Once called the “poor man’s BMW” by Autoweek’s G.D. Levy, the Datsun 510 is a well-engineered and affordable car that has remained popular among automotive enthusiasts for many years. Avid collectors of this car can be found around the world and one in particular is John Paul “JP” Dagsaan from the San Francisco Bay area.
I first met JP at the Japanese Classic Car Show (JCCS) two years ago in Irvine. I expressed an interest in shooting the car; however, due to the fact that JP was planning on driving back to the Bay area that same night, we were unable to set anything up. Fast forward two years to the present and you all are witnesses that I sneaked away from my family reunion in the Bay to shoot the car – and, if you’re reading this, Hi Mom! How’s that for dedication?
JP chose the 510 since it held sentimental value for him. It was the first car his family owned when they moved to the U.S. from the Philippines. Taking me on a trip down memory lane, JP recounted the happy times and memories associated with it – memories of watching drive-in movies from the open rear hatch of his Dad’s 510 wagon.
The car you see here, however, is not JP’s first 510. Initially, he had a 510 coupe, which, unfortunately, met its demise in a friendly disagreement with an 18 wheeler – “friendly” for the semi, that is. Fortunately, JP walked away unscathed. Like a true gearhead, he immediately decided to begin a new Datsun 510 project—this time with a 1970 Datsun 510 sedan.
When JP first received his 510 sedan, it was nothing more than a shell with gaudy, hand-brushed, construction-orange paint. Many late nights and sleepless mornings later, the car is what you see today. It’s refreshing to see such simplicity in car building. No crazy, over-the-top aero or fiberglass kits here – just the essentials.
The exterior has been sprayed in a Honda Milano Red. The factory hood has been replaced with a lighter custom fiber one. Euro-spec turn signal assemblies have been used and, as a security precaution, Solex door locks have been installed. JDM window visors have been installed on all four doors.
To continue this clean build, JP went with CCW Classics 16×7 wheels in the front and 16×8 in the rear. Look closely and you’ll see Tiki valve stem caps. Behind the wheels are Wilwood 4-piston calipers with full-floating cross drilled rotors in the front and Wilwood Dynalite calipers with cross drilled rotors in the rear. Steel-braided brake lines were used all around. A big bore brake master cylinder was sourced from a Nissan 280ZX.
If you’re not sure what you’re seeing here, it’s a very rare 1973 JDM Bluebird grill with the Supersonic badge adorning the front.
These JDM Bluebird fender mirrors have more “soul” than James Brown! Cars from earlier periods in automotive history seem to have so much personality. Of course, function is extremely important, but automotive designers of past eras seemed to think it was just as important to incorporate aesthetically pleasing “form” to accompany function. The two are not mutually exclusive.
Who doesn’t love a media wall? Except…yo, JP!! Where’s the MotorMavens logo? Other than that, I would love to have these stickers on my Pelican case.
The rear of the car has a rare 1968 rear bumper with bumper license plate lights and Euro-spec complete tailight assemblies.
The 510s were originally mated to a 96hp carbureted L-series engine. Pop the hood and instead of the popular SR20DET found in the “Nickel-Dime” community, a 2.4L DOHC KA24DE 16-Valve motor with matching 5-speed transmission sits. This is mated to an Exedy Stage 1 clutch with a Fidanza lightened flywheel. For a quicker throttle response, an Agency Power throttle pulley was used. Troy Ermish Racing CV axles with Subaru 3.70 LSD differential were used as well. A psycho lime green valve cover and a rare HKS purple anodized oil cap also complement the engine bay.
A custom black chrome air-intake with HKS air filter has this 510 breathing like a Shaolin monk.
A DGR fabrication header is used to help the engine efficiently expel exhaust gasses.
The hot exhaust gasses then pass through a Samberg full stainless steel exhaust with Apex-i N1 muffler with titanium adjustable tip – not period-correct, but sexy nonetheless.
