This year’s Nissan Jam celebrated the 50th anniversary of a very special model, the Datsun 510. Released in 1967 in Japan and arriving in the US for the 1968 model year, it is the car that did the most to change people’s minds about Japanese cars. It’s hard to believe it’s half a century old.
Whether shopping for sportiness, practicality, affordability, fuel-efficiency, or some combination of these traits, the Datsun 510 had you covered. Even its looks have aged gracefully over the decades.
For as long as 510s have been sold, people have been customizing them. Warren Jones’ 1968 sedan has was modified in period, with a Weber-fed SSS L18, molded flares, Libres, and an era-appropriate two-tone paint job.
Thanks to the popularity of the platform, those with more modern tune and style, typically with KA24 or SR20 swaps under the hood, are plentiful as well.
Even the JDM USDM style popularized by shows like the Mooneyes All-Odds Nationals are cropping up stateside.
Of course, the 510’s claim to fame was its racing prowess, most famously demonstrated by the BRE racing team’s Trans-Am winners during the early 1970s. Tributes to Peter Brock and John Morton’s race cars abound, whether in the proper colors or not.
Some owners, like Luis Hernandez, have been fortunate enough to own both a tuner style SR20-swapped version and a clean Japan-imported RHD version. His Bluebird 510 Deluxe is notable for its column-shift manual and bench seat.
However, the beauty of the 510 is that even if you don’t have the money for a high-dollar build or concours restoration, you can still build a tossable driver with minor modifications and affordable yet period correct engine upgrades. Joenar Macapagal’s 1972 wagon on Longchamps and Danny Martinez’s 1972 sedan are perfect examples, both rocking L20Bs and 280ZX 5-speeds under original paint.
With some attention to detail and anyone can turn a 510 into an attention-grabbing vintage ride. Few cars have enjoyed the variety of styles and purpose that the 510 embodies. It is truly the classic for the everyman.
To be continued…
We’ll have more 2017 Nissan Jam coverage, but in the meantime, in case you missed it check out Part 01 — Starting with Z.