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April 2014 Under the Hood - Nostalgic 510 Machine

Behind the Scene

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Sooner or later, it was bound to happen. Upon returning from judging the most recent JCCS (Japanese Classic Car show) for the past four years, I made the decision to no longer be among those drooling spectators who ogle over pristine old-school cars at the shows, and began looking for a classic ride to call my own. After months of searching high and low, I found a '71 Datsun 510 that fit the bill.

Buying a '70s car isn't as simple as firing up the computer and picking your favorite interior and exterior colors on automotive websites. Finding the right car involves commitment and knowledge of the vehicle, as well as knowing what you're getting yourself into. Small purchases are one thing, but spending thousands of dollars on a car that's over 40 years old is a risky proposition. Datsun 1200's, 1600 roadsters, 240/260/280ZX's, Toyota Starlet KP61's, Celica A20/35's, and Mazda RX-3's to name a few are cars that have recently grown resurgence in popularity thanks to classic shows, as enthusiasts find these cars that were once driven by your grandparents as the ideal alternative tuner car to the typical Honda Civic or Nissan S13 that we've seen built over and over time after time.

The 510 was purchased from an 18-year-old from Yuma, AZ, after owning it for only a few months. Why the fire sale, you ask? A series of bad luck scenarios and issues with the car scared the kid into making the hasty decision to sell the coupe. He was quoted at the time of sale: "This things been nothing but bad luck for me, and I'm selling it to get something else."

It's been two months since I purchased the car, and, in all honesty, it's a sheep in wolf's clothing. Appearance wise, the car looks decent but under all that blue paint it needs a lot of love. This isn't a ride that you can simply order new parts for and call it a day.

Metaphorically speaking, think of these old ass cars as your grandparents. Sure, they were great and full of energy when they were younger, but time rolled on and they began to fall apart. Things don't seem to be working as well as they should be. A rusty panel here and a leaking windshield there is typical of old car ownership. Like your grandparents, these classics need some TLC, and in doing so, it's not cheap. But cars like this are rare nowadays and are investments you plan to keep for a long time, unless of course you're that kid from Yuma.

So without adieu I present a new old car to the growing number of cars, as we look forward to turning some wrenches on this bad boy. Stay tuned for this old-school rebuild project in the future.

Scott Tsuneishi

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John Roper
John Roper

I hate to be that guy, but it's not actually a "coupe", it's a 2 door sedan. The 510 Coupe was a specific model only sold in Japan and South Africa. US 510s only came in 2 door sedan, 4 door sedan, and station wagon versions. The coupe has a slightly lower roofline and a more drastically sloped rear window. 

See the difference here:

The coupe was also only available in right-hand-drive. 


It’s great to see a build article on the Datsun 510. There are some great examples out there and these cars have always been a stand-out with hard core enthusiasts.

In the early ‘70’s the 510 reigned terror over the TransAm 2.5 Challenge Series which spurred its own performance aftermarket segment with Mulholland brand suspension parts and Crown bolt-on turbo kits for the cars. As time and technology marched on even the solid engineering of the 510 wasn’t enough and they lost their place in the import performance world.

Now that import enthusiasts are beginning to embrace the nostalgia of their roots, it is no wonder the Datsun 510 is showing its popularity again.

We at FutoFab have supported 510 owners for years and look forward to the reinvigorated enthusiasm now surrounding these great little cars.

Dave Patten, Owner

Import Tuner