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Brother, Can You Spare A Dime: 1970 Datsun 510

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This Dime has been off the road for the last 14 years and has just 44,000 miles on it. This 1970 Datsun 510 is listed here on craigslist in Goldendale, Washington with an asking price of $8,500 firm! This is potentially a good bargain. Mr. John Chaney, a loyal Barn Finds reader, sent this one in; thanks, John!

The 510 was sold from 1968 through 1973 as an arm of the Datsun Bluebird. Like the Datsun Fairlady, Americans preferred less dainty names for their somewhat dainty vehicles. The 510 won its class in the 1971 and 1972 Trans Am Series and has continued to be popular with racers from weekend warriors to pros alike. For a car with an original list price of about $2,000, it had a lot going on, and it still does.

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This “poor man’s BMW” looks like it’s in great shape but it needs work on the brakes before you can drive it. No worries on that, pages 4-7 of The Dime, Quarterly will fill you in on rebuilding the brakes on this car.  This is a two-door sedan with less of a slope to the c-pillar and rear window than the two-door coupe has. I almost prefer the look of the two-door sedan because it just highlights this car’s overall boxiness even more than the coupe does. But, I love both profiles of this super cool, little car.

It’s hard to tell from these photos but it looks like this is possibly a #831 White car and some of the photos make it look like it may be #822 Beige. In either case it’s not shouting, “Look at me!” It will be a nice sleeper once you tear into those hidden performance modifications. Or, keep it original if you’re a purist like I am. I would restore this car back to such an OEM-stock standard that Nissan would be hounding me to buy it for their collection. You simply will not see an unmodified two-door 510; and even rarely will see an unmodified 510 of any bodystyle what so ever. These things are a blank canvas for owners so that’s why I would want one to be bone-stock. Call me crazy, and most of you already do; but I would take a 510 over a BMW 1600, the car that Nissan was said to be gunning for when they designed this car. Not that I don’t love the BMW, too, but there’s just something about these funky Japanese cars that turns my crank.

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Other than a typical center dash crack, which can be amazingly repaired to like new again, the interior looks great. There are no seat photos, however, so be prepared for the worst there. Since Craigslist ads can have many, many more photos than are typically shown, I’m always leery when sellers aren’t showing something, especially when it’s free to do so.

Does this floor mat look newer than new?! Nice. If only the entire car were that nice, but then the price would be double what it is here. Yes, you’ve surely noticed it by now, this car has the optional 3-speed automatic transmission. I know, right?! Dang, that’s a letdown, isn’t it?! But, it’s workable, we can get through this.. stay strong!

There isn’t a huge trunk here but it’s in nice shape. You can see some surface rust around the edges but this is most likely an original Northwest US car and it’s wet there. Everything is original here according to the seller, who is the second owner. Even the paint was applied in Japan so nothing is hidden by previous repairs. This car was for sale for $12,500 about a year ago so maybe it didn’t sell and the owner figured out that the market wasn’t quite where they wanted it to be and dropped the price, or whomever bought the car is selling it again, at a huge loss. You’ll have to call the number in the ad to find out for sure.

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Here is the Datsun 1.6L 4-cylinder with a couple’three ticks under 100hp. This isn’t a factory powerhouse with a 0-60 time of a little over 14 seconds but, hey, that’s twice as fast as a Subaru 360 is! It looks clean as heck under that lid, eh? Although, it should be body-colored under there so I’m not sure if it’s been pulled and painted or how it ended up being black under there instead of body-colored. That makes me wonder a bit about the originality claim. Here is a 510 owner who painted his engine bay in satin black so “it won’t get dirty as fast”, in the first two photos here. Maybe that’s what happened with this car, who knows. In any case, this is a super rare car, there aren’t many two-door 510s left on the planet that haven’t been cut apart and turned into someone else’s dream car. My dream car would be to have this thing restored to bone stock, although with a 5-speed manual. Would you keep this one original, or would you do a 5-speed swap, or would you modify everything on this car?


