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.

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.

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.

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement

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?