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Boxy-Cute: Super Street's 10 Most Popular Datsun 510

Know your Datsun roots—and get to know ten of the most visited 510 stories in Super Street history.

Bob Hernandez
Jun 29, 2020
Photographer: Super Street Archives

The Datsun 510—a variant of the Bluebird model line and sold outside the US and Canada as the 1600—was one of the cars that paved the way for the modern tuner scene. It was introduced in 1967 as a low-cost entry level compact that featured a SOHC mill and suspension made up of MacPherson struts up front and independent, semi-trailing arms in back but became popular among enthusiasts when the model started to rack up wins in motorsport, specifically road racing and rallying. Coming in four- and two-door sedan, two-door coupe and five-door wagon versions, there are lots of ways to go with a 510 project, as we learned putting together this list of the 10 most-visited Datsun 510 stories in Super Street history.

This Bluebird group consists partly of four wagons but only one four-door sedan. Most of the builds are US based but we have a couple from Japan and one 1600 wagon from Australia. Eight of the entries have engine swaps, but not all of them are SR20. And one of these Datsun 510 even belongs to the wife of a famous pro drifter.

  • John Healey's 1971 Datsun 1600 Wagon (510)
  • Matt Tomczek's 1972 Datsun 510
  • Chris Alvarado's 1968 Datsun 510
  • Yoshikazu Naruko's 1969 Datsun Bluebird (P510)
  • Keegan Hollister's 1972 Datsun 510
  • Jordan Patrick Connor's 1972 Datsun 510
  • John Huckins's 1972 Datsun 510 Wagon
  • Michelle Forsberg's 1972 Datsun 510 Wagon
  • Joe Bacigalupi's 1972 Datsun 510
  • Tatsuya Sugata's 1971 Datsun 510 Bluebird 1400 Deluxe

1971 Datsun 1600 Wagon (510) - Slow & Low

Top 10 Datsun 510s John Healey 1971 1600 Wagon 01 Photo 60/60   |   Boxy-Cute: Super Street's 10 Most Popular Datsun 510

John Healey's 1600 wagon takes cruising in style to breathtaking new levels, but it didn't come easy. Let's take just for example the Air Lift kit the car rides on; in order to get it to fit, John had to swap in a four-link rear end and custom 280ZX-based struts. The car's Work CR01s had to be re-lipped to get the offset perfect, which gave John an opportunity to have them color-matched in the same Glasurit Nissan Grey from the R35 as the body.

The interior of the wagon looks gorgeous and is period correct ta boot. Recaro fishnet front seats are upholstered in leather colored in the same maroon Datsun used at the factory and matched to fresh carpets, while a Nardi steering wheel and deep-set SSS-spec gauge panel continue the age-appropriate cabin theme.

More of Our Favorite Datsun
Fast and Furious Star Sung Kang's 1972 Datsun 240Z
Dominic Le's 1974 Datsun Sunny Hakotora Pickup

1972 Datsun 510 - That '70s Style

Top 10 Datsun 510s Matt Tomczek 1972 Photo 60/60   |   Boxy-Cute: Super Street's 10 Most Popular Datsun 510

Matt Tomczek's '72 510 is practically a new car considering how much rust had eaten away at what was originally there. Troy Ermish, who built the Datsun's cage, also welded in fresh floor pans, which preceded Matt then having every panel he could find new sheet metal for replaced, including quarter panels, fenders, trunk, taillight panel, front lower valance, and more. The skin was then shaded in a Jeep Anvil Gray.

Before unleashing it on the unsuspecting masses, Matt's 510 got a heart transplant and received a built SR20DET with an upgraded Garrett GTX3076 turbo that helps the almost-50-year-old Datsun make just over 300hp. When the 510 debuted in 2018, it took the West Coast by storm, earning second place and Judge's Top Pick at Stancenation, Best Restomod at Wekfest San Jose, Best Old School at SpoCom NorCal, and a Judges Choice nod at Shukai.

1968 Datsun 510 - One-of-a-Kind Dime

Top 10 Datsun 510s Chris Alvarado 1968 01 Photo 60/60   |   Boxy-Cute: Super Street's 10 Most Popular Datsun 510

We feel like all we have to do is write "Chris Alvarado's 510 was built by JDM Legends" and no further explanation would necessarily be needed, but that wouldn't be fair to you. So, we'll add that Chris was in the market for a Bluebird resto when he found this car at the world class Japanese car importers and restorers in Utah. JDML sold the Datsun to Chris and the two began collaborating on the project straightaway, an endeavor that was especially challenging because the '68 is the one model year variation that features a unique grille, side markers, taillights, door cards, dashboard and "bus windshield wiper" design.

