The Mitty 2018 – Friday

Finally, the day arrived. My brother and nephew got to my house the night before to join me on this epic weekend. I had my car cleaned out except for a few die cast Z cars that would be on display on my dash, and we loaded up my brother’s truck. We started out for Road Atlanta early in the morning, stopping for ice and breakfast. About one third of the way to our destination I realized I forgot my ticket. But wait! I had a crew pass wristband. All was good.

After getting through the gate, I drove over to Vendor Village to park my car at the BF Goodrich display. As soon as I had the car situated, I hoofed it over to my brother’s truck to grab my camera. If I was lucky, I would get a few photos of the Datsuns’ first qualifying session, except I heard the bad news. John Morton was off the track, and the safety crew was cleaning up a mess. I got over to turn 10 in time to see the BRE 240Z on a strap. I took that as a much better sign than being hauled on a flatbed.

Before we made it over to the paddock to find out what happened to the BRE 240Z, my phone started ringing. Randy was looking for help in tracking down a loaner motor for the weekend. I placed a couple of calls to friends, but I didn’t have much hope I could source an engine. There was a beehive of activity around the BRE trailer. Rob and his Z Car Garage crew were attacking the 240Z, preparing to rip out the deceased motor. Fans were buzzing around John Morton and all of the eye candy parked nearby. After all, how often does an early Datsun/Nissan fan get to see a Datsun/Nissan driving legend and a C10 Skyline in the same place. It didn’t hurt that Adam Carolla was around with his BSR livery 610 coupe.

I started on my usual Friday routine of walking around the paddock and photographing anything that interested me. There are always some interesting cars in the paddock like this Cortina with a V8 swap.

With all of the cars in classic liveries, I thought this 510 had a simple elegance.

Now is it still scary to hit the back of a Pinto when it has a fuel cell? It is definitely missing the 70s era 5 MPH bumpers.

And there were lots of nice looking Z cars scattered throughout the paddock.

Les Cannaday, owner of Classic Datsun Motorsports, made the trip from California and brought a roadster to race.

Meanwhile, Rob Fuller and the Z Car Garage crew were busy ripping out the deceased engine from the BRE 240Z…

And Adam Carolla was busy talking to fans and signing autographs.

Not to mention plenty of action on the track.

After enjoying the track action for a while, it was back to the infield to Vendor Village. I got to see the full BFGoodrich display with the three Zs from the Georgia Z Club sporting new BFGoodrich G-Force Sport Comp-2 tires. I had been running them for several months and was more than happy to mount a new set for the vendor display.

We ate lunch, and then I wandered over to the Nissan Heritage collection display. It wasn’t fully populated, yet, but the original BRE 510 was on display. This was the car that won 2 SCCA Trans Am 2.5L championships for Brock Racing Enterprises.

Still I hadn’t made it over to the Support Paddock to see the cars there.

It wasn’t just Z cars and 510s representing the Datsun faithful, either.

And I ALWAYS love seeing an E-type ready to race.

And the old BMWs aren’t bad, either.

Before I knew it, the first sprint race of the weekend started. Larry Cooper led the first few laps, but Chet Wittel was right on his heels. In the end, it was Chet Wittel winning in the first time on the track since 2003 in a car he prepared in about 3 weeks.

The podium looked good.

And the team was happy.

You have only seen a few of the photos I took on Friday. If you want to see the rest, go to my Google Photos Album for Friday. (Psst, did you notice the link?)

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Tuesday and Wednesday before the 2018 Mitty

This was not a typical Mitty week for me. Nissans and Datsuns were to be the featured marque. I was let in on the secret back in September, and I had to sit on the information for a month. That was a long, agonizing month. But I did keep the secret. Still it was seven months of anticipation. Waiting…waiting…waiting…

Randy Jaffe was waiting, too. Since Monterey last year, he was waiting to get John Morton back behind the wheel of the BRE 240Z. This time it would be at Road Atlanta, the scene of the two SCCA C Production triumphs in the BRE 240Z. Yes, the dip was removed over 20 years ago, but it’s still ROAD ATLANTA!

Randy invited me to hang out for testing on Tuesday and Wednesday before the Mitty. How could I refuse. It just meant that I had to compress my Mitty prep, including getting my new tires (courtesy of BF Goodrich) mounted on Monday so I could show them off at the Mitty. While I was at it, I also changed out my headlights to a different style of LEDs. The only thing I could really prepare for was the weather. There was some rain in the forecast for Tuesday, so I decided to forgo driving the Z and opted to go in my daily driver.

When I got to the track, it wasn’t raining, yet. Not many of the cars had been unloaded, either. I helped with raising the awning on one of the haulers so the cars could be parked in the dry after being unloaded.

I also got to see Matt Crouch, Jeff Tyrrell, Joey Townsend, and Chet Wittel preparing their cars for testing. Matt and Chet would be driving 240Zs originally owned by John Williams, a local racing and wrenching legend when it came to Datsuns. Matt’s car had John’s old livery, while Chet’s car would be in Bob Sharp Racing colors. The amazing thing is that Chet got that car prepared for the Mitty in about 3 weeks.

