This Datsun 510 With A SR20 Heart Is Almost Perfect

Every car person has their dream build. The build they would do if they suddenly found a giant pile of cash lying on their front step. For many that is some kind of monstrous resto-modded American Muscle car. For others it is a meticulous restoration where every detail is returned to the way it was when the car left the factory. Others have some bat shit insane completely custom machine that leaves no part unmodified. Right now (my dream build seems to change quite often) this 1971 Datsun 510 is damn close to my dream build.

On the outside this 510 looks pure 70’s three box. Look a little closer and you’ll notice the wheels are straight out of this century, giving away that this is not an ordinary 510. In fact just about the body is the only thing left from the Nixon Administration.

Those wheels? They’re forged 17″ Volk Te37 alloys wrapped  in 215/45 Dunlop Direzza tires.Behind the wheels is a completely custom suspension. Under the hood lies Nissan’s SR20DET turbocharged straight 4 engine mated to a 6 speed manual box. Both are straight out of a S15 Silvia. The rear end? Well that is also from Subaru, wait Subaru? No, this 510 is not AWD, it simply borrows Subaru’s WRX STI R-180 rear diff. Apparently this is not uncommon, in addition a lot of Japanese cars share similar components including differentials.

The engine in stock trim made 250 horsepower. As you can plainly see the engine is no longer stock. The list of engine modifications includes:

  • Garrett T28 turbo
  • Custom black powder coated front-mount intercooler
  • Tial QR recirculation valve
  • Tomei S15 Stage 1 ECU
  • Modified and tucked wiring harness
  • Custom Ron Davis radiator with 2×10″ Spal fans
  • A’pexi filter
  • Moroso large capacity, baffled oil pan
  • Aeromotive Stealth 340 pump
  • Billet coil pack cover
  • CONSULT plug has been wired into the car, which allows diagnostics of the OBD system at NA Nissan dealers or with Nissan-friendly scanning tools

The interior? Well that is just about as well-built and clean as the rest of the car. It is a blend of old and new. The rear seats have been re-wrapped in a factory style vinyl. The panels, dash and radio are all stock. It has a modern Recaro’s and custom gauge cluster in the center console.

This is a perfect example of a modern JDM resto-mod. The build was completed 12 years ago but you would never no looking at it now. There are some minor dings and dents in the body work but that is to be expected. This thing is so close to being my dream 510 (words I bet Datsun never thought people would say back when this thing was new).

Changes? Well I’ve never been a fan of white cars and the chrome would have to go. The front grill is a bit too 1971 for my taste. I’d like a more aggressive body, perhaps some small fender flares. I’d modify the interior to modernize it, maybe steal a center console out of a more modern car and give it a stereo from this century. I must emphasize I’m not talking about some monster subwoofer powered by some million watt amp. Just something more akin to the cars of today. Touch screen, sat radio, touch screen, sat nav, etc. These are all very simple mods, easy enough to accomplish. But this is me, and I don’t like to do simple.

The biggest change I would make is to ditch the SR20DET engine. Yes. Before you grab your torches and pitchforks let me explain. The SR20DET is one of the best JDM engines built. It is capable of some monster power and is relatively inexpensive to mod. However it is a bit too common for my taste. SR swapped 510’s are becoming more and more prevalent. The problem is it is obviously a turbo motor. I have nothing against turbos, in fact I would kill to have one on my IS300 right now (actually a 1jZ GTE swap if were being specific).

The 510 is a small, lightweight car. Personally I’d like to have that smallness and lightness mated to a naturally aspirated engine. Turbo lag is the enemy here. The immediacy of na in a car that light is pure back road perfection. Question is what na engine would fit the bill? Now, before you string me up by my toes, it’s not an LS. Big V8 or even a 6 cylinders are too heavy, no I want to keep it a 4 cylinder. The 4 cylinder in question comes from Honda. Specifically the K24A2. The K24 when mated to the K20A2 head and some supporting mods is capable of 9,000 rpm, and 250+ na horsepower. Mate that to a manual box and rear wheel drive and you have something bordering on the perfect daily driver.

With all that said this 510 as it sits is very tempting. In fact I am trying to come up with reasons not to bid on it. I want this car, unfortunately my money is needed elsewhere at this point. I really need one of you to buy this car so I don’t have to. Seriously go bid on it right now. You’ll get a great car and save me from explaining to my bank account why were short some cash this month.

Written by Chad Kennedy

Chad burst from the womb wearing a racing suit and a helmet. Chad's passion for cars is in his very DNA. His father was a gear head and passed on the tradition through owning such classics as a '66 Mustang and a '59 Corvette all while taking him to various race tracks in the area. Chad likes to wrench on his rides whenever possible, forgoing the stealership. Chad is an avid motorsports fan with particular interest in endurance/sports car racing. When not online writing for Shifting Lanes, you can find him working at the local golf course teaching people how to swing or hooning a golf cart at impossible speeds.


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  1. You are so right! In my case I was referring to my 1967 Camaro. I have owned it for over 34 years. I did most if the work myself. And yes it is my dream….lol

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