Refreshing A Classic Datsun 240Z

Contributed By: Carl Beck, IZCC #260

ABOUT This Article:
This article is intended to give you a some idea of the costs involved in terms of time and money required to carry out the process of "refreshing" a Classic 240Z.

(Written 06 Jun.99, updated 10 NOV. 99)

Refreshing A 72 240Z
by: Carl Beck, IZCC #260

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How many Z Cars have you looked at and thought to yourself, "I could just clean that car up a bit, do some minor fixing and repairing, and I would have a very nice early Z car to drive daily"?

For that matter, how many early Z Cars do you have to look at, before you find one in good enough condition, that all you need to do is "refresh" it - rather than completely "rebuild" or "restore" it?

What should it cost today, to find a really good, first generation Z Car and then go through the process of "refreshing" it? That process should then yield a very presentable Classic Z Car, that one could drive on the street and take to local events and show, without having to make any excuses.

I get those questions from people all the time, so I thought I'd tell you about one Z Car that I am "refreshing" at this time. I use the term "refresh" rather than "restore" because the "restoration" of a Classic Car carries a connotation of meticulously returning it to "As Factory - New" condition. The goal in the case of a restoration, is to have a Z Car that looks the same as the day it first came out of the factory.

Refreshing a Classic Car on the other hand, for the purposes of this discussion should carry the connotation of disassembling the car, cleaning and detailing the existing serviceable parts, to as good a condition as possible, but without the need for perfection, without the need for "Factory New" appearance that a "Restoration" process would involve.

Both the restoration and refreshing processes yield a beautiful Z Car at the end, however they have very different end objectives. Cost constraints are ever present in the process of refreshing a Z car, while the pursuit of perfection is ever present in the restoration process applied to a Classic Car. Which is one reason that the Factory Restored 240Z's are selling for over $30,000.00 today.

So this discussion focuses on the "refreshing" of a two owner, 1972 Datsun 240Z. I purchased the car from its original owner four years ago. ( Feb. 24, 1995). At the time of purchase it had 61K miles, was in very clean, rust free and factory stock condition. Always garage kept. The car is white with the red (burgundy) interior.

At the time of its original sale in 1972, the Datsun Dealer had loaded it up with Dealer Installed Options - the "option" being that the person could either take the car the way it was (and pay the additional money), or they could decide to not take the car. (the Dealers loved that "option" ).

Lucky for me, Mr. John B. Gay decided to "take the car" with the Dealer installed options. The car had Dealer installed A/C, Front Bumper Guard, 240Z Side Strip Kit, Body Side Molding, Vinyl Roof, Wire Basket Chrome Wheels and Rust Proofing ..... all of which boosted its original factory MSRP from $4208.00 to a Dealer List Price of $5158.90. (Mr. Gay traded in his 1971 240Z and received a credit of $3,300 for it).

Car as purchased, but with vinyl top removed. What you see in the picture is the glue that had to be stripped. The vinly top was removed to inspect the sheetmetal underneath... it was perfect.

Below: Here is a close up of the left rear wheel arch and rocker panel. I could not find one spec. of rust on this car. Yes, those are the Appliance "Wire Basket Wheels", but I couldn't save them. I replaced them with American Racing Wheel Libera's

I say, "lucky for me", however the truth is, it wasn't all luck. I had looked at almost every Datsun 240Z, advertised as being in "great condition", within the State of Florida for the previous three years. I was also willing to pay what Mr. Gay wanted for his Z - which at the time, was more than just about anyone else would have been willing to pay. It took $4,500.00 to convince Mr. Gay that I really wanted that car! At the time a nice 240Z could be purchased for between $2,000.00 to $3,000.00. Today Mr. Gay's car, in that condition would sell for around $6,500.00 in this area of the Country.

Why was I willing to pay a 50% premium for this Z? Because I have "refreshed" and "restored" several cars prior to this one. I knew from experience that its always far less costly, and far less work, to start with a very nice car, than it is to start with a less than perfect candidate. Not only is it less costly - its far more enjoyable to work on a really nice car.

So lesson #1 - Pay what ever you have to - to start with a really clean, straight, rust free car. It is always far less expensive in the end and far more enjoyable during the process.

Lesion #2 - Keep looking! Until you find the car described in Lesson #1 above. There are lots of Z Cars out there like this one still to be found, even today. So Keep Looking ... and looking ...and looking.

Now, jump forward four years to 1999......
I did not have the time to work on this car until this year. Nor could I find a body shop that I was comfortable with, to get the paint and body work done. So I waited until now...

