My 1970 2000 Roadster is my pride and joy. I bought it (my second) in February 1973. I sold my first one after going into the service of our Government in 1972. I wish that I had kept it. It was a í69 2000. Having been an Arizona car, there was not a hint of rust. Although the PO had it painted the most hideous lime green, this could have been easily changed. (The guy I sold it to promptly got drunk and totaled it. IDIOT!!) While stationed in New Jersey a year later, I discovered my present one. Although I didn't care for the color (factory yellow), it was a pristine example, which I promptly acquired. I have driven it from coast to coast twice and to all points in-between. Iíll argue with anyone who says these cars are not reliable.
Anyway, as the years rolled by, it ended up stuck in the garage for over 12 years. It blew a water pump and got parked "temporarily". Between the arrival of our son and health problems on the part of my wife, it just slipped between the cracks. After things finally settled down, I devoted my time to financial recuperation and catching up on the much needed work on our 150-year-old house.
A few months ago, I pulled the cover off of her (the car, not my wife) and started thinking about how much fun Iíd had with her. (Come to think of it, maybe I SHOULD try this with my wifeÖ..) The decision was reached that if I kept putting it off my demise could well precede that of the car. At age 48, Iím getting seriously in touch with my own mortality. So, with the complete support of my wife, it was time to start.
She looked pretty sad! The brakes were so rusted that it wouldnít even roll. The stalactites on the master cylinders looked like the top of a cave. Oxidized aluminum was everywhere. I stood gazing, wondering where to start.
The first thing was a parts order. As these things donít improve with age, a water pump was first on the list, followed closely by a complete set of hydraulic kits. Along with these I included a set of caps (master cylinders, radiator, oil) and a few cosmetic goodies just to make it look a little better. Leslie nearly had to call 911 after I saw the prices! I have been collecting parts for years. Any time I found parts on a dealerís shelf, I would clean him out. Considering todayís prices, Iím glad I did. Unfortunately, most of what I needed was not in my goodie box. All I could do was tear things down and wait for the parts to arrive.
First on the hit list was the engine. The water pump and all things surrounding it were removed. While removing the water outlet, one of the studs broke off. This was followed closely by the well known male ritual of yelling, cursing, and the throwing of tools. At least the stud came out easily. I also discovered a pile of rusted mung that I can only assume was the thermostat. For anyone who is interested, Ford thermostats (at least the ones that fit 300ís and 302ís) are a perfect replacement. I suggest drilling a 3/32" hole through it so as to not air lock the cooling system. You can reach in the elbow and burp it with a screwdriver, but drilling a hole is MUCH easier. Plus, what happens if you lose coolant on a dark night in the middle of nowhere? Drill the hole!
The valve cover was removed with much trepidation. Too my surprise and delight the cam, followers, and chains looked like brand new. Actually, the followers were replaced just before it was parked. A liberal amount of kerosene was applied to everything in the valve gallery. The spark plugs were removed and kerosene squirted into the cylinders. This was repeated on a regular basis while other work was being performed.
Ah, the brakes! The master cylinders (brake and clutch) were pulled and laid aside for the arrival of parts. Next, the calipers. This was a nice, straightforward job. Two bolts, a bolt for the junction block and cut the hose. Due to the rust I had to pry them off of the rotors. Then the cylinders were removed and the pistons extracted. The inside of the cylinders looked like a pepperoni pizza! A quick call to Rallye Roadster followed. Too late, of course, the order had already been shipped. Dann was gracious enough to let me return the kits toward the purchase of new cylinders. OUCH!!! If it happens again, Iím going to have them rebuilt. White Post Restorations (and others, I assume) will reline them with stainless steel. For an extra $20 per cylinder it would be my method of choice. Unfortunately, I didnít learn about them until after the new cylinders were purchased.
