The Datsun 510 is unquestionably a timeless classic. Built for economy but later adopted by road course racers, this vehicle has a rich heritage in motorsports. The beauty you see before you on these pages has been thirty years in the making. Owner Kevin Koford has been into Datsuns since the early days of our scene, dating back as far as 1977. Even though all his high school buddies lusted after the ubiquitous muscle cars of the era, he pined for something a little different. That "unusual" car came along in the form of a Datsun 510 after one of his schoolmates showed up one day with a bright orange wagon. Lowered on some 13x7 AREs, it hooked him immediately. A few weeks later he found his dream realized when he picked up a similar orange wagon off of a used car dealer's lot. These little Japanese tin boxes can be very addicting, and this car would only be the beginning.
After his craze in 'Datsundom' concluded, Kevin settled down, bought a 'normal' car and moved on. But he always kept in the back of his mind what he would do if he ever built another 510. Fast-forward to 1998, when Kevin finally knuckled down and decided to buy another 510 and purchased the one you see here. Although bone stock at the time, many grandiose plans were being constructed for it from day one. He removed the stock engine and starting making plans to build the infamous 2.2L stroker version of the stock type engine, known as the LZ22. During the research portion of the swap, Kevin found his way over to the shop of the great Steve Epperly. Those in the Datsun fan club know will likely recognize that name, as he's had a hand in building a vast number of Pacific Northwest Datsuns. His shop, Z-Therapy, has also rebuilt hundreds of 240Z and 510 SU carburetors for many happy customers over the years. Steve made a few suggestions on what to do, but probably created more questions in Kevin's brain than answers. Keep in mind that during Kevin's hiatus from the 510 scene things had exploded. People were doing things that no one in 1983 would have even dreamed of.
On the suggestion of another Oregon Datsun guru, Michael Spreadbury, Kevin started looking into swapping the KA24DE from an S13 240SX into his little Dime. This engine is becoming rather commonplace and inexpensive as copious amounts of S13/S14 owners switch to the powerhouse SR20DET. As such, they are being seen more often in 510s and Roadsters than in their original donor chassis. Although these engines get no respect from 240SX owners, they can really come alive when you swap them into a car that is nearly 1000 pounds lighter. And Kevin decided to up the ante even more with his.
As the swap commenced, the decision was made to use forced induction to double the meager horsepower of the stock KA24DE. The engine block was bored .020 over in anticipation of custom made forged JE pistons. In addition to the full floating wrist pins, they were used to drop compression to a more boost friendly 8.0:1. With a stock forged crank and rods the bottom end of the KA24DE is quite stout from the factory, so these items were simply balanced for the rigors of high RPM usage. The head retains its stock ports, but benefits from the installation of Jim Wolf Technology (JWT) S-1 cams, JWT 8-way adjustable cam gears, new guides, and a 3-angle valve job. The factory exhaust manifold was ditched in favor of a custom tubular header fabricated by Steve Epperly to send the exhaust gases either through the HKS 40mm wastegate, or into the custom Turbonetics T3/T4E turbo. After the intake charge is compressed, it is routed through stainless piping and into a Starion intercooler. After the boosted air is cooled off, it heads for either the HKS Type 1 blow-off valve or into the stock throttle body and intake manifold. Since the stock 270cc injectors quickly proved themselves to not be up to the task of all this power, they were replaced. A Walbro 255 LPH in-tank fuel pump now feeds high-octane fuel through braided stainless lines into Nismo 740cc injectors. To expel spent gases, a custom 3" ceramic-coated downpipe feeds the mandrel bent 3" exhaust system. Quieting this cacophony is the job of a stainless Borla XR-1 muffler. To send the power rearward, a JWT 11 pound aluminum flywheel and ACT clutch attach the engine to the stock S13 5-speed transmission.
With a JWT modified ECU, the combo proved very potent. It mainly excelled at showing Kevin how poorly the stock rear suspension handles this kind of torque. As such, another visit was paid to Steve Epperly's shop to address the issue. On Steve's recommendation, the entire rear suspension (and part of the floor) was scrapped in favor of a one-off 4-link live axle set-up. Since the 510 wagon live axle is one of the stoutest third members Datsun ever built, it was called to duty for this application. To fit tires that were wide enough that they wouldn't just go up in smoke any time full throttle was applied, several changes were made. Steve took the wagon axle and swapped in a Nismo 3.89:1 LSD, S13 disc brakes, narrowed the axles and housing, and custom made a 1" sway bar. The final step in getting the 225/40-16 tires under the fenders without flares was to actually pull the entire quarter panel out approximately 1". This modification is so amazingly subtle that unless parked next to a stock fendered 510, it is all but invisible.
