As a boy I took great pleasure in taking things apart and seeing how they work. If they functioned when I put them back together it was a bonus but that was never a measure of success and I never let that get in the way of my fun. To this day I enjoy the process and I’ve learned that taking things apart requires less finesse and is usually a lot easier than putting them back together. The opposite applies to a neglected and severely rusted car.
For the past couple of months I have been chipping away at stripping the 240Z. It currently sits in the garage bare of all the bits that make it a functioning marvel. It has been a time consuming process (partly because the car is at my parent’s place) with frustrations along the way but all of it enjoyable. A snapped bolt here and a stubborn clip there, strange wires and plywood panels aplenty – and of course the odd coin found for my purse.
The first thing that you notice after stripping a car is that the parts you take off take up far more room than they have a right to. After all, they weren’t taking up much room while on the car but all of a sudden you need boxes and shelves, hanging room and wall space for leaning panels on and snap lock bags for nuts, bolts and clips aplenty. It’s about here that you start to appreciate the work that went into manufacturing and assembling what is an elegant mechanical machine.
I sought out advice prior to starting the stripping process and received a lot of good tips. Repeatedly I was told to bag and tag everything, even the broken parts. This advice was echoed in Wick Humble’s book, How to Restore Your Datsun Z-Car. I have taken this advice on board but haven’t been obsessed about it. Some of the parts were not original so it was pointless to waste my time with labeling and storing them, others seemed so obvious as to not require any documentation while others yet, for example the wiring, seemed so complex that it was pointless for me to fuss over it since I have no plans to do the job myself. I might be regretting that last one as I am now considering having a go…
Other advice mentioned patience and a delicate touch. The car is over 40 years old and requires a gentle and patient hand. I can tell you I’ve used hammers and mallets, grinders both large and small, screwdrivers that will scare the screws off by simply pointing at them, vice grips that have survived what looks like a throwing competition, but most of all a large broom to sweep away the rust that falls off every time I breathe near the car. I will concede it takes a delicate touch at times but when that bastard of a bolt doesn’t want to budge after being soaked in enough penetrating liquids to develop a mild addiction to it, you just have to bring out the breaker bar and standby with a grinder as a threat.
You won’t learn anything unless you have a go and make some mistakes. I had a go and now I know that taking out a windshield with previously mentioned scary screwdriver is not a good idea. The right tool for the job rings a bell but when you don’t have that right tool it’s mighty tempting to make do with what’s at hand. Exercising patience avoids costly mistakes.
Throwing out damaged original parts is a big mistake with emphasis on the word original. Even if you would never use that part again it makes sense to keep it for reference until the day you have a replacement in hand. There are so many variations in parts from early cars to late cars, between models and between cars of different markets that finding the exact part you need becomes a huge task without an original for reference. This of course applies only if you are concerned with originality which I am. I learned this lesson very quickly and now I have a cache of broken clips, panels, bits of trim and even some brown stuff that looks like horse hair…
Mechanical objects fascinate me. My intention is not to sound macho but I love the challenge of stripping something bare, getting my hands dirty with its grease and grime, figuring out how it all works in a detective like manner and damned be your instruction manual as I soak up the marvel, the simplicity of mechanical objects designed and built by my father’s functional and practical generation.
The 240Z is one of these mechanical objects and while certain parts of it are complex and possibly beyond my mediocre skills, the majority of it is simple and just makes perfect mechanical sense as I’m tearing it down which gives me confidence for the restoration and then the assembly phase of the project.