Understeer Z Odyssey

Z Odyssey Part 3: A Slipping Clutch, Broken Bolt, and Delirium

The pain of responsibility is that it collides and derails the passions of the heart. Life has a way of prioritizing itself. The garden of family and work must be dutifully attended to before space can be made for things like shitbox revival.

If you haven't read the previous chapters, welcome! Get caught up in the Z Odyssey archive. New posts every Tuesday!

A quick refresher as to where we last were in the saga: I found a 240Z for sale on craigslist across the country, and had a friend that was semi-local go check it out. I purchased it, and due to shipping company snafus and location, as well as my heart's whispered desire for adventure, I elected to drive this great nation: from California to Virginia, in December, with the looming risk of freak snow storms across half the distance. A genuine Lewis and Clark, from end to end, behind the wheel of one of Japan’s finest rippers.

Last-minute prep for the long drive ahead.

Upon arrival, I finished my first test drive with the clutch slipping and heart alive: she was a little missile inviting my touch. After years of being censored and dampened by modern suspension advances, it was thrilling to be in a pure driving machine. There are no aides or nannies in this car whatsoever: no ABS and no power steering. It’s effectively a seat, engine, four wheels, and the open road. This would be my steed home, and I was not only going to see the country; I was going to feel every bump and divot between the gold coast and the old coast.

Before we could embark, Pat and I pulled back into his shop and got to work. In our hubris we thought we could simply adjust the clutch, hoping that it was a minor adjustment, but to no avail. Along with fiddling with the clutch, she got new oil, oil filter, brake fluid, clutch fluid, coaxed her heater to work, and most importantly, we got the defrost working. After fluid and essentials, we tackled wiring issues and chased a dim headlight to a failing fuse. Working back from the bay we cleaned the K&N air filter, greased the drivetrain, checked the brakes for pad life and shoe wear, and checked all hoses for potential cracks. By the end of the day I could barely lift my arms, but my heart was full with love for my pure driving machine.

Typical clutch adjustment on a 240Z. Not my picture obviously, as there isn't 40+ years of grease on here

We headed back to his place exhausted but excited. The Z felt ready to make the jaunt to SLC, where we planned to stay with my brother. With so much accomplished, our morning list was small, and my hope buoyed that we would be highway bound before long. One thing still concerned me: the old girl wasn’t maintaining operating temps. But, figuring a thermostat was a minor repair, I drifted off that evening dreaming of Virginia back roads and my new driver's machine. We woke up fairly early Saturday to button up the small items.

I began to pull the thermostat housing and immediately snapped the first bolt. Dread came crashing in, and I began to panic that this trip wasn’t going to happen, and I started questioning my decision making skills. Luckily cooler heads prevailed, and after spending an hour drilling out the snapped bolt and securing replacements, she was ready to make the trip. We messed with the clutch adjustment some more, but no matter what we did, we could never get the clutch to not slip. This worried me a little as I was about to drive 2,600+ miles on a slipping clutch through remote parts of the country.

The original warranty book and paperwork were still with the car

The more hours I put into her, the more I fell in love with her. She wasn’t taken care of very well physically, but that was about to change. I vowed to give her everything in that moment, OEM+ and all. I wasn’t put off by her paint peeling, the lost interior knickknacks and the dull neglected plastic sheen. Some enthusiasts might gasp at her cracked dashboard that was hidden by a plastic cover. Purists would scoff at the choke lever crudely secured to the center console, but I adored her in her imperfections; I loved everything about her. She was exactly what I had been seeking: solid wood over which to stretch clean white canvas and start painting my magnum opus.

Before departure she offered one other imperfect surprise to me: the CD player wouldn’t open. I was going to be stuck listening to one CD the entire trip. Fortunately, it was Funeral for a Friend’s “Your History is Mine” and I was glad for it. As I was pulling her out of the garage, getting ready to embark on a grand adventure, something strange happened. While I’m familiar with the tradition of naming cars, I have never named any of my cars and didn’t intend to name this one; that is, until she spoke to me. Maybe other cars have spoken but I didn’t have ears to hear them. Other cars were utility; this one was passion. Passion to travel across the country and lie on my back, draining old fluid and chasing ancient wiring. In my passion and my joy I heard her name as clear as a cold start: Lucy. Her name was Lucy. The cynic in me chalks it up to sleep deprivation and delirium, but the romantic in me knows the truth: I was for her as she was for me.

Stay tuned for part 4 where I stop romanticizing this car and start actually driving her!

By Unknown_Skier

I'm an avid skier, Datsun enthusiast, crappy machinist, crappier welder, really good grinder, and a big DIY'er.

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