Car Collector's Corner: This Mild Looking 1870 Datsun Is An Absolute Monster In Disguise

J Sutherland
by J Sutherland

So what were those long gone Datsuns that supposedly will come back? Datsun 510s were built for one reason – affordability. They were peppy little cars with a practical boxy exterior that meshed well with a roomy interior.

They were light plus they had great handling and a decent power to weight ratio. Datsun 510s developed a fanatical following based on these attributes.

Datsun 510s also gained a reputation on the track because they were indestructible and they were easy and relatively cheap to set up for power and road track performance.

In 1970, nobody ever imagined a civilized “400 horsepower at the rear wheels” Datsun 510.

Elliot Mereski found this Datsun 510 a few years ago and as he says, “it was pretty much like this when I got it”. Actually it was like many projects – on the cusp of completion but the owner finally gave up on the job and Elliot jumped at the opportunity.

The car came complete with an S-13 Red Top motor and S-15 6 speed transmission the previous owner faced the pain and expense that comes with purchasing and installing a high performance engine.

Experienced car guys know that this is only a part of the “buy a project in pieces formula” and the Datsun was no exception. The car came without an interior and with more electrical problems than an average sized hydroelectric dam.

Elliot was undaunted by the task – in fact he took on the extra challenge of power windows and a sophisticated car alarm.

He’s had some growing pains with the car. He took his Dad out for a trial run early in the game and attracted the attention of a local police officer after as he phrased it, “I was goosing it a little bit. After he stopped me he took one look at the car – it had no hood and no interior. He told me to get out of here because he didn’t want to see me again”.

Advice well taken – Elliot took the car home and finished the “little things” that when left undone seem to attract attention from authorities. Elliot confessed “my Mom still won’t ride it no matter how much is done”. Best guess…she calculated the 510’s power to weight ratio.

The car is actually very civilized at lower boost and Elliot claims that it will get 30 miles per gallon on the highway at 16 pounds boost and a paltry 345 horsepower.

The Datsun 510 was the right car at the right time in 1970 – an affordable little car that is reliable and fun to drive. Nobody could imagine that the same rules would apply 40 years later.

Thanks to the magic of 21st Century technology and a young guy named Elliot with the talent to put the pieces together this Datsun 510 still defies the odds.

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J Sutherland
J Sutherland

Online collector car writer/webmaster and enthusiast

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  • Beemernator Beemernator on Mar 05, 2012

    Uhm, what is an S-13 Red Top motor...? Other than the fact that it is enormously powerful and surprisingly economical, the story says nothing about it. Not even a close-up picture of it. I will have to ask Google, I guess.

  • Texlovera Texlovera on Mar 05, 2012

    I never appreciated the lines and styling of these cars in my youth. Guess my growing nostalgic streak has won me over to its looks.

  • ED I don't know what GM is thinking.I have a 2020 one nice vehicle.Got rid of Camaro and was going to buy one.Probably won't buy another GM product.Get rid of all the head honchos at GM.This company is a bunch of cheapskates building junk that no one wants.
  • Lostjr Sedans have been made less practical, with low rooflines and steeply raked A pillars. It makes them harder to get in and out of. Probably harder to put a kid in a child seat. Sedans used to be more family oriented.
  • Bob Funny how Oldsmobile was offering a GPS system to help if you were lost, yet GM as a company was very lost. Not really sure that they are not still lost. They make hideous looking trucks, Cadillac is a crappy Chevy pretending to be fancy. To be honest, I would never step in a GM show room now or ever. Boring, cheap ugly and bad resale why bother. I get enough of GM when i rent on trips from airports. I have to say, does anybody at GM ever drive what everyone else drives? Do they ever then look at what crap they put out in style fit and finish? Come on, for real, do they? Cadillac updated slogan should be " sub standard of the 3rd world", or " almost as good as Tata motors". Enough said.
  • Sam Jacobs I want a sedan. When a buy a car or even rent one, I don’t want to ride up high. I don’t want a 5-door. I want a trunk to keep my stuff out of sight. It’s quieter, cars handle better, I don’t need to be at the same height as a truck. I have a 2022 Subaru Legacy Touring XT, best car ever, equipped as a luxury sedan, so quick and quiet. I don’t understand automakers’ decisions to take away sedans or simply stop updating them — giving up the competition. The Camry and Accord should not be our only choices. Impala and Fusion were beautiful when they were axed.
  • Spamvw I think you need to remember WHY the big 2 and 1/2 got out of the car business. Without going political, the CAFE standards signed into law meant unless you had a higher gas mileage fleet, you couldn't meet the standards.The Irony is that, the law made sedans so small with low roof lines, that normal people migrated to SUV's and Trucks. Now we get worse mileage than before.