I have a certain soft spot for Datsun 510s, and not because of my affinity for Japanese cars. It stems more from what this car stood for at one point in time; an outcast in a foreign land. The 510 is truly one of the first import tuner cars sold in the US, long before the existence of cars such as the AE86 and RX-7. Released when cars from Japan were thought of as inferior tin cans, it certainly was not expected to become such a classic – being reborn decade after decade.
Before the advent of the Internet, before forums and blogs, these cars were being raced and modded. Now, with technology literally at your fingertips, it’s made these cult cars more accessible to a new, younger audience. Parts are available if you need them, despite possibly being scarce in your area. Information is readily available for any trouble shooting or restoration you may choose to embark upon.
As the years go by, the 510 has endured a lot in the changing automotive climate. As with most classics, even with the help of the Internet, these beloved little cars share the same pitfalls as others; NOS parts being near worth their weight in gold, beat up used parts hoarded, and the barnyard finds that the owner may “someday” restore. These cars seem to present a picture in extremes; either restored to immaculate condition, or beat up and oddly modded. After 40 years of being a fan favorite among motor-heads it’s harder and harder to find a clean, unmolested dime. Luckily, that’s exactly what happened to Steve Keeley when he found this natural beauty – a four door bamboo colored 1972 Datsun 510.
Steve, like many of us, grew up around cars, although his parents went about it a bit differently. They had a huge hobby buying and selling cars in hope of making a profit; something like 75 cars in 25 years. Aside from flipping cars, his parents were also into German cars. “My dad had gone through his share of Porsches, built a 1986 Porsche 911 cab, so I was very used to car culture growing up. My mom even had a Boxster when I was a bit older, but sold it cause it was too slow. Ha!” Being exposed to many different cars allowed him to really whittle down the types of things he liked and disliked about cars. The German thing not scratching the itch, he eventually came to the Nissan world where he had owned a few Nissan 240SX S13 coupes and one 200SX S12.
Before he found this car, he was daily driving the 200SX while building an S13 for drifting on a limited budget; all the while he had big plans to enter the drifting world. Then, while test driving a friend’s 510, he fell in love. It was as if he was a kid again at the go-kart track he spent much of his time at growing up. He would beg the attendant to let him drive even though he wasn’t tall enough to even reach the pedals. So, as you might imagine, the damage was done and there was no turning back. Instead of wasting money on a drift car he re-prioritized and bought a 510; selling off the S13 and all the accompanying parts. Driving the back roads of the Seattle Eastside along with friends is much more rewarding for Steve than drifting. I have to say it’s almost up there for me as well.
Steve had a few 510’s before this mint specimen, but as I stated before, it’s hard to find a good base to start from. So when this one came up for sale, there was a mad dash to pick it up. It was about three years ago now when Steve was sent a text message, from local 510 guru Ray Stonehocker, at 1 AM containing the Craigslist link for this ’72 510 – in Iowa of all places! The next morning he called the owner, who was a gentleman easily in his 80s, and claimed his prize.
With a well thought-out plan in place, Steve booked a flight to Colorado, visited his parents for a few days, and then it was on to Iowa. Once there, new Formula Drift driver Roland Gallagher flew out to be his Co-Pilot on the way back to Washington. After picking up the car and getting on their way they, “dropped 100$ at Schucks for an ‘oh shit’ tool box, water, oil, belt, fuel pump, wrenches, etc. Didn’t touch any of it the whole way home.” A great testament for a well cared-for 36 year old stock car.
Since then, Steve has had a chance to build up this car the way he sees fit, without having to deconstruct any previous visions of the car. It currently has a Hi-Comp L16 with dual SU carburetors, shaved A87 head, big cam, port matched manifold, Exedy clutch, and straight pipe exhaust. Inside is a Keys Racing steering wheel with quick release, and a Sparco Sprint bucket seat to keep him in place. Other than that the interior is completely stock right down to the radio!!
The transmission is a Nissan 200SX 5-speed dog leg tranny. For those of you that don’t know that is, it has a much different layout than a regular five speed. The reverse gear is where “first” would be in a common transmission and “first” is where “second” would be. To be honest, I’ve found cars with “dog” boxes to be harder to drive than RHD cars! I can never seem to remember where everything is.
The first things you notice on this 510 are, of course, the stance and the wheels. It’s sitting on KYB shocks all around, 280ZX struts (modified) with matching brakes in the front, Suspension Technique Springs (cut) in the rear, Datsun Comp RCAs, and bronze 14×7 -0 Volk TE37 Gravels with 185/55/14 Federal 595s. One more notable mod is the mechanical cruise control that the previous owner constructed. It actually holds the throttle cable in place! Still works great and was a big help for the drive from Iowa to Washington.
Because none of us are ever really done with a car, Steve of course has plans for the future. At first the goal was to shoehorn the SR20DET he had left over from his S13 into the 510. Realizing he had a soft spot in his heart for keeping the old school vibe going, that idea was scrapped. Now an LZ22 is in the works after hearing the intoxicating sound of carburetors from a friend’s 4AG in an AE86.
Steve drives his car everyday and at any time. From going to work or just driving for no reason to relax. In his own words, “That’s what I built it for. Big go-kart to play with friends on back roads. If the roads are dry, and I can afford the gas, I’m running roads til the sun comes up. It’s peaceful and lets me finally ditch some stress…even though I sometimes feel sorry for all the houses & people sleeping while I buzz by at such late hours; backfiring with every shift in & out of red-line.” Haha, I feel ya Steve. They may not be so appreciative of that – but we are.
