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1974 Nissan Sunny B310 and 1979 Nissan Sunny B310 - Mostly Sunny With A Chance Of Race

One Man, One Love and a Whole Lotta’ Sunnys

Sean Klingelhoefer
Apr 18, 2011

One of the things I most enjoy about being an editor at the best tuner mag ever is getting to show you readers cars that I like, especially rare machines like these Nissan Sunnys. The Sunny B310, or Datsun 210 as it was sold in the US, is a very rare car to begin with. Even in Southern California where we have an abundance of JDM classics, I’ve only ever seen two examples while driving. Seeing them outfitted with vintage old stock race parts anywhere outside of Japan is almost impossible, which leads us to the world famous Sunny tuner Pit Road.

Sstp 1105 01 o+nissan sunny b310+left side view Photo 2/21   |   1974 Nissan Sunny B310 and 1979 Nissan Sunny B310 - Mostly Sunny With A Chance Of Race

Although I spend most of my time reading Super Street, when I’m not working on this magazine I’m usually spending time reading Japanese books (or rather looking at the pictures) and my favorite JDM pub hands-down is G-Works. For those of us spoiled enough to live in LA a simple trip to the Japanese bookstore is all we need to get our JDM fix. Each month G-Works features the most amazing classic cars Japan has to offer. Features are towards the front, followed by in-depth tech and DIY articles and then event coverage in the back. One of the events I always look forward to are the JCCA (Japanese Classic Car Association) vintage races, particularly the TS Cup Race where I first found Pit Road.

The TS Cup is one of the more popular enthusiast race events in Japan and is comprised primarily of Sunnys (B110 and B310) and Starlets (KP61) and is run on a strict rule set to even the playing field. The rules are also written to encourage participants to keep their cars as close as they can to the original race machines of the 1970s and even modifications like wild fluorescent paint jobs are illegal unless special permission has been granted from the JCCA. It seemed that the Sunnys associated with Pit Road were always at the front of the pack, often winning and setting the fastest lap of the race. It wasn’t long before I was daydreaming of one day owning a Sunny of my own, and thus I began scouring Craigslist for a chassis and familiarizing myself with parts catalogs from Pit Road and body parts manufacturer Restored.

Soon after I realized that although a chassis could be had for less than $1000, it would cost over 20x’s that actually build the car to a level that even approached a TS Cup contender. Alas the dream was put on hold but my admiration for Pit Road stayed well intact and it wasn’t until this year’s Tokyo Auto Salon that the spark went off again. Although they are amazing cars, over the past year we’ve had a massive influx of Hakosukas, Kenmeris and Fairladys and this year I really wanted to step away from the mainstream and find a classic that was truly something special. When I found the #22 Restored/Pit Road Sunny at the G-Works booth I knew it fit the bill perfectly.

They say everything happens for a reason and the chance meeting with Restored owner Seiji Inata couldn’t have been more ironic. As fate would have it the #22 was never even supposed to be at the show but some quick thinking on the part of Pit Road’s Takakazu Sano made it happen. When Restored was first given the invitation to come to TAS they had recommended Sano-san bring his #23 Sunny, arguably the most famous B310 in the world, but Takakazu had another idea. Rather than bringing his car he proposed to do a full makeover of the #22 car, which had been sitting since 2006.

Although the car had been sitting for years it was still a very well known car in Japan. In 2004 the car was driven by former Nissan Works driver and Japanese motorsports legend Kenji Tohira (who signed the dash) to a first place finish at Fuji Speedway during the Nismo Festival. For this reason Sano believed this Sunny would bring more excitement to Auto Salon and he set off putting the car back together. The main hurdle the car faced was the lack of a working engine; fortunately Pit Road specializes in building top-notch A series motors and Sano had several lying around. The problem came when he received three orders on January 4th, 5th and 6th for motors and he was out of stock almost over night. The only solution in sight was to remove the engine from the #23 car and install it into #22.

Rather than leave the car parked for another unknown amount of years Takakazu decided to do just that and made short work of transplanting the engine. A few more minor tweaks and adjustments and the car was ready for TAS where thousands of onlookers, myself included, would drool in its presence. There was no doubt from looking at the car that this was a very special Sunny and that the man behind the build was worth a closer look. With the help of our JDM counterpart Tetsu we set up a meeting and drove to Chiba where I would experience first hand what automotive obsession looks like.

