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Amazing Transformation: 1971 Datsun 521

You may have to grab a seat for this one, especially after seeing the first photo! This 1971 Datsun 521 pickup can be found on Craigslist in San Jose, California and the seller is asking $15,000 for it. No, really. It doesn’t look like that first photo anymore. Thanks to Michael for finding this listing and sending it in to Barn Finds!

Ahhh.. that’s more like it. But, the first photo is how the current owner and seller found it. This may be the longest, no it is the longest Craigslist ad that I’ve ever seen and that’s saying something. Most of them are usually either, “SELLING PICKUP RUNS GOOD NO TIRE KICKERS..” Or, “selling pickup runs good no tire kickers…”.. It’s usually all caps or no caps, and often with no punctuation so you don’t have a clue what’s going on. This seller has written a veritable diary and it has more detail than Marcia Brady could ever hope to have in her diary, which Cindy gave away to a book drive not knowing that it was Marcia’s diary, and then… well, we can go into that later.

It would take a couple of hours and several pages to do this one up right, so in the name of not boring everyone to death with too many details, here are some of the highlights: “3rd Owner, Low Mileage (~47,000 Original miles), Original Paint Survivor, Barn-Find, Reconditioned to Full Roadworthy Operation”. And then they go on to list so many things that they’ve done to this nice little truck that I had to stop and make a sandwich about 2/3 of the way down the list. Incredible job, seller! If every CL seller would do even a fraction of this detailed of a listing the world would be a much better place.

You can see some possible flaws on the interior – the blanket seat cover and dash cover are a dead giveaway. I always like to think that maybe they’re on there to save the original materials but the dash top is cracked in 4 spots and there’s a mention of the original seats being under that cover but no mention of the condition. The history of this truck involves two “old fellows” and two deaths of said old fellows, which is where the seller comes into play. A friend of his was called by the son of the second old fellow and he saw the incredible condition of this truck and alerted the current owner, an “ASE Master Automotive Technician” specializing in Datsuns, and the rest of history. Here’s a photo of the floors showing the heavy surface rust that hasn’t been treated at all.

There’s a bonus point for everyone who makes it through the entire CL listing. Seriously, the to-do list for getting Apollo 11 to the moon was shorter than this list. This should be Nissan’s 1.6L inline-four with around 96 hp. Oddly, I don’t see a mention of the engine size/spec in the seller’s listing, unless I somehow missed it. Needless to say, with several multi-hundred-mile trips under it’s steel belts it should be pretty reliable. They say to fly in and drive it home. Now, about that price..


  1. JimmyJ

    Probably bought it for $500
    I’d be all in at $3000

    Like 7
    • Gary W Glass

      I went with my father to Rontells Datsun in Fresno Ca. in 1971 to purchase a new pick up. It had every option available! An AM radio, “west coast” mirrors and a heavy duty back bumper. Dad complained all the way home about the $2000.00 price! I pretty sure that included tax and license.

      Like 0
  2. Darrun

    I like it…but, for $15000, they could have at least spent a few hundred bucks on the interior, and done some work under the hood..

    Like 16
  3. Hank from illinois

    No problem with flippers, we all gotta make a buck. But this is just over hyped, over bid. Good luck. (note if ya hate flippers, do not buy from them) never flipped a car in my life.

    Like 20
  4. cyclemikey

    I drove one of these on the job when they were new trucks. I think my kidneys are still recovering from the ride quality. Not to mention the bumps on the head you’d get from hitting the roof over bumps.

    Even so, I like this, for nostalgic reasons I guess. But not at 15K. It’s reasonably complete and well-preserved, but it’s not THAT nice.

    Like 18
  5. Steve R

    The ad is too detailed, it was impossible to read through to the end. Three quarters is unnecessary, it was definitely designed as a way to pump up the price. You rarely see this sort of ad for a car that’s priced to the market. It’s a nice truck, it turned out better that someone would expect based on the “as found” pictures.