Considering the price of factory brake lines, I quickly opted to fabricate them myself. It really is quite an easy task. Brake line is thick-walled, malleable, and bends quite easily. Unless you do something really dumb it wonít kink. Just bend it to follow the original line. It does require a double flare, however. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO ASSEMBLE BRAKE LINES USING ONLY A SINGLE FLARE. Even if the flange doesnít break it can still pull out of the fitting. This is highly ungood in any situation. Where brakes are concerned it can become downright fatal. A double flare tool can be purchased through most tool suppliers and is quite easy to use. Another handy tool is a 3/8x24 plug tap for cleaning up the threads in the various brake components. Plug taps (completely straight with no taper at all) can be a bit more difficult to locate than start or bottom taps. You can make your own by slowly (make that VERY slowly) grinding the end off of a bottom tap until the entire taper is removed. Work slowly, keep a container of cold water handy, and use it often. Once you have it ground flat, take an angle grinder with the thinnest wheel you can find and cut a cross between the flutes. This will keep you from bottoming out on the flare nipple and damaging it. It is then a simple matter to clean up the threads in the brake components. This will make re-assembly MUCH easier.
Do be careful when overhauling an old brake system. The lines have a nasty habit of rusting on the inside. This rust will quickly be transferred into your new and expensive slave cylinders. This tends to score the walls and render your brake system ineffective. Not exactly what we are striving for here.
The master cylinders came next. Not a bad job, really. The brake master is a little different as it contains the proportioning setup between the front and rear systems. There are two pistons that are coupled hydraulically to equalize the pressure. Make sure you get the seals on facing the right direction! There is also a safety pin that that screws in from the bottom. It goes through a slot in the first piston. This precludes the piston from coming out should the retaining ring pop out from around the rod. As these are hydraulically coupled and the brake lines come out the bottom, it becomes clear why one must bleed the master cylinder. And speaking of bleeding, the front cylinders are a licensed bastard to bleed. It requires multiple tries, a good deal of patience, and a mallet! During the bleeding process you have to whack the front cylinders with a suitable bludgeon to break the air bubbles loose. A rubber or plastic hammer works well. You can also use a block of wood and a steel hammer but it is awkward and requires both hands. Rap, pump, and bleed. You might think that it is never going to end, but sooner or later all of the air will be expunged.
The clutch slave was a bit more interesting. How does one extract a piston from the bottom of the cylinder? Especially when it has "grown" to the cylinder? After looking at the kit, I discovered that the piston is aluminum. As the melting point of aluminum is considerably lower than that of cast iron it was time to bring out the welding torch. Set the cylinder on a vise or anvil with the open end down. Carefully, slowly, and uniformly heat the cylinder. Be careful as cast iron tends to warp and crack if heated unevenly. The first thing that you will notice is the sweet and enduring order of burning rubber followed by plumes of smoke from the inlet and bleeder holes. Shortly you will see a silvery substance that looks rather like solder running out of the cylinder. This is (or rather, was) the aluminum piston. Shut off the torch and walk away. Let the cylinder cool slowly and naturally. DO NOT try to help it along. The only thing cast iron dislikes more than uneven heating is uneven cooling. Once it has returned to room temperature reach up inside it with a screwdriver (or whatever) and scrape the chunks out. Next, take a 12 ga. shotgun brush chucked in a drill motor and scrub it out. Flush it with solvent, blow it out with compressed air and it is ready to go, provided that that there are no scores or pits. Look closely as the walls must be perfectly smooth.
The rear brakes were a pure joy to take apart. The drums were fused to the shoes and no amount of coercion would convince them to separate. The shoes were practically ripped off with the drums. Apparently, the Auto Gods were smiling upon me that day. No damage was done other than a couple of items getting bent out of shape. The cylinders were removed, disassembled, and checked. A light polishing with some well oiled 800 grit wet&dry and the cylinders looked like brand new. God bless aluminum!! A new set of seals and back in they went. Having removed, cleaned, and lubed the adjusters I proceeded to strip a mounting bolt while replacing them. Another bout of gratuitous obscenities followed by another order to Rallye. This would be an excellent time to pull the axles and check/repack the rear wheel bearings. Being a total dumb ass, I forgot until everything was reassembled and the brakes were bled. I thought of it as I was packing the front bearings. At this point, you might be asking yourself why the brakes were bled before the wheel bearing were attended to. The tale of this fiasco will come later.
