Holy finds! Who doesn’t like scavenging around Craigslist?! What’s that saying: “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure”?! Oh the treasures!
Ready for this?! There’s a free Z on Craigslist! Whoa! A 1977 Datsun 280z was listed on CL in the free section (one of my favorite sections), without engine and transmission, mismatched wheels, multi-colored and a few dents, to say the least.
Took the Z out after a good while, and after parking I noticed the tail lights still on! Huh, it’s daytime and I don’t think I turned on the lights…
Maybe a fuse? A switch? Maybe the emergency brake switch… Oh, maybe the brake light switch on the brake pedal!
Then I found the breadcrumbs…
Ah little broken pieces, where do you come from…from what depths of Datsun dash do you petrified pieces of plastic purvey?
This part looks about right judging from the clean ring of exposed metal…
So yesterday afternoon I’ve been parking it with a mail flyer wedged in there. But a quick trip to Home Depot did the job (I haven’t looked at the Datsun catalogs yet to reveal the REAL part).
Picked up a simple metal hole plug, zinc plated, 3/8th inch – fits perfectly!
Make you think though – why even have a hole there? Why not just have the metal butt up against the switch? The switch itself is already on an adjustable screw, so it can’t be for micro adjustment reasons. But maybe it’s so that a cheaper part can be replaced instead of wearing out the switch with a hard piece of metal? I guess if the metal were wearing on the plastic trigger, eventually the trigger will break and the switch will need to be replaced. So instead, use an even cheaper replaceable part to wear out instead…
It’s said that wheels are usually the first things to be customized on a car. These days, there’s no argument to whether that’s true – wheels are just something people seem to find identity with, and make the car their own.
Unfortunately, I’ve yet to claim that “identity” with a set of my own. I’m still rocking the 280ZX “Iron Cross” painted in black with polished lip. However, should I change (and I hope to relatively soon…-ish), I’ve grown very fond of a particular style of rim.
They go by many names: Wats, Panas… But there’s no confusion in my mind that the 8-spoke rim is one of the best looking wheel rim the Datsun Z could wear.
Of course, you always get what you pay for; and range of 8-spokes vary quite a bit, however, as we’ll see, more than just price: there’s street cred.
Watanabe RS F8 – There’s something about a Samuri holding a gun that isn’t right. Much like a Samuri should be holding a sword, Datsun Z’s should be sporting the right wheels. These are them.
The Watanabe RS F8 wheels are the definitive 8-spoke wheel to which all others are measured. Beware: there are a LOT of fakes / imitations out there (check it out on eBay). If you’re not paying at least $600 / rim, they’re not real no matter how sweet that three circle crest looks with the red center cap. Yes, the cost won’t just burn a hole in your pocket, these will ignite a bonfire. But people will come running to check’m out. Pros: thoroughbred Japanese racing heritage and street cred. Cons: mad expensive, hard to get. Price: $2100+/set
Panasport – With enough racing heritage to fill all the Datsun pickups with, Panasport still really only make ONE type of wheel.
While a few may exclaim otherwise (yes, you’re right), however, for street wheels, it’s the 8-spoke and variations of, including the Minilite. Because of name and quality, Panasports command a solid price even if scuffed up (and you’ll a lot of these marred up). These are durable wheels that hold their value very well. Cons: usually found in smaller sizes ranging from 12″-15″. Good luck finding bigger. Remember Wild Bill who sold me the 280Z also had Panasports to sell too for $500 (good price!)..huh, wonder if they’re still for sale. Price: $1200/set
Rota RK-R – You’ve heard the saying, “imitation is the best form of flattery”. Well, the RK-R is pouring on compliments because these get lots of chatter for being so close to the Watanabes but cheaper.
Though they may be more affordable, they’re also known to be weaker under abuse. I’ve read several forums say their Rotas (NOT the RK-R model) cracked on them. Granted, they were on the track but again, you get what you pay for. I’ve been tracking these for a few years now and prices are stable, come in many sizes and widths, and available on eBay and Amazon. For those local to the Bay Area, the Rota distributor is in Fremont (psst – and they do cash / carry). Pros: inexpensive Watanabe copies readily available. RK-Rs are only a few years old, proceeding the more common RB model. Price: $650/set
Konig Rewind – Before Rota RK-R / RB were Rewinds. As it sounds, I’m sure they picked that name because “throw back” or “retro” just doesn’t sound right.
