This Is What a Datsun 510 Looks Like After The Baja 1000

Illustration for article titled This Is What a Datsun 510 Looks Like After The Baja 1000

We’ve gotten to the point that a classic Datsun 510, especially the high-trim SSS, is a collector’s car to be polished and preserved. But back in 1969, Datsun ran them in the grueling Baja 1000, and here’s how beat to hell they got.

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At the Monterey Motorsports Reunion, I found one of the four cars that Datsun entered. What’s interesting about them is that Datsun knew the cars had a structural weak point: rubber suspension tops for the struts. Instead of changing the design, Datsun kept everything as it was and figured they would just replace the struts every time they failed—via plane.

Illustration for article titled This Is What a Datsun 510 Looks Like After The Baja 1000
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Yeah, Datsun had a plane tail the cars, dropping down with spares and mechanics to fix the cars every time they broke. Note the easy-access hood.

Illustration for article titled This Is What a Datsun 510 Looks Like After The Baja 1000

The plan worked, kinda. The plane did follow the cars around, replacing suspension every hundred miles or so, as Datsun explains here at the Monterey Historics, where this car is displayed. The problem was that you weren’t allowed to fly planes over Baja at night, so once the sun went down and the struts failed again, the whole car could do nothing but limp through till daylight.

Illustration for article titled This Is What a Datsun 510 Looks Like After The Baja 1000
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Illustration for article titled This Is What a Datsun 510 Looks Like After The Baja 1000
Illustration for article titled This Is What a Datsun 510 Looks Like After The Baja 1000
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Illustration for article titled This Is What a Datsun 510 Looks Like After The Baja 1000

Fast as these early sports sedans were, they lost the race on this suspension. Still, they finished, and arrived at the finish as you see here. Can a 510 look cooler?

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.

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DISCUSSION

That much rust after a thousand miles? Jesus. Were they made out of compressed rust? No wonder you never see them in the wild anymore, they melted into a driveway stain overnight.