Why did I wait? Because the refreshing or restoration process is supposed to be an enjoyable one for the owner. It is not a profit making activity for sure! It is very hard to find a good bodyshop that you can work with, that will get your car done on schedule, that will do the work correctly when your not watching and which anyone less than Bill Gates can afford to deal with....

Lesson #3 - find a good bodyshop. Ask your friends who they deal with. Go to local car shows of all kinds and talk to the owners of show cars, ask who they would recommend - and question them about the process used and the schedule maintained... make written notes.... Spend time on this - as it becomes critical to the quality of the job and your enjoyment of the process.

Last December a friend offered to do the paint and body work on this Z - if I would sell him one of the other collectable cars that I owned. One which he had done the paint and body work on over ten years ago. One which still looks like new today. ( a beautiful silver, 1970 SS 396 El Camino). Its always a good sign when the person who did the work on your car - is willing to buy it themselves years later. (gives you an idea that they knew the work was done correctly to begin with;-)

I say he "offered" to do the Z - the truth is, I had ask, begged, pleaded and hassled him for four years ... none the less he wouldn't do it. He had too many cars of his own that he wanted to work on... and this wasn't a Chevy!

Did I mention that he only applies his considerable skills to cars he personally likes?. Well, he really likes 70 El Camino's & Chevelles.... but he too has learned Lesson #1 above - from years of experience! What he had to pay for a really nice 1970 El Camino - included painting my 240Z! ;-)

What I Had To Pay - to get the car finished included:

ITEM                                         QTY       COST

1972 Datsun 240Z                              1      $4,500.00

Paint & Body Work - complete                  1       3,500.00

Windshield                                    1         179.00

Reinstall Rear Glass                                     45.00________


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -  


SEM Napa Red vinyl die                        3          18.00

SEM Black - vinyl die                         1           6.00

SEM Charcoal Metallic Trim Paint               1           6.85

Bright White - Rust Proofing Paint            3          12.50

Black - Rust Proofing Spray Paint             1           4.95

Masking Tap                                   2           3.50

& 18 inch masking paper                       1          18.00

Ospho                                         1          10.00

Throw-away 2 inch brushes                     5           3.50

Rust Proofing (brush on black 3M)                         N/C

3M Rust Fighter-I (inter-panel spray )        2          13.35

Carb Cleaner- spray                           4cans      10.00

Carb Cleaner - Dip Can                        1          15.50

WD-40                                         2           4.50

Marvel Mystery Oil                            1 can       6.50

Loc-Tight                                      1 tube      4.50

Permitex                                      2           7.50

All Purpose Cleaner                           1 gal      12.00

5gal Lacquer Thinner                          5 gal      15.00

Thinner Pump for 5gal can                     1          18.00

Glass Beads - 55lbs                           1          38.00

Rags                                          1box       24.00______

                                                             $ 252.15

 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 



- Tail Light Gasket R (78818-E4100)            1     24.50

- Tail Light Gasket L                          1     24.50

- heater hose grommets/firewall                2      1.80

- Grommet - Windshield Wiper/firewall          1  NLA

- Acc. linkage Boot/firewall                   1      14.75

- door stops (rubber bumpers)                  2

- gas filler protector                         1      24.50

Door Wedge (striker)                           2     32.50

Clutch Disc                                    1     68.00

Interior plastic rivets (red 90909-E8800)     35     22.40

Plastic rivets (79909-E4100 rear finisher)     6     11.00

Hood medallion                                 1     39.00

front fender scripts L&R (DATSUN)              2     70.00

Spark Plug Wire Set                            1     85.75

Front Bumper                                   1     293.00

Front Rubbers (62690-E4100)                    2      47.34 

Rear Bumper

- - Center                                     1     164.00

- - Right Side                                 1      78.00

- - Left Side                                  1      76.00

Rear Rubbers                                   2      66.04

Rear View Mirror -side                         1      82.03     

Rear View Mirror -inside                       1      

Engine Lamp                                    1      24.33

Choke Knob                                     1       4.12

Door Threshold Covers - alum.                  2      64.00________


 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 


Engine Paint  (1/4 can )                      1      15.00

Thermostat                                    1       6.50

Motor Mounts                                  2      45.00

Trans. Mount                                  1      31.00

Water Pump                                    1      36.00

Brake Master (rebuilt)                        1      72.00

Silicone Brake Fluid                          4      30.00

Upper & Lower Rad. Hose (9.24 + 13.78 + tax)  2      26.00                  

Heater hose                                  8ft.    12.50

Fuel Line Hose                               2ft.     3.50

Battery Cables

Weather-strip Kit-(Precision)                  1     215.00

-Windshield Gasket

-Rear Deck Window Gasket

-1/4 window gaskets

-Rear Deck Seal (main seal)

