Datsun 510 Nickel + Dime = 1 Blast to Drive

Datsun 510 Driver from Australia

Datsun 510… I called it the Ultimate Japanese Classic Car in my “Hot Rod Ramblings Part 2”.  Why?  I explained that it had all the right ingredients for a pure driving experience.  The Dime is lightweight, rear wheel drive, independent rear suspension (rare for those days), manual trans and high revving, efficient, over head cam 4 cylinder that was willing to rev.  Now, I know there’s a lot of hot rod guys and gals out there that might be reading this, going “What is that car?”  or “What’s that little 4 door doing here?”

Let’s take a look at a 1969 Datsun 510 four door owned by our web friend from Australia, Anth of fame.  His website has gone crazy in the last year or so.  He’s also been busy updating and fine tuning his ’69 510 as well.

Datsun 510, rolling shot

I love rolling shots like this.  The car doing what it does best, putting miles of asphalt and concrete behind it, quickly.

Comparing this compact import classic with the domestic behemoths that we at MyRideisMe love so much… I can agree, land missiles like 60’s Camaros, Mustangs, Chevelles, GTO’s and Cudas are bigtime for car lovers the world over, but these cars are heavy, more often than not run automatic transmissions (it is the cheapest, most reliable way to go fast in a straight line you know), have solid rear axles with leafsprings and weigh almost twice that of the Datto.  Sure they also have more than twice the horsepower, sometimes 3 or 4 times as many ponies comparing stock vs stock.  How can this little squirt be so cool?  I’ll try and explain my passion for the “little guys” using this 510 as an example, so please keep reading and entertain me for a sec’.

Datsun 510, 1969 Datsun, Work Ewing wheels, Build-Threads

The first thing I notice about this Dime is the wheels and ride height.  The Wheels are Work Ewing III in 15×6.5 +21mm offset and 15×7 +16mm offset that he bought from Japan.  I had to verify the size again as they looked bigger than 15’s at first glance.

Work Ewing wheels reworked Datsun 510

Check out Anth doin’ Work on his Work Wheels.  The black inner with polished lip and star edges looks awesome!  The new look really makes the wheels pop and goes perfectly with the white 4 door body color.

Datsun 510, Work Ewing III wheels, wheel test fit

Test fitting the newly reworked wheels.  I catch myself staring at the perfect lines of this 41 year old classic car.  Look at the seam around the door, how nicely it fits and how even the gap is around the door.  Back to the wheel fitment.  The ride height part of the equation appears about right where Anth felt it would work well when you compare it with the finished photos of the car on the ground.  The offset and width get the wheel nice and close to the fender line allowing the wheel/tire package to dip up into the wheel well when pushing hard in the corners.  He used 195/45/15 tires, nice low profile and good width to grip those mountain roads. 

Datsun 510, touge run

Speaking of mountain roads, or touge in Japanese, and pushing hard in the corners, Anth makes sure he lets his Datto do what it was designed to do:  Go for a spirited drive on narrow twisty roads.  I love this shot, its like he’s taken a break from a hard drive up the twisites, because, surely, his hands are tired from gripping the Nardi Classic steering wheel, not because the 510 is requesting a break.  LOL  This shot really gives you a look at the 510’s 4 door side profile.  For you American hot rodders reading this, it almost looks like a little 4 door Nova or Falcon doesn’t it, about ’64-’65 timeframe?  Mmm mmm good!

Nardi Classic steering wheel, Datsun 510, Mooneyes decal

Anth picked up this Nardi Classic wheel to dial in his driving experience.  You’ll see by the photo below that the Mooneyes decal is a temporary piece, but I actually liked it there.  The close confines of the 510’s cockpit are like those of the Japanese Zero WWII fighters that were so lethal against the heavier, but faster in a straight line American warbirds (see a pattern here haha).  Just like the Zero fighter before it, the 510 is a nimble, lightweight machine made for cutting back and forth, changing directions, letting the tail step out to aid in making a tight turn and being able to dive into corners braking WAY too late and still be able to hang on and hold the apex. 

