You want to be a mechanic? A god of all things geared, sparked, and fueled?! Where to begin.. something easy? F#&% no! Start with an ill conceived devil machine. Start with a Z32 300zx!

Thunderhill Raceway at sunset.

There are few more difficult to work on automobiles than a Z32 300zx. My first car? Yup, a 1992 Nissan 300zx 2+2 at the wet behind the ears age of 17. Why choose such a difficult car to work on right off the line?

  • 1. I didn’t know any better.
  • 2. No one steered me away.

Starting with a Difficult Car: Forget the Shallow End of the Pool!

Lake Oroville when it was once full to the brim.

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Most people will tell you when starting out with any hobby - start with an easy project. While this is good advice for the majority; it isn’t productive for those with steely-eyed stubbornness that can fight through any mess.

If you’re one of the few rough and tumbled, angry, and determined individuals, I suggest you start with a difficult project!

While I have become more lazy, soft, and easily deterred from projects in my career-aged days, I was once a befuddled, wrench throwing monster, that would never let a project die. Once it was on my plate I would eat until I was green to finish that meal. And I mean all the food. Rocky mountain oysters, Brussel sprouts, and Vegemite spread on bread to boot!

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Nissan designed the body and then said, “How the heck do we fit an engine inside it?” A shoe horn!

It Builds Character! +10 Points to Dexterity, +20 Points Knowledge, and -100 Points Wallet...

When I found my 300zx it was in decent driver condition but with a ton of angry gremlins slowly causing destruction on all four corners. I drove the horse piss out of it. I enjoyed it everyday to school, work, and to a part-time gig at Thunderhill Raceway.

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Thank god someone figured out the knock sensor could be relocated or you’d have to go farther than this!

I became known as that ‘weird kid’ working on his 300zx in the dorm parking lot. I was driving it in NASA High Performance Driving Events (HPDE), and thoroughly encouraging the Gremlins to work harder to make me cry, and cry they almost made me. I had so many issues with this car that I nearly spent all my scholarship money the first year at college!

Seriously! No one told me how difficult this car would be to work on and how often it could break. I had several adventures removing the intake manifold. Fastest I ever completed the removal: 1 hour 45 minutes. An eternity when considering other vehicles and the ease you can remove parts. I had to replace three of the six injectors as ethanol fuels eat 300zx injectors alive.

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My college life in one picture.

Luckily, I found a world of knowledge in the site TwinTurbo.net - these individuals know their stuff. I became a forum lurker and occasional poster of many 300zx woes and desires. I studied my 300zx FSM with much vigor, probably more than I studied my actual college classes! With each completed task my hands became more controlled, my patience more calm, and my wallet more dry.

The Mechanic’s Thousand-Yard Stare

I sold my beloved, loathed, and molested 300zx after three years of ownership and thousands of dollars spent in maintenance. From injectors, knock sensor, MAF, IACV, Air Regulator, brakes, master cylinder, timing belt, vacuum leaks, PCVs, heater core (huge PITA!) numerous nuisance fixes, and some tasteful upgrades, I was spent. I had seen a thing or two. My mind had grown weary, the combat mechanics fatigue set in. The sight of a 300zx for years later made me hide under my desk.

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What I didn’t realize then, I do now - every single car I’ve owned since has been easier to work on than my 300zx. I’ve owned about two dozen vehicles at this point. None have rivaled the 300zx on the level of cluster-f*#%-kill-me-now frustration.

My second 300zx 2+0 was a little more cooperative but driven far less.

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I was tempered by my 300zx to the point where I felt like a hardened veteran mechanic. I could fix it all! I became nostalgic and forlorn for another 300zx. I still am, even after I bought another one, stripped it, caged it, and sold it again... should I get my head checked?

From Pee-on to Cock Strong, Warrior-Mechanic, Man God

Owning and learning to work on a difficult car right off the bat ultimately proved to be a blessing, not a curse. It gave me the courage to take on projects I ultimately would not have, had I not had some shitty experience with a temperamental bucket of bolts.

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I encourage you to fear not! Take on the world with a difficult car! Go buy that V10 TDI Touareg or the 3000gt VR4, or even an Audi Allroad Ford Powerstoke.

I would however recommend checking for a decent forum related to the project you’re wanting to tackle. As a new mechanic I cannot stress enough how much a site like TT.net helped me with fixing my 300zx.

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- Have Moxy! Will Wrench!