She's ALIVE!

NOT Eleanor but perhaps a vision of things to come

So obviously this is not Eleanor but it is a close approximation of where I want to take this project…
The day she came home

I have been tinkering with her on and off for about 3 weeks now (time permitting).  She got some shiny new spark plugs, a nice new chrome air filter (which was found in the misc. parts in the back, of which there are a lot (thankee previous, previous owner)) and some other basic tune-up necessities.  A new fuel pump here, a new battery there and she still did not want to live.  Sure, she would crank for hours on end, but the result was only a cough/sputter and the smell of gas.  I checked the points and cleaned the rotor/cap and she was actually getting fuel and spark so everything seemed ok.  Why won’t you start you little…uh, vixen? 
1.6 litres of cougar lovin

 So I started looking at the clearly aftermarket ignition module.  It’s a small finned box that I was unfamiliar with.  Printed on one side is the wiring diagram (which amazingly matched up with the birdsnest of wiring I had unwittingly inherited.)  Interestingly though, the connector was reversible.  One way works for this application, reversed works for another.  Considering everything I had tried up until that point did not work I figured “heh, what have I got to lose?” and flipped the plug.  Holy sh*t!  She fired right up as if she had not even been sitting in the front of some dudes house, collecting dead bugs for 2+ years!  I just about pissed my pants.  To be fair she did act like she had just woken up out of a two year coma.  Coughing and sputtering and blowing smoke everywhere (ok, so that’s probably what would happen if I woke up from a 2 year coma too but I digress) but she was alive!  I let her warm up and get her blood circulating for probably 15 minutes before I tossed the f*ck-it flag on the field and hopped in to see what she had left in her.  A quick spin around the parking lot revealed the clutch seems to be ok though the tranny is a bit on the sloppy side (having never driven a datsun before I couldn’t tell you how good that is) but it wasn’t terrible.  She has an exhaust leak between the manifold and the muffler (which i’m guessing is the whole exhaust system) though the tone is actually pretty sweet and obnoxious.  The brake pedal basically goes to the floor before anything happens and I have a rather disturbing clunking coming from the front end.  Having said that, I have never been more excited about a car in my life, and I have owned, er… 20-ish cars in my short span on this rock.  Ear-to-ear grin when she came to life, lemme tell ya!
So now that I know for a fact that she still has life, I need to plan a future for her.  The previous weekend I did a compression test.  All cylinders came back reasonably close to each other.  They varied from 105 to 125 psi which didn’t sound bad for a 40+ year old car until I realised that normal is up around 170-ish.  Actually, it still doesn’t sound terrible.  I am going to complete my tune-up and probably replace the head gasket and see where that leaves me.  With any luck I will be able to get her through emissions without any major surgery.  Once I can get her inspected and registered the fun will begin.  The car pictured at top is kinda where I want to go with her.  And i’m really diggin the white.  I think a very subtle suspension drop and either some 14″ panasports or something similar to those 4-spokes would look fantastic.  I’m undecided on the stripes.  I do like them on that car but i’m rather partial to a blue/orange Gulf theme or none at all.  I am not opposed to an engine swap in the least but if she runs then I would rather fix everything else first.
Decisions, decisions…

25 Comments

    1. 302 might be a little on the heavy side for this car. Find a Land Rover Discovery, get the all aluminum(Buick) V-8 and drop a carb intake on it.

  1. I am very happy for you (and quite jealous)… congratulations. Keep posting updates here for everyone…
    I say you stick with your Gulf livery dream too…

  2. Which generation? Z31 or Z32?
    Find a nice VG30DETT and have a ball… dual overhead cams, twin intercooled turbos, and a metric fuck-ton of available parts.

  3. I saw the lead photo and my jaw dropped at the progress you'd made. It is somehow reassuring to learn that you do not possess superhuman auto restoration powers (or perhaps the bottomless checkbook).
    Congratulations! Now the fun begins.
    That variation in compression across cylinders is somewhat concerning, although, as you point out not at all surprising given the drop from spec. Did you test the cylinders wet? Did the compression come up in response.
    I love the look of these with no front bumpers whatsover. I'd be inclined to remove those home built nerf bars and take my chances.

  4. Y'know, I honestly think Panasports are way overdone, and love the wheels she has on 'er.
    Congrats on gettin' 'er runnin', though! I know we're collectively proud… and drooling.

  5. Excellent job! Living vicariously through Hooniverse makes me feel special.
    I have always liked a black hood on these, regardless of the paint color. Make sure to get a huge splitter, because that is sex.

  6. Nice.
    That feeling of OMFGITSRUNNING is one of the best automotive experiences I've ever had.
    Just keep foolin' with it small-scale. Fix what's broke.
    Not to cast aspersions, but did you do the compression check after it warmed up? I've known cars to post distressingly low numbers if you just walk up and crank them, but let them warm up and get some oil on the bores and they come out ok.

  7. So. Freaking. Jealous…
    but even more PROUD! Jeez man, that's awesome. Good on you, and congrats on rescuing a thing of beauty! The warm fuzzies from moments like "first crank" and "getting it better than found" are some of life's best.
    As others have said – take your time, let the car tell you what it needs. Don't feel ahamed about missing some of the obvious things as I can assuredly tell you we've all been there. Screw it, even if they "all" hevn't been, I know I have. Well maybe that won't make you feel better after all.
    But seriously man, congrats. And I agree, that is a sick paint scheme. If it were me I would consider something more like ghost stripes.

  8. Actually compression was done when I replaced the plugs last week before she ran. I figured the numbers would be low for an engine that sat for who knows how long. I will run another test this weekend to see where we are at.

    1. Do two compression checks – the first without oil and the second with a tablespoon or so down each plug hole. If the number comes up, you'll know your rings have issues.

  9. I was surprised at seeing several of these during an overnight trip to central coast CA and back…
    more surprised to find some on LA listocraig1
    mmm tasty wagons
    congrats and enjoy the pain/pleasure/love/hate/piss/vinegar/smiting/damnation/jubilation/exhaltation that is old car ownership and upkeep! LOL

  10. You bastard, I am so jealous. I seriously want to live my MX-5 dream, but unfortunately business hasn't exactly boomed to the point where a brotha' can afford to have a project. Seriously though, good for you, Jo. I'm picturing yellow with dark tint, black wheels, and a little bumblebee painted in the lower right corner of the tailgate. But that's just me.

  11. Those panasports and stripes (the "DATSUN" in the middle is what makes them) are frickin' awesome. Very tasteful mods. Most hotrodded 510s I see (read: all the 510s I see) look like crap with huge wheels, no bumpers and stripped interiors.
    One of these days I'm going to get an old oddball wagon, but I need a less yawn-inducing primary car to pull it off. You've gotta balance out car geek cool with universally cool, or else you freak out the normals. Here in Georgia, anyway.

  12. I'm late to the party here, but allow me to give you a heartfelt Congrats! This makes me wish my apartment lease was up sooner. While I really want a project like this, my travel and job leave me little free time (especially after you factor in my poker hobby/obsession). For the next few months, I will live vicariously through your Eleanor, so keep the updates coming…. and you can never go wrong with the Gulf Oil livery.

  13. I was in Toledo yesterday trying to woo a potential client, so I missed this.
    WOOHOO!!!!
    That's awesome, man! Keep the updates coming!

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