Since nothing remained of the stock bits out back, those same stock underpinnings would not do up front either. As with most 510s, the front suspension is an amalgam of different JY Datsun parts. Starting with a modified '69 510 crossmember (it has slightly better geometry than the later units), Kevin added '79 810 strut housings and spindles. Using 280ZX hubs, he put together a combination of Stillen cross-drilled rotors meant for a Z31 300ZX, and massive Toyota 4Runner 4-piston calipers. To assist in adjusting ride height, Coleman coil-over sleeves were used; and Eibach 2.5" springs got the nod to stiffen it all up.
Outside the car, modifications were kept to a minimum to retain the classic look of the little Yokohama shoebox. Other than the aforementioned pulled fenders, changes were limited to minor updates like the vintage BRE front "spook". To keep the intercooler out of the way of air coming directly through the custom aluminum radiator, the Starion 'cooler was mounted between the bumper and the spook. As low as the car is, you barely even notice it unless the car is coming up hard in your rearview mirror. The front and rear lights were replaced with their Euro counterparts to help dress things up further. Kevin also replaced the stock "DATSUN" fender badges with brand new JDM "Bluebird" badges. To continue the trend, a rare JDM Bluebird grill and "SSS" grill emblem were also added. To keep it subdued, the 510 was repainted the original Code #019 "Sunshine Yellow."
While the car was driven in this configuration for quite some time, bringing both smiles and accolades to Kevin, he longed for more. The JWT-modified ECU was able to make the car produce over 200hp at the rear wheels, but Kevin knew this was the limiting factor. A call was placed to the good folks at AEM for one of their stand-alone EFI systems. A visit to John Reed at RRev Motorsports had him on his way to being able to tune this beast to achieve its full potential. At the time this was written, nothing more than a baseline tune and 6psi has already created more power than the old set-up. With some extensive dyno tuning, and a streetable 16psi, Kevin and the crew at RRev are confident that 300-330hp at the wheels is not only possible, but very likely. While it was not built to be a show car, it has won its fair share of trophies, generally taking Best of Show everywhere it goes. But Kevin hasn't forgotten what he built this car for: to have a lot of fun on the street.
Its Best of Show appearance certainly got some unwanted attention while we were out photographing it for you. Not to pull back the curtain too far, but we often run into snags on these types of photo shoots. Anything ranging from inquisitive onlookers, to the full court press is possible when out in the field. This time out was no exception. While I was hanging out the window of a rental car snapping some rolling shots of Kevin's yellow "dime", we were both pulled over by Portland PD's finest - on our very first pass no less. Convinced we were up to no good, she told us that we would have to leave town or be arrested for street racing. This was especially odd, since we were only going 30mph in a 35mph zone. The rental car versus the 510 at 30mph, let me tell you, what a race you missed. At least she was really, really hot. After giving us these two options, our request for house arrest at her place did not go over well.
But alas, we digress. Kevin Koford has good reason to be proud of what he's created. As with most project cars, it's never really finished. He has plans for future upgrades, and if he stays true to form they will be both tasteful and powerful. As they used to say in the adverts from the '70s: "Drive a Datsun, then decide."
Base Engine: Ka24de(T) (From S13 240sx)
Power: 269.2 Hp @ 6200rpm, 279.0 Lb-Ft. @ 4200 Rpm
Je Forged Pistons
Forged Polished And Shot-Peened Rods With Arp Bolts
Jwt S1 Camshafts
Jwt 8-Way Adjustable Cam Gears
Steve Epperly Custom Header
Custom Ceramic Coated 3" Downpipe And 3" Exhaust
Nismo 740cc Injectors
Aem Engine Management
Black Powdercoated Valve Cover
Walbro 255 Lph Fuel Pump
Msd 6a Ignition System
S13 240sx 5spd Transmission
Jwt Aluminum Flywheel
Nismo 4 Pinion Clutch-Plate Type Lsd
3.89:1 Final Drive Ratio
Tokico Illumina Adjustable Struts And Shocks
Eibach Ers 2.5" Springs
Custom 1" Adjustable Front Sway Bar
Custom 3/4" Adjustable Rear Sway Bar
Stillen Strut Tower Brace
Custom 6pt Roll Cage (Tied Into Suspension)
Stillen Z31 11.6" Rotors And 4 Piston Calipers Front
Stillen S13 9" Rotors And Single Piston Calipers Rear
Ebc "Green Stuff" Pads
Coleman Braided Stainless Brake Lines
Wheels And Tires
Panasport Fs16 Wheels 16x7 11mm Offset
Kumho Ecsta Supra 712 Tires: 205/40vr-16 Front
Vintage Style Bre "Spook," Clearanced For Intercooler
Original Nissan "Sunshine Yellow 019" Paint
Sparco Torino Seats
Momo Competition Steering Wheel
Momo Competition Shift Knob
Custom 6pt Roll Cage
Alpine Ipod-Compatible Head Unit
Two Alpine Amps, Four Alpine Speakers
6" Bazooka Tube Subwoofer
Full Custom Instrumentation