Thinking of buying a Z .. Can I ask a few questions?! | The Z Club of Great Britain
  1. The Z Club relies on the support of it's paid members - join the club or renew your membership here.

Thinking of buying a Z .. Can I ask a few questions?!

Discussion in 'General' started by Robotsan, Jun 23, 2021.

  1. Robotsan

    Robotsan Well-Known Forum User

    I've always loved these cars since I was a kid in the 80s, but I ended up going down a BMW route and currently own a lovely low mileage e46 M3 which a brilliant all-rounder. But recently I've found myself lusting after 240/260/280Zs! I also have a supercharged R53 Mini as the main runabout, so the M3 is mostly used for weekends and long drives. I realise a Z wouldn't be anything like as practical or comfortable for long journeys, but maybe I'd get another cheap car for those and sell the Mini.

    I've just read @Rob Gaskin 's great buyers guide, and I'm trying to read as much as possible about these cars before I start asking the same old questions, but I've reached a point where I still need to ask some of them! :)

    I'm starting to get a steer on the values, and what certain features add or take away to the prices. Seems you can still get the occasional bargain at auctions, but the restored RHD Zs are pricey on the whole!

    With my M3, the body was immaculate, and all I've done is cosmetic work - new paint on the front end, replaced various worn internal & external trims, seats, wheels, etc. Everything is available, and 99% of it new - but I gather from Rob's guide, this is not quite the same case with the Zs?

    Apart from the dashboards (which I know are like hen's teeth), are you able to buy new parts from Datsun for any of the interior, or external trim parts? In the guide, it says Nissan & pattern part suppliers supply a lot of mechanical parts, which sounds promising. But then it sounds like alternators and starter motors are not available, so have to be refurbished used parts? How much are we talking for things like that? What about a clutch? Are any other common points of failure not available new?

    And what about aftermarket suspension? I see a lot of youtube videos featuring cars with coilovers. Surely no, or very few manufacturers sell new coilovers for such an old car? Do they have to engineer parts intended for another car onto a Z? Same question for shocks and springs I guess.

    Finally, as I have never been in a Z, let alone driven one, I think I really need to sort that out before I go much further! Does anyone have any advice about how I can go about that? I would never want to give a seller false hope by turning up to test drive their car without the intention of buying it.

    So are there any non-selling (or at least, not yet selling) owners in the North West who fancy showing off their car to a prospective new owner?!

    The oldest thing I've driven was my '85 Baur E30 convertible, which was agricultural to say the least, but that was partly due to the poor condition it was in. Other than that, my dad had a Mark II Jag, and a '72 Lotus Elan +2, which is probably the most comparable to a Z I guess. But I never drove either, so I just don't know what to expect.

    Thanks for any advice!
    AliK likes this.
  2. SacCyclone

    Z Club Member

    Hi Robotsan,

    Others will chime in I'm sure but I can pick off a few of your questions......I'm in the states but the answers apply.

    First things first, buy the best metal you can buy....rust is the biggest enemy of Datsun's.

    Not much available from Datsun/Nissan anymore and what is NOS and NIB is very expensive usually.

    There are lots of aftermarket suppliers for Zeds out the states look at The Z Store (MSA), Zcardepot and Zcarsource, and JDM-car-parts etc. Shipping can get pricey from the states so check around. These are good for interior parts and some exterior parts except sheet metal which is probably too expensive to ship.

    Rockauto is very fast and pretty cheap for the basic mechanical parts like starters and tuneup parts etc....lots of chaps use them in the states and ship to the UK.

    Lots of very good aftermarket suspension / performance parts available from T3 (techno toy tuning) and Apex engineering and Silvermine in the states......others will give you options in the UK.

    Dashboards are re-popped by Hung Vu in the states and they are excellent and about $800 plus shipping to the UK.

    These engines are very reliable and long lasting especially on a street driven applications need some special attention and parts but compared to a BMW probably on the less expensive side to make a go fast.

    Auto panel solutions in the UK are making lots of panels for the UK market Zed cars and are local.

    Changing from LHD to RHD can get expensive and parts can be hard to find so do some checking with chaps here before you go that route.

    Hope this gives you a start and as I said others will chime in.

  3. Mr Tenno

    Mr Tenno
    ZClub Administrator
    Staff Member Moderator

    Saw your FB post. I'm sure there will be plenty of advice from other members but Z buying is not for the inexperienced, lots of horrors can hide on reasonable looking cars.