-Rear Deck (secondary seals)

Clutch Slave Cylinder 

Re-core Radiator (three row)                         154.00

Rebuild Orig. Starter...                              54.50

5spd. Trans                                          250.00

New front shocks (KYB's)                              80.00

Rebuilt front brake calip.                            45.00

Innerfender Weather-strips/seals                       5.50

Brass Plugs (exhaust manifold - air injection         12.50

Brass Plugs                                            7.94

Welding Rod                                           18.50

Nuts & washers for bumper rubbers                      4.28_______


 - - - - - - -


American Racing Wheels -used  (1972 Librašs)         300.00

Lug Nuts & Washers (12mmx1.25)                        42.80

Shipping                                              56.00                

Headlight Covers (clear)                              89.00

Front Air Dam (BRE Style)                            169.00

Sony AM/FM -CD                                       213.99

Speakers & Wire                                      169.00

Fiberglass & labor for speaker enclosures             60.00_______


 - - - -  Necessary Shop Supplies/Tools - - -- - - --  

Camera For Garage                                    $161.50

Beer & Pizza for the guys helping                      40.00

Part Washing Sink:

-Stainless Steel Sink (60 in. x 24in. x 8in)  1        75.00

-Mineral Spirits                             25gal     72.00

-Solvent Pump (submersible)                   1        68.00

-hose kit  (2@13.50)                          2        27.00

-Nylon Tubing (pump solvents)                 6 ft.     5.87

-Fittings for Sink                            1 set    12.36

-30 Gallon Drum                               1         free

-4 casters                                    4        27.53

1 1/16 inch socket for crank bolt             1        40.00

(after buying the wrong sizes - x5)

(25mm and 26mm = $12.37)

(1 1/16 inch = $2.97)

(1 1/16 inch + 28mm = $25.67)

4 Bolts for Engine Stand + 4 longer ones!     8        12.00_______

                                                           $ 513.71

- - - - -  - -- - - - - - - 

Outside Labor:

Clean & Set Up carb.'s                                 200.00

Mount & Balance Tires on Mags (63.77+tip 10.00)         73.77

Towing (pickup body - take to shop)                     40.00_______

                                                            $ 313.77



                                              Sub Total:  $12,844.18

Notes: To be honest with myself - I have to add the following amounts to the sub-total. This is what it cost me to produce this car in its current configuration.

Adjustment to Market Value of 72 240Z to reflect current replacement cost + $2,000. (could have sold it for $6,500 instead to refreshing it - originally paid $4,500.00)


Current Market Value Adj.  2000.00
Storage for 4 years 2000.00
License Plates 80.00
Insurance 220.00
add to sub-total: $4,300.00 Sub total $17,144.18
- -- --- - - So How Did The Process Go? - - -

STEP 1 - was:
- completely strip the body of its interior
- removed the engine and transmission
- remove all chrome and glass
- remove everything from the firewall
- remove all weather-stripping & rubber stops (hood,deck lid,doors etc).
- remove front splash pan
- remove headlight buckets - remove tail lights and tail light panels
- remove doors, hood, deck-led

All this took me about three days.....

STEP 2. send the body shell & panels to the body shop
- Repaint to original color - use single stage poly paint.
- strip vinyl top
- strip hood, top, and deck-led
- sand and prime the sides of the car
- fix all door dings and small dents in front fenders
- strip engine compartment & treat galvanized panels
- repaint engine compartment, door jams and deck lid rain gutter.
- prime, block sand & paint entire car and all parts

All this took two men working about 40 hours each - 80 hours total x 37.50 per hour, plus $500.00 paint/materials = $3,500.00

STEP 3: The Engine:
While the car body was in the body shop - I put the engine on the engine stand, dissembled it to the short block, cleaned and detailed the block and all parts and then resealed the engine. I tried very hard to keep myself from getting carried away with fine details - I reused all the original parts that I could and did not replace cad plated linkages, bolts etc. just for the sake of making everything look as new. Rather, I spent more time cleaning and detailing the original bits and pieces... IMHO the finished product came out looking very good...

All in all, I finished the engine up over a six week period - as it was one of the last components to be reinstalled in the car. Had lots of little bits and pieces to find or replace - vacuum hoses, water hoses. I also spent a great deal of time cleaning small items - one at a time - like hose clamps, nuts and bolts etc... I was in no hurry however... Having a large parts washing sink was a life saver and I can't imagine not having one to do this job...

I'd say the actual working time on the engine was every bit of seven days...lots of time spent on cleaning and detailing...

