My First 240z

November 30th, 2015

It was 1987, I was starting year 12 of high school, turning 17 this year and my parents decided to give me $2000 to buy a car. Rather than doing something sensible and buying a running licenced car I found a cheap unlicenced 240Z in very poor condition.

Scanning the classifieds section of the sunday newspaper I found an advert for a 240Z for $2500. This was well below market rate for a Z at this time. My parents and I arranged to go see the car.

I still question their decision to let me buy this Fairlady Z. The wicked temptress in the garage with her gorgeous curves kept me busy most nights, stripping her body back to naked bare steel, while I should have been inside studying and doing home work. Needless to say I didn’t do too well in year 12, and failed to get into university. I never finished the car that year either.

With a part time weekend job and no higher education commitments I had plenty of time to spend working on the Z. I suspect this was her plan all along. I sometimes wonder what my life would have been like if I had bought a sensible car and concentrated on school, got into Uni, found a decent job...

It was at a wreckers. She was in pretty bad shape when I found her. Painted British racing green, with liberal applications of anti-rust red/brown paint on the front half of the bonnet, and the entire passenger side guard. Apart from a few dents to the bonnet and left guard, bad paint job and shabby interior, she was complete. I could see the potential.

The story from the wrecker I bought the car off was that it was stolen in New South Wales by an escaped convict and driven across the country to Western Australia, where it was stopped by the police for a broken tail light. Presumably the convict went back to jail in NSW, but the car being in such poor condition remained in WA. I imagine it was cheaper to pay out the insurance to the owner than to transport the car back to NSW.

A deal was was done and the car was towed back to my house for the restoration to begin. Clearing out the interior I found a map of NSW with towns circled in biro and the words fill written next to them. Presumably the escape route out of NSW and where he needed to fill the tank at.

Mechanically the car was fine, except for the second gear synchro. A common problem with these gearboxes. I had that fixed later, but for now I concentrated on the bodywork.

I stripped the paint back to bare metal, mostly using a chisel. I found that I could run the chisel along the paint and it would chip off. It was very time consuming, but it didn’t cost anything. Being a poor high school student with no income apart from Austudy payments from the government, cheap was good.

I stripped a section at a time, and when I was done for the night I would clean the metal and spray a temporary coat of etch primer, or clear coat from a spray can to keep it from rusting. This was easy to remove later once all the paint had been stripped and I was ready for surface preparation to begin in earnest.

The car was originally Avocado green metallic with a tan interior. I decided I wanted to paint it Porsche Guards Red. The chassis was painted first, I left the removable panels until later, as can be seen in the photos. I sprayed black in the interior to cover the green.

There were some rust issues that needed taking care of. Some rust holes in the floor were cut out and plates welded in by a friends Dad. The front of the passenger side foot well had a large section of plate welded in. The doglegs on both sides were rusted out. Unfortunately as a young guy I though it was acceptable to just fill them up with body filler and bits of metal, instead of welding new metal in. Partly because of books that show how to repair your car had advice like using fibreglass, body filler and chicken wire! and mostly because I couldn’t afford to replace panels and pay for welding at the time. There were large amounts of filler used on the bonnet and left guard, which these days, I would have replaced with panels that were in better condition.

Interior was changed to black via cans of spray on vinyl dye, apart from the seats which were re-trimmed in black vinyl with white, red, black cloth inserts. For some reason I painted the steering wheel black(??!!). The chrome stripe in the door trim panels had peeled off, revealing the blue plastic underneath, so I repainted them red to match the car. New carpets were added.

Exterior mirrors were aftermarket items purchased from “Marlows” (WA auto store back in the 80s/90s). I had the Gearbox syncros replaced to fix the second gear issue and the car was licensed. I polished up the wheels and painted the recesses black (originally light blue) for contrast.

Because the car was taking so long to do, I ended up buying an RA28 “Mustang” Celica lift-back, as seen in one of the photos. This was my daily driver. By that stage I was studying at TAFE, still working part time.

I eventually got the car to the point where I considered it finished. It was presented to the licensing department. The inspector grabbed a large spike and proceeded to stab holes in the floor. “fix that” he mumbled, and continued to stab a few more holes. I found a welder to fix the remaining rust issues in the floor, he guaranteed that it would pass this time, or he would fix any more issues for free.

Back for re-inspection. The same miserable inspector then preceded to tell me that the original panels the factory added to the back of the floor pan needed to be welded all the way around the edge(If you know S30z’s you know the panels I mean). I argued the point that they were put there by the factory, not my me or my welder, and if it was legal from new, then why should I have to modify them. Begrudgingly he conceded and the car passed. I got the plates ZZ 240 for it (because Z 240 and ZZZ 240 were already taken).

I didn’t drive the Z very much early on. It was ridiculously expensive to insure, costing over $1000 a year in the early 1990s because of my age, and after spending so much time fixing it up, I was a bit afraid to drive it incase I was involved in an accident.

I did get into a minor fender bender in my Celica, and started to drive the 240Z a bit more after that, I eventually took the RA28 off the road and gave it a restoration back to its original metallic silver.

I’m not sure why, maybe it was the high cost of insurance, but sometime in the early 1990s I decided to sell the 240Z. I got $4200 (if I recall correctly) to a young doctor from Fremantle way.

Later in life the Z bug bit again and I bought another one, and immediately pulled it apart for restoration, but that was about 15 years ago, and it still sits in pieces in my parents garage. I hope to have enough time and money to finish it off one day.

I often wondered what had happened to my original 240Z. Whether it had survived, or gone to scrap metal heaven. I’m in the local WA Z club, have been since 2003, but I’ve never seen my old 240Z at any of the events or Z gatherings.

A few months ago I saw a photo on Facebook that looked like my old Z, but couldn’t confirm if it was or not. There are quite a few Red ones around.

Yesterday I received an email notification on gumtree about a 240Z for sale. Clicking through to the advert, I could tell it was the same 240Z I had seen on Facebook. Looking at extra photos on gumtree confirmed it. It was my old 240Z I restored when I was 17.

Update: The car as now sold and will be moving to South Australia.
I briefly considered buying it back, but I already have one I need to finish, I don't have the means, and "you can never go home again". Car was number HS30-10745 with matching engine L24-084614.