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CENTER STAGE> SR Datsun 620 WarMachine Pickup

SR20DET, Datsun 620

Datsun didn’t make a fast enough truck for Chad Copeland, so he built his own.  After three tours of duty in the Middle East as a part of the Air Force, Chad took some driving courses and practiced on Eglin Air Force Reservation trying to slide his truck around corners and hang it out as far as he could.  This was long before the artform of hooliganism now known as drifting became a sport.

Datsun 620 pickup truck war machine military olive green drifting SR20DET Chad Copeland Drift Mechaniks

That first truck is now long gone but Chad is keeping the interest alive in the form of his current Datsun 620 pickup.  At first glance, it’s obvious that this isn’t your everyday 620…just in case you happen to see these every day. In fact, as much as this truck shows you with its exposed components and armed forces-inspired livery, there is more to be found beneath the proverbial surface.

After owning a 620 in high school, Chad wanted to get another one and restore it as soon as he found a good deal. That deal came in the form of a $500 junker with one working brake, a rusty body with tons of bondo, and an interior that was abundantly short of spectacular.

The original plan was to fix all of the truck’s major problems and get it running well – daily driver status. But, as anyone who has had a project car knows, plans are made to be modified…significantly.

Soon, another deal in the form of a super cheap SR20DET with a few minor issues and some goodies popped up.  Included was an S13 rolling chassis. Irrelevant? I think not. For the truck to handle the power that was intended to be put down, the front subframe was scheduled to reinforce the truck. However, the S13 subframe was about 4.5 inches wider than the truck.  To avoid looking ridiculous with a really wide front and super skinny rear (because the point is to not look ridiculous), the rear was needed also.

Chad took the frame down to the bare metal and did lots of math, took lots of pictures for reference, and did even more cutting and welding to line it all up. The result is a beautiful framework courtesy of geometry and x-braces. Petey the Drift Pigeon sits on top of the fuel cell making sure everything is on point. With the chassis work done, it was time for the motor.

During all of this work, Chad had compiled a list of go-fast parts and had them ordered. At this point those parts started showing up so often that Chad became quite familiar with his UPS man – Kevin. They might even be Facebook friends now.

After building his own transmission mounts, fabricating his own exhaust, and carving out nearly all of the front fender wells to get the right stance (and get the cab back on), Chad could now fabricate a custom interior since the firewall had been chopped up to make room for the SR. For cooling, he added a duct from a helicopter and moved the radiator to behind the cab with an external water pump.  As a result of his time with the Air Force, Chad had the truck painted to look like the Cobra attack helicopters that he had spent so much time around.

Notice the sticker reminiscent of WWII nose art and the 25mm shell casing shifter?  The aviation theme continues all throughout the cockpit.  Fabrication completed – it was time to align and tune. Chad had done such a good job measuring and fabricating, he hardly needed the truck aligned and Matt at Foerst MotorWerks was surprised at just how close the measurements were. This truck makes a very respectable 300HP to the rear wheels. In a vehicle that has literally nothing over the rear half of the car, that’s quite a bit.

Here you can see the radiator hanging out behind the cab keeping things super cool.

Chad even has a flight suit that he uses as a fire suit at drift events.

To make this shoot possible I wanted to say a huge thank you to the guys at the Army Aviation Heritage Foundation who let us come out and use their facilities.  They are a not-for-profit organization that restores Vietnam-era aircraft and teaches people about the war and the roles these machines played in the theater of combat.  If you’re interested in what they do, check ‘em out here.


:: Jonathan McWhorter

Photos by Brett May and Jonathan McWhorter

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54 Responses

  1. First off, that drift pigeon is just too rad. Second, I love how raw and badass this 620 is. Everything from the concept to the actual components of this car is amazing. I’m envious of you two photogs for being able to photo shoot this blessing.

  2. brandon scarpelli

    Damn this is one hell of a build! It deserves all the attention its getting AND more! Oh and the pictures? AWESOME! The very last shot of the truck and helicopter is money! Great job!