Because they are JDM Legends, they spent a great deal of time tracking down parts from all around the world to keep the car as model year correct as possible. But arguably the coolest part of the project is what sits center stage in the super clean engine bay. What appears to be a KA motor swap is actually a KA twin-cam cylinder head atop a Datsun Z24 block built by Dave Rebello of the infamous Rebello Racing. JDML fabricated the custom equal-length stainless header (with a matching exhaust system) to round out what's under hood.

1969 Datsun Bluebird (P510) - Early Bluebird Special

Top 10 Datsun 510s Yoshikazu Naruko 1969 Bluebird 01 Photo 60/60   |   Boxy-Cute: Super Street's 10 Most Popular Datsun 510

Say what you will about guys who buy their cars already modified, there apparently can be some real gems out there. Like this Champagne gold Bluebird that Kyoto shop owner Yoshikazu Naruko scored, which came complete with SR20 swap, a rear-mounted cooling setup, some slick interior goodies, and a set of Work Equip 40 wheels.

Yoshikazu's daily driver was apparently previously built to drag race, which is pretty unusual considering the sport is not all that popular in Japan. The ex-owner supposedly spent a lot of time fine-tuning the cooling system in the rear in order to accommodate the largest intercooler possible. The decision to go with the rear setup came after a few high-temp passes produced a plethora of overheating issues, but we're guessing with this Bluebird's new role in life Yoshikazu probably won't need to worry about stressing out the engine as much.

1972 Datsun 510 - Cold War

Top 10 Datsun 510s Keegan Hollister 1972 01 Photo 60/60   |   Boxy-Cute: Super Street's 10 Most Popular Datsun 510

The story of Keegan Hollister's '72 510 might be described as a battle of brinksmanship between buds, which is to say the project is the result of Keegan and his friends continually one upping each other. After suffering humiliation at the track at the hands of said "friends," Keegan armed his Datsun with an SR20DET from a S14 Silvia and continued to update the car, converting it to coilover suspension and strengthening the subframe. After a custom steering rack from a Toyota MR2, a custom exhaust, a Subaru differential, an updated fuel system, and many other "while you're at it" mods, the 510 was ready for another race, and this time Keegan beat his old rivals.

Since that race, Keegan has added a larger Tomei turbo and header, bigger injectors, and a link-controlled ECU that gives him the option to switch between tunes, including one for water-methanol injection. The result is 350 hp and 290 lb-ft of torque—more than enough firepower for the 2,000-pound coupe for the next time Keegan's pals come calling.

1972 Datsun 510 - About-Face

Top 10 Datsun 510s Jordan Patrick Connor 1972 01 Photo 60/60   |   Boxy-Cute: Super Street's 10 Most Popular Datsun 510

Jordan Patrick Connor's road racing '72 510 is unconventional, for sure, but it's also exceedingly well thought out for a nearly-50-year-old track car, in spite of its Frankenstein appearance. That's by design, as Jordan likes to build his cars his way—a way that takes into account the variables of cost, performance, reliability, and availability when it comes to parts selection.

The modifications list is a litany of upgrades that meet that criteria: first-gen. turbo 2.4L LE5 Ecotec inline-4; customized factory Jeep engine mounts; Pontiac Solstice transmission; Subaru STI rear differential; Chevy Monte Carlo ECU; and rear wing from a Ferrari 458 Italia that ran in the ALMS. Ground Control coilovers are made up of modified struts from a 280ZX up front and Koni shocks in the rear, while hubs from a later-model 300ZX were also made to fit up front to work with rotors from the same chassis that've been updated with Wilwood calipers at both ends. A series of alignment plates, roll center adjusters, anti-sway bars, and tension rods—all of them adjustable—can also be found underneath, along with spherical bearings that do away with every bushing the Datsun originally had. This 510 is no joke.

1972 Datsun 510 Wagon - Forgotten Breed

Top 10 Datsun 510s John Huckins 1972 Wagon 01 Photo 60/60   |   Boxy-Cute: Super Street's 10 Most Popular Datsun 510

The lengths we go to for the cars we love—John Huckins knows all about that, having replaced both the engine and rear end TWICE on his beloved '72 Wagon. Apparently the SR the Datsun came with in 2007 when John bought it was too much for the factory rear, so after the third one he decided it was time for something serious—serious in the way of an 8.8-inch rear end yanked from Ford's also-turbocharged Thunderbird Turbo Coupe, complete with a Traklok limited-slip and disc brakes straight from the factory.