  1. Avatar photo Rick

    Stupid automatic trans, no thanks! Thats why its only $8500

    Like 0
    • Avatar photo Audifan

      It survived BECAUSE of the automatic transmission. Otherwise it would be lowered, loud and otherwise pumped and pimped up.
      I would freshen the car up, but leave it otherwise completely alone. They are original only once.
      P.S. Thank goodness WA does not have penalties for expired registration, unlike CA.

      Like 0
  2. Avatar photo Dolphin Member

    Great cars for the money. I owned a couple of them back in the ’70s, both with 4-speeds. Sort of like a poor man’s BMW, but although they were pretty rugged they didn’t quite have the suspension of a 2002. But the low price made that more or less OK. Also watched these compete in sedan races, and they were giant killers when prepared and driven well, which I think Pete Brock and his drivers did the best..

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  3. Avatar photo PhxBarbie

    Scotty I just want to say I love your style. You’ve been doing a great job and I really do enjoy reading your pieces. They always have the right amount of knowledge and humor.

    You never fail to make me laugh. I think some of the readers here take this all way too seriously. I can appreciate looking at and reading about all sorts of vehicles, and I think it’s absurd when some guys complain that a vehicle being reviewed is not appropriate for BF.

    It’s the wide variety of vehicles that makes this site so much fun to read. That and guys like you who write the funniest, most interesting articles.

    I admit BF is my guilty pleasure, and I do realize as a female I’m supposed to be keeping up with the kardashians, but this site is far more fun.

    I also admit I feel obliged to share it with all my buddies, and they love it. I got an email Friday from one who said he spent the entire morning at work online reading BF, and that it’s better than porn.

    I’m guessing that’s a compliment of the highest order.

    Keep up the good work Scotty!

    Like 1
    • Avatar photo Howard A Member

      Hi PhxBarbie, hold on, back the trolley up. “As a female you’re supposed to keep up with the Kardashians”, no way. We need more women chiming in on these things, and I’d love to make it my personal mission to encourage more women to speak up. Truth be known, more women probably drove cars like these than men. ( had a female friend that had a 510 4 door) I’d love to hear their stories. Pass the word around to your gearhead gf’s. And don’t say you don’t have any, as any trip to a NHRA drag racing event, would clearly tell otherwise. ( especially at the Forces pits) As far as Scotty G, he’s a good friend of mine, and truly a unique guy. I’d like to think BF’s has increased in readership because of him.

      Like 0
    • Avatar photo Scotty G Staff

      PhxBarbie (and, Howard), you are both too kind, thanks very much!

      Like 0
  4. Avatar photo angliagt

    That “almost 100 hp” is at the flywheel,not at the rear wheels.
    I was really dissapointed when I finally got to drive one,after reading
    about the modified ones in magazines.

    Like 0
  5. Avatar photo Mark in WNC

    Someone please buy this before the current owner COMPLETELY screws it up! Nice car…I would prefer a 4 or 5 speed.

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  6. Avatar photo jim s

    these we fun to drive with a manual transmission. they did not do well when crashed, rusted badly, and that is the gas tank inside the trunk, right behind the backseat. but a lot of car from that time frame were the same way. i think this will end up getting converted to manual. i did get to see the 510s race, back in the day. fun to watch. great find.

    Like 0
    • Avatar photo Howard A Member

      Hi jim, IDK, an Asian car of this vintage almost NEVER had an automatic. I remember the 1st Toyota pickup I saw with an automatic. Very unusual. I like it, as I’m sick of shifting after 35 years as a truck driver. Weird it’s a 3 speed, but only 2 drive positions, like a powerglide.

      Like 0
      • Avatar photo jim s

        in my area back in that time frame there were automatics because that was what was on the dealers lots. if you wanted a manual you were put on a waiting list. part of the reason for this was the independent distributor system which gave them territories. the product mix would/could be different in each territory. the legal battles as the manufacturers tried to buyout/take control of the distributors is a interesting read.

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  7. Avatar photo squealey healey

    Happy to have heard of this site.

    My mother used to tell me that I was “BORN in a BARN”, but it wasn’t true. She only meant that I always forgot to close doors.