The custom pin-striping in the engine bay and artwork on the radiator overflow tank were done by JP’s buddy, Dre. If Dre continues doing work of this caliber, I’m sure he’ll be awarded an honorary doctorate in commercial art – at which time, I will be legally obligated to call him Dr. Dre and get him to sign my copy of The Chronic.
Aside from a DGR Fabrications custom 4-point roll cage, JP kept the 510’s interior functionally basic: a Bride Histrix seat with Takata racing harness hugs the driver. The Histrix is a low-backed, hardshell motorsport seat that definitely does not look out of place in this 510. The round vent-holes in the seat are reminiscent of competition seats from the 1960s and early 70s. A Bride Zeta seat with Crow harness keeps the passenger in place.
The stock steering wheel was swapped in favor of a genuine Nardi wooden steering wheel with NRG quick release hub. A Greddy multi-switching system is utilized for water temperature and fan control. The driver information center is filled with Autometer carbon fiber tach, speedo, volt, and fuel gauges. Providing the entertainment is a Pioneer AVIC-N1 with Boston Acoustic speakers. Its 6.5″ motorized, touch-screen display puts everything from navigation to entertainment at JP’s fingertips. Finally, bringing color and comfort are the Hecho en Mexico blankets.
JP had the opportunity to have ace driver John Morton autograph the glove box. Nostalgic car fans know he piloted the Brock Racing Enterprises (BRE) tuned Datsun 510 to two 2.5 Trans-Am Championships in 1971 & 1972 and the BRE Datsun 240Z to two C Production National Championships in 1970 & 1971. Not to get sidetracked but check out this commercial of John & the Z when you get a chance.
Shortening the throw is a B&M short shifter mated to a Mooneyes Tiki shift knob. BADASS! Another popular Tiki item in the car are Tiki door locks.
A super long rear-view mirror helps JP view his blind spots. The rear seats were tossed in favor of an aluminum rear panel. It was powdercoated and he had the custom pin-striping done (again) by his buddy Dre.
Up front are 280ZX front shocks with Qa1 coilover sleeves, Tokico Illumina MR-2 adjustable strut inserts, and a DGR front sway bar. In the rear are Qa1 fully adjustable rear coilovers and a Racetep rear sway bar. In addition, Troy Ermish Racing camber plates and solid End-linked steering linkage, Techno Toy Tuning adjustable TC rods with bumpsteer spacers, and a Maddat steering box re-enforcement bracket were installed. All of these ensure that this car has a racecar feel to match its look. Form and Function.
A classic old-school car with the power of new-school. After devoting countless hours and sacrificing sleepless nights, JP says that he is very proud to be an owner of a car that was “built not bought.” His exact words were: “I am proud to own this beautiful car!” Who wouldn’t be proud to own such a beauty?
JP would like to thank friends & family for their support in building this project.
And, I would like to thank my cousins Taylor & Francis and my brother Wil for their extra hands during this shoot. They, too, sacrificed family reunion time to make this shoot possible and it was all for the higher purpose of enriching the lives of Mavens everywhere! OK, Mom?
Nice build! I like the fact he kept it clean. The blankets & autograph add a nice touch as well. Sick photos/write-up! Keep up the good work!
How many HP does that car have?
it looks so awesome and good engine
Very nice! Not too often you see a 510 this clean. Believe me ive put hands
on this car.Really nice shots and very detailed write up. More old skools
killer car! this is definitely top 5 favorite cars for me. so clean yet so aggressive, super dope car. nice work
The only thing that made me go What The F@#k was the two different front seats instead of a matching pair. (pet hate) Other than that this is sick and id be stoked to own this!!
This car is not only unbelievably clean in the pictures, but sounds like a true champion in person. Pictures (no matter how good they are) do this car justice.
Such an awesome car! The personal touches straddle hot roding and classic Japanese tuning so well.
That’s tight. Good article
Saw this on Ratsun. Absolutely gorgeous example of real Japanese pride! Getting the John Morton signature makes it 10x better.
What a detail oriented build! I love it!
JP, you know how much I love this car, Congrats on the photoshoot!!!
