Fresh Engine: 1971 Datsun 510 Station Wagon

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Rugged design, excellent handling, and easy parts availability (both standard OEM and performance parts) has made the Datsun 510 a firm favorite among racing and rallying competitors for nearly five decades. While the 510 station wagon didn’t benefit from the sedan’s independent rear suspension, it is still a great little car that is capable of surprising performance. Barn Finder Roger spotted this 510 for us, so thank you so much for that. The little Datsun is located in Fair Oaks, California, and is listed for sale here on Craigslist.

The owner states that he has spent the past nine months restoring this Datsun, but it appears that these efforts have centered on mechanical work rather than anything cosmetic. The body is relatively straight, with a couple of fairly minor dings visible on the front edge of the driver’s side fender, and just below the grille. There is some rust present in the rockers, and this is very common in the 510. As he rightly points out, there are a number of manufacturers who can supply replacement panels. Other prone areas can include the bottoms of the doors, and the lower quarter panels, but these look to be clean. The color combination on this Datsun doesn’t grab me, but I think that it’s the stripes that are the problem. I would probably get rid of those, or replace them in the same design, but in white to compliment the color on the upper parts of the body.

The carpet looks like it might be new, and the door trims look to also be in good condition. The dash pad is cracked, which is hardly a surprise on a 510, and the seats will require new covers. An aftermarket tachometer has been installed into the dash in the pod to the right of the speedometer, but the owner is including an original panel if the buyer wishes to remove it. There is also a rather neat aftermarket radio/cassette player fitted to the dash. It has a real period look to it which seems appropriate, and it could also be replaced with an original radio if the new owner chose to do so.

It’s under the hood where all the time, effort, and money has gone on the Datsun over the last nine months. The L16 engine has been given the flick, as has the original 4-speed transmission. They have been replaced by an L20 engine and a 5-speed manual transmission. The engine has only covered about 500 miles since it received a rebuild and has undergone improvements to the carburetor, intake, and distributor to unleash some extra power. The car has also had a complete braking system rebuild, with a new master cylinder, new rear drums, new rear shoes, wheel cylinders, flexible lines, front pads, and rebuilt brake calipers.

While NADA place a valuation of around $5,100 on a 510 in good condition, and Hagerty value a #3 at around $6,300, it is hard to find one below either of these valuations that is in reasonable condition. Really nice examples will sell for twice these amounts quite easily when they come onto the market. The owner of this one has priced it at $6,000, and that seems to be quite reasonable given the work that is required to make it really shine.

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. stillrunners

    Neat – o…..chasing one down just like it .

    Like 1
  2. Miguel

    I would rather have a 2 door Pinto wagon for much less money.

    Like 2
  3. Kenneth Carney

    My neighbor had a really nice black one
    in the early ’80’s. He let us borrow it so
    that my wife could drive me to the eye
    doctor. His was fairly quick and handled
    great with wide tires and rims he had on
    it. My wife said that driving that car was
    a blast and since he was wanting to sell
    it, I considered buying until I found out
    how much replacement parts cost back
    then–$90 for brake pads, $400 for a
    starter, and a like amount for an alternator. That did it for me, I did just
    what Miguel said and bought a Pinto
    wagon that he was selling instead. And
    while it wasn’t as fun to drive as the
    Datsun was, it was cheaper in price and
    cheaper to run. Other than the cost of
    parts, I’ve always loved the early Datsun
    line of cars but was never able to buy
    one. They were tough little cars when
    compared to the Nissans that replaced
    them. That’s when their build quality hit
    the skids and never really recovered.
    Sis found an Altima she likes but I
    advised her not to buy it. Their engines
    now leak oil and water constantly and
    there aren’t many mechanics in my
    neck of the woods who want to service
    them. Factor in the wait time for parts,
    and you have a real loser. I told her the
    only way I’d stop beefing about it was
    if she got one of those repair plans
    from Car Shield or Endurance. With no
    lemon law for used cars here in Florida,
    she’s really taking a chance on buying a

    Like 2
  4. Righteous Bob

    Lemon Law for Used Cars, Really, what states have that?? I can see that law for new cars, but used, No Way!!

    Like 2
  5. PDXBryan

    I sold my ’69 510 wagon about 6 months ago for $6K. 280ZX struts/brakes, 280Z 5-speed, L-20 w/Weber and headers, and new heater core. The interior w/new carpet and 240Z steering wheel looked nice but the body had numerous dings and dimples. However, being an eastern Oregon car it had no cancer at all. The friend that bought it just had it painted that beautiful vintage Datsun sky blue. It’s gonna be amazing when he’s done and probably worth 3X what he paid me for it. I’d say this one is overall comparable, especially considering the way the price of these is heading. I have mixed emotions about that appreciation. It makes me sad that it may be the end of a long era (multiple generations!) of 510s being affordable by us with champagne tastes and beer budgets.

    Like 2
  6. Kenneth Carney

    Hi Bob! They’ve been trying for years to
    get that law enacted here in Florida for
    quite a few years now to go after car
    dealers with less than sterling reputations. When we moved here 35
    years ago, used car sales weren’t
    regulated at all and the end result was
    that dealers here had the right to sell
    a vehicle regardless of its condition.
    Often, cars were sold with cracked blocks, bent frames, altered VINs and
    a whole lot more. These “dealers” were
    ripping off consumers for billions of
    of dollars a year. Thankfully though,
    lawmakers have been cracking down on
    used car dealers in recent years so it’s
    now harder for a dealer to knowingly
    sell a dangerous or defective vehicle
    to an unsuspecting buyer. Used Nissans
    hoewver, are mostly lemons that need to
    be banned from lots here in Florida as it
    costs way too much to repair them. As
    for the predatory nature of used car dealers, I’ll save that for another time.

    Like 1
    • MrBZ

      You hate Nissans and love regulation. Got it.

      Like 2
  7. Gay Car Nut

    Lovely looking Datsun. If it weren’t for the damage on the front port side of the car, or the driver’s seat, it’d be perfect. Hopefully whoever purchases the car has the money, the parts, and the know-how to do the repair work. :)

    Like 1
  8. Richard Switzer

    Just like my first car, 72 510 wagon in all orange.
    Not sure would be value close to the Coupe, or sedan
    since it’s rear suspension was more like the pickup
    For handling heavy loads rather then the Auto Cross.
    But for wagon people, still a solid ride.

    Like 1
  9. the one

    Turn the key and go! My Datsuns, (had 2 in the seventies) never, ever let me down, ever..

    Like 2
  10. Maestro1

    Get rid of the stripes and change the white color to a beige or light tan. Much better effect.

    Like 2
  11. Jon Hellinga

    Not that easy to find parts for the body and interior…

    Like 0
  12. Ken

    “a firm favorite among racing and rallying competitors”

    It was also a firm favorite with my mom for delivering papers on her motor route in the 1970s.

    Like 2

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