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1970 Datsun 1600 Roadster - The Last Of A Breed

This Is One Datsun That Refuses To Die

John P. Roper
Jan 1, 2009
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Mike Braaten's 1970 Datsun Roadster represents the last year of production for this unique car. While the Roadster was a great car in its own right, Datsun simply had to let it go to make way for the new kid on the block, the much-anticipated 240Z (both known as the Fairlady in Japan). The journey of Mike's car almost parallels the journey of the entire model line itself.

The previous owner had driven the Roadster almost into the ground when Mike found it being offered up for sale. Knowing it was going to need a complete ground-up restoration, he bought it anyway due to a shocking lack of rust and what seemed to be the near impossibility of finding another one for sale in his home state. A deal was struck and he brought it home where he immediately began a complete disassembly. Fortunately for Mike, he met up with another local Oregonian by the name of Mike Spreadbury. Those who have been into Datsuns for awhile might recognize that name as he and his shop, Spriso Motorsports, have had a hand in many of the show-winning Datsuns in Oregon and California. It was just a huge stroke of luck that Braaten happens to live only a few miles down the road from Spreadbury.

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While the body was off the frame, a plan was hatched to install something much better. Spriso pioneered swapping the SR20DE engine into the Roadster and was eager to help Mike get his car ready for its heart transplant. When the naturally-aspirated S15 engine swap was finished, you wouldn't be thought crazy to look in the engine bay and think it left the Nissan factory that way. Spriso is known for its clean and near- OE looking engine conversions. While the body was out being straightened and repainted, Mike took the liberty of having just about every piece you can see in the engine bay powdercoated or polished to enhance the engine's sanitary look.

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Having sent the body off to Evolution Auto Body in Salem, it was just a waiting game until the time came to mate the two back together. While waiting, Mike went ahead and added a Nismo sway bar, Nismo springs and KYB shocks up front. Out back, he added custom-arched leaf springs, and two more KYB shocks. To help drop anchor, Spriso assisted Mike with its 11" big brake kit, utilizing monster Nissan 4-piston calipers (lifted from a Z32 300ZX) and Porterfield pads. Having way more brakes than the car needs out in front, stock drums with Porterfield shoes were deemed adequate in the rear. To finish off the lower half, a set of 16x7 Panasports were bolted on to add a touch of vintage style.

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When the body returned from its date with the paint booth, having been sprayed PPG Flame Red with contrasting black "BRE" stripes down the sides, it was time to put it all back together. Inside almost nothing was left untouched. A pair of BMW Z3 seats recovered in black leather, two Schroth 4pt harnesses, and an Autopower rollbar were bolted in to upgrade the driver's safety (and comfort) level. To keep an eye on engine vitals, a wide array of AutoMeter Pro-Comp gauges were installed in the stock dash. Toss in some new black carpet, a MOMO steering wheel and shift knob, and now the inside is as clean as the outside.

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As a testament to Spriso's abilities, the car has run well without even a hiccup since its completion. It's also worth noting that the car has taken either first place or best of show at every car show Mike has attended with it. Although this car was once passed over for something the owner thought was better, if he's reading this, I would bet he sees the error of his ways now.

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Fast Facts
1970 Datsun 1600 Roadster
Owner mike braaten
Hometown Corvallis, OR

Daily Grind security consultantUnder The Hood naturally-aspirated S15 2.0L SR20DE; custom header and 2.25" exhaust; K&N air filter and breather; Fluidyne radiator; Nismo oil cap

Drivetrain S15 6-speed transmission brains S14 ECU; Painless Wiring

Stiff Stuff KYB shocks; Nismo springs and modified lowering perch; Nismo front sway bar

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Stoppers OEM Z32 Front calipers; Spriso Motorsports 11" front rotors

Rollers 16X7 Panasport FS16 wheels; Goodyear Eagle F1 205/45/16 tires

Outside PPG Flame Red paint w/black graphics; Fairlady emblems

Inside BMW Z3 leather seats; custom door panels; '66 Roadster dash; Autometer tachometer, speedometer, water temp gauge, oil pressure gauge, voltmeter, fuel gauge and clock; Schroth harnesses; Momo Race steering wheel; OEM S15 shift knob; Al Epperly custom- fabricated rollbar

Props Karmen, Sierra and Skyler Braaten for giving me the time, money and support for my addiction. My Dad, Sam Braaten, for raising me with the love for cars. Michael Spreadbury of Spriso Motorsports is the man behind the madness and taught me the ways to make it all happen. Scott Daniels for painting a masterpiece. Dave Jolliff, Steve Epperly, Jason Brainard, Brian Nichols and Dave Barwick for the extra muscle. Jack Scoville, Nissan Parts Guys - Dave, Jim, Allan and Robert for running countless old Datsun part numbers for me! And all the others who helped me along the way!


By John P. Roper
6 Articles



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