Kampala, Kenya, 1970, Edgar Hermann and Hans Schuller started the East African Safari rally with all of Japan watching. One year earlier, the pair took its mildly prepared four-door Datsun 510 Bluebird from a 90th place starting position to an astonishing fifth overall finish. This year they were to start fourth.
The Safari rally was, and still is, one of the most grueling in the world. Stretching 3,852 miles across Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, it was normal for 80 percent of the cars not to finish. After getting stuck in the mud on the 4,000-foot Chesoi escarpment, Hermann and Schuller dropped off the leader boards. Then, in a move frightfully similar to our own Datsun rally adventures (see page 287), their service crew installed tire chains. The comeback that followed took them all the way to victory, finishing with a 51-minute lead over the second-place car--another 510. Only 19 of the 91 starters finished the rally. Six of these 19 were 510s.
Now might seem a strange time to celebrate that 32-year-old victory, but we're strange people. Stiff competition, an insatiable appetite for horsepower and some alarming wear and tear conspired to make an evolution model of our rally beater inevitable. What once was an underfunded, bare-bones entry-level rally car had to evolve or die, and so we have the Datsun 510 Evolution II Safari Edition.
Aside from the nostalgic Safari regalia, authentically reproduced with five cans of regal red, satin-finish Rust-Oleum, the most striking change to the EVO II is under the hood. The original dual-carbureted single-cam L18, nearly identical to that in Hermann and Schuller's car, has been replaced with a modern Nissan SR20DE. The installation is still being perfected, so we'll save the details for a future "Hybrid How-To." The effect of the new engine is already well documented, however. Not only does the EVO II get a 42-percent bump in power, but a more flexible powerband with 1500 extra rpm to play with, and modern fuel injection to automatically compensate for the drastic altitude changes encountered in rallying.
The EVO II's powerplant was first seasoned by four years of driving around Japan in an S13 Silvia. Then, in preparation for rally duty, the car was carefully crashed, the engine delicately removed, lovingly stacked in a crate with dozens of other engines, and aged, like a fine wine, in the Gardena, Calif. warehouse of G-Speed engine importers.
Final competition preparation proceeded in four steps. First, a steel intake tube was fabricated by Hot Shot Performance. Then a special rally spec exhaust was built, starting with a collector fabricated by Hot Shot, and ending with a short, side-exit exhaust made up of several Mitsubishi Eclipse exhausts found behind a dumpster at Road/Race Engineering. JWT S3 cams, which we never returned to JWT after an SR20 camshaft test in the June 2000 issue, were selected for their strong mid- and high-rpm power gains without any low-rpm sacrifices. Finally, a Nissan Pulsar GTi-R flywheel and JWT Nissan Maxima clutch send power rearward.
Sending power rearward can cause problems, however. In its first competition, the stock differential exploded. The EVO II's final differential spec is the result of an extensive testing and development program that involved competition testing three differentials and thinking seriously about two others. A limited slip, considered essential by many rallyists, was rejected because it costs actual money. The going rate is about $750 used. The 4.11:1 Nissan 200SX differential used in the EVO II (a 180mm unit, up from the original 160mm) can be had at many self-service rally supply yards for $70. If you prefer a car that handles like utter crap, the differential is one-way adjustable, converting to a locked setting with only a few hours of welding. The adjustment can only be made once, however, and returning to the open setting will require buying another diff at the last minute and at a substantially higher cost.
A series of crashes, including an impressive wheels-to-wheels rollover and center-punching the end of a guardrail, led to some improvements in the cooling system. The Fluidyne Ford Focus radiator withstood the abuse remarkably well. The all-aluminum construction allowed it to bend, bow and distort and then be returned to its original shape without springing any leaks. One leak was caused when a mounting bolt on the original cooling fan punctured a fin, however. The fin was filled with epoxy and a Flex-a-lite Honda Civic fan replaced the original. Not only are the Flex-a-lite mounting bolts farther back from the fins, but a rubber seal on the face of the fan prevents any further damage.
Chassis reinforcements were developed by first stressing the chassis to the point of failure, then fixing whatever was obviously torn or bent. The interface between the front frame rails and the front crossmember, for example, started bending from the force of the skidplate hitting the ground. The EVO II skidplate now mounts in two slotted holes at the rear of the frame rails instead of bolting to the bottom of the crossmember, and the frame rails themselves are now armor-plated with 3/16-inch steel plate. The top of each strut tower, a critical high-load suspension mounting point, is also encased in armor, and is connected through the firewall to the roll cage, and tied in front to the reinforced frame rails with 1.5-inch .120 wall roll bar tubing. The strut towers were also tied to each other with a smaller 1-inch tube that was strategically pinched for hood clearance and painted red for improved performance.
The rear control arms, which bent in the car's second outing, were reinforced with 3/16-inch steel plate as well. The roll cage received four extra bars, including one that replaced the stock dashboard. The dash bar is now home to 126 zip ties which hold the remaining fragments of the stock wiring harness, switches for the ECU and fuel pump, the heater fan and the radiator fan, an Autometer mechanical oil pressure gauge and a Techtom MDM1000 that serves as a volt meter and temperature gauge. The interior could be described as businesslike, but only if your business happens to be a junkyard.
Being a tribute to the 1970 Safari Rally victory, the exterior is not only painted in authentic 1970 regalia, it also has authentic Safari-style body damage. Since the EVO II is a tribute, not a replica, the damage is designed to incorporate elements from several Safari 510s. The smashed front fender, for example, recalls Edgar Hermann's car, while the crumpled roof and trunk harken back to the Jack Simionian 510, which ran the same year. The EVO II does carry some exterior details the Safari cars never did. The stylish vinyl top for example, and the louvered Rodriguez hood found on a Mexican 510 racecar, are both uniquely North American modifications. The most modern of the exterior details is the scratch-resistant Lexan right rear window. Lexan windows on rally cars are usually scratched to the verge of opacity since the simple act of wiping dirt from them will leave permanent scars. The Percy's Speedglass used on the EVO II, however, has a scratch-resistant coating hard enough to withstand steel wool. The lightweight right rear window serves both as a weight-saving device and an access hatch to service the Optima battery mounted behind the co-driver's seat.
After its thorough Safari texturing, the EVO II Safari is now too perfect to race. Being a one-of-a-kind collector's item, it will be going into storage, emerging only for occasional display thrashings. Taking its place in competition will be a brand-new Sentra SE-R Spec V rally car. Look for the complete buildup of the new Spec V on www.sportcompactcarweb.com. If all goes according to plan, the SE-R and our Project Rally Focus will be racing head-to-head in an all-SCC battle to the death this summer.
Used engine and transmission
G-Speed JDM Parts Importer
Intake and exhaust collector
Hot Shot Performance
Cams and clutch
Jim Wolf Technology
Fluidyne High Performance
Silicone radiator hoses
Welding and hammering
Scratch-resistant Lexan window
Percy's High Performance
Mexican louvered hood
Classic Datsun Motorsports
Bolt-in roll cage and harnesses
PowerSlot 280ZX rotors
EBC Green Stuff
The Tire Rack