 LS460L, 12 Titan 4x4, 20 MX5 Club.
Location: Surprise, Arizona
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Re: Meet "Bella" - The NICOclub RB25-powered 240Z Project

Postby AZhitman » Tue Feb 16, 2021 10:02 pm

Fabbed up a little shield for the fuel filler... This will have a couple concealed attachment tabs and will eventually be painted body color, to bring some of the outside into the cabin.
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That kinda wraps up the plumbing... Next up, finishing the front and rear suspension so we can get this thing off the rotisserie and on some rollers!

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AZhitman
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Car: 72 240Z RB25, 63 Bluebird RHD, 63 NL320, 67 WRL411, 67 SPL311, 68 510 SR, 77 620 SR20, 92 SE-R, 97 D21, 98 S14, 11 LS460L, 12 Titan 4x4, 20 MX5 Club.
Location: Surprise, Arizona
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Re: Meet "Bella" - The NICOclub RB25-powered 240Z Project

Postby AZhitman » Thu Feb 18, 2021 8:17 pm

Rear suspension takes a lot of trial and error, fitting and refitting, assembly and disassembly. With no real order of operations, it's not hard to put things together, only to realize you can't get to certain fasteners afterwards... but, it also gave me an opportunity to really understand the engineering and design that went into this setup.
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370Z front and rear hubs are used (for serviceability and availability), and with the rear all buttoned up, the front is next.

The front crossmember is designed to be a bolt-in affair. The more I installed and uninstalled, the more I realized I wasn't going to be happy with fasteners alone holding the whole thing together. As such, the frame braces and crossmember were carefully positioned, measurements checked, and welded in place. There's really no reason to need to remove the crossmember assembly later on (engine servicing provisions will be discussed later in the build), and I'm happy with the outcome.
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I know, I know... my welds aren't pretty. I'm still learning. Just shake your head and keep reading. :gapteeth:

Strut towers got some tackwelds, and in chatting with Ohm from AE, I suggested a plate to reinforce the inner strut tower from the underside. I wound up making my own, but wouldn't you know, a week later, he sends me a picture of proper ones that'll now be included with the kit.
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The ones he makes are much nicer... I'm working with a plasma cutter, an angle grinder and an antique Miller welder.

The front coming together.... slowly.
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Another area that has to be addressed is the front sway bar mount. The factory used a blind nut, welded inside the frame rails, with a very narrow spacing (for a skinny bar). This car would be getting a beefy front bar, and bolting a massive bar through those holes is a recipe for torn metal. So, the entire frame rail was boxed on three sides with 1/8" plate and redrilled to accommodate the larger bar and brackets. No chance of these fatiguing under heavy cornering!
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Here's the front, complete with hubs, almost ready to flip and put on the ground.
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AZhitman
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Car: 72 240Z RB25, 63 Bluebird RHD, 63 NL320, 67 WRL411, 67 SPL311, 68 510 SR, 77 620 SR20, 92 SE-R, 97 D21, 98 S14, 11 LS460L, 12 Titan 4x4, 20 MX5 Club.
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Re: Meet "Bella" - The NICOclub RB25-powered 240Z Project

Postby AZhitman » Thu Feb 18, 2021 8:44 pm

Getting the RB and trans in and out once is a big job, especially with the flimsy radiator support in the way. Almost every Z I've seen has a beat-to-hell support, and I wanted this one to be simpler. Since the drivetrain would be making a few trips in and out of the bay for the build, I decided the radiator support needed to be rehomed.
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30 minutes with the plasma cutter and a grinder and it's off to the dumpster. Time to fab up something that'll be removable, and also allow a clean, serviceable design for the radiator, compressor, condenser, and whatever else needs to hang off of it.
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The top rail is 16ga 1/2" x 3" rectangular steel, and the frame is 16ga 1" x 1" tubing, and the whole thing bolts in for easy removal. I've since added a couple more outboard braces to attach just in front of the wheel tubs. It's strong, unobtrusive, and again, I can pop it out in 30 seconds when it's time to pull the drivetrain.

With that out of the way, let's get that engine in place!
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Re: Meet "Bella" - The NICOclub RB25-powered 240Z Project

Postby VStar650CL » Thu Feb 18, 2021 8:51 pm

AZhitman wrote:
Thu Feb 18, 2021 8:17 pm
I know, I know... my welds aren't pretty. I'm still learning. Just shake your head and keep reading. :gapteeth:
Aw, c'mon Greg, quit it. I boated for three decades the Navy way, "If you can't tie good knots then tie lots of knots." Never had a boat wander away. Those welds look plenty strong, they ain't gonna wander either. On the greasy side of things, neat is nice but Da Vinci is optional. :)

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AZhitman
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Car: 72 240Z RB25, 63 Bluebird RHD, 63 NL320, 67 WRL411, 67 SPL311, 68 510 SR, 77 620 SR20, 92 SE-R, 97 D21, 98 S14, 11 LS460L, 12 Titan 4x4, 20 MX5 Club.
Location: Surprise, Arizona
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Re: Meet "Bella" - The NICOclub RB25-powered 240Z Project

Postby AZhitman » Thu Feb 18, 2021 8:56 pm

Thanks brother. I have the World's Biggest Critic (who's also my best buddy and permanent fixture at Datsun Ranch), rotorimp (Jason).

He's a hell of a fabricator, and while he gives me crap about my welds on the daily, he also teaches me a ton AND would be the first to redo anything if it looked unsafe.

My Pops was a Navy guy (20 years). You guys would have gotten along well. :)

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AZhitman
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Car: 72 240Z RB25, 63 Bluebird RHD, 63 NL320, 67 WRL411, 67 SPL311, 68 510 SR, 77 620 SR20, 92 SE-R, 97 D21, 98 S14, 11 LS460L, 12 Titan 4x4, 20 MX5 Club.
Location: Surprise, Arizona
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Re: Meet "Bella" - The NICOclub RB25-powered 240Z Project

Postby AZhitman » Sat Feb 20, 2021 6:55 pm

Took a break from moving heavy stuff to mock up the radiator. Turns out the frame rails on the later Z are a touch closer together (probably wider) than the '72, so some notching and re-welding was required.
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I'll keep playing with this configuration, but I think it's pretty close to how I'll want it. I still need to build a lower support for the rubber pegs, and fab up some sort of removable brackets for the upper mounts.

The condenser can sit inside the opening for the rad support, and the intercooler will be mounted separately (likely bracketed off the front lower radiator support, in V-mount fashion). That's next week's project. :(

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Re: Meet "Bella" - The NICOclub RB25-powered 240Z Project

Postby PapaSmurf2k3 » Sat Feb 20, 2021 8:18 pm

Coming along very nicely. Can't believe I somehow missed this thread.
ALSO, I THOUGHT WE HAD AN AGREEMENT that I would get first dibbs at old Bella :(

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AZhitman
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Car: 72 240Z RB25, 63 Bluebird RHD, 63 NL320, 67 WRL411, 67 SPL311, 68 510 SR, 77 620 SR20, 92 SE-R, 97 D21, 98 S14, 11 LS460L, 12 Titan 4x4, 20 MX5 Club.
Location: Surprise, Arizona
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Re: Meet "Bella" - The NICOclub RB25-powered 240Z Project

Postby AZhitman » Sat Feb 20, 2021 8:50 pm

DOH!

We'll talk. It's for the good of the tribe. ;)

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Re: Meet "Bella" - The NICOclub RB25-powered 240Z Project

Postby float_6969 » Mon Feb 22, 2021 6:34 pm

I've seen this thread years ago, but apparently never commented. Subbin' now!


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