Nardi Classic steering wheel, Nardi horn button

A closeup of the Nardi wheel that is putting the Dime to work, with the final horn button configuration.  Looks clean.  For some reason, I still like the Mooneyes decal.  haha

73 grille, 1969 Datsun 510

More details that show us how Anth made this 510 his own.  I dig the black and white and polished theme going on here.  The grille and headlight surrounds are from a 1973 510 (not sold in Australia, they only got through ’72 model year) and the front airdam is from a Volkswagen, yes a 1980s Vdub.  Looks perfect! 

Datsun 510, Datsun window decal

I really liked this photo.  First, the grandma-esque rear window blinds actually work for me here.  Being a decal geek, I dig old school decals that actually fit the car like this “Get That Datsun Difference” sticker.  It gives the Dime a period correct look.

Datsun 510, turbocharged FJ20, engine swap

Ok, ok, I might have lost some of you hot rodder types by now with me geeking out over a Datsun, but this photo above should bring some of you back out of pure curiousity.  No, this is not the stock single overhead cam L16 motor, this is an FJ20 16 valve dual overhead cam factory turbocharged later model Nissan Skyline unit.  With no intercooling and about 12psi of boost pressure with an aftermarket ECU tuner, power is right above 200 horsepower.  200 horsepower (at the wheels) is quite the punch for a lightweight machine like this Dime.  Stock power was about half that, so Anth’s Datto is down right quick.  I’d guess 1/4 mile times (for those hot rodders who are dying to know) should be (if the launch is not too filled with tire spin) in the 13 second range.  There are plans for an air-to-air intercooler with increased boost pressure (16psi), an aluminum radiator and electric water pump with a fresh coat of engine bay paint.  That should bring power up to around 250hp or more.

This engine swap setup surely makes corner exit exciting and puts that independent rear end to use.  Typically, racing or driving a lightweight car hard against a more powerful car like a Mustang or Camaro (close your eyes and picture yourself back in the early 70’s during an SCCA Trans-Am race), the “little guys” have to make use of the cornering ability and momentum, meaning you’re gonna keep it close in the corners with overal corner speed and out-breaking the big guys, ’cause they’re gonna lose you on the straights.  Imagine having this turbocharged power from 80s-90s put in your early 70s Datsun…dig it?!

Datsun 510, photo by, Australia

Cool photo-op taken by with downtown Melbourne, Australia in the background.  Look at the driving position.  I just noticed it.  Talk about being smack-dab in the center of gravity.  Check out the short nose over the front wheels.  BMW is well known for using this design technique to place as little weight hanging over the wheels as possible, making for a well balanced ride in the corners.

Datsun 510, Work Ewing III wheels, stance

I’ll leave you with this photo.  I can’t get over how well the front spoiler flows with the car with the fact that it was designed a decade later and half a world away.  The wheels give this car that resto-mod (hey, that woke up some of you hot rodders that are still reading) look.  The Nardi wheel, turbo engine swap and adjustable racing coilovers make this car a blast to drive the twisties and look good doing it.  The Ultimate Japanese Classic car for sure. 

Finally, I asked Anth about his little piece of Japanese Car history:

Why the 510?  “One reason, car magazines! When I was a car obsessed kid, I saw a magazine that featured a shootout featuring various Datsun 510s with different engine conversions and I was instantly hooked, love at first sight.”

What is it about this car that makes you love it?  “Everything. The boxy styling, the chrome, the aggressive appearance, the raw feedback you get through the steering, the lack of useless parts that make it easy to work on. I also love the interaction with the public you get with old cars, brand loyalty is thrown out the window. People who love old cars appreciate anything with a bit of history, regardless of the badge, and an interesting conversation is never far away.”

What does the car say about you?  “It says that I appreciate classic metal and am dedicated to keeping a little piece of history alive.”

I mean, you live in a place where you could get some great Japanese metal (skyline, rx7, etc).  “I actually sold an S15 Silvia to buy my Datsun, so what does that tell you!?”

Thank you Anth for allowing me to share these photos of your Datto.  For you readers, do yourself a favor and check out his site, there’s a little bit of everything from all around the world.  Everyone loves a project car!

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