The rains came, and many of us took the opportunity to hear John Morton’s old racing stories while the cars sat safely under the awning. For a Z car fan, it was heaven…hanging out with a living legend and some beautiful racing machines.

Finally, the rains cleared. The California crew finished unloading their cars, and the Z Car Garage crew unloaded the BRE 240Z.

It was time for John to take to the track again. While John suited up, Rob Fuller performed some last minute checks.

When all was ready, John got behind the wheel, and Rob went over some last second things before sending John onto the track.

Well, almost. Apparently there was a waiver John needed to sign before they would let him on the track. Once the paperwork was complete, the sticker was affixed to the windshield, and John was taking to Road Atlanta again. It was amazing to stand on the bridge near the start/finish line and see the car coming through turn 12.

The day was not without its problems. When driving a car hard with parts nearly 50 years old, there’s always a chance something will give. This time it was the megaphones on the exhaust. They had essentially disintegrated. I called around to parts stores looking for high temp yellow paint, but I wasn’t having much luck. In the mean time, I had the privilege of hearing John discussing with Gary Savage his line through turn 11 (under the bridge) and down to turn 12. Gary had more recent experience on the track and told John what he uses for landmarks to line up his car.

The day at the track ended with Randy getting some fuel for Wednesday’s testing and John walking the track from turn 11 down through 12 in preparation for driving the next day.

On the return trip home, I stopped by the parts store to see if they may have some paint that could work for the new megaphones and pick up some exhaust tubing. I found some engine paint. That would have to do until the guys got the right paint delivered.

On Wednesday, the weather was better…No rain in the forecast, so I loaded up the 260Z and started to Road Atlanta. I stopped to get some ice for my cooler, then my problems with 45 year old parts started…or better yet, returned. My driver side door wouldn’t latch properly. I told Rob Fuller about my dilemma, and during a break in the action, he attempted to adjust the door. Only the parts would cooperate. Okay, the door lock broke. YIKES! Rob was nice enough to loan me his rental so I could go home an strip parts off of the 73 to fix the door lock. I got lunch for the crew on the way back and set to work fixing the door after lunch. Thanks to Rob’s tutelage, I had the door repaired and closing properly. It was just in time, too. Randy was getting ready for his bucket list ride with John in the BRE 240Z.

After the driving was done for the day, John Morton was kind enough to do some promo videos for ZCON 2018.

I enjoyed hanging out with the crews, helping park trailers, and enjoying the atmosphere of the upcoming Mitty. Eventually it was time to pack up my tools.

After that, we went over to get our crew passes, and it was time to go. Before long, everybody had left for dinner, and all was quiet in the paddock.

While I wouldn’t be back until Friday, I was ready for the Mitty.

There are a lot more photos available. Go to the Google Photos album for Tuesday. (That is, click on the link.)

Thanks to for providing a way for me to embed my photos into this blog post.

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BRE 240Z

Yesterday I had the opportunity to see the BRE 240Z owned by my friend, Randy. He has a passion to preserve the memory and heritage of Brock Racing Enterprises 46 SCCA championship team. It had been a few months since I last saw the car in person, and I wanted to catch up with Randy and find out what all he had been doing to the car over that time.

Randy has put his heart and soul into this car for several years. This storyboard he created helps to capture some of his effort.

The car is a beautiful time machine. When you hear the stories behind the details of the car, such as the reason for the momentary switch on the differential temperature gauge, it’s overwhelming. Randy has left no stone unturned in his research. Any time this car is out in public, it attracts a crowd. Since we weren’t out in public, I had to take advantage of getting some unobstructed photographs. Randy graciously obliged. He also fired up the car for me to enjoy the sound, as well.

I have seen links to articles on the web lately with a headline along the lines of “People who buy experiences are much happier than people who buy things.” This car is definitely a worthwhile experience. Thanks for sharing, Randy.

Please click on the photo below to get to the full gallery.

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ZCON 2018

ZCON 2018 will be held in Atlanta in October.

Here’s the video we presented at ZCON 2017: ZCON 2018 video

Be sure to subscribe to the ZCON 2018 Youtube page to keep up-to-date on our latest videos.

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Posted in 240Z, 280Z | Leave a comment

Non-Start Diagnostics

Last year one of my friends rebuilt a motor for Michael, a new 260Z owner. Michael got the engine back in, and my friend tuned the engine.

Fast forward to January of this year. Tim, Michael’s father, posted on Facebook that the car was running fine for a while, but after warming it up, it wouldn’t run. In answering a question to his post, Tim said there wasn’t power at the coil.

I sent a message to Tim to arrange to come over and do diagnostics. I suggested a couple of likely culprits and how to resolve issues with them. Tim talked with my friend who built the engine. My friend told Tim that it was unlikely to be mechanical, and it would be better to have me look at it. With the long weekend coming up and unseasonably warm temperatures, it seemed like a great opportunity to figure out what was wrong.

