Buying a '70s car isn't as simple as firing up the computer and picking your favorite interior and exterior colors on automotive websites. Finding the right car, in this case a Datsun 510, involves commitment and knowledge of the vehicle, as well as knowing what you're getting yourself into. Think of it as building a full-scale model toy but with much more intricate parts. Small purchases are one thing, but spending thousands of dollars on a car that's over 40 years old is a risky proposition.
It's been almost six months since I purchased the Datsun 510, and have yet to find all the parts I need to restore it. This isn't a ride that you can simply order new parts for and call it a day. We're in it for the long haul and don't plan on settling on driving around a trendy rusted turd with "patina" paint, slammed to the ground with some wheels.
Within days of purchasing the car, we began stripping the machine as well as cleaning up the engine bay and stitch-welding the seams.
Suspension UpgradesWith just enough time for the engine bay to cool down from the stitch welding and grinding makeover, the Datsun 510 was hoisted on jackstands to begin upgrading the suspension. After purchasing a car with over 40-plus years of wear and tear on the chassis, including all the rubber bushings and components, it was a no-brainer that new parts to obtain proper suspension geometry were the key to maximizing our car's safety as well as improve handling. To address the issue, we used a custom Ground Control coilover setup as well as a number of Futo Fab performance components, including a set of front lower control arms (LCAs), adjustable TC rods, spherical control arm bushings, and rear camber/toe adjusters.
Futo FabThe Futo Fab adjustable LCAs are made of 6160-T3 billet aluminum and designed to replace the vehicle's factory stamped-steel control arms. Specially designed rod ends allow the user to adjust the front suspension's settings by turning the bolts to properly adjust the suspension and prevent premature and uneven tire wear. The key for this project is to improve handling for street driving as well as weekend track racing.
We removed the OE rear crossmember and noticed the arm brackets were slotted by the previous owner to address camber issues. This mod is common among 510 owners, but we consider it merely a Band-Aid if performance and handling is to be achieved. And for that, we decided to weld up a set of Futo Fab rear camber/toe adjusters with adjustments of 1.5+/3- camber and 1-inch toe out/1.4-inch toe in. We also enlarged the exhaust hole to accommodate bigger piping.
Futo Fab recommends using the OE rubber bushings or spherical bushings with their kit, as polyurethane with any camber/toe adjustments will cause the bushings to bind. We carefully cut out the OE collars holding the bushings and chiseled them out.
The spherical bearings deliver increased NVH, but offer significant handling improvements. We adjusted both arms to the crossmember before Evasive Motorsports technician JJ TIG welded the collars into place.
Ground ControlGround Control is a name that has been long associated with the Import Tuner market but what many might not know is that they offer custom coilovers for Datsun models, namely the 510. Prior to contacting GC, we tossed our front strut assembly equipped with no-name coilovers and ancient OE brake calipers in the trash for a direct swap 280Z assembly with stronger spindles, larger brake calipers, and vented rotors. The rear drums were also chucked in favor of 280Z disc brakes.
The GC coilover system comes equipped with a camber/caster plate design that allows the sliding mount to go under the stock sheetmetal. GC uses your existing strut assembly to transform into a high-performance coilover system.
GC offers customizing your vehicle's suspension setup and spring rates. Using Eibach Race Springs, 6061 aluminum adjuster sleeves, and gusseted strut support, these coilovers are proudly made in the United States. We went one step further and had GC powdercoat the setup in blue to match the car as well as powder the springs in silver. Although 375-pound coilover springs sound high, we took into consideration how heavy our motor would be in comparison to the factory L16 along with a very heavy six-speed trans.
Techno Toy TuningDeciding on whether to simply replace the steering rods for a set of OE units or upgrade to Techno Toy Tuning's steering outer tie rod kit was a no-brainer. The solid steel arm design with self-lubricating Teflon-lined rod ends provide greater deflection and are fully adjustable. Anyone who previously or currently owns a Datsun 510 knows that when it comes to handling, these cars need all the help they can get!
Installing the steering kit required drilling the knuckles and control arm to 5/8 inch. A set of Techno Toy Tuning RCA's (roll center adjusters) was installed in anticipation of eliminating bumpsteer, a common occurrence associated with lowered cars.
Braking UpgradesA trip to the junkyard landed a hard-to-find 15/16 master brake cylinder pulled from a 280ZX. This MC is vital when upgrading to front and rear disc brakes for any 510 and is a direct bolt-on.
To increase braking performance, we purchased a pair of StopTech slotted/drilled front and rear rotors, Project Mu B Force brake pads, and a set of Goodridge stainless steel brake lines. The drilled design of the rotors helps dissipate heat while the slotted grooves clean the rotor and offer better bite and less brake fade.