Form AND function?? Well, so much for Hella Flush. AMAZING build by the way!!!
Sweet god this is amazing.
Love the write up and the pics! @omglol – I think Form and Function is a concept that should be equally dismissive of both the Hella Flush and the Hella Functional bandwagoners. And nothing is less cool than a dude mouthing off like he’s better or smarter than someone else because he has different taste in cars. I never liked it from the Corvette and Muscle car guys looking down on Import guys and I don’t like it between the Hella Flush & Hella Functional idiots. One group thinks a car isn’t cool unless it can barely drive on a regular city street and the other thinks a car isn’t cool if it has anything on it that doesn’t add a measurable increase in torque or HP. As usual in these situations, the truth lies somewhere in the middle – far away from both camps. It is possible to optimize looks and performance without a major sacrifice of either if you’re a balanced car builder – and sometimes it’s ok to be slightly left or right of center depending on what you’re going after. Believe it or not, not everyone wants a 700HP street legal race car – some guys just want to have reasonably good offset, decent wheels and a clean ride to chill in. Nothing wrong with that – unless you’re a car snob…which IMO is quite “gei”…as in “gei-sha”.
That is a really beautiful car – attention to detail on it is pretty amazing. I love the interior and the engine bay is sick.
Photos, as always from Oliver, are just bang on!
Beautiful Work of Art!
Wow its come a long way. Sweet ride pimpin.
The sickest and cleanest 510 I’ve ever seen. Keep up the good work.
WOW .. i know i see this car alot, but I’m speechless everytime i see it!! Great photoshoot !!! Now i want those Bride seats – it will look good on my Pnut!!!!
as I always say JP’s car is clean I love it,Im also a 510 owner,good job JP.
That’s a nicely put together dime! Love these kind of features on MM… And that Histrix seat???? Damnn. I’ve lusted for one of those since the first time I saw one.
Ur pussy rate just went up 500%
The ride is looking SIIIIIIIIICKKKKK brotha. I would definitely like to do some more pinstriping on that thing. Hit me up homie! Peace!
The car is beautiful in person!… And now I can see how photogenic it is too!… What the pics don’t show is how much fun this car is to drive like sweetryanitas says it does sound sweet and it handles like a go kart!
this guy has a lot of passion about cars and it shows in his ride! plus lots of little details one could normally miss if the owner doesn’t point them out. and this guy does just that and very proud of the fact too!
JP! Congrats on the write up, it’s much deserved. You know I love this car, she’s beautiful in person and the pictures are amazing! Thumbs up to the photographer : ) Congrats again JP, good job buddy! So proud!
JP! I LOOOOOOOVVVVEEEEEE the style you added to this piece of beauty!! And again you encouraged me on getting my first 4 door 510!
Great job on having the cleanest 510 in Nor-Cal!
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Nice car. Awesome to see a homies car getting love on the web! As for the haters? Where’s your car……
nothing wrong with this fine example, even the usual haters can’t fault it. love those rims, they look like CCW’s. – need to post a Video Roll of this beauty. Thanks for the run-down.
Does any one know where i can find those fender mirrors?
Can anyone help me out. What are the full name of the CCW Classics wheels on this car.
I’m currently restoring my own 510 and I love the look of this. Any help? I can’t find them anywhere?
@Nick Rippon: Actually I’m pretty sure those wheels are just called CCW Classic. (I could be wrong?) They’re available pretty readily in custom sizes from CCW, which is based in Florida I believe. I don’t know them personally, or else I’d give you a contact name and phone number.
Wheel offset? Spacers or fender work? Tire size? Love it
I recently saw this 1970 510 Datsun for sale. I tried to get a hold of the seller but had no luck. How can I get a hold of him, interested in purchasing the car
can anyone help me out. what kind and where can i get this Aluminum Radiator for my datsun 510 1972 ka24de swap
can anyone help me and tell me where can i get this radiator
Does anyone know the exact paint colour? Is it just flat colour like acrylic or is it clear over the top? Cheers, Pete