By on April 2, 2012

This may very well be the nicest 1973 Datsun 510 in existence. The Datsun 510 was a mechanically bulletproof car. You could argue that it lead the charge in the Japanese invasion of the North American market. Despite their reliability, Datsuns were disposable cars.

That’s why this museum caliber 18,000 documented miles 510 is so rare.

Ken Heales inherited this Datsun 510 from his mother and she didn’t really run up the miles as her grandson Kenny Heales explained.

“Grandma bought it brand new in 1973 (the sticker is still on the back of the car). Grandma loved her car and I’m not sure if it ever was driven further than 40 miles. I thought she had driven it to Vancouver once, but Dad didn’t seem to think so”.

That, plus the dry climate that the car has spent its life in combined to keep this Datsun in mint condition. The Heales family always believed in maintenance so the car hasn’t suffered under Ken’s watch. Kenny explains:

As far as I know it has never required any major repairs. The tires are not original because the originals had worn out just from age. Everything else is original. Dad has been told by several mechanics that the reason it hesitates sometimes when you put your foot on the gas is because the accelerator pump has dried out from lack of use. It doesn’t need replacing because it gets better again as you use it. Dad uses it whenever he is back”.

Ken has heeded the advice so the car is driven into town for any errands and this has really enhanced the performance of this 39-year-old export from the “Land of the Rising Sun”.

Ken’s biggest problem isn’t driving the old Datsun. It’s fending off the inquiries about this family automotive heirloom when he’s out in public. As Kenny explains:

Dad gets asked about the car all the time. He was just telling me about some biker looking dude that pulled up beside him this summer at a light-driving some big truck. He asked Dad if he wanted to sell his car several times and Dad told him no several times. Then he asked Dad how many miles were on it. When Dad told him he leaned over and said, “Are you sure you don’t want to sell your car?”

The answer is clear. Kenny is adamant “Dad has no intention of getting rid of it and I’m sure it will stay in the family”. Kenny is actually very happy with that decision because he has literally grown up with this car, plus it’s a link to his late grandmother. He added:

“She let me drive it once with her when I first got my license but I was only allowed to drive around the campus (that area in the center of the beach road that used to be all field but is all houses now) and I had to drive it really slow”.

Kenny explains that the next generation of Heales kids are growing up with this now relatively ancient vehicle:

I’ve driven it several times in the recent past and get a real kick out of driving it. The seat belts are a little annoying because the shoulder straps appear to be optional. They don’t have any recoil and you just have to adjust the strap for the best fit and then it never moves. If you don’t put the seatbelt on you get this annoying buzzing sound that will not go away until you fasten it. My kids love riding in the back seat because there’s only lap belts back there”.

The experience isn’t high tech. The thing handles like a tank because it was as bare bones as they come, no power steering and not even an AM radio, but the Datsun is destined to remain a long term member of the family for at least two more generations…

By then it might even have 30,000 miles on the clock.

For more of J Sutherland’s work go to mystarcollectorcar.com

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25 Comments on “Car Collector’s Corner: A Family’s 1973 Datsun 510 With 18,000 Documented Miles...”


  • avatar
    SteveMar

    How can this not just make you happy? The car is beautiful and it’s a perfect period piece from the early days of Japanese imports to the US. Kudos to the family for keeping the car — and keeping it original. May it bring them many more years of happy motoring.

  • avatar
    skotastic

    Hot.

    Keep it completely as is and make sure it lives in a garage. If it’s a 3-pedal, its worth some serious dosh for a 70s ‘economy’ sedan.

    I would have to slightly disagree with the comment that these are rare. In the classic car world, a 510 is second only to the Z-car in Datsun survival. At any given time you will find quite a few available.

    I would argee that 510′s as a species arn’t rare, but it’s finding clean un-molested ones that’s the trick.

    So many were used in motorsports or modded by generation after generation of teenager that there are few like this left.

    Love it again (but love the 411 more!). Congrats to the owner!!!

  • avatar
    grzydj

    Thank you for not using the term “malaise era” to describe this Datsun.

  • avatar
    ByTheLake

    Wonderful to see this car survive unmolested. It reminds me of my mid-70s Corolla. Perhaps the car would be more valuable to Nissan for marketing purposes as it plans to re-launch the Datsun brand elsewhere in the world.

  • avatar
    skor

    Beautiful! Forget the Bugatti Veyron, that car will attract the attention of more girls than any Veyron.

  • avatar
    V572625694

    My first new car was a ’72 510 2-dr 5-speed, so it’s a great pleasure seeing this unit, even though mine was in the much-handsomer blue shade. With decent radials replacing the bias-ply rim protectors it came with, it seemed to handle pretty well. I longed to do all the cool things R&T suggested in contemporary article about improving performance on these, but didn’t have the dough then.