The Project Mu B Force brake pads offer the perfect balance of performance and streetability. These pads are ideal in providing good stopping power while emitting low dust and squeal properties, keeping rotor wear to a minimum.
Kaaz Limited 1.5-Way Slip DifferentialUpon purchasing the car, we were pleasantly surprised that it had already been equipped with a R200 long nose out of at 240Z. Unfortunately, it was a bittersweet moment as we rotated the wheel to find out it was an open-diff unit.
Finding a CLSD (clutch limited-slip diff) in a 10mm gear bolt design is nearly impossible. To remedy the situation, we decided on purchasing a brand-new unit from Kaaz USA for a Nissan S13. The Super Q LSD 1.5-way unit comes with special clutch packs already prepared by WPC treatment for smooth engagement, improved heat dissipation, and longer wear life.
Since our new diff was a 12mm gear bolt, a quick web search netted some special hard metal Teflon-lined collars from McFadden Dales. These collars were the perfect solution to insert into the new diff while using the 10mm ring gear and bolts. It should also be noted that both units have a spline count of 29 teeth.
Kazz USA owner Ray Nakadate offered his assistance to help adjust the clutch packs to 80 percent locking. This was deemed necessary with our lightweight car, as 100 percent locking would be too aggressive for street driving and would do us more harm than good. Shingo Yugamii of Bluemoon Performance in Costa Mesa, CA, reassembled the unit and toleranced the setup to ensure proper ring-and-pinion backlash.
Wolf Creek Racing CV Halfshaft Axle KitWolf Creek Racing has specially designed a complete CV axle bolt-on kit to replace the OEM U-joint halfshafts. Designed for use with R160, R180, and R200 diffs in 510's, 610's, 240Z, 260Z, and 280Z's, these CV axle kits are a must if you want to avoid severe driveline vibration in a lowered 510. Each kit is comprised of Porsche-type high-performance CV joints, chromoly 'cages and hardened alloy races, and 4340 chromoly custom axles.
When you lower the 510 it causes the OE halfshaft U-joints to operate at a significant angle. This creates a fast/slow rotational pulse during the rotation of each joint. If the inner and outer U-joints do not have exactly equal and offsetting angles to phase out these rotational pulses, it creates a driveline vibration. The larger the angle at the U-joint the higher the rotational pulse becomes. In a severely lowered car, even the slightest difference in the offsetting U-joint angles will cause a driveline vibration. The only real way avoid to avoid this type of vibration is to convert to CV axles.
Futo Fab Reproduction Body PanelsAs the Datsun 510 nears 46 years since its U.S. debut, finding good parts can become a daunting task. Until now, sourcing reproduction body panels meant having to settle for either used junkyard parts or fiberglass molds. Futo Fab recently debuted a number of steel body panels that offer exceptional fitment and OE appearance.
Our 510 was in desperate need of a front valence, since the previous owner decided to chop the piece to make room for an A/C core.
The OE fenders are notorious for rust corrosion (as shown in the photo). The mounds of dirt trapped behind the fenderwell are the number-one cause of rust. Notice the cancer spots bubbling under the paint? That, my friends, is corrosion and the panel will need to be replaced.
A decent-looking junkyard find quickly reveals its ugly head once you flip the panel. A shoddy side marker light patch, some fiberglass cover-ups and body filler toward the bottom panel indicate a cover-up of the rust.
Unless you look carefully, you might notice only the slightest difference between the reproduction and OEM fenders. Dave Patten, owner of Futo Fab, mentioned that the biggest single difference was the thickness of the sheetmetal. The OE fender metal measured .029-inch thick, while the reproduction unit came in at .039-inch thick, roughly one-third thicker. The heavier gauge steel is not only more resilient to bumps and hits, but also more resilient to climactic weather conditions.
Datsunland Socal Rubber SealsThere's no surprise that rubber seals get old, deteriorate, and shrink from sun/rain and UV damage. Our project car was no exception as the entire car's rubber including the trunk seals was so brittle they had to be removed in chunks. The front windshield was just as discouraging as we cut off the seal, only to notice that the underlying areas were bare metal that had rusted and pitted away.
Datsunland Socal is your one-stop shop for hard-to-find rubber window, trunk, door, and body seal replacement parts. Specializing in rubber window and weather seals for Datsuns, these remanufactured rubbers are backed by a limited lifetime guarantee.
From common replacement pieces, such as side marker time to the harder-to-find gas doorstoppers, Datsunland Socal's complete weather seal kit has it all.
Stay tuned for our next issue when we tackle some additional modifications including our engine build.