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  4. D1RGE.EXE

    Best part of the car….ZORLAC Shut Up And Skate!! sticker from the 80’s!! This guy gets MAD respect from me, not only for his 3 tours but for using such a rare sticker! Smiling ear-to-ear :):)

  5. Gene

    Hi… This is Gene from the Army Aviation Heritage Foundation. Really enjoyed working with you guys! The pics look great and the truck rocks!!! Come and visit us at Hampton Airport behind Atlanta Motor Speedway and try to make it to some of our events. Many thanks to the crew for mentioning us in the article. Check out our website at: http://www.armyav.com. Whatever your passion… awesome truck restorations or Helicopters from history… Get Out And Do It!!! Later

  6. panda poo

    hella function! now’s all it needs is a 50cal mounted to the rear! this truck is Mad Max in Drifter Dome… foreelz. so sick!

  7. WOW… I can’t know what to say. These photos blew me away man. Really grand, Damn, now that is a photo shoot. Awesome angles and spectacular content. I can’t help to think, that was a big production. And yes, I am jealous.

  8. byron h.

    chads truck is gnarly and he slides often at Atlanta events. love the write up but there are two glaring omissions.

    1. This project was built in Chad’s home garage.

    2. He used a wheel barrow to make his custom transmission tunnel.

    vinyl looks great too 😉

  9. im pretty sure i spotted this truck last night in Washington by the Auto Mall. not gonna say where, because of haterz 😀 but yeah its kinda hard to not see this thing parked in the street. made my night thats forsure!

  10. There are a couple of videos on my blog of it at Turner and at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

    Thanks for the add-ins Mr Byron. 😉
    I think there are some shots of it being built in my old cluttered garage at my old house on the blog as well.

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  12. weasel

    He needs to mount a retired small aircrafts tail upright on the back like it looks like in the hangar picture with the helicopter

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  16. JMac

    thanks for all the kind words everyone!! the shoot really was as fun as it looks, if not more! it was incredible being that up close and personal with these flying pieces of history

  17. dickie

    Those wheels are Tom’s C7R’s, I have a set on my Cressida. Those look to be in like-new condition, I’d like to hear specs and story on how he got them, they are kinda rare these days.

  18. Beth

    Sickkkkkk writeup Mickey. Love it love it love it. Pictures are amazing as per usual but seriously loved the article. You’re great!

  19. Dickie: I found them on RB Wheels. They were the only ones that I could find that were 17×9 and 17×10 that were the ofset that I wanted. They polished the lips before sending them. I plan to have them powder coated the BBS gold color whenever I get some extra cash.

    Put up a link to your Cressy. I’d like to see it.

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  21. Scott tackett

    You know I’m really happy for ya Chad and all. I noticed you mentioned alot of people even the guy that delivered all the parts to your door.
    But you would think that would mention the guy that stood behind you for a year and a half you know the guy that built the motor and spent countless nights till late . Helping you with your “math” you mentioned. You even emailed him a link to this posting. I guess you forgot his name. You didn’t forget his phone number cause you keep calling it when you need something.
    But I don’t answer wonder why?

  22. JMac

    @Scott: I’m sorry you feel that way but you don’t need to get upset with Chad, who didn’t even write the article. He just sent me some background info and mentioned all of the people who helped him out along the way. As for the delivery guy, I made up that name just to add a different element to the story, using some creative freedom.

  23. Scott tackett

    Yeah but you must understand Chad and me were the 2 main builders behind this creation.matt came into the picture toward the closing of the project to help.and was of great help.but a year and a half of my life and no mention.if it was my project and he had done for me what I did for him I would have made sure his name was in it no matter what.
    And if I’m correct I was not given credit on ANY article written about this truck anywhere what so ever except maybe his website.
    One time not being mentioned i can see.never being mentioned is another thing.and months later not a things has been done about it.

  24. @Scott: I am sorry you feel that way too. I have mentioned you in everything that I’ve written and every formal/informal interview. I can’t help what is published. I thought you were in here and have assumed that you’ve been in everything that’s been published. I talked to StudioRhoad.com and he said he would get the write-up updated to include your name. You were mentioned in S3mag.com. Here’s the link to read the online version: http://s3mag.com/blog/?p=2479 I hate that you felt that I was calling you all those times to use you. I’ve always enjoyed our conversations about life and religion. I was only trying to get back to you to finish our discussion on that show we had talked about.

  25. danny gins

    found a sick 78 620 at the junk, though it was rusted it was still sick as fuck nice save man major props

  26. tito

    i wonder if i can see pics on how u started from the ground up im building my 73 datsun 620 n i noticed ur fire wall n was curiouse if u used sheet metal to design that heres my email pajarito1084@yahoo.com thanks n i hope i can get them pics

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