Anyone that worships at the altar of Nissan must, some day, make a pilgrimage to the Datsun Heritage Museum. Located in Murrieta, California, it contains a treasure trove of Datsun and Nissan memorabilia, a library of pre-digital reading material and, of course, cars. For many southern California Datsun enthusiasts, it also serves a community center where meets and events can be held. Last weekend, the SoCal Roadster Owners’ Club held their annual charity toy drive and car show there.
The museum was founded by Fred Jordan, who worked at the first Datsun dealership in the United States back in the early 60s. Over the decades, he’s collected a mountain of old photos, Nissan advertising materials and more. The museum has a rotating collection of cars, so every time we go there’s something new to see. Ron Carter‘s incredible race-prepped Datsun 2000 Sports roadster is a perfect example, living in the museum during the off season. Considering that this car is driven hard all season and suffered a serious crash a year ago, it’s exceptionally clean.
Inside the museum, you can see a wide variety of cars, including Datsun 510s both heavily modified — like Kelvin Hiraishi‘s Hugger Orange 13B rotary-powered two-door, or Randy York‘s yellow 100 percent original stocker.
This is one of the earliest Datsuns ever to enter the US, around 1960, called simply the Datsun 1000. Actually though, it’s part of the Bluebird family that gave us the legendary 510, but just three generations earlier and 10 years earlier. The vast difference between this 211 and the 510s in the previous photo show just how fast Japanese automotive technology was improving back then. The museum is currently in the process of restoring this important piece of Nissan history.
Since this event was organized by the SoCal ROC, the majority of the cars that the show outside were Fairlady Roadsters. Gaze upon the vintage awesomeness of this cockpit. You can practically feel the tree-lined country road accelerating into a blur as the wind whips about your face.
Many car snobs claim the Datsun Roadster was a copy of the MG B, but don’t believe the hype. The Datsun actually debuted in Japan a few months before the MG. Initially, it was called the Datsun Sports 1500 (with a 1.5L inline four), but as displacement grew over the years — first to 1.6 and then to 2.0 liters — the name changed too. The Datsun Sports 2000 was the penultimate iteration, and later versions had higher windshields mandated by the government for safety reasons.
The club opened the show up to all pre-78 cars though, which is how this one-owner 1970 Datsun 240Z got in. Not that the O.G. Nissan sports car that put Japanese sleds on the map would ever be turned away at the museum. Everything from S13s to 370Zs owe it all to this machine. The owner, Kay Milton, has every scrap of documentation from when the car was new. She’s retired now, but still has a black Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX as her daily driver!
These three gentlemen were special guests, and if you don’t recognize them just read the name on the side of the car. Indeed, that’s legendary driver John Morton, who piloted the BRE Datsun 240Z to an SCCA C-Production championship in 1970 and 1971, front and center along with former teammates John Knepp and Don Devendorf. The fate of the actual race car is unknown, but Ron Carter‘s replica is as faithful a reproduction as there can be.
The 510 is truly one of the most versatile nostalgic platforms. The handling is great right out of the box, and available engine swaps are endless. An SR20DET in a chassis that weighs about 2000 pounds that’s also smog exempt is a recipe for fun.
Speaking of fun, a boatload of toys were donated for a local children’s hospital. It doesn’t look much like Christmas yet, but that’s SoCal for you. Even in November you can drive, top down in a roadster, to a car show.
For more coverage, visit Japanese Nostalgic Car.