Project - Datsun 120A F11 Coupe .._ Part 2
Timewarping back to the 1980s as I try to recreate my first car

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'Turning my driveway into a scrapyard!'
January 7th 2009
It's official I'm now Datsun crazy!
Yes to get the New Year off to a good start I've gone and bought another one. And hell why not, there's supposed to be 22 of these things in the country so I've only got 20 more to get!
................... Datsun '2' restoration
The plan was to buy a donor car for spares, which seemed like a good idea as buying all these parts is costing me a fortune. So I popped over to a place near Oxford at the weekend to check out a car that had been for sale for a few months - as nobody had shown any interest in it I expected it to be a mess but surprise, surprise, it looked pretty neat. So far I've not been able to check it over too much but it's looking good with only a few small rust patch's and poor seats. It belonged to an old man who seemed to have had it serviced quite often over the years. However it's been in a garage for a while so lets hope the engine sounds ok when I've got it running properly.
April 6th 2009
Well after a bit of investigation I've decided that this 2nd car will just have to be a parts-car for the present moment and probably a project for the future, and so I have just built a carport/shed in the garden to store it safely in. The engine starts fine but coughs rather a lot and going by the new ignition spares found in the boot then it seems to have been a problem with the last owner too. The other big problem is the bad rust in the sills, which is in the outer and inner areas near the rear wheels and crossmember, that will require some extensive welding to replace/rebuild. The brakes also have a problem, probably a burst pipe somewhere, and the interior is in a bit of a state. So for the time being I'll be swapping all the best bits, doors & bumpers etc, with the first car.
So far I've spent most of my recent time rearranging the garden to fit everything in nicely, without it appearing to be a scrapyard! Lets hope we have a good summer.

April 21st 2009 'And another!'
And now a red one - so I now own 3 Datsuns none of which work!...... but not for long. This ones a total scrap pile, but as it was only a 100 and just a couple of miles away I decided to buy it for parts. The bodywork is just rust and worthless but there are a number of bits on it that I can use - like keeping all the windows which are now pretty impossible to buy new, especially the rear screen.

April 26th 2009
Started to dismantle this new car, got quite a few usable bits off it so far but a lot of it is rotten - no surprises there I guess. The Haynes book says removing the main windows is a simple process but it doesn't seem to be quite that easy. I was hoping to get the rear shock absorbers off but they are well rusted, so will now look at removing the front brakes and hope they are salvageable.
I have had a problem with the rear off-side wheel hub of my prime car as one of the threads was damaged by a badly fitted wheel nut. I had thought about swapping the hub but decided to try and fix the problem. I took an old wheel nut and hack-sawed it into two halves, then reassembled it as far down the thread as possible with insulation tape to hold it back together. This was then carefully unscrewed back over the well-oiled damaged section to try and clean up the thread and it worked perfectly, which was a pleasant result.

May 24th 2009
A nice sunny weekend so I cracked on with the car. I fired it up first and let it run for a bit, normally I just like to do this to keep the engine fresh and make sure everythings working ok, but today I wanted to warm the exhaust up as it was time to try and remove it. Both the down pipe and the back box are rotten and need to be replaced. I am worried about all the brackets being rusted up but my first concern was disconneting the pipe at the engine - I didn't want to end up snapping off a bolt there as I would be in trouble. Luckily with the heat of the engine and plenty of WD-40 both the nuts could by worked free - and of course I could burn my fingers on the pipe!
After that I left the rest of the exhaust for another day. Thats because I had decided to drain the water system and remove the water pump, radiator (again) and thermostat(again). The idea for this was to gain access to the back of the front bulkhead so that I could knock out some dents, but also in preparation to install a new radiator and fix the leak on the thermostat housing. I removed the water pump because .... well I'd never done it before ... and wondered if it was working ok, which it probably was doing before I took it off. Also removed the battery, alternator and side door as I need to do a little bit of welding on the sill.