That Red Top SR power plant was cursed, too; on the third rebuild, John went with forged internals, a heavy-duty valvetrain, and a Precision turbo that's responsible for the 275 lb-ft of torque that goes along with 350 hp. Rader Performance Machine is responsible for the wagon's latest short-block holding together as long as it has, and the people from Stack of Dimes Fabrication whipped up things like intercooler piping that link up to the Precision turbo and Mishimoto intercooler.

1972 Datsun 510 Wagon - Happy Wife

Top 10 Datsun 510s Michelle Forsberg 1972 Wagon 01 Photo 60/60   |   Boxy-Cute: Super Street's 10 Most Popular Datsun 510

We have decided we want to marry a pro drifter just for the fringe benefits. Michelle Forsberg knows what we're talking about; her husband—3-time Formula DRIFT Champion Chris—built this Safari gold wagon for her and it is a beaut. Co-designed by the couple, Chris and a team of friends put in a lot of the elbow grease on the project, taking everything apart, clearing as much rust from the chassis as they could, and reassembling it. They swapped engines for a SR20DET (fully built with 400 hp at that) and performed tons of fab work, from a new floor pan to a fully upgraded suspension and complete Wilwood front and rear disc brake conversion. RAD Industries also chipped in with the charge and exhaust plumbing for the turbo wagon.

The custom exterior is an eyeful. Widebody fenders had to be retrofitted properly in order to flow with the wagon's body lines and still line up evenly with the contours of the original chassis. And your eyes do not deceive you—that is a Hakosuka face on this 510. Michelle's wagon made a big splashy debut at the 2018 SEMA Show.

1972 Datsun 510 - The Hot Cocoa Venti Effect

Top 10 Datsun 510s Joe Bacigalupi 1972 Wagon 01 Photo 60/60   |   Boxy-Cute: Super Street's 10 Most Popular Datsun 510

Wagons are sorta Joe Bacigalupi's thing (we featured his WRX 5-door in 2011) but this one was a hot mess when he first picked it up—botched KA swap, questionable paint ... the works. Thusly began an odyssey that transformed the 510 into a Mini Hot Chocolate metallic retro wagon from the early '70s packin' an extremely obscure S15 SR20DE Autech motor under the hood.

Joe went to painstaking lengths to keep the interior factory perfect, with subtleties like the OEM shift boot, fully functional 8-track in its stock location, and embossed Datsun logo on the rear seat all still intact. At one point in the build Joe ended up contacting Ray over at Garage Autohero to source the majority of the impossible-to-find 510 components, a move that ultimately pushed the cabin to a point where it could be showcased at its first meet.

1971 Datsun 510 Bluebird 1400 Deluxe - Back In The Day

Top 10 Datsun 510s Tatsuya Sugata 1971 Bluebird 1400 Deluxe 01 Photo 60/60   |   Boxy-Cute: Super Street's 10 Most Popular Datsun 510

Tatsuya Sugata from Yokohama calls this 1400 his "Killer Bird" but we just think its wild, even nine years after it was published. The exterior features a fiberglass front spoiler, carbon-fiber hood, Nismo LM GT4 wheels, and a body bathed in Honda Life Smash yellow applied by Ghost Factory. The chassis boasts an eye-opening mishmash of mods: TRD racing dampers with Zeal X-Coils springs in front, AE86 Tokico dampers with Refresh Skyline GC10 springs at the rear; T3 pillow ball control rods with custom-made and extended lower control pillow ball arms up front; rear Refresh semi-trailing arm camber bushings; and Suspension Techniques front and rear anti-roll bars. Brakes are made up of Forward Cox 4-pot calipers and Mugen S2000 slotted discs, while the rear drums were upgraded with items from a Datsun 240Z.

The engine is just as brow furrowing. Refresh 60 built the L20B swap, the shop sourcing a Nissan Motor Works FIA racing head which they ported and fit onto the custom bottom end. An R30 Skyline 5-speed transmission was chosen and fitted with a close ratio gear set from Kameari Engine Works, and for a nice finishing touch Tatsuya had the Datsun 1600 valve cover wet-sanded for a raw look. The interior? The dash is a shrine to Defi gauges, and Sugata rows through the gears with a EK9 Civic Type-R titanium shift knob. Crazy.

Top 10 Datsun 510s John Healey 1971 1600 Wagon 03 Photo 60/60   |   Boxy-Cute: Super Street's 10 Most Popular Datsun 510
By Bob Hernandez
894 Articles

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