Placed in an odd location in the middle of a fork in the road (literally) is a shop covered in vintage signage known to Sunny enthusiasts as Pit Road. Pulling into the parking lot littered with Sunny shells we are immediately greeted by a soft-spoken gentleman who appears to be in his fifties. He kindly offers us a coffee and invites us to his office for a quick chat. Although I can’t understand a word of what he’s saying (Sano-san doesn’t speak English) I can tell from facial gestures and body language that he is very excited by our presence. I keep myself occupied by examining vintage racing posters while he talks with Tetsu, all the while tightly clenching a menthol cigarette in his teeth.

As it turns out Sano was discussing how his overseas business has been steadily increasing, particularly in Europe, which has taken him by surprise. His website keeps orders coming and although he cannot speak English he has a translator built into the site and another person who helps with English orders, surprisingly web savvy for such a small operation. He mentioned that the biggest problem he gets from overseas customers is either people don’t give him an address or he simply cannot tell the difference between the customer’s name and their address to properly ship the order. He asks for anyone in the US that is interested in purchasing products to please make it very clear which is your name and which is the address remember he can’t read English!

With the discussion nearing an end I’m getting antsy to start shooting these machines. The #22 is still on the trailer from the show so we first have to unload it and position it for photos. We help unload the car and I’m amazed at how light it is, according to Sano only 670kg (1424lbs, the #23 is even less)! In order to meet weight requirements for TS Cup 30kg of weight ballast have to be added to the car. On top of being a light car to begin with the weight savings are largely due to the severe gutting of the car and FRP/Carbon pieces from Restored.

The wide over fenders allow for 13X8" wheels up front and 13X9" out back, in the case of the #22 car the wheels take form in the shape of original Magnesium RS Watanabes dating back to the same era as the chassis and costing upwards of $5000. Although not a requirement of the JCCA, the truly hardcore TS racers like most of Pit Road’s customers will spare no expense to get as many vintage parts as they can. According to Sano, some of the most sought-after parts, aside from wheels, are original Nismo C.D.I. orange box ignition and genuine Formula 1 Smiths Chronometric Tachometers (as seen in #23), both of which fetch more than the price of a used Honda Civic.

However, the real magic lies under the hood where Pit Road established itself as the number one Sunny tuner. According to Sano-san he is most well known for transmission tuning and he specializes in sourcing and re-building vintage Hewland dog boxes. He is some how able to find these transmissions all over the world and imports them then assembles them to his own specification for himself and his customers. A close second to his transmission work are Pit Road’s engine building services. The engine inside the #22 car is capable of creating over 160hp out of 1.3L and revs beyond 9000rpm. Getting that kind of performance from a 40-year-old reverse-flow 2-valve-per-cylinder OHV engine is nothing short of astonishing. Owning one takes nothing short of a small fortune.

While I walked through Pit Road’s engine building room (essentially an upscale shack) these engines became even more impressive. Everything Takakazu does he does old school. There are no fancy computers, no flow benches; hell there isn’t even a dyno, just a man with hand tools and a hell of a lot of experience. There are enough cylinder heads, blocks, carbs and other miscellaneous pieces lying around to assemble at least half a dozen engines and in time Sano surely will. At over $15k for a fully built Pit Road A series you’re getting a service that’s unmatched anywhere on the planet. Surprisingly, even at these costs he can’t keep up with demands.

Sano’s likely built more A series engines than anyone in the world who wasn’t a Nissan factory worker in the 70s and his reputation in the Sunny world is no less than legendary. So of course I had to ask, why the Sunny? It all started when I was 19, he tells me, I was working for a Nissan Sunny dealer. At the same time I started to participate in B110 Sunny Normal Cup (showroom stock) races and I finished 6th in my very first race. Then in the 70s I started to race in the TS Sunny race and it just snowballed from there. For the next 40 years Sano continued to run Sunnys in TS races, Gymkana and Dirt Trials, all the while falling more and more in love with the cars, eventually opening Pit Road in 1984.

When I was young I was interested in many cars, Sano explains, but now I am only interested in the Nissan Sunny. It is this ideology that seems to be a common bond amongst the Japanese, do one thing and do it very well, that has always caught my admiration. So I wanted to ask the expert what his thoughts were on building a fast racing Sunny, and his answer was interesting. The most important aspect of a racing Sunny is a good engine. The next one is not the car but improving driver’s skill is very important.

According to Sano his motto is do not spend a lot of money on the suspension because the B110, 210, 310 Sunny has a very simple suspension. He claims spending a lot of money here will not do much to improve the car, adding but that is just my motto because if I push my opinion the customers would hate me! He laughs, That’s why I don’t do it! It seems to me that not taking Takakazu’s opinions seriously would be a bit fool hardy, but as they say a fool and his money are soon parted and everyone’s gotta’ eat!

