When we took our last trip to the Bay Area, we already had a set schedule: shoot a couple feature cars, meet a few clients, pretty basic stuff. What we didn't anticipate was being able to contact Tony Ruelas, the owner of this retroactive Datsun 510. During a small conversation we were having with friends, Nads brought up Tony's car, asking if they knew anyone who knew or could speak with the guy. It turns out that one of them just happened to have a connection only a phone call away. At that point, we beamed with excitement as the wheels were put in motion. We would get what we wanted. Tony's return call came within hours after a mere mention of the fellow. However, with one cell phone conversation, it was still unclear whether or not we would be able to meet. Our trip was already booked, and who knew if Tony had the time to meet a couple of photographers from L.A. Did he even know who we were? Maybe we were too late and another magazine beat us to the punch (which, by the way, rarely happens). But we finally settled it; he agreed to meet us the following day.
Showing up on time and as promised was a beautiful silver speedster-loud, low, and hard to miss. Even without seeing this it beforehand, we already knew we had a winner on our hands. Almost too perfect if you ask us. The ghost flames are what you see right off the bat. They, along with the paint, were hand done by Tony. Originally, the car was blue, but an accident a few years back gave him the inspiration to redo the entire car from the ground up. The entire chassis was stripped, repaired of all body damage and rust, and then painstakingly worked on for the next two years until it was worked into what you see now. We're talking inside and out. Every panel, bolt, and screw was removed, just so he could work on every part of the chassis. From the looks of it, you could hardly tell that the 510 had ever been flawed-it's that perfect.
But the bodywork alone shouldn't be enough to complete a masterpiece. In fact, the 2.2L L4 engine is just as much an equally serious setup as the rest of the car. Tony had the bottom end rebuilt and balanced with all new Nissan factory components, and then he had the cylinder head ported and polished by his friend, Rafael Orellana. It runs a four-barrel 390cfm carbureted setup, sucking in air through a K&N air filter and down through an Offenhauser intake manifold. A dual-pattern Erson cam lies beneath the L18 valve cover, while a custom Hooker header hangs off the exhaust ports. A Mallory fuel pump feeds increased volumes of fuel to a Holley fuel pressure regulator, and an MSD ignition box is used to generate extra engine spark. Tony says his engine is capable of producing 175 hp at 5,200 rpm (estimated) and 180 lb-ft of torque 4,700 rpm (estimated). The transmission has been reworked with close ratio gears and surprisingly does not require the use of a stronger clutch disc.
A 510 serves no purpose if it sits like a four-wheeler, and with that said, Tony's ride has been dropped considerably with a set of Tokico struts; whether or not there are any springs on there is left to the imagination. Controlling body sway and flex are a set of Suspension Techniques antiroll bars. We couldn't get the exact name of the wheels from Tony, but they look like Enkei 92s. The classic mesh wheel is a style that never grows old and matches this car perfectly; its polished, deep-dished construction is just too cool for school. The interior was also redone with as much of the original parts that he could find. The dash, seats, carpet, gauges, pedals, and shift knob are all immaculate-only a Grant steering wheel and custom door panels are replacements. But just because this car is predominantly old school doesn't mean it can't get jiggy with the new. Raymond Ng installed an Alpine head unit and amplifiers, and sound emanates through a set of Pioneer speakers and a Bazooka sub. There are also three TV screens, one positioned in the center dash and one in each headrest. For on-the-go entertainment, a PlayStation 2 console has been fitted underneath the dash.
Though our meeting happened by pure chance, it seems that fate was playing favorites that day when just asking about a car out of plain old curiosity lead to one of the coolest cars to be featured with us.
Fast FactsOwner Tony RuelasHometown Millbrae, CaliforniaRide '72 Datsun 510
Daily Grind Auto body and painter
Under The Hood '82 Nissan L4 engine, fully rebuilt and balanced with factory Nissan parts; Erson dual pattern camshaft, ported and polished cylinder head; Offenhauser intake manifold; Holley fuel regulator; Mallory fuel pump, and spark plug wires; K&N air filter; four-barrel 390cfm carbs; Hooker header; NGK spark plugs; close ratio transmission; MSD ignition
Stiff Stuff Tokico shocks; SuspensionTechniques anti-sway bars
Rollers Old-school mesh wheels; Goodyear Wing Foot tires
Outside Custom paint scheme using Nissan and Infiniti colors; ghost flames; all paint and body work by Tony Ruelas
Inside Original 510 seats, carpet, dash, gauges, shift knob, and pedals; Grant steering wheel; all custom upholstery by South City Auto Upholstery
Ice Alpine CD head unit, CD changer, and amplifiers; Pioneer speakers; Bazooka subwoofer; PlayStation 2; three TV screens
Props Tony Consola, Ken Wells, Manuel Campos, Joey Muscat, and my stepson, Keoni Fernandez for helping me with the flames.