1971 Datsun 510

Illustration for article titled 1971 Datsun 510

Welcome to Down On The Street, where we admire old vehicles found parked on the streets of the Island That Rust Forgot: Alameda, California. Today we're going to check out one of my all-time favorite Japanese cars, the one that started the whole hot-rodded Japanese machinery thing here in the US of A: Datsun 510! Sometimes I get asked whether irate car owners come running after me with a shotgun when they see me shooting their cars, but my experience with this Datsun was more typical; the owner came out to see what was going on, was glad that someone appreciated his car, and opened the hood and trunk so I could get better photos.

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Illustration for article titled 1971 Datsun 510


It's funny that the car known as the "Poor Man's BMW 2002" is now worth more than a 2002. In 1971, you could buy a brand-new 2002 for $3,275… or a Datsun 510 for $1,990. Both cars had IRS, disc brakes, etc., but the BMW had the power edge, with 114 horses versus 96. With the money the Datsun buyer saved, however, another 50 horsepower could be added, with enough left over to buy better wheels. Many did, and that's why almost all of the 510s have been hooned to death by now.

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Illustration for article titled 1971 Datsun 510


The original carbureted L16 is long gone, replaced by what appears to be a fuel-injected L20. I neglected to ask the owner what junkyard donor provided this powerplant, so you Nissan aficionados will have to help ID it for us.

Illustration for article titled 1971 Datsun 510


I'm glad we finally have a 510 for Down On The Street, not least because Alameda is in the 510 area code. We've had a 411 and a 610, but the once-common 510 is a rarity these days.

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DISCUSSION

The Five-and-Dime is the only Datsun I ever wanted. It has the classic kindergarten car shape - what little kids draw when they draw a car - and is really frugal with the styling. The result is a car that still looks sharp thirty years later. Add to that extensive aftermarket support and you've got a ride that can stay current with modern motoring, and abreast or even ahead of modern traffic.

It's a wonderful little car. It does the 2002 niche better than the 2002; given a choice of one for free I'd take the 510, given the choice of buying one I'd still take the 510.