Car Collector's Corner: A Family's 1973 Datsun 510 With 18,000 Documented Miles

J Sutherland
by J Sutherland

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

J Sutherland
J Sutherland

Online collector car writer/webmaster and enthusiast

More by J Sutherland

Join the conversation
3 of 25 comments
  • Ciddyguy Ciddyguy on Apr 02, 2012

    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.

  • Dime Dime on Nov 23, 2012

    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.

    • Snakebit Snakebit on Nov 26, 2012

      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.

  • Lorenzo Subaru had the ideal wagon - in 1995. The Legacy Outback was a straight two-box design with rear quarter and back windows you could see out of, and was available in brown with a 5-speed manual, as God and TTAC commenters intended. It's nice they're not raising prices, but when you've lost the plot, does it matter?
  • Bkojote Remember a month a go when Cleveland wanted to create a more walkable Cleveland and TTAC's 'BIG GOVERNMENT IS THE PROBLEM' dumbest and dullest all collectively crapped their diapers? Here's the thing- look on any American highway and it's littered with people who don't /want/ to be driving or shouldn't be. Look at every Becky on her phone during the morning commute in her Tucson, look at every Brad aggro driving his 84 month loan GMC. Hell look how many drivers nowadays can't even operate a headlight switch. You expect these people to understand a stoplight? In my neighborhood alone 4 people have been rear ended at lights from someone on their phone. Distracted driving over the past 10 years has spiked, and it's only going to get worse unless Becky has an alternative, because no judge is going to pull her license when 'she needs it to get to work!' but heaven forbid she not check fb/tiktok for 40 minutes a day.
  • Scott Shouldn't the The Italian Minister for Business be criticizing The Milano for being too ugly to be Italian?Better use of resources doing that....
  • Steve Biro Frankly, while I can do without Eyesight and automatic start-stop, there is generally less B-S with Subarus in terms of design, utility and off-road chops than with many other brands. I just hope that when they adopt Toyota’s hybrid system, they’ll also use Toyota’s eCVT.
  • The Oracle These are all over the roads in droves here in WNC. Rarely see one on the side of the road, they are wildly popular, capable, and reliable. There is a market for utilitarian vehicles.