QotW: What repair/mod/upgrade do you do on all your JNCs?

Some of us have been in the JNC game for years, decades even — *cough, cough. Ben. cough, Cressida obsession, cough* — and some are just now coming around on these thin-pillar’d, money draining, yet charming rides. Whether you are in the former or latter; I am curious:

What repair/mod/upgrade do you do on all your JNCs?

Now, it may depend on the level of reliability, aesthetic challenges, or safety. Conditions may apply. Personally, I’ve always tackled the brakes of any newly acquired vehicle. Sure, it may cost a few hundred dollars on top of the buying price, but to install a new BMC, brakes lines and pads is well worth it, especially if the car sprinkles rust where ever it goes. How about you?

The most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What JNC do you recommend for a car enthusiast?“.

Last week’s responses were an exciting read with recommendations spanning from all ends of the spectrum to even if such a suggestion would be realistic or not to get someone to open up to a vehicle outside their comfort zone.

On that note, and from personal experience, a friend of mine took the plunge on some J-tin after having a go in my own AE86 back in the day. He owned a machine shop where I took my recently blown engine for decking and general overhaul. Once it was all back together, he gave it a test drive. He commented on how it sounded like a “mad bumblebee” and how he could see it being a blast on the old local farm roads. A few months later, he had one of his own (AE85) and was fiddling with the 3A-U engine to squeeze out power where ever possible. So, it is possible if they have an open mind!

Now, back to the task at hand. Some of you shot for the moon like Ant did with the suggestion of an R32 Skyline. As I didn’t set a price cap (on purpose) it is a good suggestion, but out of many’s grasps, I’m afraid. Others, like fifty5engineering, cast a wide net with just about any JNC that hasn’t rusted back to the soil.

About 30 percent of you recommended a Datsun in some form or another — sedan, coupe, or truck. JNC mini-trucks are a great suggestion, but hard to find. If you want a workhorse, sure, you can obtain them in various degrees of heap. The Mazda Rotary Truck on Motor Trend’s Roadkill web series is a favorite of mine, but, we are hoping to have a vehicle that can be used to show off someone’s unique perspective. For that, I think Taylor‘s own story fits the bill, with a Z31 being amply available, reasonably priced and equipped with looks that could fit in among anyone’s garage lineup.

When the time came last summer, there really wasn’t a hachi to be had, and so I went an looked at a very yellow ’86 Supra (that needed a bit more work than the ad let on) and an 87 Z31 that was still in the original paint, had the original plates, and drove pretty well. Now, I like the 80s lines of the Z31 (and yes, I really like the proportional of the 2+2) way more than the Z32 or anything that came after it. I could ramble about myself and proportional aesthetics (which the AE86 has in spades), but you’ll all move onto the next post if I did. TL;DR, I bought the Z31 and have totally enjoyed it and enjoyed learning about it, working on it, discovering the community around them, and I really really miss driving it even if it’s for a day.

Do Z31s have the same aftermarket support as, say, 510s or most of the 80s Toyotas? No! Omigosh, no, they definitely don’t. And I’ve made more pick n’ pull trips to get spare parts than I have trips to regular parts stores. But in some ways, that’s also part of the charm. And I feel like there’s a nice grassroots, passionate community that’s either starting to make parts, repair what’s there, or just generally willing to help each other out.

Would I necessarily recommend a Z31 to an enthusiast looking to get into J-tin? Eh, it depends on the person. There are definitely other cars that are easier to work on and get parts for. But for some, yeah, this’d be a great car to start with.

Omedetou, your comment has earned you a set of decals from the JNC Shop!

JNC Decal smash

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14 Responses to QotW: What repair/mod/upgrade do you do on all your JNCs?

  1. ish said:

    Fluids, all the fluids. A) it gives you the good vibes on using it in the future knowing everything doesn’t have 200k fluids in it. B) gives you a good history on the car, if the fluids looks sorta new you know it was looked after, if the diff fluid is clumpy or the oil is dead and black maybe look into some other known problem areas. That is always step 1 of new-to-you car life.

  2. Geoff said:

    It depends on the car.

    Aside from consumable replacement (for all the reasons tsh provided), if the car’s old enough to have a points distributor or a voltage regulator with breaker points, those are the things that are the first to go.

    If the car’s new enough that breaker points are a thing of the past, then it’s on to struts, springs, and brake pads, because they’re almost always in need of replacement.

    • Matt said:

      I agree with this, electronic ignition is the best upgrade I’ve given to my 510. The 620 will get the same treatment soon

  3. Negishi no Keibajo said:

    I agree with ish. Unglamorous fluids are like blood in a body. Neglect is kidney failure.

    In addition, for whatever reason, my local municipality has switched to salt instead of chemicals for winter road maintenance. Another unglamorous task; regular visits to the car wash. While I enjoy a relaxing hand wash, the drive through tunnels will clean the undersides better than I hope to.

  4. Negishi no Keibajo said:

    Somehow, that sounded wrong…

  5. Being aneglected owner in MN that has more cars than garage space, rust proofing.

    I’ll leave it to someone else to answer this more eloquently though.

  6. MikeRL411 said:

    A simple but effective mod! I put a strip of red reflective tape along the vertical edge of my doors. In case I or a non compos mentis rider throws the door open with out seeing that semi bearing down on us, the reflection of the red glow gives the oncoming driver some warning that all is not well on the road.

  7. Jayrdee said:

    A fluid flush and a thorough run-down top and bottom is always first.

    … But whenever I buy I car I always try and budget myself so I can afford wheels and coilovers too :p

  8. Jace Kelley said:

    New suspension such as racing coilovers or stiffer springs, struts and sway bars. There is nothing like a JNC that will out handle a modern car. We can’t expect them to keep up in the straights with all the modern sports cars without a full engine build. It takes research and time to find a setup that is an acceptable compromise between a full race setup and a daily driver setup.

  9. atx said:

    Modern tires, which usually means upgrading to slightly bigger wheels to be able to get modern tires. The days of good 13/14″ tires is over.

  10. Amar said:

    Typically when I look at a new old car, or a car that my buddy got their hands on I look at the electrical connections on the car. Usually terminals get replaced, ugly plastic crimps/shotty repair jobs are upgraded and made future proof. But other than a 3k tune up, usually just drive them around town to see what else needs to be done.

  11. spriso said:

    Remove all Scotch Locks. Stat.

  12. Brad D said:

    Fluids are a given. There are two other things that are necessary to me however.

    1. A thermostat. Easily one of the most looked over maintenance items. Not that they need to be done yearly or even every ten years, but with the average JNC being 25 years old, chances are it has never been changed. Its cheap and inspires confidence on a long trip. Also, put the old one in the glovebox as a back up should the replacement go bad on the road.

    2. Electronic ignition. If your JNC is old enough to have points, an electronic replacement for them is the single bet upgrade you can do. At about $100 for a good Pertronix unit and coil, it not only is more reliable, but improves fuel economy and power. Also, like the thermostat, throw the old points in the glovebox or trunk as a back up. God forbid something goes wrong, its a simple roadside swap.

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