Kong Rewinds more closely resemble Panasport wheels as the spokes are less uniform and curve a bit more…banana-like. Because Konig is such a big name in wheels, these are definitely available everywhere – even Motorsport Auto sells them. Check carefully though as you’ll notice the spokes vary in shape from more curved on the 14″, more angular on the 15″, and just straight on the 16″. Pros: cheaper alternative. Price: $480/set
Atara Racing Pisang – huh! Where did these guys come from? (Edit 4/4/16: rather where did these guys go?…) Ok. So actually it was finding these Pisang wheels that prompted me to do a write up. Just check out these rims:
Dang! I really like what’s going on here. They’re super clean, and a wonderful alternative replica to the Watanabe RS F8s. Not to mention the rest of their line isn’t just copies (like Rota) – they take a nice perspective on classic designs. I’m definitely interested in knowing more about them but let’s get back to the wheel. I feel they’re fairly new to the US market, so that’s nice for exclusivity. Red center cap emulates Wantanabe. Price? $1100 and up / set. [edit 4/5/16] Since initially writing this portion, I’ve deduced that Atara is more and more like Rota, also from Southeast Asia, and making replica wheels. Instead of writing more edits, I’ll go ahead and spare my opinions for a separate article.
Other mentions – there are a few others you might want to consider if you’d like that 8-spoke style make its way onto your Z…
SPDLine Zuka – [edit 4/2/16] Found another variation from the folks at JPNGarage.com. Right inline with Watanabe / Rota styling, only offered in matte Gunmetal and Bronze at 15″, but the cheapest I’ve seen for the style at $160 per wheel. [edit 4/4/16] A short correspondence with JPNGarage.com (who used to distribute Atara Racing) reveals that SPDLine are from the same manufacturer as Atara.
Rota RB – similar to the RK-R but more tapered. If RK-Rs are like Watanabes, the RBs are like Panas.
XXR 537 – a new school look; pinch at the apex of the spoke gives it a slightly more agressive look.
Hope you enjoyed a run down of the 8-spoke rims that look good on a Z. At the end of the day, it’s about personal style and functionality. Regardless of brand, a certain look is a certain look. So what’s your Z sporting? Which ones do you like? Hit us up in the comments if there was any other similar 8-spoke we missed!
Note: All brands have varying sizes and colors and / or lip options available.
The chrome chisel end for the fender bumper guard came in! Huh.. Oh yeah, it’s gonna be shiny and new.. So it’ll stick out like a sore thumb on the side of the 280z – nice.
On a side note, on the site i purchased this from, they used my picture in their installation notes! That nice.. Would also be nice if they comp’d this chisel end too. Who knows how many referrals came from here to CustomAutoTrim.com
Installation goes in first thing tomorrow morning!
Since the last post about installing the fender bumper guard trim nearly 3 years ago, the rear driver side quarter panel has been bare. Since then, if you recall, it’s been dinged just after purchasing the aluminum rail…purchased, not installed!
Well, Dad was out for Thanksgiving, so he and I took to it! The piece I picked up last year was a bit long, so we had to cut it to match the passenger side.
A simple hacksaw does the job, and a sanding block cleans off the burrs nicely.
Make sure the dart and chisel trim ends still fit after cutting the aluminum channel.
It may need a little persuasion!
The quarter panel already had some pre-existing holes. So I opted to use those to minimize drilling new ones into the body.
Dad had a smart idea of using the remaining channel with existing holes as a guide to drilling the new ones. With proper clamping, this worked wonders.
By just placing the rivets into their respective holes allows you to set the trim in place, and check for alignment before setting the rivets for real.. Looking good!
Here, two new holes had to be drilled into the body panel to hold the trim in place. Starting with the dart end allowed us to align the piece before drilling one ~7″ to the left of it.
