It seems like a pretty wild project, but for Mario Hernandez it was quite a simple desire. You see, he comes from a family of Datsun lovers. His father owned Datsuns all his life. Mario and his brother Luis first learned how to wrench with these cars. Datsuns of that era are all very similar, so if you knew how to work on one, you became pretty well-versed for all the Datsuns. Most of the parts are interchangeable with each, making them very popular with the tuner enthusiasts.
The Datsun PL510 generation came in four variants: the Bluebird coupe (Japan only), the two-door 510 sedan, the four-door 510 sedan and the 510 wagon. While everyone, including his brother Luis (see our May '08 issue), built the two-door sedan, Mario wanted something a little more rare and maybe a little more car too. He went with the least popular of the bunch: the 510 wagon.
Now, when shopping for an old car, the number one goal is a straight body and frame. Well, Mario struck gold. Somehow he was lucky enough to find a 510 wagon in spectacular shape. It's still sporting the original paint that Datsun sprayed on over 35 years ago, and it's glossier than some of the cars I've seen come out of paint shops. Beyond the exterior, the interior is also in great shape; full original black vinyl interior, with no rips or tears in the seats.
Now comes the madness. Mario didn't just want to modify the original 1.6L four-cylinder. It was time for a newer, bigger power plant. Mario decided to put in one of Nissan's largest four-cylinder engines in his wagon. Some unlucky Nissan 240SX donated its 2.4L KA24DE engine. Along with that, Mario picked up a five-speed manual transmission from a '98 240SX. Now before you go out and try to buy one of the many abandoned KA24 engines and try this swap, it's not very simple. It takes quite a bit of work and fabrication to get this to work. "My challenge was to install a big engine in a small car," he said. Some of the custom work required major modifications to the front crossmember and a custom front sway bar. Old car plus new motor equals a wiring nightmare. I wouldn't even want to image the work involved there. But even before the gigantic KA went in, he had to make it a beast. Only real mechanics do internal work, and that's what Mario did. The head was ported and polished before it received a new Supertech valvetrain (valves, springs and retainers). Cheap cast pistons were tossed in the garbage and replaced with forged Wiseco units. Tomei injectors and a Vortech FMU were brought in to help fuel the fire in this dragon wagon.
As great as the 510 looks, no one just leaves it alone. A front air dam and Panasport rims were added to give this car that nostalgic race look. To give it more attention to detail, JDM taillights and front signals were installed (yes, JDM lights were a fad long before your car was even built).
A classic old skool car with the power and reliability of a new car, it's the perfect formula. A simple desire, but definitely a task neither easy nor common.
'71 Datsun 510
Owner Mario Hernandez
Hometown Los Angeles, CA
Daily Grind Technician at European Motors
Under The Hood 2.4L KA24DE; Wiseco forged pistons; port and polish headwork; Supertech valves, valve springs, and retainers; Tomei fuel injectors; chromed valve cover; VW Sirocco radiator; NGK spark plug wires; custom intake; Vortech FMU
Drivetrain '98 240SX five-speed transmission; Stage 3 clutch; dual diaphragm pressure plate; Cusco LSD
Stiff Stuff Eibach springs; Tokico front struts, rear shocks; custom-made front sway bar; GReddy front strut tower bar; Rollers 15x7 Panasport rims; Falken Azenis 205/50R15 tires
Outside original factory paint; aftermarket front air dam; JDM taillights and front signals;
Inside original factory vinyl seats; Auto Meter water, fuel, and oil gauges; Formuling France steering wheel
Props My brother, Luis, my son, Mario and especially my daughter, Melissa.
WWW cusco.co.jp; eibach.com; hitachi-hap-la.com/tokicogasshocks; ngksparkplugs.com; panasport.jp;supertechperformance.com; tomeiusa.com;vortechsuperchargers.com; wiseco.com