The little Datsun 510 has always been a favorite among lovers of Japanese classics, a car that we may as well consider the Toyota AE86 of the 1970s. With a series of body shapes available to customers, the 510 sparked a broad appeal and became known in some circles as a "poor" man's BMW. For many enthusiasts, the 510 has been the gateway into performance motoring, which is pretty much what the owner of the "Killer Bird," Sugata-san, initially thought when he first got his 2-door Bluebird. Except he hasn't moved onto anything new, forced by an uncontrollable obsession to continuously perfect his car. The fruits of his labor have made his 510 a winner in car-show circles, as well as a true performer when out on the streets.
We met up with Sugata at Daikoku Parking Area, a place we seem to bump into each other quite often as he tries his hardest not to miss any big or important car meets. This time, however, Japan's most well-known rest area is empty, a perfect chance to take a closer look at what has allowed the Killer Bird to snap up the "Cool Award" at the 2009 Mooneyes Hot Rods and Customs Show, as well as the "King of Cool" prize at the 2010 Histrix Japan show. The amber hue of the floodlights seem to almost match the dark Smash Yellow color of the body, which was taken from the JDM Honda Life. The soon to be 40 year-old body was meticulously restored and painted by the people at Ghost Factory, who took their time in making sure the surface was nothing short of show-level. Sugata had no intention of going too far with aesthetics, but simply wanted to inject a little modern and custom feel into the looks by the addition of things like the Nismo LM GT4 wheels and later model LHD silver-finish mirrors. Under the original chrome front bumper, a race-inspired fiberglass spoiler helps give the car a more ground hugging look while the carbon-fiber hood is almost unnoticeable as it has been molded around the same design as the factory item. Another great classic touch is a set of hood pins, which are attached to the body by a safety wire that seems to disappear behind the headlights. During the restoration, all the rubber and metal glass trim were replaced along the glass itself, adding to the flawless look of the car. The rear has been kept stock and simple with only the custom stainless exhaust and red toe hook hinting at how special the car is.
What followed in the build was the suspension, and this is where things start to become a little more complicated. First up, the front struts were modified with Skyline GC10 items, mostly to offer additional stiffness. TRD racing dampers were selected for the front and mated to Zeal X-Coils 12 kg/mm springs while the Cusco pillow ball upper mounts allow easy adjustment of camber. The rear received AE86 Tokico dampers joined by a very stiff Refresh GC10 22 kg/mm springs. To tighten up the geometry and handling feel, Techno Toy Tuning pillow ball control rods join custom-made and extended lower control pillow ball arms up front, with the rear being fitted with Refresh semi-trailing arm camber bushes. The suspension work was completed with Suspension Techniques front and rear roll bars. Sugata's 510 may be on the light side of the scale compared to modern machinery but a more performance-oriented braking set up was needed, so up front we find Cox 4-pot calipers and Mugen S2000 slotted discs while the rear drums were upgraded with items from a Datsun 240. With all this in place it was the time for the engine to see some upgrading action of its own.
Subtleness is the key under the carbon-fiber hood as the whole theme of the car is perfectly applied to the little 4-cylinder that powers this Bluebird. The engine is built by Refresh 60 around an L20B engine block, which has been outfitted with a Z22 balanced crank and Z20 connecting rods. Kameari Engine Works lightweight forged 89 mm pistons allow the capacity to grow to 2,288 cc giving the potential for good power. A Nissan Motor Works FIA racing head was sourced, ported and fitted onto the custom bottom end, creating a rather special little motor. The Isky upgraded valvetrain is controlled by a wild 300º camshaft from the same maker, carefully set up for a linear power delivery. System Science fabricated the 4-2-1 stainless steel exhaust manifold along with the full exhaust system, sporting just the right sort of "cannon-ball" design highly-strung naturally aspirated engines crave. Taking care of the intake side and fueling is a pair of Solex 50mm carburetors that are set up with custom titanium velocity stacks for that extra modern touch. These allow the engine to express its fullest potential, managing to develop a little over that magic 100 HP per liter mark. Completing the engine work is the Datsun 1600 head cover, wet-sanded for a raw look. Seeing as how the engine does develop a substantial amount of power, a R30 Skyline 5-speed transmission was chosen and fitted with a full close ratio gear set from Kameari Engine Works. This was mated to a NISMO Copper Mix clutch and a JUN lightweight flywheel for the ultimate balance and response. The MSD ignition wires, Optima battery and Earl's fittings add a subtle addition of color to the engine. Sugata even went to the trouble of having the whole engine bay painted in Audi TT dark gray, which was mixed with a barely noticeable fine red flake from House of Kolor. The same color was used to spray the back of the carbon hood as well as the exposed metal, chassis and door metal in the interior.