    About half of the asking price would be more realistic. There were some decent 521’s in the completed section on eBay, none sold for more than $5,000.

    I have no issues with flippers, however, the cars they are selling need to stand or fall on their own merits, one of which includes the asking price.

    Steve R

    Like 14
  6. Dirk


    Like 2
  7. P

    It took Woody Guthrie less time to sing Alice’s Restaurant.

    Like 17
    • Evan

      Try Arlo.

      Like 13
      • P

        Yeah, I botched that.

        Like 6
  8. Al

    The best version of this, I’ve seen, is where someone painted over the D and the N on the tailgate, so that it read “ATSU” and then wrote under that
    “Gesundheit !”.

    Like 17
  9. Lindsey Johnstone

    Boy, this brings back memories! My folks bought a 1970 Datsun pickup (same color in this ad) in my Senior year of high school. Dad worked an early morning job, so he had it to commute in, and I had it in the evening for Scouts and things. Poor little thing saw a lot of miles. Dad had it into the 90’s.It was mostly rusted out.

    Like 1
  10. Lroy

    They added one too many a zeroes. Don’t even spill table salt on the garage floor, the frames on most of this generation gave way decades ago to road salt. I looked at one a couple month ago, put my finger through the frame rail. Buyers beware.

    Like 1
  11. Hugh

    My dad had a 1969 model with the 1300 pushrod engine- only 67 HP!

    Two reasons for the awful ride quality were the stock nylon cord 6-ply tires and the bottom leaf in the leaf springs. That leaf must have been 3/8” thick! Dad eventually removed that leaf on each side of his; if you weren’t regularly hauling 1200 pound loads it was fine. With better tires and minus the heavy leaf springs, it was a MUCH better riding truck.

    Like 1
    • Bernie

      I had one of those too, in blue. On the freeway with a friend one time, he seemed annoyed and asked me, “Don’t you have to shift? It’s so loud!” He also commented that the shocks seemed broken. They weren’t, but it rode so stiffly. He never rode in it again. Lol! These were really dreadful daily conveyances, but were kinda cool back then.

      Like 1
  12. Joe Backer

    Didn’t bother looking at the cl page. I’ll just take your word on the long list. 15k and a long list of what was done. Yet the truck has rust on it and cheap cover seat and dash. Plus that steering wheel don’t look stock. though I don’t know Datsun’s all that well.

    15k Should look like it came off the showroom floor.
    the hell with this guy’s flip U I want I want I want 15k. I want to crash your truck during a test drive. I hate cl ppl. so many of them are sooo beyond weirdos. Its like dude your selling the car right? so why do I have to wait to see it? Your doing an oil change and tune up on it? Ahhhh never mind. Keep your trash truck and cram it.

    Like 3
  13. Craig Chapman

    I managed a store for NAPA in 1978 and we had one of these. It had a dual point distributor and if you got on it one of the sets of points would pop loose and it would run terrible. As long as you drove it easy if ran fine. Just nobody wanted to drive it as it ended up a a last resort vehicle. I was at that store for almost a year and never put gas in it.

    Like 0
  14. John b

    I have this same truck in same color in storage except its a 72…with the only other difference…mine has rust

    Like 0
  15. George Meyer

    Nice truck. Would have been a fun project. But Steve R is right…any vehicle needs to stand on it’s own merit in the marketplace. This guy is trolling hoping to snag someone, and maybe he will. That’s classic cars…they don’t make them anymore, so where are you gonna go for that exact truck? Maybe I’m a little more generous (or crazy), but I like it and would step up to the tune of $7k. That would be a smokin deal considering what this guy has done, but the market doesn’t care what you put into it. $7k is all the money in my world. Good luck John H. Neat little truck!

    Like 1
  16. DKW

    Waaayyyy overpriced. He’s cleaned it up (some) and rebuilt a few things, but there is still plenty of work to be done. Also, no A/C which limits it to certain geographical areas.

    Like 0

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