May 31st 2009
Another nice sunny weekend, with the hottest day of the year so far, so what better than grinding away bits of rust and doing some welding (bet the neighbours love me!). I had my dad's old Arc welder, that hadn't been used in 20+ years, and I decided to try and fix up the small rust holes in the passenger sill. I started by cutting some bits of metal out of the sill of the spare junk car and then cut them to fit over the holes, that was easy. Then I started welding - O'Dear.
My first few touch's did nothing then part of the small plate I was welding burned away completely in a bright flash, then bits of weld splattered the sill, then I dazzled myself, then I burned a small hole through the sill and then the rod stuck fast to the car and I had to switch the power off! This was then repeated many times.
A frustrating hour and a bit later I had managed to fix one very small mangled plate in position and gave up on the next bit. The thought of bodging the remaining bigger hole with filler did seem a very attractive idea at this time, but that's not what I want to do with any part of the car, so after a good nights sleep I decided to have one more go.
I had noticed that I tended to have more success when the rods were short, probably as they didn't wobble as much, so I made myself some small ones by simply hack-sawing some rods in half. Then I turned down the voltage and tried again and suddenly by magic I seemed to have the knack. The second plate went on fine and is nice and secure - it did take me 2 hours of messing about and the result does look rather a mess but it worked. Now I've just got to grind off some of the excess and make it look presentable. I was quite pleased with myself after all that but I don't think that I want to be doing anymore.

Spent the rest of my time continuing work on the front panels. I've been using a power drill, sandpaper, wet & dry paper and rust dissolving gel to clean up the metalwork and then applied several coats of Hammerite silver paint, which looked really smart, but then had to over-paint it black so that it wouldn't show through the black plastic grill.

I also have been cleaning up and painting the box-sections that are hidden behind the headlights. There are a number of these internal areas that need either painting or coating in Waxoyl (or both) to protect from future corrosion. Any exposed metal on the outer areas, around the wheel arch's and up to the doors, has now also been painted and will be undersealed before I put the wings back on.  I'm also now painting the bonnet hinges and front bumper supports, in a nice bright red, as they have been completely cleaned up.
I also noticed that the tow-cable attachment points were rather rusty so I unbolted them, cleaned them and painted them a nice silver. One was bent rather badly so that was swapped with the one on the junk car. Doner cars are really handy to have around.

All looking good so far, I'm getting to the stage where I may actually be putting it all back together again, if I can remember where it all goes that is, luckily I have a spare car to double check such things - which is also a handy thing to have around.  

*Just discovered something interesting with the junk Datsun, apparently when you remove the driveshafts there's nothing to hold the front wheels on - as the car just collapsed on the driveway!

Jun 19th 2009
Began to reassemble the front of the car, but before I did I decided to do a bit more painting in the engine bay. I would have liked to fully clean out and paint this area but it's pretty much impossible without removing the engine and all the brake pipes and a like. Also it wasn't really neccessary but I did feel that the sides nearest the front needed some work, as obviously they have been more affected by the elements. So I just masked off the first foot or so of the metalwork, gave it a rub down, then applied some silver Hammerite. To make it easier I removed the horns under the battery compartment and gave them a clean too. When painting its always better to dismantle and paint everything separately - I hate seeing overspray, looks very amateurish. The supports were sanded down and spray painted green, while I used fine wet & dry paper to clean the horns and then sprayed them with WD-40. I actually found that the electrical wiring wasn't even connected, which is why they weren't working, so I cleaned up the connectors and gave them a squeeze with my pliers to make them grip a little better.
Jun 21st 2009
Swapped the doors over today, so now the second car is Blue with a Black bonnet and Gold doors, very pretty!
Jun 24th 2009

Started work cleaning and checking the two blue doors. Drivers side first and there wasn't much wrong with it, which is why I'm using it, just a small bit of rust along the bottom. First job was to remove the attachments such as the mirror, window and door handles, and then get to the inside by prising off the black vinyl trim. This is always a bit tricky as the trim is rather thin hardboard that will easily crease up and fall apart under any stress and the plastic clips that hold it in place are made from the Worlds most brittle plastic!

To remove the clips safely you need to carefully slide either flat-bladed screwdrivers, or metal rules, under the trim and both sides of the clips, then use a gentle twisting action to lift them up till they just pop off. Of course you normally find that previous owners have already tried this and there are always plenty of broken clips to prove it. Luckily the panel was in good condition with only a few snapped connectors - and I've got plenty of spares to replace those.

The first job was to use my power drill, with wire brush attachment, to remove the flaking rust along the lower edge, there was a fairly small amount of this under the drain holes, where over the years the waters caught in the folded metal door skin. Again I'm using a mixture of rough sandpaper and green rust-buster gel to remove it, this will probably take a week. The interior of the door was also cleaned out in preparation for the painting, I'll be Hammeriting and undersealing it later.

