1977 Datsun 280Z Convertible - Let the fun begin!

It’s been a while since our last post, and our shop has been crazy busy!  But over and over again, our customers have been asking for more blog posts, so as they say “Ask and ye shall receive”! 

A while back, we introduced you to an exciting project that wanted to be taken to the next level – a 1978 Datsun 280Z that had been turned into a convertible. Since the project wrapped up, we have wanted to share with you what the end result was, and the journey we took to get there, but have not had time to put it all together for you – until now.  And in order to paint the most complete picture for you, let’s start at the beginning again and refresh our memory… 

The 280Z came to us as a very low mile (under 12,000 mi) convertible with original engine, 4 speed, a solid black paint job and a basic interior etc,. The customer wanted to bring it up to more modern standards with increased horsepower, braking and suspension system upgrades, improved seating, modern gauges, etc.  So where to start?  We first had to address the uni-body support. Our plans included a modest 350 hp bump so we knew that there was quite a bit of structural work that needed to be completed first to accommodate this.

1977 Convertible 280Z pre 1977 Datsun Convertible 280Z before

Back in the early 80's when the car was transformed from a hardtop to a convertible, a fiberglass rear deck was installed in place of the hatch, so not much usable storage space remained. At this time the car became a purpose driven vehicle: fun to drive in the open air on pleasant days/evenings only. No long drives out of state or runs to the grocery store (unless the passenger seat was open). It was designed to be fun but set up changes had to be made to allow all the other upgrades being made to work properly. A new power plant with 3 times the amount of power being added was surely going to overload the vehicle in almost every way. So to address this, we had to reinforce the vehicle's structure. The customer did not want us to install a roll bar or any structural supports that would be seen. Being that we were working with a convertible this make the job much more complicated for both structural and aesthetic reasons.  So we got creative…

1977 Datsun 280Z Convertible stripped 1977 Datsun 280Z Convertible stripped doors open 

We decided that a 1x3 tubular steel support would run the length of the floor pans. We then tied a 1" solid steel rod running from the base of the tubular floor beams up and   across the luggage riser and back down into the other floor pan beam. The floor beams at the front wheel wells were capped off and welded into additional 1x3 tubular beams running from left to right. Additional reinforcements were added in numerous places, factory spot welds were strengthened with more welding, etc...

1977 Datsun 280Z Convertible repairs 1977 Datsun 280Z Convertible battery box  1977 Datsun 280Z Convertible body repairs

What a start!  With the structural reinforcements in place, we are now we were ready to install the new suspension and braking systems.  To be continued…

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