By on March 4, 2012


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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15 Comments on “Car Collector’s Corner: This Mild Looking 1870 Datsun Is An Absolute Monster In Disguise...”

  • avatar

    Cool ride, cool story. (Might, however, want to bring the title’s model-year into the late last century.)

  • avatar

    I’d love to have a sleeper like that. It’d be so much fun to stoplight Mustangs in a 1970’s Datsun…

  • avatar

    Only 400 wheel horsepower on an SR20DET? He’s slumming it…

    I’ve always dreamed of working on a ‘dime. An SR20 in a 510 or a Fairlady is the perfect combination of classic looks and 90’s turbo-power.

  • avatar

    Beautiful little car. I find these sleeper hot rods to be a hugely appealing idea.

  • avatar

    An 1870 Datsun 510? They must have started building that model much earlier than I realized.

    Yes, the 510 was a great little car. It was a poor man’s 2002.

  • avatar

    Much more interesting than Imprezas, EVOs and Mustangs that are everywhere.

  • avatar

    That Datsun may have been a poor man’s BMW 2002. An even cheaper option was the Ford Escort mk2 BDA

  • avatar

    Reminds me of an electric drag racer built from a similar base:

    It took me a while to realize that White Zombie’s numbers on the quarter mile are pretty good, but not dramatically different from the gas cars he’s racing against. What’s different is the power-curve of the electric motor — the EV starts strong and then peters out at high speed, while the traditional car picks up steam a little farther down the track. Winning is winning, though, and doing it with a new/different technology is pretty cool. :-)

  • avatar

    Nice car; 1970, I presume.

  • avatar

    I bought a ’70 used in 1975.Installed full suspension pkg.(Mullholland, I think).
    Wide Corvair wheels bolted right up, and glaspack exhaust completed it.
    Except for the clutch, it really was indestructable, great fun.
    That car taught me what a poor driver I was, without killing me in the process.

  • avatar

    The 1870 Datsun is an even nicer car when converted from the OEM coal-burning steam engine.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    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.

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