Photos by Yoshi Shindo
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Rad!!! Nice post Yoshi. Bamboo paint and TE’s is the Championship (aka big win)! haha
I dig that he daily’s this thing and carves the twisties with it. Long Live the Nickel/Dime!
hechtspeed: This was actually written by Lucas Perez. Yoshi was the one who took all the shots.
Great write up Lucas this car is Bada**
Nice shots Yoshi… Is with shot with your d80? Or some new gear?
The 510 is a legend, and this car is absolutely beauty! Keep it old school!
This 510 looks dope! Great work Yoshi and Lucas! I love the color, and Lucas’s old TEs look sick as hell on the 510. The only thing (in my personal opinion) that would make it doper is if it had an older style steering wheel. Key’s is dope but it’s kind of a “newer period” wheel, making it better for an S14 or something. How about a Nardi or older Personal steering wheel, combined with my NARDI/DATSUN horn button that I have for sale? http://japanesenostalgiccar.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=7977
Also, the interior of this car looks to be in really good condition! I absolutely love old cars with clean interiors. I think it would look even CLEANER inside with a new carpet kit and matching floormats (as long as it’s the same vintage loop pile carpet though). Should be kinda easy to find in black, but light brown/beige would be super sick.
It’s cool that there’s a racing bucket seat inside because the car gets DRIVEN. That’s admirable, for real. Can you just imagine this thing with one of those old school Bride bucket seats though?! HOLY SHIT. That would be bananas.
YOSHI! Get to work on your 510! All the other 510 guys in WA are making you look bad! haha
510’s are far my favorite car, had 6 of them, and looking for a daily right now, lol.
L16, shaved head, SU’s, 200sx tranny,……that is the old school build! lol. just missing the R160 out of the subaru cheese wedge
My bad Lucas! Cool write up, I dug it. Yoshi, I gave you too much credit man! ahha Nice pics too!
cars looks awesome.
Seen Steve driving around few times, in the old S12 and the 510. Clean!
HOLY!!! THIS JUST MADE ME WET ALL OVER!!!
Just kidding, just got out of the shower.
Hey Antonio, how about a super old school and rare GRANT steering wheel????????
gorgeous car! i need a 510 in my life!
That’s one beautiful focken dime!
Baddest Bamboo! Ever! No fake OG wheels here.
WA-TANG IS FOR THE CHILDREN.
Backfire away Steve, those WA mountains can surely appreciate some 510 vintageness buzzing around. I’ve always been drawn to cars which have a good mixture of old and new parts, although staying period correct is just as awesome, the TE37s added give it a nice appearance. I’m in love with the stance as well. What work was performed on this by the way? The Garage Autohero decal has its rightful place on this dime, shout outs to my dude Ray.
nothing makes me happier than opening up my favourite blogs and seeing DATSUN content! This 510 is awesome, love the bamboo paint and somehow the bronze TE’s just work so well with it. It’s reassuring to see I’m not the only one who has to run sunken rear fitment due to the evil double-inner-lip on the rear fenders of these cars. I’m glad Steve is swaying towards keeping the powerplant oldschool…sometimes I wish my 510 had carbs instead of EFI+turbo. Thank you Motormavens/Lucas/Yoshi for featuring this sweet dime
I JUST RE-READ this story. (I’ll be honest, I just kinda skimmed it this morning, cause I was in a rush)
So I just remembered… I forgot to mention…
1) STEVE, I love your car. Congratulations on finding it in Iowa, and in such clean condition. You should be absolutely proud. That thing looks GORGEOUS. And looks SUPER SICK with the bronze TE37 Gravels. (This is coming from an old school wheel purist that doesnt normally like newer wheels on older cars.)
I’m glad you scrapped the SR idea. The car just sounds so awesome with the throaty rumble of twin carbs.
Also, I hope you keep it that color, if you were ever to paint it in the future. AWESOME color. Actually, I think OEM paint-having cars are more valuable and desirable (to me) than old cars that are repainted. I own a 1973 Corolla with original paint and body and interior (Yoshi and Lucas have seen it… and I almost killed Abbitt cause he started drawing on it, LOL), and even though MY car has dents and imperfections, I like them cause they’re evidence of a California car that has lived a good life. All THIRTY SEVEN years of it.
I hope you keep your 510 for a long time and enjoy it as much as I enjoy my TE27. Enjoy life with your Japanese Classic Car!
2) As for LUCAS… dude I think this is the best story you’ve ever written on MotorMavens. I loved the personal accounts, the quote at the end, and most of all… I loved the way you gave us details of how Steve found the car and DROVE it home from out of state with zero problems. Super super super dope story. Loved it.
Hoo man, this deserves a desktop asap.
everybody, thank you for the kind words. Lucas and Yoshi both did a really good job on this article. Im really pleased with how it came out.
Ive told Steve this many times but his car is one of my favorites. Its pretty much exactly what I would do to a 510 if I had one.
Glad everyone loves the car, photos, and words. MotorMavens is where the heart is at!
that is one sick Dime! This makes me want one even more than an old Tomei-inspired 210. ahhh nostalgia.
This is such a porno 510, I love the ride height, tucking TEs, cool colour, proper old school carb-fed powerplant. Perfection.
Great stuff. I’m with Anth. Nothing better than seeing your favorite car in one of your favorite blogs.
@ Mike, yeah my last set of shots with the D80!
@everyone else, thanks so much! I feel like I’m improving with my photos, and hopefully ill keep improving!
x2 change the steering wheel to correct period steering wheels; same goes with the wheels….I nvr knew te37 was old school. Put some ssr, etc.
otherwise looks great esp color!
Not a huge fan of TE37’s on 510’s but I think this is a rare case of “looks sick”.
Bru I feel da same way bout mine somthing bout da p510 dat jus relaxs you
this 510 desperately needs to have its real wheel camber set properly