Since I was waiting for the front cylinders to arrive, I decided to take a look at the gas tank. I removed the cap and promptly staggered outside to retch and get my breath. After opening both doors and turning on a 48" fan I ventured back inside. Iím sure the neighbors found this amusing as it was 30 degrees that evening. With my trusty flashlight in hand I took a deep breath, summoned up my courage, and took a look into "the thing". It appeared to be roughly half filled with what I would loosely refer to as gasoline. Or, at least, it had been at one time. I promptly replaced the cap and sat down to ponder the situation. Now just what, exactly, am I going to do with that .....whatever the hell it had mutated into. More to the point, how am I going to get it out? The thought of siphoning was dismissed with great haste. Datsun was kind enough to provide a drain plug in the tank. And, though I am somewhat adventurous, draining highly flammable(?) liquids in a confined enclosure was not on the agenda. I borrowed a small pump from work, fired up the fan, and pumped it into an old 5 gallon paint thinner can. While speaking of my situation at work, one of my co-workers offered to take it to start grass fires on his property. Iíve always heard that there is a thin line between bravery and lunacy. But, what the hell; at least it was off of my hands!
Now itís time to remove the tank. Oh thrill, oh joy. Whereís a good gas mask when you need one? This should be great fun! First thing was to disconnect the supply and return lines. I would love to get my hands on the S.O.B. that decided to hard-pipe the tank in! The return was no problem. It snapped and spun off finger-tight. Hot damn! Iím on a roll! Yeah, right! The supply fitting was completely fused to the connector. Now at this point, a light application of a welding torch would loosen it right up. On an empty gas tank??!! Not in this lifetime. The only option left was brute force with a wrench. Iíll just give it one good heave. At least there was enough left of the broken piece to get a pair of vise grips on. (You werenít REALLY expecting it to come loose, now were you?) Fortunately the strap bolts came out in one piece. Pull the filler tube, vent tube, level sender wires, and remove the strap bolts. The tank is now lying on the floor. A light round of applause, if you please. As the stench was permeating the shop, in spite of the fan and open doors, I quickly carried it to a far corner of the yard and made a hasty retreat. The next morning (approaching from up wind) I managed to remove the level sender. Again, this was an assumption on my part as it bore a striking resemblance to the previously described thermostat. Oh, Dann.......... A garden hose was then inserted into the tank and allowed to flush for several days. Fortunately for the neighbors, it was winter and their windows were closed.
While "the evil" was being flushed from the tank, attention was turned to the broken fitting under the car. After the lines were thoroughly flushed, a torch was used to extract the broken piece from the fitting on the supply line. Do be careful in this situation. After years of exposure, gasoline will actually "soak" into the metal. Even though it is properly cleaned, it can cook out from the heat of the torch.
Then, with the assistance of my trusty tap & die set, the bolts, nuts, and threaded holes in the frame were cleaned up and readied for replacement. The straps were sandblasted and painted. Actually, I used a can of aerosol rubber undercoat. I highly recommend it.
Back to "the tank". After emptying the tank, I cautiously peered inside. I have been working on cars for over 30 years. Never have I seen anything to compare to the mess inside this tank. It is permanently assigned to my list of things indescribable. While searching the 'net for someone to repair it, the name "Gas Tank Renu" popped up. As they declared no tank was beyond repair, I decided to test the validity of their claim. It was sealed, boxed, and shipped to Hart Radiator, a franchise near Houston. It was returned a few weeks later. Fabulous does not begin to do it justice. I donít know what they did or how they accomplished it. And, I donít really care. It was cleaned to bare metal. The inside was coated and baked then the outside was given the same treatment. I have no doubt that it will outlast the car. They will also perform any needed repairs. Holes, rotted pickup tubes, whatever. It was pricey ($300) and worth every penny of it.
Before sending it off, the broken fitting (your basic flare fitting) had to be replaced. The tank was filled with water, the old piece removed and the new fitting silver soldered into place. Again I urge the utmost caution when using a torch around a used gas tank.
While the tank was being Ďtankedí, the front wheel cylinders arrived. These were dutifully installed on the calipers. While the calipers were off, it was time to replace the wheel bearings. At this point in time I made a truly delightful discovery. The outer race on the right wheel had spun and thoroughly ruined the hub. It was then that I discovered the scarcity of new hubs. Dann pulled a used one and sent it to me.