Viola! Haha keen eyes will note that the chisel end next to the door and the rubber bumper are both missing. Chrome chisel end is on order, and rubber is on deck!
The day started at 7:30am this morning – I was so excited about wrenching on the 280Z that I was gonna get a head start at 2am lastnight! (Side note: from now on it maybe referred to as just ‘280’, we’ll see how it goes…unless i find a name for it – yes, gender-less for now).
Squeek, Squeeeeeeek – Whenever I gave it some gas, there’s always this squeek that shrilled out from under the hood. Not good if you’re looking to turn heads in the bad way.. or trying to impress the parents that this was a good buy :] My Chilton’s Datsun manual is on it’s way, but i couldn’t wait till then. So upon checking the belts, I remembered my brother’s Datsun 510 manual said something about ‘tight..not too tight…1/2″ deflection..’ haha ok, well better than the +1″deflection this thing is giving now. One wheel had a very handy adjustment screw to lift it and give the belt the right tension. I’ll certainly revisit the belts once the manual comes in, but for now….squeek be gone!
‘Ink’ Change – Popped the 280 on ramps, popped the hood, popped off the oil pan nut off with my fingers.. wait.. with my fingers? Yep, it was literally being held tight by crusty oil around it’s edges. Same with the oil filter – only loosely screwed on! nice… Even better was the primordial blacker-than-black ooze now seeing the light of day since who knows when.. 1977? It was like ink, colored from the depths of space, kinda black. 4 quarts of 10w30 high mileage later… pprrrr.
Minor Rust Work – Picked up a can of grey primer rust inhibitor to temporarily patch up the exposed rust spots before the rainy season hits. Already there’s moisture and water beads forming in the morning, so the weather is coming. Sanded some test areas to see how this stuff works. We’ve used some in black and of another brand previously on a motorcycle, but it’s only been 2 months and garaged, so this will be some real world testing. Quick tags on the inner hood (sanded, light rust), driver-side rear quarter panel (not sanded, previously bondo work), and a heavy spot under the passenger-side deck lid (not sanded, literally like a bit from the rust monster). I testing extremes to see what I can get away with.
Tree Sap, Meet Razor Blade – According to wild Bill, the 280 was parked under a tree for 3 years; no the car isn’t a cupcake, and that’s not frosting. But nothing that a good ol’ razor blade can’t handle! Cleaning the windows as a snap, and didn’t think twice about using it on the paint – why? cause the paints eventually going to go anyways. Regardless, sap’s gone and i didn’t even leave a scratch.
Wipers – Again, rains a’comin’! So I began to outfit the new wipers on the holder when.. wait a sec.. this isn’t like modern cars. Yep, it uses a pin, which fortunately, the wiper blade manufacturers have accounted for. There’s a tab that keeps in place, used the floor to help push the pin out – viola. Reversed steps to get the new blades on, and adjusted the wiper height w/ the screw to the motor. Upon sitting in the car, it looks a touch too high, so i’ll have to re-adjust that…test…aaaand the wiper motor doesn’t work. Tracking the problem maybe tomorrow’s effort.
Upcoming – Wheels? Seals? Carpet? Paint? haha let’s spin the wheel! seriously, there maybe some panasports in your future. seriously.
I’ve been searching for a Datsun Z for a better part of my life, just loving every picture, but never taking the plunge. On October 27th, 2011 I picked up a 1977 Datsun 280z. All original, no mods, “old lady” driven, 81k miles. Driving back from the seller in San Mateo down highway 280 was a moment to remember – absolute love. Like noodles that throw you back to childhood, I was reminded of the fun my brother and I had with his Datsun 510. It was exhilarating!
Of course like any new love you want to impress, buy everything, and take it out everywhere – haha the 280z was no exception. So I jumped onto the web and journeyed to all the Datsun sites, but quickly found that there weren’t that many dedicated blogs to project Z’s that were detailed and consistent. So to sum it up quick: let’s do this thing! I’ll be adding my 280z restoration to this blog – and it won’t be a year between entries!
Upon driving back to work, beaming and proud, I pulled it into the garage to a co-worker’s kid jaw-dropped screaming, “whoa, dad, check out that car”! Let the fun, begin.