    Some parts are basically unobtainium:

    Missing a horn pad? It's £200

    Clips for the inspection flaps? £70

    Indicator switch? $975

    Aftermarket / pattern parts don't cover everything either.
    Robotsan likes this.
  4. toopy

    Z Club Member

    Not that you asked, but worth mentioning, although these cars are nice to drive, slow turns/corners and parking can be a real muscle builder given there is no power steering, especially as many also prefer to fit wider rubber. There are options for fitting PS, but unless you can engineer and fit yourself, it can get pricey for the couple of off the shelf suppliers.
    If you've never driven an unassisted 70's car, and are used to over assisted modern metal, you might be a little surprised!
    AliK and Robotsan like this.
  5. richiep

    Z Club Member

    Hi George, welcome over to the forum! As I said over on FB, this is the place to have the most detailed discussion and get the views of owners, most of whom know these cars extremely well.

    Also, as I said over there, I’m willing to give you a look at a Z or two, given you are in Manchester and I’m only down in Macclesfield. There are several Z owners in this area.
    AliK and Robotsan like this.
  6. richiep

    Z Club Member

    I’ll give my take on your questions above later on btw. Given I’m typing this at 12.40am and have only just got off my bloody work laptop, I ain’t doing it now! :)
    Robotsan likes this.
  7. Rob Gaskin

    Rob Gaskin Treasurer Staff Member Moderator

    Welcome. I'm glad you found my 'Buyers Guide' useful. There are lots of people on here who can guide you, many with more experience of these cars and parts availability.

    I think 'toopy' makes a fair point and one which you have thought about - experience one of these cars first hand before buying one. Saying that your '85 baur BMW was agricultural makes me think that you might not fully realise how 'basic' 70s cars are. That is part of their appeal but perhaps if you haven't been used to them in your early years it will come as a shock.

    If I go out for the day in my Datsun I get used to it and then when I come home and have to shuffle cars around it is so obvious how easy modern cars are to drive and use. To some extend I think that encourages modern drivers to use mobiles and fiddle with 'infotainment' when driving or drink from a can. Of course Veteran and Vintage cars were even more basic - I've been in those with my Dad.
    SacCyclone and Robotsan like this.
  8. Chappers

    Z Club Member

    I drive a 50's car regularly and I still get caught out now and again and smile when I get straight in my 2016 car and touch the brakes driving across our yard.
  9. Robotsan

    Robotsan Well-Known Forum User

    Thanks so much Mike, lots of really helpful information there!

    Regarding suspension then, are there modern shocks, springs (or coilovers) that are just plug and play on these cars then? No additional welding or engineering necessary?

    Good to know engine parts aren't too pricey. They certainly can be on the M3 but not prohibitively so. There's some expensive maintenance 'events' on these though - rod bearings have to be done by 100k (£1500 job), and the boot floors crack (£1500 - £3000 job), plus Vanos (£1000 - 1.5k), but general maintenance is OK.

    How much are we talking for a LHD to RHD conversion in UK, does anyone know? I also hear its pricier on a 240z as the RHD dashboards are rarer?

    I do feel like a 260 or 280 might be a better bet for me, to hopefully get something in better condition for the same money. I realise that's all relative though, and bargains can be had in the 240z world if you're lucky.

    How does the fuel injected 2.8 in the 280z compare to the carbed 2.4 and 2.6? Is it noticeably more powerful? Or is that difference lost in the additional weight of a 280?

    And does it sound less appealing? I would imagine having 3 weber carbs sounds better?!


    AliK likes this.
  10. Robotsan

    Robotsan Well-Known Forum User

    Yes, I would certainly want to take someone along who knows the cars inside out if I was considering buying one.

    Wowsers! I'd have to make sure the car I bought didn't need any of those then! :)

    This is the kind of thing I was wondering about - hard to obtain parts. Although I do really enjoy the thrill of the chase and tracking down unusual parts! Maybe not the effect on the wallet that these particular parts would have though...
  11. Robotsan

    Robotsan Well-Known Forum User

    Haha, yeah I am familiar with that feeling - my other '87 E30 had no power steering and very wide alloys/tyres - so much so that the rubber steering coupler ended up tearing and had to be replaced with an aluminium replacement!

    But yeah, I've never driven anything older than an '85. My first car was an '85 MkII Scirocco without P/S too, but much skinner tyres than the E30!