Before I knew it, it was almost time to leave, but not before posing for a picture with the #23 car for Pit Road’s photo album. The scenes of the day are still fresh in my memory as write this and I have to admit as jaded as I might get it’s a real treat to be able to go to such amazing places like Pit Road and meet people as dedicated and polite as Sano-san. It reminds me I do have one of the best jobs in the world and it only gets better by the fact that I get to share it with you guys every month. Until next time I hope you enjoyed my little neck of the Japanese woods.

Tuning Menu
1974 Nissan Sunny B310 (#23)
Owner
Takakazu Sano Hometown Sakado Sakura-Shi Chiba, Japan Occupation Owner Of Pit Road

Sstp 1105 06 o+nissan sunny b310+rear view Photo 15/21   |   1974 Nissan Sunny B310 and 1979 Nissan Sunny B310 - Mostly Sunny With A Chance Of Race

Engine Engine removed and installed into #22 for Tokyo Auto Salon; new engine build in progress

Drivetrain Vintage old-stock Hewland 5-speed close ratio dog-engagement gear box; Pit Road customized TRD AE86 LSD

Footwork & chassis Pit Road full pillow ball adjustable coilover; 12-point chromium molybdenum steel rollcage

Brakes Nissan President MK63 front brake calipers, Nissan Silvia rear caliper; custom lines and brackets by Pit Road

Wheels & tires 13X8/9" Advan Racing A3A wheels; 205/50R13 front 225/50R13 rear Advan race slicks

Exterior Restored FRP front fenders, flares, doors, hatch, carbon-fiber hood; removed underbody coating; Tomei front lip and rear spoiler

Interior Sound deadening and any excess paneling removed; fire suppression system; Personal steering wheel; Bride bucket seat; Willans FIA harness; Omori gauges; Smiths Chronometric Formula 1 tachometer; Restored carbon-fiber door cards

WWW pitroad-ts.com; restored.jp/englishtop.htm; yokohamatire.com (Advan); jcca.cc/TS/2010.html (JCCA TS Cup)

Tuning Menu
1979 Nissan Sunny B310 (#22 car)
Owner
Yoshimitsu Ogura Power 162hp @ 9100RPM, 96 lb-ft @ 8300RPM

Sstp 1105 17 o+nissan sunny b310+rear view Photo 16/21   |   1974 Nissan Sunny B310 and 1979 Nissan Sunny B310 - Mostly Sunny With A Chance Of Race

Engine 1303cc normally-aspirated A12 engine; Pit Road Type-1 ported/polished/milled cylinder head, titantium valves, racing valve springs, guides, seals and retainers, racing push rods, hollow lifters, racing rocker arm kit, A race type camshaft, head bolts, metal head gasket, H cross section connecting rods, forged piston set, reinforced timing chain w/adjustable tensioner, racing baffled oil pan, racing pulley w/ignition pickup kit, tachometer gear box kit, 77mm bored block, oil journal expansion, racing crankshaft, racing header; Webber dual 48mm side draft carbs; Tomei intake manifold and adjustable cam sprocket; NISMO bearings, oil cap, NISMO/Earl’s oil cooler, aluminum radiator; Ultra plug wires, Ultra MDI ignition box; ATL FIA certified fuel cell; Wako gold ignition coil

Drivetrain Vintage old-stock Hewland 5-speed close ratio dog-engagement gear box; Pit Road customized TRD AE86 LSD

Sstp 1105 13 o+nissan sunny b310+parts Photo 17/21   |   1974 Nissan Sunny B310 and 1979 Nissan Sunny B310 - Mostly Sunny With A Chance Of Race

Footwork & chassis Pit Road full pillow ball adjustable coilover; Safety 21 12-point chromium molybdenum steel rollcage

Brakes Nissan President MK63 front brake calipers, Nissan Silvia rear caliper; custom lines and brackets by Pit Road

Wheels & tires 13X8/9" RS Watanabe original magnesium wheels; 205/50R13 front 225/50R13 rear Advan race slicks

Sstp 1105 15 o+nissan sunny b310+signs Photo 18/21   |   1974 Nissan Sunny B310 and 1979 Nissan Sunny B310 - Mostly Sunny With A Chance Of Race

Exterior Restored FRP front fenders, flares, doors, hatch, carbon-fiber hood; removed underbody coating; Tomei front lip and rear spoiler

Interior Sound deadening and any excess paneling removed; fire suppression system; Personal steering wheel; IMSA racing bucket seat; Willans FIA harness; Omori gauges

WWW pitroad-ts.com; restored.jp/englishtop.htm; watanabewheel.com; yokohamatire.com (Advan); jcca.cc/TS/2010.html (JCCA TS Cup)

By Sean Klingelhoefer
211 Articles

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