I explained in my Bondo Magician meets Mad Max post that a resto-mod (restoration modified) 240Z was out of the picture. I was on a 6 month hiatus from the car and in that time I decided that I wanted to build a full-blown race car. I mentioned that the plan was to build a frame jig, up my tool game, and get back to work on the Z. When I started cutting the car apart, I was catching some flack on Instagram (@ShawnB26). “Why would you cut up such a nice car?” seemed to be a common between DM’s and comments. Instagram isn’t a good place to go into major detail like a blog, so I could see why people had their opinions. Also, I didn’t go into detail on how bad the car was either at the time. The truth is the car should have gone to the scrap yard.
That being said I pressed on and I’m glad I did. I knocked out a really nice Jig/dolly for the Z. I’m limited on space my shop, so the jig needed to roll. Thats not optimal but I couldn’t afford to lose that much space. So I borrowed some ideas from the JD2 Chassis Jig. They have some pretty smart ideas using leveling feet, adjustable brackets, and uni-struts that you could adjust the height and level. I really took my time building the jig as I knew it had to be perfect.
Although I had done some serious research on chassis jigs, chassis layouts, material, and the FIA rule book, I’d never actually built a tube chassis car. The most “tube” work I’ve done was when I made some bumpers and suspension parts for my Range Rover Classic rock crawler and Prerunner Frontier. This was pretty intimidating and a major undertaking. Not to mention DOM Steel tube is very expensive. I really had to do homework and be smart with my design.
I needed to get some inspiration. The great thing about social media for me is I can follow some great fabricators. Some guys you should check out is Nigel Petrie with Engineered To Slide. His Hilux (Tacoma) tube chassis was a great inspiration for me as I feel like I’ve had a similar story. The guys over at the Roadster Shop are very impressive. Their “Rampage” Camaro is a huge inspiration for me. I don’t think it’s good to copy someones work, but I think its important to feed off another fabricators craftsmanship. I think all serious fabricators do that. Both have really pushed me to be the best fabricator that I can be and build the best car that I can.
Anyways, let’s get back to the Z. I finished up the jig. She’s big and strong with plenty of adjustability. Now the hard part. I needed to get the body on the chassis jig and get it level, square, and at ride height. This took a lot of time to get right considering the car was pretty wonky to begin with. I invested in a pretty nice laser level which helped quite a bit. Once the car was level, square, and pinned in place, the plasma cutter and cut off wheels came out. The goal was to cut everything away that wasn’t needed. Basically I needed a roof, door jams, rockers and rear quarter panels (for now).
It gets a little complicated now. This was an opportunity to ditch the old 240Z suspension all together. Aftermarket parts for S30 chassis cars are VERY expensive, not readily available, and are 70’s technology. Now, I had the ability to put whatever suspension I wanted under the car. After doing a lot of thinking and research it boiled down to running 240SX (S13) based suspension. The reason I’m bringing this up is I needed to build my frame rails and I needed to set ride height. This dictated where my rear subframe and front crossmember went. This was uncharted territory for me. Although this updated my suspension tech by decades, it created a whole slue of challenges.
I started off by buying second-hand OEM 240SX (s13) suspension parts to get base line geometry. I was also able to find some cut away front shock towers from a S13. I just planned to use them for castor and camber reference points.
For the rear I picked up a S13 rear sub-frame that was in good condition, but had seen better days. I contacted Greg over at GK Tech and ordered some weld in sub-frame gussets. Once I welded the sub-frame gussets, I sent it out for powder coating. Mike over at SPL PARTS hooked me up with some solid aluminum sub-frame bushings that I pressed in. I also had custom sub-frame bolts machined and zinc coated.
You create some issues when you lower a S13/S14 (240SX). Although it may look good lowered, they don’t handle well. It really disturbs the suspension geometry and causes a lot of bump steer. Some companies make suspension geometry correction parts that fix those issues, but if I had the ability to set the suspension where I wanted from the start I wouldn’t need those parts. So what I wanted to do was leave the suspension close to factory geometry but have the car low. In a sense what I did was a “body drop”. This keeps all of the suspension geometry at the correct angles, but it allows the car to sit low and keep a low center of gravity. There is some give and take here but it’s worth it.
Check out the next post where I really start making some strides with suspension and tube chassis work.