Boxy, stout, and unabashedly representative of the '70s-era compact underdog, Datsun's user-friendly FR platform carries as much fanfare today as it did during its dominant performances in various motorsports over the years. It continues to inspire custom creations, like this 1971 Datsun 510 wagon.
I spotted this wagon during GReddy Performance Products' GPP Live event and had to grab a few pics and a bit of info from its long-time owner, Jun Imai of Kaidohouse. We're suckers for 510 projects and this one has all of the makings of an incredible build, even with the long road of work that lies ahead.
The Long Road
Imai has owned his 510 since 2009 when he set out to build something a little different. With so much popularity around the coupe and sedan, he felt a wagon platform would separate him from the crowd. The initial version of the car was completed in 2012, just in time for the Japanese Classic Car Show (JCCS) where the wagon would display for Yokohama Tire. There, his custom livery drew plenty of attention and, in turn, inspired quite a few others to follow suit in the ensuing years. He enjoyed the car and its factory engine for a few years but in 2015 decided it was time to revamp the project.
Never Skipping Leg Day
The first major change involved cutting out the floor of the rear to ditch the wagon's straight axle and incorporate an independent rear suspension (IRS) in order to improve handling but also give him the power to get the car much lower. A 510 sedan floor was welded in, along with IRS mounting points, and it was then time to address the power equation.
GReddy Is Always Ready
Imai brought the car to GReddy's Orange County, Calif., headquarters to collaborate with the brand's President, Kenji Sumino. You're very familiar with Sumino's resume, as we've covered multiple cars that he's dirtied his hands on, from the wildly popular Fugu-Z to the spotless RX-7 FC3S that landed on the cover of SS last year.
Together, the duo formed a plan to update the wagon's heart while supplementing a laundry list of GReddy parts to maximize performance. But it isn't the typical SR swap you might expect. "I've known Kenji for quite some time, and we've worked on smaller die-cast collaborations together. I asked him to help me create the ultimate wagon and I wanted to go with something different. I left it up to Kenji because I wanted his passion poured into this as well. He's a big fan of the KA motor, so we decided to go with that."
The swap remains in its mock-up status currently but gives you a solid indication of just how good this is going to be. The GReddy turbo, placed strategically by the exhaust manifold, sits just in front of the shock tower, leaving plenty of space for the piping that will eventually be fabricated.
On the cold side you'll find a custom GReddy intake manifold and V-band fitting already welded to the throttle body with a clear route toward the front end, again awaiting the piping setup. A fresh Koyo radiator is mounted squarely in place and a GReddy intercooler core, most likely with custom end tanks, will make its way to the front end.
Wifey Knows Best
The unique color isn't a one-off mix but actually a factory Datsun color from yesteryear. Decided upon by Imai's wife, he painted the car in his garage and also fitted wider, Refresh 60 fender flares. The rear set are actually a 2-piece design intended specifically for sedan models to facilitate the opening and closing of the doors.
Tucked under the fender extensions are Work Equip 40 that feature mile-deep, stepped lips and are wrapped in 195/50-15 Yokohama Advan A052. Tucked neatly behind the rollers you'll find Wilwood brakes both front and rear with KW coilovers on board that include adjustable camber plates up top. However, updated braking and modern coilovers aren't the only upgrades behind those Work wheels.
Modernizing A Classic
To complement the transition to an IRS setup, Techno Toy Tuning provided their front suspension arms, sway bar, all critical linkages—essentially their entire 510 catalog to help modernize the almost 50-year-old underpinnings. The ride height and various suspension alignment settings will be worked out later, as the current state has all efforts focused on the engine bay. Even while tucked away in the GReddy shipping area during GPP Live, Imai noted that the front end wasn't fully bolted on but rather held in place for display, knowing that it would all have to come right back off after the event in order to continue the engine bay build process.
As much as we like showcasing completed builds, it's nice to give you a glimpse at a work in progress. This wagon has been in a state of modification, off and on, for over a decade, but its latest overhaul is by far its most ambitious. Make no mistake, Imai fully recognizes that this isn't going to be an overnight dash to the finish line, and it's obvious he's made peace with that, as he states calmly, "We're starting to button things up but there's still so much more work to do...but we'll get there." There's no doubt that the Jun Imai x Kenji Sumino collab will see this one through and we'll be there when it's complete and ready to show the world.