And it's precisely the interior that is the final area of the car that impresses. It's all about the details and if you don't look close enough, you may miss them as everything just looks so clean and almost factory. The dash is spotless, not a single scratch or patch of discoloration and is the perfect backdrop onto which to fit the lineup of Defi gauges that were chosen for their seventies-like green illumination. The carbon center console house three to monitor water, oil temperature and oil pressure. The main instrument binnacle has been untouched aside from the Defi rpm meter, which gives a far more reliable and accurate reading much like the AutoMeter fuel gauge next to the Kenwood K-CD01 head unit. Carbon leather was used to upholster the padded roll-cage as well as the door cards, all accompanied with red stitching, which matches the stitching on the driver and passenger Recaro seats as well as the Nardi steering wheel. Takata harnesses complement the interior and as a final touch, Sugata chose a Honda EK9 Civic Type-R titanium shift knob, a part that offers a tactile experience all its own!
The Killer Bird may well look like a dedicated show-car but Sugata's enthusiasm for his creation pushes him to use the car as much as he can and not leave it in the garage in fear of getting it dirty. It is the ultimate in personal custom motoring!
1971 Datsun 510 Bluebird 1400 Deluxe
Owner Tatsuya Sugata
Hometown Yokohama, Japan
Occupation Office Worker
Achievements Mooneyes 18th Annual Yokohama Hot Rod Custom Show 2009 "Cool" award. Histrix Japan 2010 "King of Cool" award
Engine 2,288cc L20B engine block; Kameari Engine Works forged 89 mm pistons, Z20 lightweight connecting rods and Z22 crankshaft; Nissan Motor Works FIA ported cylinder head and intake manifold; Isky 300º camshafts, valve springs and retainers; Custom 4-2-1 stainless steel exhaust manifold, 60 into 70 mm cannon ball exhaust system with 76.3 mm tail; MSD distributor & Promaster coil; twin Solex 50 mm carburetor with custom titanium velocity stacks; Earls #8 braided fuel lines and oil cooler; GReddy oil catch tank and oil filter relocation kit; Automotive bypass type fuel regulator; Carter fuel pump (x2); T&E Vertex engine torque damper; DC Sports battery tie down; triple core racing radiator; wet blasted Datsun 1600 valve cover & intake manifold; Audi TT dark gray engine room color with House of Kolor red flake
Drivetrain R30 Nissan Skyline 5-speed transmission; Kameari Engine Works super close gear set; NISMO Copper Mix clutch and R180 LSD with 3.9 final gear; JUN ultra lightweight flywheel; Syms R180 volume up differential fin cover
Footwork & Chassis TRD racing front dampers; Endless Zeal X-Coils 12kg/mm front springs; GC10 Skyline modified front struts; Cusco pillow ball upper mounts; Techno Toy Tuning pillow ball tension control rods; custom made 15 mm extended lower control pillow ball arms; Suspension Techniques front & rear roll bars; Tokico AE86 racing rear dampers; Refresh GC10 racing use 22 kg/mm rear springs and semi-trailing arm camber bushes
Brakes Cox mono-block 4-pot front calipers with Mugen S2000 300mm slotted discs; Datsun 240Z aluminum fin drum rear brakes
Wheels & Tires NISMO LM GT4 7.5x17" wheels; Dunlop SP Sports Maxx 215/35R17 tires; 5 mm front/15 mm rear spacers
Exterior full custom restoration; air dam-type fiberglass front spoiler; carbon hood; replaced glass with standard grade lear glass; Datsun original LHD gray-finish door mirrors; '72 JDM final model converted front grille and taillamp assembly; Audi TT dark gray painted window trim; JDM Honda Life Smash Yellow body color
Interior 7-point rollcage, padded and carbon-leather upholstered; ASM Recaro TS-G driver side bucket seat; Recaro SR-3 passenger seat; Takata four-point racing harnesses; ASM Recaro seat fabric; Nardi 80mm deep cone 350mm steering wheel; Honda EK9 Civic Type-R titanium shift knob; Defi Link Meter; Autometer fuel pressure gauge; Kenwood K-CD01 head unit; custom aluminum foot plates and billet armrests; '70s Nissan Motor Works wide room racing mirror; carbon-look full leather re-trim; all metal parts painted in Audi TT dark gray with House of Kolor red flake
Thanks yous First, a big thanks to all my friend's shops!! Restoration and paint at Ghost Factory, engine mods at REFRESH 60, exhaust system from SYSTEM SCIENCE, wheels customization and paint at MAX, interior at Gotch, Specialtie Auto Works for fiberglass parts, stainless parts at Sakamoto Syoukou, billet parts at OK WORKS, titanium parts at Art Engineering, Solid Kustom Works at car show board