Step 3a: The Engine Compartment:
Having removed everything from the engine compartment - it all had to be cleaned / detailed and reinstalled. Brake Lines, Clutch Lines, Wiring Harness, firewall grommets (heater hose, accl. linkage, windshield wiper wiring,

STEP 4. Glass & Seals and Weather-strips:
Next it was time to have a new windshield installed (the old one had a crack/chip and it was starting to fog around the corners)... Also had the Glass man reinstall the rear deck-lid glass. Then I started to work at getting the side windows put back in. The rear quarter windows with new seals were a snug fit - and took a bit of time and pressure to reinstall - but they went back in without breaking. The door windows took the better part of an afternoon - tricky installation - but easy once you figure out how its done - putting your hands in the correct position to begin with - and fitting them through the openings in the door frame is the hardest part..

Took a couple of days to finish up the glass work.

STEP 5: The Interior:
The car has a red interior and most everything was in very good condition. So it was just a mater of cleaning and re-dying most vinyl parts. The SEM Napa Red was an almost perfect match for the original color. I reinstalled the factory original carpet as it too was in near as new condition. Lots of new little red plastic rivets were used... Seat-belts had to be cleaned and put back

While working on the interior I also cleaned and painted the spare tire well, detailed the spare wheel and tire and put everything back in the car.

One of the mounting screws for the choke lever mount had broken in the center console - so I used the method shown by Scott on his Carb. Tune Up Video to fix it properly. I also referenced Scott's Video while setting up my S.U.'s so the engine would at least start again? ...

Then I cleaned and detailed the dash (it has no cracks - been Armor-All'ed since new)

Next it was time for a new radio - (Sony Am/FM CD unit with removable face plate) and speakers (Pioneer TS-C1353) in custom built kick panel mounts... (5.25inch & separate tweets with crossover's)...... sounds better than any other system I've had so far in an old Z.

Worked on the interior for about eight days in total...

STEP 6. Wheels & Tires:
I bought a used set of American Racing Equipment Librašs from a fellow list member. I happen to have a set on my other 72 Z and I just love them. They look like the 70's to me - a period piece so to speak. They were in near perfect condition as far as being straight and not scared. They were however badly corroded and had about four previously applied coats of paint on the spokes. So took them to Steve's Shop and glass bead blasted them. Then wet sanded the rims, then rubbed the rims out with rubbing compound then polished them... dusted a light coat of silver paint on the spokes and they were ready to install on the car. The tires on the car were almost new so I reused them (Nitto's).

STEP 7: Install Bumpers, Chrome Trim, Name Plates & Scripts
The original bumpers were in really good shape - a couple of small dents and the chrome was slightly scratched and slightly dulled... So I thought I'd just get them re-chromed and reuse them - NOT. The price quoted for the re-chrome job was within a few dollars of what new bumpers cost. So I decided to put new OEM bumpers on the car - and hold the old one's until I find a shop that charges less than the single local shop here in Tampa. (they were nuts on the prices they quoted IMHO)...

I leave the bumper uprights off - when someone hits your bumper, thatšs one thing. When they hit your bumper with the up-rights in place - it pushes the up-rights back into the bodywork - and thus more damage is done with them in place, than is done without them - at least thatšs been my experience... so I left them off.

STEP 7 - Other Stuff over the next couple of weeks ...
emember - I was refreshing this Z - so it doesn't have to be Pure Stock. I added the clear headlight covers (I've always loved them on the 240Z's) and a BRE Spook. Both of these items go with the ARE Librašs anyway. Because I plan on driving this Z - the Spook is a must at road speeds.

New Springs, Shocks and Suspension Bushings are next. I'll most likely go with OEM Springs and KYB shocks (to keep as close to stock as possible) This is going to be used more as a GT - so I want good road ride.

For A/C I plan on using Vintage Air's - Universal SuperCooler with rebuilt Hitachi Compressor, new condenser and all new bits and pieces (dryer, hoses etc). It will be an R134 System to start with. Vintage Air's SuperCooler has both heater core and A/C Evap. units in a single enclosure. It's 24in. X 8.5in X 8.5in - so should take up less room than the ARA unit from 1972. It also puts out 2X the air flow from what I can tell at present. Its designed to cool sedans that are converted to Street Rod use. You know the 34 - 48 Chevy's and Fords. So it should actually cool the interior of a 240Z. So I figure I'll have another $1,500.00 in that by the time I'm done - I'll do a complete write up on that system if it does the job I want...

Hope this gives you an idea of what it takes to "Refresh" a 240Z. The bottom line looks like its going to be around $18,500.00

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