Project - Datsun 120A F11 Coupe - Timewarping
back to the 1980s as I try to recreate my first car
Bit of a change for me as I move up
to full-scale models! This is a 1978 Datsun 'Cherry', but
its full name '120A F11 Coupe' sounds rather more
impressive. Apparently there's less than thirty of these
still on the road in Britain today - although theres
probably less by the time you're reading this.
|YouTube . video . now . available - - - SEE LINK HERE|
During 2007 I had spotted a couple of these cars on ebay and wondered about having one again, especially as the adverts seemed to be giving me a countdown ..... only 100 left in the country .... only 75 left in the country ... only 60 etc ... so by the begining of 2008 I was feeling the need to make a decision fairly quickly. The one major thing that was holding me back at this time was simply the idea of having two cars! I've only ever had one vehicle at a time and thats often been troublesome, or expense, to own in todays taxed-to-the-hilt world. Two cars means two repair bills, two road taxes, two MOTs, two insurance payments, and then of course I will barely be driving the thing as I travel to work by bus! Then I realised that I could always just buy one, SORN it, and have it on the driveway to play about with. So maybe it could be a cheap thing to do after all?
Decision made I looked for a car and there was one straight away, a Gold one in very good condition and with an MOT to boot, which sounds perfect. So I took a trip up to a place near Blackpool and had a drive in it - 'My God what a pile of JUNK!'
Unfortunately my fantasy had met reality
in a near fatal head-on crash. My memories, viewed
through nostalgic rose-tinted-glasses, just did not match
up to what the vehicle was actually like and compared to
what I had now become use to in a modern motorcar. My
current car is only an 1999 model Nissan Almera but I had
sped up the motorway in pretty quiet comfort, with
5-speed gearbox, power steering, electric windows and
with a feeling of security and safety in a generally well
made solid vehicle. The Datsun on the otherhand felt like
a saggy, rattling, clapped-out-tin-box and I honestly
felt that my life was in danger by traveling in it. The
windscreen felt uncomfortably close to my face, and the
rattling doors only seem to be 2" thick which meant
that the outside environment felt pretty close too, and
so any feeling of security was completely gone. So I
smiled at the owner, agreed that it was a great little
car, and said that I would 'think about it', then walked
away with my money as quickly as possible without
appearing to run.
Restoration Diary Report
'What have I bought?'
2008 Hired a car transporter and travelled down to
London to buy the car. Met a chap who lead us through a
maze of streets to a back ally behind an old garage on
goodness-knows-where street. Here we found the vehicle
parked unlocked in muddly puddles 8-inches from the edge
of a broken section of concrete overhanging a murky
canel. Nice one!
First problem spotted the radiators leaking on the driveway, apparently caused by an old impact on the front lower body panel which has then gone underneath, bashed the bottom of the radiator twisting it slightly and breaking the plastic drain plug. There's not much that I can do with it, probably best not to mess with it too much so I'll just paint it to stop any corrosion starting. I bought a new plug - the old broken thread was removed by pushing a hot flat-bladed screwdriver into the plastic to create a slot, once cooled I could then use the slot to unscrew it.
April 3rd 2008
|April 8th 2008
Managed to remove the main rubber water pipes. I always wondered why the pipes on old cars were hard and made a cracking noise when you squeezed them, I thought it was the rubber perishing but it turns out to be a layer of rust particles that line the tubes. One problem has been quickly found, I noticed that the engine water temperature gauge wasn't working. This is possibly caused by the fact that the connecting wire isn't actually connected to anything! The hole in the engine block should contain the protruding end of a sensor but there is just a mangled metal piece wedged in there. The book helped me sort this as touching the loose wire to the engine block proved the guauge worked fine. I wonder how many other things will turn out to be missing or broken?
April 22nd 2008
|April 29th 2008
Continued working on the cooling system with the removal of the smaller rubber hoses to the interior heater, and then removed that as well as the centre console. The heater consists of a plastic casing, fan motor, radiator and a lot of dead leaves and insects!
I cleaned out the unit and removed the previous owners wiring additions, looks like he had fed off the fan motor to power another electrical device, which is possibly why it didn't work anymore. Overall the parts looked good but the vent flaps are covered in a foam that simply fell to dust due to age, this had to be replaced. The radiator and pipes were flushed out till they were clean of rust particles and the unit was reinstalled. I found an electrical wire break in the process, and fixed it, so now the fan works in all its settings.
