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1971 Datsun 510 - Back in the Day

Candy For Your Eyes-A 1971 Rotary-Powered Datsun 510

Roel F. Concepcion
Feb 1, 2003
Sstp_0302_01_z+1971_datsun_510+side_view Photo 1/1   |   1971 Datsun 510 - Back in the Day

We sat near the window at a small Filipino restaurant minutes away from the prestigious Occidental College, where Victor Chico, my dinner companion and proud owner of this rotary-powered Datsun 510, teaches martial arts to feeble yet enthusiastic college students. He insisted on buying me dinner to express his appreciation for coming over to shoot his candy-apple red 510 and show me the restaurant he frequents daily, which serves the best Filipino cuisine this side of Manila. His gracious hospitality was well received, but I felt I should be doing the honor of paying for dinner, since his car is one of the finest 510s I have ever seen and appreciation should be shown to him.

His '71 super machine maintains a 13B (1308cc) four-port rotary, found mostly in early-model Mazdas and sometimes found inside a 510's engine bay. This lightweight engine allows for excellent weight distribution throughout the track, and with only seven internal moving parts, it's extremely reliable when properly maintained. Dr. Felix Wankel couldn't have possibly envisioned this mechanical beauty when he developed the first practical and successful rotary motor in Germany, but I have a feeling he would be proud to see his creation appearing in its utmost potential.

Instead of pistons, a rotary engine uses a triangular rotor that moves around a chamber, compressing air and fuel in the engine to make useful horsepower. In its four-stroke combustion cycle, the rotary engine pulls in air and exhales exhaust gases just like a piston-powered motor. The main reasons people choose the rotary over pistons are fewer moving parts, smoother power delivery, and excellent reliability. For example, Victor's car met the reliability challenge as he drove it 1,200 miles roundtrip to Mt. Shasta, California, during sweltering 105 weather.

And like Dr. Wankel and other rotary lovers, Victor is fond of the power these unique engines produce, especially within the 13B. "I had a '74 and '76 Mazda RX-3, '74 Mazda pickup truck, and an '82 RX-7-all were street-ported 13Bs," says Victor. "That's why some of my friends call me 'Mr. Rotary.' It's in my blood." Apparently, rotaries aren't the only things flowing through his blood, as this guy is a major tuning fiend. He can't go through life without at least having one fixed-up car. With two kids and a wife, Victor still manages to tune his car the way he likes, and attend shows and organize Datsun swap meets. His passion goes beyond the usual air filter, wheels, and exhaust setup.

It took two years to build the 510 just the way he wanted. He opted for the metallic candy-apple red for sentimental value-his RX-7 was the same color-and good luck, since red represents good fortune for the Chinese, which he attributes to finding the rare SSR Super Mesh wheels. "I was in the Datsun Z show and came across a clean orange 510 with the awesome SSR Super Mesh rims. I complimented the owner of the car, and we traded numbers. Months later, he called me to see if I knew anyone who wanted to buy the rims. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity."

Obtaining the car was also part of Victor's good fortune. After six months of price negotiations with the previous owner, Victor was lucky to have the car available in the end since 510s are one of the most coveted vehicles around. In fact, there have been many cases where valued 510s were stolen because of their rarity. Victor counteracts this with numerous security measures, including himself. A third-degree black belt in gosoku-ryu karate, Victor will probably beat the corruption out of any criminal trying to steal his treasure. "I have broken my opponents' ribs and given them concussions," he calmly declares. I took this as a cue to stop kicking his tires and making kung-fu noises while waving my hands across his face. "But I felt really guilty hurting them." As a result, I asked him to kick some random guy's ass in the restaurant, but to no avail. "I know how to control and diffuse confrontations before they escalate to physical violence." His advice for the best way to stop an attacker is to poke them in the eyes and kick them in the groin. So when asked if he's ever been kicked in the family jewels, he responded with his hands over his crotch and an emphatic, "Oh yes!" With that in mind, there is no doubt his 510 will be safe inside his garage. As a member of the Southern California UFO (United Five-Ten Owners), Victor rejoices daily when he drives his prized possession to work. "I chose the Datsun 510 because of its classic look, handling, and great racing history. Plus, I look good in it!" Without a doubt, Victor's diminutive size fits perfectly in the small, quaint cabin inside the Datsun, and people will continue to stare and be mesmerized by the inherent beauty and classic design of the 510-it surely is candy for the eyes.

Fast FactsOwner Victor ChicoRide '71 Datsun 510Hometown Los Angeles, CaliforniaDaily Grind Martial arts instructor

Under The Hood
13B four-port rotary, Monster street-port by Norman and Kam at SidePex, balanced and blueprinted, 9.7:1 compression, 3mm apex seal, pinned rotors, tricked e-shaft for more oil flow, Weber 48 downdraft carburetor, Holley fuel pressure meter, Carter fuel pump, two MSD-6A ignitions with two MSD blaster 45,000-volt coils, Racing Beat street and strip clutch and pressure plate, 2-1 headers, pre-silencer, and custom exhaust split into two Borla mufflers; Griffin aluminum 1.25 core radiator, 411 limited slip, custom wire harness by Leo and Admir at Phix Mobile Service

B210 brake booster with 280ZX master cylinder, custom-built 280ZX front struts and calipers/rotors by Mario at Toe Speed Racing, 280Z finned aluminum brake drums

Stiff Stuff
TMC coils, camber kit and 1.125 front sway bars, front and rear polyurethane bushings, Tokico shocks, Matrix strut bar

15x7 SSR Super Mesh wheels, Nitto NT 450 tires

PPG Metallic candy-apple red, custom mounted hood scoop, old-school air dam, rear wing, paint, and body by Ronald at California Z

Auto Meter Sport Comp oil, volt, water gauges, and air/fuel ratio monitor; custom built-in Pivot tach with shift-light, custom upholstered front and rear seats with two-tone black/deep-red by Felipe at I & R Auto, MOMO Race steering wheel, Rzo aluminum pedals, Tenzo R shift knob, Sony deck with 10-disc CD changer

Sylvia, my wife, for understanding my need for speed; Christian, my six-year-old son and tool assistant; Lee, my 16-month-old son, who likes to use my 510 as a playpen; and my compadres, Rommel and Dave, who I can count on any time I need their assistance. With it all, I was able to combine one of the best handling cars with the best non-turbo output a 1.3L motor can have to cure my need for speed.

By Roel F. Concepcion
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