On 510 day I am reminded of the fun Datsun 510 I used to own. Before I sold it I did a photo shoot with a friend who owned a 280Z. Judging from these photos you might think it was decades ago but in fact these photos were taken in the fall of 2015.
I bought my 1973 Datsun 510 in 2010 because I wanted to understand what all the fuss what about surrounding these cars. My early driving years in the mid-1990's were during some of the best years for Japanese sport compacts so I have always been a fan of this category. Unfortunately the 510 went out of production before I was born and most rust belt examples were recycled decades ago. Lucky for me I found this period correct 510 so I could experience the 510 as if I were an enthusiast in the 1970's.
I planned to enjoy it for a short time and then pass it along to someone else. Since I have a tendency to get attached to cars I created a short to-do list to keep myself focused.
- Car meet
- Photo shoot
Back in 2010 I was an avid amateur racer so I wasted no time trying my Dime on an autocross course. I was also quick to take it to car meets such as Cars & Coffee and import meets. But it took me five years to get around to the photo shoot. Likely I had grown too fond of it and was denying myself the final step to avoid selling it.
Finally in 2015 I invited my friend Ron with an incredible 280Z to join me for a fun photo shoot set in 1975. Our cars look period correct so why not dress in period clothing? Ron is a good sport so he was up for the challenge. We visited our local haberdashery for some far out clothing and I hired a talented automotive photographer, Travis Carroll, to take the photos.
The Datsun 510 established the definition of sports compact cars. It was inexpensive to own, highly modifiable, and possible to enjoy daily. The original owner of my 510 had fitted it with period correct modifications such as Libre wheels, BRE front splitter, and Mulholland Drive suspension. The 510 is easy to work on and responds well to modifications. I had a great time looking through documentation provided to me by the original owner such as BRE catalogs and snips from 70's car magazines. It is clear to see why modifying them became so popular and it is very difficult to find a stock one today.
My 510 was a Canadian market car and has a great story describing how it end it up in my town, St. Louis, Missouri. The original owner had owned a 1969 Datsun 510 and adored it. In 1973 he unfortunately wrecked and totaled it by putting it sideways into a utility pole. He immediately decided to buy a new 510 to replace it. Unfortunately since this 510 model was at the end of production he could not find a new one in America. Desperate he wrote a letter to Nissan in Japan. Nissan wrote back with a typed letter suggesting that he check Canada since the final shipments were sent there. After locating some in Ontario he flew up, bought a new 510 and drove it home to St. Louis.
My 510 is now in the hands of a collector in Chicago. He was quick to pick it up after my listing appeared on Bring a Trailer. As you can imagine it was an honor that BAT featured my listing.
Looking back on my five years as a 510 owner I completely understand what makes it so special. It helped establish a recipe for sport compact cars that has brought us many great compacts in the decades to follow. Without a doubt this fantastic car deserves it’s own automotive holiday.
Happy 510 day!
And although Instagram wasn’t around in the 1970's the internet of today demands “rigged shots” so we will not disappoint.
If you would like high resolution versions of these photos for personal use please visit this gallery on Flickr.