    I do like to open doors to old sheds, garages and even barns, where I have found some pretty exciting things in the 60 years I have been wiping grease off my hands.
    My main interest is in British, German and Italian sports cars of the 50s and 60s. Most of which have now priced themselves too high on my personal cost~benefit ratio.
    So I like things like the Suzuki Swift Gti, Toyota MR2 and the Datsun 510 or 240Z. All of which are still semi affordable.

    I was a pretty successful racer while in my 20s, when an unmarried working guy could afford to race. I went vintage racing during my 50s.

    I have lost count of the number of automobiles I have owned and passed on to other enthusiasts. Some of whom have been my friends for 50 years.

    I hope I can contribute something useful and maybe funny or entertaining.

    squealey healey

    Like 0
    • Avatar photo Howard A Member

      Hi squealey, welcome aboard. We’re all bozo’s on this bus. It’s all about memories here, ( and maybe a good deal on a project.)When a vehicle comes up that you’ve owned or had contact with, we’d love to hear about it.

      Like 0
  8. Avatar photo Doug Towsley

    Ive had a number of 510s, But at one time had a early 70s BMW 2002 and one day jacked up both and crawled around underneath and was shocked/impressed how similar they both were. (The 510 I had at that time was a 4 door) Had 2 wagons too, and currently have a 1972 510 wagon bought at a garage sale a few years back for $300. It too has an Automatic and original 1600cc motor.

    BUT BUT BUT,, the reason WHY I love love love Datsuns is their similar methods to Chevrolet and interchangeability. You can take Datsun and Nissan parts off a variety of other cars and more importantly new models and in most cases it will fit. A popular upgrade is later years Disc brakes, 5 speeds, and different motors. You will find that ALL the mounts and holes are there if you want to swap over to a manual transmission. I ran a 2400cc motor for a while out of a 240SX along with other parts in one of my 510s. done right the car could be returned back to stock if so desired.

    Im thinking this car has been carefully detailed and somewhat finessed (just my opinion) and the reason why is when very original and unmolested examples of these show up on ebay they tend to get some very impressive money. A couple years back there was a grandma car wagon in Southern Oregon that went for astronomical sums of money. Seen the pattern repeat so as a guess the owner here is looking to replicate such a buzz.

    Like 0
  9. Avatar photo Paul B

    These are wonderful, fun cars. I’ve loved every one I’ve driven, though I’ve never actually owned one. I did buy a wagon for a girlfriend one time. She loved it too, until the wreck. 510s used to beat me and my Saab 96V4 regularly in autocross competitions in the late 1960s. If a 510 and a BMW 1600 showed up, 3rd in class was the highest I could get unless it was raining! The only thing I’d do to this one is swap out the transmission for a 4-speed or 5-speed. A purist would leave it alone, and I could get with that too. There’s a lucky buyer out there somewhere …

    Like 0
  10. Avatar photo stillrunners

    love it and them…but just remembered the few of them in a local yard being saved are gone including the station wagons….boohoo

    Like 0
  11. Avatar photo John

    I would beg to differ on the “wonderful car” opinion. These drove well (IRS, If my memory is correct) and were simple enough to work on and modify. But Japanese cars, up to about 1980, had metallurgy issues. The steel they used in the bodies rusted away at a frightening rate. While many (if not most) of us remember the red, white, and blue 510 racers, the fact is that those cars had factory backing, a complete pit crew, and a well equipped shop to maintain them. Moreover, the successful racers had complicated roll cage/space frames that negated the need for much structural integrity. Few street 510s had that luxury.

    Like 0
  12. Avatar photo JCW

    So why the automatic bashing. I enjoy both. Each has its place and when you have replaced knees and or hips automatics aren’t so bad.

    Like 0
    • Avatar photo TopJimmy5150

      So weird to see a column shifter on a Japanese car of this era.

      Like 0
  13. Avatar photo Allan

    Mine has 23000
    Paid 6
    Yes an auto

    Like 0
  14. Avatar photo Kelly Breen

    1972 510 was my first car. It had a standard in it though. Man, it handled like a dream and disappeared into a cloud of red ferrous oxide dust like a dream too!

    Like 0

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