I packed plenty of testing and tuning tools into the car in an effort to leave no stone unturned and drove over to meet up with Michael. We dragged the tools and factory service manual (FSM) to Michael’s 260Z and set to work. The first thing was to check the battery voltage. It was 12.46VDC. That is on the low side. It worried me that it could be a factor. We put the key in the ON position, and Michael tried to check the voltage at positive terminal of the coil, but he couldn’t get a good reading. Unsure of what the voltage was at the coil, we tried to start the car. The engine turned over just fine, but there was no spark.

When I looked at the ballast resistor, I could tell at a glance that it was not the resistor for a 260Z. The stock ballast resistor for the 260Z and 280Z has three terminals while the 240Z ballast resistor has only two terminals. Unfortunately I didn’t do much besides glance at it. (Keep that in mind.) I showed Michael the wiring diagram in the FSM and gave him a quick tutorial on how to read it. I was focusing on the wiring between the ballast resistor and coil. That was when I noticed the second issue.

Ignition coils have polarity. He had the ballast wired to the negative terminal on the coil, and the positive terminal was wired to the condenser and distributor negative. This in of itself won’t cause a non-start, but it does weaken the spark. I showed Michael how to check the coil by using the resistance of the wires in the coil. The ratio of the resistance between the secondary (high voltage) side of the coil and the primary (12VDC) side of the coil should be about 1000:1 or more. The coil in the car was less than that. Michael got another coil, and we check it. The ratio was better, so we installed that one in the car. We also inspected the distributor cap and rotor looking for damage or excessive wear. Both were in good condition. One thing that did concern me was that the wire for the #1 cylinder seemed to be rotated too far counterclockwise, especially compared to my car. I sent a photo of the distributor to my friend who rebuilt and set the timing of the motor. He confirmed that it was where he set it, and I confirmed the distributor was still locked down tight.

We got the wiring back in place and tried again…well we couldn’t REALLY try again because the battery was dying. With no battery charger, we couldn’t continue diagnostics. Michael did say that the turn signals weren’t working, so I showed him how to use the drawings in the Body Electrical section of the FSM to diagnose that circuit. We traced the problem down to the turn signal switch itself. We then packed up my tools and loaded them back in the car. Michael told me Tim was coming home from work, so I decided to wait until he got home before I left. When we told Tim the battery was dead, Tim directed Michael to take the battery out of another car and put it in the Z. Michael went to do that while Tim and I got the tools back out.

With the stronger battery in place, we resumed testing. I was checking voltage at the coil while trying to start the car. It was only 6VDC. I made a jumper wire to go between the battery and coil, and we tried again. Still the car wouldn’t fire. I placed an inline spark checker on the first plug wire, but Tim said there was no glow. At this point I was thinking that it might be a grounding issue. I looked over the wiring diagram for a grounding point, but nothing jumped out at me. So, maybe it was a grounding issue or other problem with the transistor ignition unit (TIU).

I told Michael to look in the passenger side footwell for the TIU. He couldn’t find it. Funny, it isn’t that small, and it is a natural metal finish against the black background of the footwell. I didn’t think it would be difficult to find. I looked myself. It wasn’t there. I showed Tim and Michael where it was mounted originally in my car, pointing out the connector that it plugged into. Looking at Michael’s car, I found it in a slightly different place. I was perplexed. How could the car have run without an ignition unit? The wiring at the distributor did not show any signs of another ignition unit. I just couldn’t figure it out.

That was when Michael went looking around in the shed. He came back out with the aftermarket AC evaporator. It had the TIU attached to the backside of the bracket that held the evaporator in place. He removed the TIU from that bracket and installed it back in the car. On the next try, the car still didn’t start. Okay, I still thought the voltage at the coil was low. We put the jumper wire back on to the coil and battery. The car fired up.

Why was the voltage low? I looked at the wiring on the ballast resistor again. The wire from the start circuit and wire from the run circuit were wired to the same point on the ballast resistor and on the opposite side from the wire to the coil. I moved the wire from the start circuit over to the other side of the resistor. The car would start, but it would die as soon as the key was released. Yes, it made sense. I measured the resistance across the ballast resistor. It was over 10 Megaohms. That was way too high. The diagnosis was confirmed. The ballast resistor was the problem.

Since it is difficult (and expensive) to get a replacement 260Z ballast resistor, I suggested that they try a 3 Ohm coil and have all three ignition wires on the same terminal at the ballast resistor. It’s a solution I’ve been running for a while with no issues.

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A month ago, members of the Georgia Z Club gathered in Woodstock, GA, for a photoshoot. I had my car all washed and ready. The club VP arranged a great location for us, too. Since I was one of the people taking the photos, my car was one of the last ones through on a very hot day. Still, the photos came out very nice.

Making New Memories 2016-06-11 259

Click on the photo below to get to the full photo album.
June 11 2016

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