Throwing Good Money After Bad (where do we go from here)?

Posted: April 8, 2012 in 300ZX Build
Tags: , , , , ,

It’s been a few weeks since my string of bad luck on the Z build. Took a much-needed break to digest the news and reassess where to go from here. I wish I had better news to report at this point, but unfortunately the motor is indeed toast.

I had initial high hopes after speaking with Harry of Ztuner and friend (and fellow Z enthusiast) Jason Moss Monte – they both recommended dropping a capful of oil into the spark plug holes and running the compression test one more time before pulling the motor. The theory behind this was since the motor sat for a few months without being started, the cylinder walls ran dry of oil, which would normally create a better ring seal (and higher compression numbers). The cap of oil coats the cylinder walls and replaces the lost oil film.

(Click past the break to read more about the motor’s fate as well as adventures in backyard frame repair!)

Although a miracle didn’t take place, compression did jump up a full 15psi in #6 from 120 to 135 (the rest of the cylinders saw similar improvement), and all cylinders evened out to around 10-15psi of each other (where before there was as much as a 35psi difference).

With the exception of #6, all cylinders were now in the 140-150 range! I thought the motor most certainly had some life left in her. So I planned to replace some seals and do a new timing belt/tensioner and run as is.

The motor still had to be pulled to rebuild/replace the blown turbos.

Since the motor was out, Harry said I'd be crazy not to check the condition of the bearings.

My goal was to rebuild the turbos, get through the NASA HPDE driving events this season, then rebuild the motor once my racing license (and budget) were secure.

But those hopes were soon squashed once I pulled the pan to check the bearings. Harry recommended starting with the rod bearings, as they take the most abuse and are a good indicator of the health of the motor: #6 was completely spent!

Down to the copper. The motor was detonating like crazy and pounding the rod bearings in the process.

The rest of the rod bearings were heat checked pretty badly (notice what looks like a grey film/coating on the bearing). Harry says this happens when a motor (*EDIT- BEARING) is overheated.

The main bearings were not quite as bad, but unusable nonetheless.

Sure, I could try and get away with slapping on a new timing belt AND bearings, and call it a day; but with the amount of time it takes to do all that, along with the expense, I’ve reached that critical point where it’s time to stop throwing good money after bad as they say.

Factor in that I know the rings are on the way out, and it’s a no brainer. I figure do it right and do it once. So a full rebuild of the motor/turbos is in order. Now where did I plant that money tree??

Turbos were fairly clean except for the shaft play. Likely rebuilt but not balanced properly by the previous owner. A turbo spins at upwards of 80 thousand RPM! The bearings get eat up quick if not balanced.

Since I still had a mangled shell to deal with; I briefly flirted with the idea of taking out a used car loan and purchasing a good used Z32 (NA) – this would allow me to get on the track NOW, get seat time in a similar car (minus the power of twin turbos of course), and rebuild the TT motor on the side to drop in at a later date.

Even drove 5-hrs round trip to look at a car that was quoted as “95%” original… The owner was a nice guy – but the car had rust issues, bondo on the rear quarter (with a cheap re-spray), and 161K on the clock. Not what I was expecting! I quickly realized any NA within my budget was going to have just as many problems as the Z I already own.

Some real backyard bodywork type stuff happening here - they say necessity’s the mother of invention right?

In a bout of frustration, I picked up a cheap porta power from Harbor Freight and went to town on the Z the next day. The driver side frame rail/strut tower was my litmus test; if I could get it to a place I was happy with, I could justify moving forward with the Z as a whole.

Believe it or not, that little porta power worked wonders! With a 9-hour marathon session of bending, banging, and stretching from every possible direction, I was in fact, able to get it to a good place. Here are a few teaser shots, full write up coming soon.

Before - notice the master cylinder brace contacting the MC.

After - using the MC brace as a reference, you can see how much I was able to move the strut tower (almost a 1/4") back into its proper position.

Before - the rail was kinked pretty badly where the sway bar mounts.

During - an impact socket was placed above the claw to provide leverage.

After - not perfect, but way better than it was. The mounting points are now straight/true (and the bolt holes are no longer cocked). A slight kink is still in the rail, but nothing the SPL tension rods can't adjust for. 

It’s not the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen, but it should be functional (and good enough for me to sleep at night). So for now, I’ll keep plugging away on the Z while I try and sort out the motor/turbo issues. If a clean “affordable” NA does happen to present itself down the road, I’ll reevaluate at that time. Motor/turbo issues aside, there’s still plenty of work to be done on the Z.

Stay tuned!

Jay

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