While waiting for its arrival I figured this to be a good time to replace the water pump. This was the only uneventful endeavor on this whole project. Everything went together just as it was supposed to. What a bizarre concept! I had forgotten what a real PIA the lower radiator hose was to install. It returned to my conscious mind very quickly, however. Will wonders never cease? Gates actually continues to make radiator hoses for our little chariots of monetary devastation. Took a few days to order them but they fit as intended.
The replacement hub arrives and I gleefully run to the shop. It was then that I discovered that the only thing holding the outer race in was the grease! It was worse that the original. Sonovabitch! Dann!!!!!....... And yet another hub starts its journey from the wilds of Washington. So as to keep things in place, the hubs and calipers were replaced and the brakes bled. This answers the question of bleeding brakes before replacing wheel bearings. The rotors and drums turned out to be quite useable. While they looked terrible, it was only surface rust. No pits or potholes so some light buffing with crocus cloth and back into service they went. Even the pads and shoes were in good shape. They, too, were replaced just before it got put into purgatory.
Good a time as any to start on the carbs. The following is an open question to Nissan Motor Company: What sadistic bastard came up with the method of mounting the carbs on this car???!!! I hope that he dies (or has already died) a lingering, hideous death and that his immortal sole burns in hell! For those having never experienced the pleasure of this particular operation, I can assure you it is an adventure second only to removing a starter motor. Well, off of my editorial soapbox and back to the task at hand. Once removed, SUís are really quite simple. More like primitive, actually. However, in spite of the disparaging comments of some, they are truly excellent carbs. I generally find this despair is in direct proportion to the speakerís ignorance. Take some time and get to know them. There are a number of good books and internet articles dedicated to the care and feeding of these mechanical marvels.
Now, where DID I put my soapboxÖ. Ah, here it is. For the Solex enthusiasts in the crowd, please donít take the following personally. I intend no malice or condemnation. It really amounts to no more than one of life's little curiosities to me. One thing that I donít really understand is the great fascination exhibited by some toward Solex carbs. Granted, it is a great little setup. But, unless youíre running around at WOT in an attempt to break warp speed, what is the purpose? Solexís, hot cams, lightened flywheels, close ratio gearing, yada, yada, yada. The expense is tremendous, they are unnecessary (unless you are racing which VERY few owners do),makes them less tractable, and even more miserable to drive than they already are. Yes folks, you read it right. Roadsters in their stock form are rough, choppy, cramped, noisy, untractable, and down right miserable. They are also quick, responsive, and one hell of a lot of fun. But, comfort and tractability wasnít included in the equation. Why make it worse for so little gain in normal street driving? Thus endith the editorial.
Having been left to rot for 12 years, the carbs were in amazingly good condition. The jets were stuck and required the application of a small plastic hammer to break them loose. They were removed and polished. While they are out, take a good look at the little hole in the center. If the needle was not adjusted properly the hole can become oblong. If so, they must be replaced. And, by the way, keep the domes and pistons together. They are matched sets. Run a brass rifle brush through the bushings the jets slide into to clean them up. Now the jets should slide without effort.
While you are at it, do you know with absolute certainty that the needle numbers match? Mine didnít! Some moron had replaced one and didnít bother to make sure they matched. Being familiar with the car, I knew something wasnít right. I simply could not get the carbs to set up properly. One day, I noticed something shiny in the back of the console. Low and behold, it was a bent needle! I then pulled the needles and discovered that they didnít match. Replacements cured the problem. Remember, never assume anything. There are some truly amazing examples of stupidity in this world. Many of whom are convinced that they are the next Carroll Shelby.
Another quick note as to parts acquisition. Nissan had a bad habit of mixing things up. For example, I have a 2000. It requires 44 m/m carbs, which it has. However, the float bowls were made for a 1600 (38 m/m carbs). They are quite different. One will work as well as the other but requires different parts. Be sure to take a look and find out what you REALLY have on the car. This admonishment applies to a great many things, not just the carbs.