April 30th 2008
May 3rd 2008
May 8th 2008
|May 12th 2008
Lets see, I've charged the battery, fitted new battery terminals, flushed the old engine oil, put in fresh engine oil, gearbox oil, radiator fluid, new air filter, fitted new temperature sender, new thermostat, new clutch and release bearing, removed all rubber pipes and cleaned them inside and out, flushed the water system, cleaned out the radiator including the internal cabin heater, new rocker gasket, new radiator plug, made a metal battery support bracket, cleaned the engine and engine bay, dismantled many of the parts and cleaned them like new or painted them a fresh, found and sorted several electrical faults and mechanical faults. And it actually works now, amazing.
Still from this picture I think its obvious that I'm more of a model maker than a mechanic, lots of pretty colours!
|May 16th 2008
With the engine now working it's time to start on the other major problem area - the wheels and brakes.
First of all the tie rod ends, that connect the steering to the wheels, had past their sell by date and needed to be replaced. First slacken the securing nut - easy! Second remove pin and undo castrated nut - dead easy! Thirdly remove part - in your dreams!!
4th hit with hammer, 5th curse loudly, 6th apply blowtorch, 7th hit with bigger hammer.
Next day hit with hammer, hacksaw off the lower part, hit with hammer, hacksaw off upper thread, apply blowtorch, hit with hammer, drill through, break drill bits, go to shop to buy drill bits, drill again, hit with hammer...................and remove. Phew.
May 21st 2008
The parts were rather filthy and rusting, the caliper was cleaned then rubbed down with wet & dry paper before being painted.
The brake cylinders were very carefully dismantled, especially the rubber seals, as I had no replacement parts. There was minor rusting but mostly everything was just jammed solid with the build up of muck over the many years of use, and non-use. Everything was cleaned as best as possible and then reassembled 'on' the caliper because the fully assembled cylinder wouldn't fit back into the space.
May 24th 2008
My modelmaking skills came in handy, as I had to glue a few plastic bits together and use my enamel paints to tidy things up. The rubber seals were in a very poor state and only one set could be saved, these were soaked in a restorative solution to make them usable and last longer.
The insides of both bumpers were cleaned of old flaking rust, this time using a wire brush attachment on my power drill to save my aching arms, then painted with silver Hammerite to protect them.
|June 3rd 2008
I finally managed to remove a front wheel hub.......and I've only pulled and badly strained half the muscles in my shoulders and back!
The book say's
remove pin and nut and it should come off, yeh right.
Luckily I read a tip about reattaching the wheel and
using its mass to help pull the hub off, especially if
you rotate the wheel and keep hitting the back with a
I found that there was a build up of grease around many of the parts and discovered that the rubber boot on the driveshaft had come loose, so this had to be checked over, cleaned up, repacked with grease and fixed back into position.
Things started to go easy as the old brake discs came off without a fight. Even so I'm now cleaning and oiling up every nut and bolt I remove to ensure they remain user friendly. One slight hold up was the fact that I had chopped up my brake pipes and needed replacements. Luckily my mate Bob Bailey had a flaring kit that he could send me - always nice to have friends with tools!
|June 10th 2008
Before and after pic's. (No its not a piece off the Titanic!)
Doing the first wheel took about 3 weeks of puzzled frowning and chin-rubbing experimentation.... doing the second about 3 days.
|June 12th 2008
I decided to start work on the inside of the car, although I had been tinkering with bits I now decided to go the whole hog and strip the interior fittings so that I could examine the floor for any rust - and remove all the filth in the process!
I started at the back and removed the three black plastic sections that line the boot space. These fragile mouldings had split in several places so again I got my modelling glues out to fix them and stuck strips of plastic sheeting on the back to strengthen the new joins.
Water must have been leaking into the back as there was a fair amount of surface rust in this area that all needed sanding away. Then the area was cleaned up and painted a nice bright silver.
June 21st 2008
June 25th 2008
July 12 2008
I will also need the panels off
to change the paint colour, but the main reason for
removing the trim today was to look at the inside of the
drivers door as the lock doesn't work from the outside.
So far I have been having to enter the passenger side and
lock the drivers door from the inside, so I thought it
was about time I tried to repair the lock.
To top off the day I fired up the engine and went for a drive............only to the front gates which are about 30 feet away, but it was still my first trip!
July 13th 2008
July 20th 2008
July 22th 2008
July 27th 2008
Aug 1st 2008
|August 30th 2008
The car is now safely stored in my rebuilt garage, which has taken me several weeks to fully complete, but it was really needed for the next stage of the restoration work, as I will be removing some body panels. I'm just wondering if this expense should be added to my car budget - maybe not I think I'll class it as a home/garden improvement.