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Datsun 510 Build - Project Nostalgia Part 1

Breathing new life into a 40 year old classic

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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, in this case a Datsun 510, involves commitment and knowledge of the vehicle, as well as knowing what you're getting yourself into. Think of it as building a full-scale model toy but with much more intricate parts. Small purchases are one thing, but spending thousands of dollars on a car that's over 40 years old is a risky proposition.

It's been almost six months since I purchased the Datsun 510, and have yet to find all the parts I need to restore it. This isn't a ride that you can simply order new parts for and call it a day. We're in it for the long haul and don't plan on settling on driving around a trendy rusted turd with "patina" paint, slammed to the ground with some wheels.

Within days of purchasing the car, we began stripping the machine as well as cleaning up the engine bay and stitch-welding the seams.

Suspension Upgrades

With just enough time for the engine bay to cool down from the stitch welding and grinding makeover, the Datsun 510 was hoisted on jackstands to begin upgrading the suspension. After purchasing a car with over 40-plus years of wear and tear on the chassis, including all the rubber bushings and components, it was a no-brainer that new parts to obtain proper suspension geometry were the key to maximizing our car's safety as well as improve handling. To address the issue, we used a custom Ground Control coilover setup as well as a number of Futo Fab performance components, including a set of front lower control arms (LCAs), adjustable TC rods, spherical control arm bushings, and rear camber/toe adjusters.

Futo Fab

The Futo Fab adjustable LCAs are made of 6160-T3 billet aluminum and designed to replace the vehicle's factory stamped-steel control arms. Specially designed rod ends allow the user to adjust the front suspension's settings by turning the bolts to properly adjust the suspension and prevent premature and uneven tire wear. The key for this project is to improve handling for street driving as well as weekend track racing.

We removed the OE rear crossmember and noticed the arm brackets were slotted by the previous owner to address camber issues. This mod is common among 510 owners, but we consider it merely a Band-Aid if performance and handling is to be achieved. And for that, we decided to weld up a set of Futo Fab rear camber/toe adjusters with adjustments of 1.5+/3- camber and 1-inch toe out/1.4-inch toe in. We also enlarged the exhaust hole to accommodate bigger piping.

Futo Fab recommends using the OE rubber bushings or spherical bushings with their kit, as polyurethane with any camber/toe adjustments will cause the bushings to bind. We carefully cut out the OE collars holding the bushings and chiseled them out.

The spherical bearings deliver increased NVH, but offer significant handling improvements. We adjusted both arms to the crossmember before Evasive Motorsports technician JJ TIG welded the collars into place.

Ground Control

Ground Control is a name that has been long associated with the Import Tuner market but what many might not know is that they offer custom coilovers for Datsun models, namely the 510. Prior to contacting GC, we tossed our front strut assembly equipped with no-name coilovers and ancient OE brake calipers in the trash for a direct swap 280Z assembly with stronger spindles, larger brake calipers, and vented rotors. The rear drums were also chucked in favor of 280Z disc brakes.

The GC coilover system comes equipped with a camber/caster plate design that allows the sliding mount to go under the stock sheetmetal. GC uses your existing strut assembly to transform into a high-performance coilover system.

GC offers customizing your vehicle's suspension setup and spring rates. Using Eibach Race Springs, 6061 aluminum adjuster sleeves, and gusseted strut support, these coilovers are proudly made in the United States. We went one step further and had GC powdercoat the setup in blue to match the car as well as powder the springs in silver. Although 375-pound coilover springs sound high, we took into consideration how heavy our motor would be in comparison to the factory L16 along with a very heavy six-speed trans.

Techno Toy Tuning

Deciding on whether to simply replace the steering rods for a set of OE units or upgrade to Techno Toy Tuning's steering outer tie rod kit was a no-brainer. The solid steel arm design with self-lubricating Teflon-lined rod ends provide greater deflection and are fully adjustable. Anyone who previously or currently owns a Datsun 510 knows that when it comes to handling, these cars need all the help they can get!

Installing the steering kit required drilling the knuckles and control arm to 5/8 inch. A set of Techno Toy Tuning RCA's (roll center adjusters) was installed in anticipation of eliminating bumpsteer, a common occurrence associated with lowered cars.

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Your R200 differential came from a 280Z/ZX/300ZX, not a 240Z (unless it was upgraded to one). Google?

John Roper
John Roper

Also, the rear discs are likely from a 280ZX also. The 280Z had drums brakes on the rear. 

John Roper
John Roper

The front struts and brakes you have are from a 280ZX, not a 280Z. This is a very important distinction. The 280ZX struts are fairly easy to swap in, but the 280Z struts are almost impossible for the average DIYer. 

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