My reversing lights have never worked either and I traced this to a broken wire which goes to a switch/sensor thingy just under the front of the engine. It looks like it had previously been broken and repaired - and botched slightly, I did consider changing all the wires but just quickly soldered one loose wire to the contact point and job done, I now have lights.

Jul 1st 2009

Clean up on the doors went well and as the weather was good I was able to start painting them. The main part of the inner door is Black, to blend with the vinyl trim, and I quickly masked this area off and painted them using a Matt base paint with a Satin top coat. The door lock was masked off and will remain Blue, the rest of the inner door edging was painted Silver. I started with several coats of 'Smooth Silver' Hammerite along the bottom edge to protect against any future water penetration then changed to standard Silver car paint for the sides as it gives a better finish. More Hammerite was then applied to the inside of the doors. The rubber side seals were removed and I'll be cleaning them this weekend.

Jul 4th 2009

One long-standing problem has been the windscreen that has a bad wiper scratch doing a full arc across the drivers field of view. This is bound to be an MOT failure - but even more importantly is a bloody awful annoying sight. So I have been planning to change the windscreen since I had the car and have now got a replacement screen from red Datsun 3. However getting the thing off the scrap car was a real pain, and to now repeat that job and then have to refit the new glass was a task I no longer wanted to do. So after a quick visit to ebay a 'Miracle glass repair kit' fell through my letterbox this morning and I set about sorting the screen. The kit contains a bottle of 'Special Fluid', some pads and a drill attachment tool, sounds easy.
First job attach pads to pad holder, attach this to my power drill, add fluid and switch on - and spray droplets of fluid everywhere, the windscreen, the walls, my arms, my tee-shirt, etc. After an hour I finally realised that I was simply polishing the scratchs and they were going nowhere. Useless, but it did smooth off some scuff marks which gave me a clue.
Putting aside the miracle repair kit I got hold of some 400 grade wet & dry paper and a bottle of Brasso polish then spent 3 hours sanding down the scratch and the glass around it, followed by another hour using 1200 grade paper to smooth down the mess I had made. Together this arm-numbing exercise turned a thin scratch into a 1 to 1& 1/2 inch band of frosted glass which looked a bit of a disaster. Then the glass repair kit earned it's description, unable to shift one heavy scratch it could polish frosted glass to near perfection and after another couple of hours the windscreen was completely fixed. It's a miracle!!

Jul 5th 2009

I finished painting the door sills and then bolted on the replacement doors. Everything seems to be in line and working properly but I can't be sure yet as the door rubbers are not attached. This is because I will be putting more paint on the window surrounds and also because the rubbers are in a bit of a state and need a good clean and soaking in that ArmorAll rubber restorer.

Jul 11th 2009

I decided to tackle the wheels next as they are one of the last major problems to sort out. One idea was to get new(er) wheels and possibly go up a size as the 12" originals are a little on the small size, however the point of this restoration is to recreate my first car and it had these type of Pardat alloys. Unfortunately they are in quite a state and need refurbishing. So I emailed a company and got a basic estimate of 230 which I guess is not too bad for five wheels, but it would certainly have cost more if I had gone ahead with it, as they would have charged for the added extra work required to fix the poor condition of the wheels. As well as that there is also the cost of five new tires to take into consideration. All in all I was looking at a bill of around 500 and this project is already well over budget (well it would be if I had actually ever set one) so it was time for some cost-cutting - and that means doing it myself as usual.

Firstly I jacked up the spare car, balanced it on supports and took off it's wheels, then swapped them with the ones on my prime car, then a quick trip to a garage to get the tires removed. Then I began the stinky process of applying Nitro Mors paint stripper - boy does that stuff work fast, the paint almost leaps off the metal! After a good rub over with wire wool to remove the last of the paint/varnish and a wash down the wheels were taken indoors for the lengthy job off final cleaning and polishing - not as big a job as it could be as only the front facings have to be polished, the rest of the wheel will be painted Black, still it will take me a couple of weeks.

Jul 25th 2009

While discussing my Datsun problems with a woman at work I mentioned the need to remove an engine and she offered me her old engine hoist at a rather cheap price - I must remember to ask women for car parts and tools more often!
What initially looked like a pile of old scrap pipes assembled into a rather sturdy frame - and a feeble looking pair of pulleys and thin rope lifted the engine out without a problem - although I had to wrap the rope round a block of wood to stop it cutting into my hand. A pretty simple one-man job in the end, now I can get rid of this pile of red rusting scrap.

