Robert’s restoring his grandfather’s 1973 Datsun 240Z.
Hello, My name is Robert Fuge. I’m a mechanical engineer from Phoenix Arizona. I’ve worked on everything from turbine engine components, construction equipment, prosthetic limbs, my own line of performance car parts, and currently I work developing ultra precise force sensors for extreme applications.
I’ve been destined for life as an engineer since childhood. I lived in a rural area for the beginning of elementary school, and the school budget was so thin that science education didn’t begin until later grades. My parents paid for an extracurricular science club for me, and after my first week staying late after kindergarten I came home disappointed, and asked my mom when I would be taught how to “invent things and blow things up.”
As I got older my interests focused on cars, and that finally found a productive outlet in college. I joined the Arizona State University chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers and found a spot on the Baja team. I made great friends. I learned to weld, grind, bend, and generally fabricate things. I learned CAD software, and got an internship with an aerospace company, which launched me into an interesting and fun career path.
Just before graduation I moved on from my beater 1991 Toyota 4Runner and not long after found myself behind the wheel of a Mazdaspeed Miata. (If you traded me your maroon civic for this 4runner in 2013, contact me, I want to see what it’s up to now!) I worked on it for a few years, but as my interests and family needs changed, I sold it, bought an SUV, and turned my attention to the past…
The Datsun 240Z
Once upon a time, the 240Z was sort of a family thing. Between my dad, grandpa, and uncle, quite a few Datsuns have spent time in the family. By the time I was of age that had faded, and the only evidence I have are two very run down, rusty, worn out Datsuns in a back yard.
Both were owned by my uncle at at some point. The maroon 1972 has a small block Chevy engine, is owned by my dad, and is a story for another day. The blue 1973 was owned by my uncle and grandfather, and was last registered in 1985. In 2009 I got it from my grandfather, put some bald leaky tires on it, moved it to a fresh patch of dirt, and saved it for another day.
I started to work on it several times over the past seven years only to realize each time that this was not the sort of project to be taken on by a full time college student supporting a family on a part time job.
So the weeds grew and died a few more times, and now with a stable job and more free time, it’s finally time to get some real work done. The “plans” for this car are very fluid. I have some rough ideas of what I want this car to be in the end, but I’ll try to keep any goals like that fairly obvious and relevant to the near future.
The car does have rust to be removed and repaired, and everything has been sitting for over thirty years. To start I’ll be removing the drive train to evaluate it, and I’ll always have a small pile of parts in the garage that need work.
My goal for the next month: pull the engine and get it into the garage for evaluation. I need to determine what can stay and what can go. It’s always difficult to get things done around the holidays, and work always speeds up at the beginning of the year, so I’ll have to find the time to get the car ready for the engine to come out. Life as always can get in the way, and with kids, a job, and church responsibilities, time is always at a premium.
Until next time,