It became clear as we began the disassembly of our 1976 Datsun 280Z that we were going to have to strip it down to the bare necessities in order to deal with our rust issues. The lesson learned in this is that for every place you see visible rust on your car, there’s probably another 60% or more you can’t see. Here’s our list of trouble spots:
- Frame rails
- Driver’s side hood mount plate
- Lower front section of both quarter panels
- Hatch windows frame
- Fuel door area
- Floor pan
Most of our rust problems were the result of a previous restoration. What were probably minor rust problems at the time were made worse by taking shortcuts on body work. In the case of one front lower quarter panel, someone had shoved bondo into a rust hole until the cavity behind it was full then sanded it down. Not good! This time around we’ll take care of the rust the right way.
I already talked about our Datsun Z-car frame rail solution from Bad Dog Parts in a previous post (link). Here’s how we dealt with the rest:
- Hood mount: This is the kind of repair where our ‘74 Datsun 260Z parts car has proven invaluable. In this case we were able to “borrow” the needed, pre-formed sheet metal portions from the donor car (it’s not getting them back :-). We used a spot-weld drill and sawzall to remove this section from the 260Z intact and then used this piece to replaced the rusted part in our 280Z. We re-welded the new part in place using a halon MIG welder, placing our welds in the same holes where we drilled out the previous spot welds.’
- Floor pan: There were only a few, small trouble spots in the kick panels on both sides. We removed all the rusted panels and replaced these with new sheet metal, MIG welding them in place.
- Quarter-panel sections: These were no good in our parts car so we had to bite the bullet and purchase ’70 – ’78 Datsun 240Z / 260Z / 280Z patch panels from Motorsport Auto. The fit was decent but it took some coaxing to get these in place perfectly. We created tabs where the new patch panel met the old quarter panel in order to create a tight, water-proof fit.
- Fuel door: This one’s too tricky to fully describe here. Suffice it to say that we fully disassembled the fuel door and separated the two layers of sheet metal in the area surrounding the door in order to remove all the rust. Then we welded the parts back together with a new piece of extra sheet metal around the fuel door on the inside of the quarter panel for added strength.
In all cases we used a wire grinding wheel to remove all the rust we could from our stripped parts and then applied a high-quality rust converter to completely neutralize any that remained. After welding the new parts in place, we used seam sealer around them to ensure no water could make its way between the new sheet metal pieces. Finally, we used several cans of Eastwood’s Internal Frame Coating spray system to coat the inside of our new parts, frame rails, rocker panels, quarter panels, door posts, etc. with rust inhibitor.