Jul 26th 2009 Striking gold!

O'dear the budget for this project just took another hefty knock as I spent big on body panels. I travelled down to Chelmsford to see a man who apparently had a new-old-stock rear hatch in his garage. While I had already done some work last year on my existing hatch (quite a bit actually) I had noticed that there were some rust patch's showing again and had drilled them out, making a mess of it's new paint job. Rear hatch's seem to constantly rust on these cars so when I heard of a possible mint'ish replacement then I was roaring down the motorway in the early hours of the next day in the quest for this hidden treasure.

First out of the garage was indeed the hatch for a 120a coupe, covered in light surface rust but solid and lovely. Then as I carefully placed it in the back of my car a pair of front wings appeared, 'Nice', into the back of the car with those too. Then a mint condition, pristine, never touched, still wrapped in it's Nissan packaging, chrome front bumper, 'Very Nice', into the back of the car with that. Then a mint condition, pristine, still wrapped, rear bumper, 'Very Nice' again. Then as I tried to close the boot he pulled out a huge Nissan box with a pristine bonnet inside! Well I just had to have it, didn't I. Luckily payday is coming up soon and I can always go without food.

This project just seems to have gone up another notch, from patching and making the best out of something to getting it nearer to perfect. Unfortunately it does mean that I'm re-doing jobs that I've already completed, I'm starting to think that this car is simply something that I will tinker with and never drive!
September 2009
Spent this month cleaning stuff and painting the car. I've been preparing the bodywork for a while, finding all the small rust marks that were showing just under the existing paint and sanding the area down to uncover and remove them. Although the bodywork is pretty much rust free there were a lot of these small 'rust-worms' that needed fixing, especially on the roof. Unfortunately if you paint over the sanded down areas they will still show through as flaws in the new finish because the paint isn't level, so I then had to patch those areas with new paint and carefully sand them flat. A couple of dents also needed fixing on the rear quarter and another showed up as soon as I put the first new layer of Blue on, so that also needed fixing again.

When most people paint cars they seem to get a more professional heavy-duty paint spray gun - and then strip the car and paint it all in one go. I didn't want to do this as I prefer to work on just one area of the car and take my time with it, checking the surface over for imperfections, bits of rust, marks and dints. Then carefully stripping the parts off and masking everything as well as possible. As a result of this I resorted to just using normal paint spray cans that you buy from motor spares shops. These are normally just used to fix damaged areas or replacement panels, not the whole car, but they work for me and give me the flexibility that I want. It also helped that I managed to buy a fair few cans at an Autojumble for a pound a tin! At first I started with the idea of using 'Halfords' paints for the final finish but they didn't seem to give an even colour - the first front wing that I did earlier had clear darker lines on caused by the spraying. In the end the 'Car Plan' (also called Tetrosyl) paint sprays gave a far better finish and a nicer shade of Electric Blue.

I split the car up into eleven sections, to be painted one at a time, checked and then repainted again. The doors were completely stripped of parts including the locks and handles - I had to open the doors by running strings from the internal door latch's and through the rear hatch. My paint scheme is a little different to most cars. The doors are normally one colour, outside and inside, however I wanted the inner panels to be Black to match the vinyl trim. So my doors are Blue on the outside, satin Black around most of the inside panel, gloss Black along the more visible top strip and then silver down the side. That took a fair bit of masking tape. Also when you open the door the Blue bodywork only goes around the edge with most of the exposed door frame being Black too.

October 11th 2009
The existing exhaust silencer had now been split for several months and was making a strange noise so I decided that it was now time to replace it all. I had a new front pipe but no box, so I spent a couple of hours tidying up the one I got off the red scrap car. I had cut it off with a section of pipe still attached and now I had to remove that pipe - queue more sweating and swearing and the use of a big hammer. The silencer was then cleaned up with sandpaper and spray painted with a heat resistant red paint that I had. No problems getting the old one off - luckily it had been put on correctly with the bracket on the engine the right way round, some are put on wrong and the nuts become recessed and near impossible to remove.

October 18th 2009
I finally refitted the interior trim to the doors, together with the rubber edging strip and all the other bits - the doors and interior are now finally finished. All of the trim has been cleaned as much as possible and treated with the usual 'Back to Black' type products to make the plastics look new. Generally speaking most of the parts have lasted well over the 30 years but oddly the door handles have got a funny white finish? I thought that the plastic was completely knackered and almost didn't waste my time trying to fix them but they too have cleaned up and reverted to Black, although it wouldn't surprise me if they turned white again - must be a chemical reaction in the surface finish.