    This is definitely why I want to try a Z first.
  12. Robotsan

    Robotsan Well-Known Forum User

    Thanks Richard, that's really kind of you. I will give you a message on FB.
  13. Robotsan

    Robotsan Well-Known Forum User

    Thanks Rob! I see you're selling your car by the way? Hopefully you'll stick around on the forum to keep imparting your knowledge on the noobs like me! :)

    Yep - I'm very aware that I need to drive one (or at least be driven!) first. It's going to be a very different world to my M3. But I choose my cars for 2 main reason - the way they look, and more importantly how they drive and feel. I don't like modern cars, despite their comfort. That's why I love the e46 M3 - I think it's the peak of the curve when it comes to driving feel vs creature comforts. Everything after that just feels too numb and disconnected.

    But I do realise I may find a 70s car just 'too much'. I admit I don't like the idea of vague steering, rattly suspension and terrible brakes.. but I'm not hearing those things about the Zs that much. But its all in the eye of the beholder isn't it, so a test drive is very much the aim.

    It may be that I decide I can't swap the M3 for a Z because it's not as practical, and perhaps I keep the M3, and then make saving for a Z a long term goal. Who knows.

    Thanks for the help so far.

  14. Robotsan

    Robotsan Well-Known Forum User

    I have a similar (although probably much less extreme!) sensation when swapping between the M3 and the Mini - despite both being built around the same time in early 2000s, the Mini's brakes are awful and take a lot more pedal travel & effort to stop. The M3 feels like a Veyron in comparison after driving the Mini for a bit :)

    My dad had some very interesting cars over the years, in addition to the Jag and the Lotus, he also had a Rover P4, and a 1921 Dodge! Now *that* was agricultural! Wooden wheels with a thin coating of rubber. It was an interesting ride!
  15. richiep

    Z Club Member

    RE: the suspension question - there are dedicated adjustable coilover solutions for these cars but most require welding of some sort, as the strut/hub assembly needs to be retained. The cheap option are generic style weld-on threaded sleeves, adjustable platforms, aftermarket shocks like Tokico Illumina, KYB, or Koni, etc., and use 2.5" springs in rates matched to what you want it to perform like. Beyond that, there are every more elaborate and expensive options, adding adjustment and ££££ everywhere.

    Probably the most cost-effective and decent setup off-the-shelf is that by BC Racing. That requires the strut tubes to be cut down to 40-50mm and a threaded tube welded on over the top. The whole coilover assembly then screws in, allowing height adjustment separate from spring preload. They also come with camber plates that do not require the strut housing tops to be cut or welded.
    (image on site is generic, not of a Z set)
    Another site to get familiar with:
    Various companies in Japan make coilover kits obviously.

    Of course, there are also simple off-the-shelf lowering springs from various makers and shock inserts are available that fit the standard length tubes, some with added adjustability.
    Robotsan likes this.
  16. franky

    franky Well-Known Forum User

    Don't forget intrax, they start at 10% more than BC but then move on.

    Also Leda have been bought out and make a great offering also.
  17. richiep

    Z Club Member

    Knew you wouldn’t let me ignore Intrax!
    TBH though, IMO, their offerings are way beyond what 9/10 Z owners are going to want/need/afford. For a road car that will never see a track in serious anger (again 9/10 users), that kind of setup is massive overkill.
    datsfun and franky like this.
  18. franky

    franky Well-Known Forum User

    Their base spec is within 10% of a BC setup and comes ready to install. So for road use, a quality damper is worth the extra £200?
  19. franky

    franky Well-Known Forum User

  20. MCBladeRun

    Z Club Member

    Gone with ebach lowering springs, Koni adjustable dampers and new top hat insulators to allow more travel. Wasn't keen on cutting / welding coilovers in myself. Will update my build thread once that's done though - just as an alternative to coil overs.

    Robotsan, you're asking the right questions though and as you can see, the club have a lot of experience to give you should you take the plunge.

    SacCyclone is right; rust is the biggest problem with these cars and getting one from a dry place in the states or even one from the UK that's been restored is key for a good base to start from.

    Where you go from there is up to you, you can restore as far as you can to original spec, use the car as a platform and put a more modern engine and drivetrain in with some clever restomods that you see on here. Or break into the racing scene as so many others have before.

    Good luck m8, hope to see you here in the future :D
    Robotsan likes this.

Share This Page