    • 0 avatar
      snakebit

      I should point out that, at least in the States, the only model 510 available for the 1973 model year was the 2-Door, and North American-bound cars were only assembled until the end of 1972. You can tell them by the completely black rubber bumper guards, no chrome. For the 2-Door, it finally came with reclining seats and the rear glass defroster formerly only standard on Canadian 510′s. I think the car above was a leftover 1972, though I find it hard to believe with their popularity at the time that any dealer had leftover ’72′s.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Fantastic; thanks for this nice story.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Cars like this turn up from time to time, but they’re almost ALWAYS automatics, and there wasn’t much to be said about a small displacement engine combined with what passed for an automatic transmission 40 years ago. Maybe no even 25 years ago. What you end up with is a car that is too nice to hack up but is as much fun to drive as a lawn tractor in its stock state.

  • avatar
    bowtie_brain

    My first car was a ’78 510. With the low gearing (automatic) and 110 hp, it handled well enough to keep me out of trouble. It really screamed at 65 mph.

  • avatar

    That is a very 510 in a great 70s colour. I can imagine the looks it gets as I know I get a lot of looks in my daily driver ’73 Mazda 808 coupe.

  • avatar
    John R

    “Oooooh, I wanna get this 510 pregnant with an SR20 motor!!!”

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I’d like to know how sturdy compacts like these could be seen as “disposable”. Most of these found their homes at SCCA races back then.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    When I was car shopping as a 21 year old in the mid seventies with a budget of $1000-1500 the two cars I was looking at were a Datsun 510 wagon or a Volkswagen Squareback . Unfortunately I got the Squareback . Shortly after I met a guy who had a 510 wagon and I felt like I made a big mistake . The 510 was roomier , more reliable ,easier to work on and handled better , though I think the Squareback with its fuel injection may have gotten better mileage .

    • 0 avatar
      snakebit

      I couldn’t say if you made a mistake. I had a 510 wagon for a short time, and didn’t like it, principally because I didn’t like the handling, no IRS unlike the sedan’s. Granted it was roomy. I did borrow my uncles ’73 Squareback sometimes, and liked it better. To me, the 510 2-door and 4-door models were really the essence of the 510 models.

  • avatar
    TCragg

    The car looks like it was photographed at either Lake Okanagan or Osoyoos Lake. If it has spent its entire life in the desert conditions of the southern BC interior, no wonder it’s so rust-free. If you’re going to buy an old car in Canada, that’s the place to buy it. No salt, and dry as a bone.

  • avatar
    hifi

    Wow. Nice to see a good looking 70s Datsun. Such a solid design. The models that came along in the late 70s were completely horrendous, and the ones that I was barely old enough to have ever seen.

  • avatar
    lilpoindexter

    If only granny had been into two door cars…

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    While not a fan of the 3 box design in general, some of these little cars of the day, be it a 2 door or 4 door were pretty sweet looking and this one was definitely that.

    For a base sedan, this one has style all around and yes, I love that color, as I do many of the colors that would’ve been available at that time and love how it’s mated to a white vinyl interior, sweet.

    And even better, a totally original, like new, low mileaged example at that. What a gorgeous machine that one is. I even will crane my head at ANY car like it, or vintage small truck still running, and especially if restored or original, even more so if still in showroom like stock condition.

    Last weekend, I saw an old mid 80′s Isuzu P’up truck in pretty good shape heading south on the 405 freeway here in Seattle and not far from Mom’s in Tacoma, spotted an orange Mitsubishi Mighty Max that looked to be in great shape the next day – Don’t see either too often these days sadly, even here in the Pacific NW.

  • avatar
    Dime

    Guys, hate to rain on the parade, but the car pictured is not a ’73 Datsun 510. Sure it has a 73 510 grille and front bumper guards, but check out the back bumper – where the bumper guards are from an earlier model year. The other reason this can’t be a 73 510 is that it is a four door. There were no 73 Datsun 510 four doors. The 73 model was only built for a couple months at the end of 1972 and all of them were two doors. They also all had the fiber optic lit headlight and wiper knobs and the rear window defroster with the cool blue lit knob next to the cigarette lighter. If the owner alleges this is a 73 because it has a rear window defroster, the explanation is that it would have to be a canadian datsun, where the rear window defroster was fitted earlier to contend with the winter weather. This is most definitely a 72 model, judging by the wheel covers. Still a cool car, but I can’t understand why they would try to pass it off as a ’73. I know these things because I owned a beautiful 73 510, which I bought new for $2450 and drove for 11 years before it rusted away. I just took a closer look at the front bumper guards and they are not from a 73 510 either. The 73 510 had large square all rubber bumper guards – the earlier years had chrome guards with a rubber insert, like one ones pictured here.

    • 0 avatar
      snakebit

      No 100 percent, Mr Dime, but you still get an ‘A’. Now, really compare the rear bumper guards and the front ones. Don’t they look identical? I think we decided last spring that this was a left-over Canadian market 1972 (look at the front license plate, I think it’s from British Columbia)
      Correct on the all rubber(no chrome) guards just on the 1973, correct on the two-doors only for 1973, correct on the rear defroster being standard on the US-market cars for 1973 only, although Canadian-market cars got it on earlier cars. Go to the ‘Bring a Trailer’ site, and search for 1973 Datsun 510. That’s a real one that sold in the Sacramento area.


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