But, I digress. After being soaked in carb cleaner, they are reassembled, adjusted, and reinstalled. At this point, I could wait no longer. I want to hear it run! As my tank was still in the shop, I took a 1-gallon metal can and soldered two pieces of copper tubing into it. Crude but effective. Now came the moment of truth. The valve cover is removed, oil is pored over the valve train, and a strap wrench is applied to the damper pulley. A gentle pull and it moves! Smooth as glass. Keep a close eye on the valves as you pull the engine through. Bent valves get expensive. After several revolutions I am convinced that everything is free and moving as intended. While you are at it, take a good look at the upper chain guide. For the uninitiated, the upper chain can drag against this bracket. It will, sooner or later, break it off. The severed piece then falls into the timing chains and gears. Many a U20 has committed suicide in this manner. It is quick, noisy, and final. And, VERY expensive.
The following is likely to make some people grimace. Justifiably, perhaps, I donít really know. There are those who pull the distributor and spin the oil pump with a drill motor. Personally, I leave the plugs out and spin it with the starter. To date, I have never gotten into trouble using this method. But, Murphy might be just around the corner.
Change the oil and filter, pour oil liberally over the valve train, add coolant, hook up the battery, stick in the key, andÖ. CLUNK! Nothing but the dull, sickening sound of the Bendix pulling in. The scene that followed is not repeatable, much less printable. Iím mildly surprised someone didnít call the local constabulary and have me arrested! At that point, I would have traded the roadster and every tool I own for a Prozac tablet!
Only those who have pulled a starter know what I went through. Those who havenít wouldnít believe me if I told them. Once the damned thing was finally out I opened the solenoid and cleaned the contacts. At this point, just for good measure, it went to the local re-builder. He called and reported that there was nothing to fix or replace. It was, in fact, in excellent health. Not only this, he wouldnít take anything for checking it out! Diogenes would be proud! It then came into my warped mind to disassemble and grease it. All well and good, except I got one piece of the linkage in backward. This I discovered after it was back on the car. Considering the scene that followed, I am truly amazed that I wasnít committed. Prozac hell, I want to kill somebody!!! Once the blue cloud finally dissipated, the starter was extracted and assembled properly. This time Iím going to test it first! Finally it is back on the car, everything is connected and I again hit the switch. Sweet success!!!! I bumped it a few times until I saw the oil gauge jump and then gave it a good spin. Oil pressure up and away we go. Add some gas, spark plugs, and stir the mixture well. It spit and sputtered a few times and Ö. Sweet Maryanne itís actually running. Due to the amount of kerosene and oil poured into the cylinders it laid down quite a cloud. But, it eventually cleaned itself out.
Time to tune it up! Timing and dwell looked good so on to the carbs. The first sign of trouble was an erratic idle. Not terrible, but certainly not right. However, the balance was pretty close. Now to set the mixture. If you donít have a Color Tune, by all means get one. This is one of the neatest devices I have ever used. It is a strange looking spark plug, of sorts, with a clear insulator. It allows you to see the flame color in the cylinder while it is running. As you adjust the mixture on the carb, the color will change from orange (rich) to blue (correct) to white (lean). I have used the old piston lift method for years. Just for grins, I set it this way first. I was VERY careful to get it as close as I possibly could. After checking with the Color Tune, I discovered just how far off I was. Surprising, to say the least. Not that I wish to rain on anyoneís parade, but Iíve always been skeptical of those reading spark plugs. If that is your thing, have at it. I just never could come around to that way of doing it.
Hmmmmm. Still wonít idle out right. Time to squirt some carb cleaner on the throttle shaft bushings. Bloody Hell! Sounds good now! I could always tie my wife to the fender and have her spray the carbs as weíre driving. Better not. She would block too much of my vision. Guess Iíll have to pull the carbs; AGAIN!! (See above for my opinion on pulling the carbs.) Now that they are out they have to again be stripped so I can send the throttle bodies in for rebuild. This is starting to get monotonous! And, yes, I checked them the first time. They just didnít feel all that loose.
At this point I had two options. Z Therapy offers a throttle body service as does Apple Hydraulics. Z Therapy will replace the shaft with a much thinner one made of stainless steel with needle bearing inserts. Apple will put in regular bushings and seals using the original shaft. They also charge half of what Z Therapy charges. Considering they have lasted over 70,000 miles without needle bearings I opted for Appleís service. After I got them back, I was glad I did. Their work was first rate. The engine now has a perfect idle and mixture.