The front two new wings have been cleaned up and painted over the last month. There was a good deal of small scale surface rust which I had removed but this had left the surface rather pitted in places. Several coats of primer and gloss paint were applied and rubbed down to fix this before the final two coats. The inside of each wing received three coats of Hammerite and then a coating of underseal - so I'm hoping they will now last forever!  

Before I could fix them in position I had to apply the 'Waxoyl' product that I had bought months ago. This was sprayed inside the box sections to try and prevent future rust. To do this I first had to remove some from the can and then thin the remaining mixture, then warm the can, shake the can, warm it, shake it, then attached the sprayer and then ....... it blocked up and I was in a right mess. Finally I got it to work and I've sprayed the stuff in plenty of hard-to-get-too places but boy can it smell!
The first thing I did was spray the interior of the doors, before I put the trim on, and now the car stinks. I'm hoping this will fade away over the coming months. If it doesn't I will have to remove it, I can't drive around with the windows open all the time!

October 20th 2009
The new bonnet is now on - again a strange paint scheme from me, a mostly Black interior but with the frame picked out in Silver.
Today I started the car and let it run for quite a while to see how everything was working. The lights are mostly fine with just a front left indicator bulb failure and one of the small rear number plate lights not working. The engine warmed up nicely and the cooling fan activated, so thats all working fine.

November 8th 2009
Spent the weekend putting together my new rear hatch. I cleaned the rear glass of old paint and muck and removed some transfers, then cleaned up the old rubber seal. With all the parts looking nice I fitted the seal around the glass and then carefully pushed the parts into the metal hatch panel, with some sealant to hopefully stop any leaks - not that I ever intend to get the car wet again. This all went quite smoothly, although the sealant caused more than a few messy marks. Then I just had to insert some silver plastic and metal trim strips into the rubber and this turned out to be a bit of a nightmare. The strips turned out to be very fragile and the rubber showed it's age by breaking up in places. Luckily I could get a replacement strip from the old hatch but even so they are not looking too great, the silver is faded and the plastic covering is cracking up. I might put some silver tape over the top of it later although I've also noticed that some owners leave the bits off their cars - I thought this was a design choice but it's more likely that they broke all their parts. Then I took the old hatch off and fitted the new one, boy are they heavy I almost broke my back and fingers doing it and the cold weather certainly makes it much harder work. I was hoping to finish the car this year but I may have to lock it away in the garage till the warmer weather starts next year.

December 23rd 2009
Well the projected couple of weeks work on cleaning up the wheels kind of stretched out a bit - over a period of several months!
The Nitro Mors had easily stripped off most of the old paint and lacquer but it still took me quite a while to manually remove all the remaining little bits of stuff that was stuck to the metal and then polish them. The cleaning was finished off using abrasive paper, wire wool and some metal files. The edges of a couple of the wheels were a little bit rough and they were gently filed down to remove the worst bits. The polishing of the front facings was done using wet & dry paper and Brasso polish. After 30 years the condition of the metal was poor so it took a fair bit of effort - then when they were starting to look shiny I rubbed them over with Autosol metal polish to get a really nice finish.

After I had finished all this I then found that I had an unexpected job to do, as there was a film of Brasso/Autosol stuck to the rougher inside edges of the wheels. If I had painted the wheels with this residue still in place then the paint would have been coming off pretty quickly. So I had to wash the wheels several times in water, detergent and even paint thinners; and then rub them all over with rags to get this stuff off. Most of this was done outside but the final wash was done by putting them in the bath to submerge them.

Finally the wheels were clean and dry and painting could begin. Masking tapes had to be applied to all the front facings and rims, another tedious job but not quite so hard as it looked as the tapes were stuck over the spokes and then the edges quickly cut away using a nice sharp Stanley knife blade. The biggest problem here was with the tapes lifting off the curvy wheels during the several days that it took to apply the primer coat, Black paint and then lacquer. I was constantly pressing the stuff back into position or replacing bits.

The thin metal centre caps were easy to clean up but they are not in very good condition, as most are dinted or badly scraped - but with a bit of polish they shine quite well and hopefully no one will notice the damage. The centre Datsun logos were either peeling off or missing but I was able to get some replacements off ebay.

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Photographs, text, and car rebuild by David Sisson