While the carbs were out all attention was turned to the wonderful world of suspension. Having received the urethane rear end kit from Fairlady Products and a set of shocks from Shox.com, it was time to get down and dirty. Iíve heard that some shocks wonít fit the hole up front. Koni still makes adjustables that will. Beats having to rip the front end apart. BTW, I bought them from Shox for about half of what everyone else was asking. Installation was straight forward and went without a hitch. At least until I drained the rear end. Nothing like seeing gear oil come out looking like roofing tar! As this is generally a sign of serious bearing trouble (come to think of it, is there any other kind of bearing trouble?) it appears as though Iíll be looking for a good rear end shop. Again, for the uninitiated, DO NOT mess with a rear end unless you really, TRULY know what you are doing. This is a world of stress and precision that requires very special knowledge. I just hope that I can find someone who posses it!!
The carb bodies finally came home. Got them put back together and installed. As I attempt to connect the choke cables, one breaks off flush with sheath. Much yelling, much swearing, many tools thrown, sirens in the distance. Well, time to buy a new set of choke cables. $60 MY ASS!!!! I must remember to get Leslie certified in CPR. So, itís off to the local parts house. I bought two $7 general purpose choke cables and adapted them to fit. First, remove and disassemble the original choke assembly. The wire is actually one piece bent in the middle. Remove the wires from the new cables and cut off the knobs. Overlap the ends about ľ" and silver solder together. If your original sheaths are in good shape, simply reassemble and reinstall. Mine were grungy, rusty, and the front one has always been too short. To replace the sheaths, just unscrew them from the choke control base. You might have to work at it a little as they are peened in place. Mine came out quite easily. One screwed back into place without a problem. The other was a larger diameter! Just on the end where it screwed into the base, mind you. The rest of it was standard size! This evoked a few unkind words toward Nissan. Clamp one end of the sheath in a vise, come back about Ĺ", and twist the sheath until it expands to the right diameter. Then, screw it in like the other. UP YOURS, Nissan. Once they have been installed, take a punch and lightly peen the base to make sure that they donít work loose. Finally, the engine is completely assembled and running. A new set of K&N filters and all is right with the world.
As I was spending some time in the cockpit messing with the choke I noticed the seat belts. Do I really want to trust my life to a set of 30-year-old belts? Not exactly a reassuring thought. Back to the 'net. There is a place called Racer Wholesale that sells all kinds of safety equipment. For $60, they have a bang-up 5-point harness set. A few key strokes later and two sets are winging their way to North Texas. Installation was a snap utilizing the original mounting holes. Speaking of snap, that is exactly what one of the seat mounting bolts did. The very last one, of course. As this was near the end of my little excursion into madness, I just lay on the floor and stare at the ceiling. My mind was too numb for me to even get pissed-off!
The replacement hub arrives and it is wheel bearing time again. A solid hub, new bearings and seals, and away we go. A note on the seal at this point. It is available from regular suppliers but the skirt is considerably shorter than the OEM counterpart. It has to be seated deeper to form a proper fit to the hub. They might work for all I know. However, I was disinclined to try them on my car. I just went with OEMís to make sure.
Another note on the front suspension. GREASE IT!!!!!!! OFTEN!!!!! It does not have bushings. It is, in point of fact, steel-against-steel. This is the main reason why it is so tight and precise. It is also the reason why you will spend a great deal of money repairing it if you donít keep it well lubricated. Those 19 zirk fittings are there for a reason. USE THEM!
The ReNuíed tank comes home and is put back in place. Finish it off with a set of Pirelli P 7000ís and we are ready to run! All I need now is a new top. I don't plan to drive it in the rain but one can't always predict the weather! It has been a number of years since I did this job. As I recall it is fairly straight forward. My memories of this endeavor can be found at Putting a Top on a Roadster. When I replace the present one I'll post some pictures.
Actually, it will never be over as long as I own it. Like any other automobile, there will always be things that need doing. And, being the complete thorough bred that it is, it does tend to be a bit twitchy. When you extract this kind of performance such is to be expected. It is, in all aspects, an incredible piece of machinery. In spite of my ranting and complaining, I truly enjoy working on it. It, like anything else, can get a bit frustrating. But the reward is well worth the effort. Drive one and you will be hooked for life!
May we all enjoy many safe, happy, and trouble free miles!