1971 Datsun 510 Bluebird 1600 SSS
1971 Datsun 510 Bluebird 1600 SSS 4-door. I didn’t plan on doing any review of it, but my friend needed my help: I had to drive the car to Nagoya and bring it to a local auction. 1 hour behind the wheel of a cool track-ready Datsun?? “Ok, as a friend, I will clear my very busy schedule for you and I’ll help you out on this one.” What a horrible life I have! Despite the fact that I haven’t really tested the car properly and that this is not the way I’d normally “test drive” a car (I only drove it on a terribly boring road), I’ll still try my best and share what I thought of it.
To me, the 4door version does not look as good as the 2door. A bit like with the Hakosuka: 2door>4door. Nonetheless its agressive design, sport wheels, bigger exhaust and front fender mirrors give it this typical 70’s JDM sports car look and the number of doors it has, is just quickly forgotten. When the owner got the car, it also had the typical Datsun front spoiler, which made it look much cooler. Unfortunatly, this one was removed as it was slightly broken. It looks even better with it.
Interior-wise, bucket seats in the front, original fake leather seats in the back. It really is the quintessence of what a basic interior is. It doesn’t look cheap, it doesn’t look expensive. It’s just practical and quality is much better than what you get in most of today’s modern cars. Everything looks strong and sturdy and your eyes don’t hurt when looking around you. No toys to mess with while driving either... Still, I spent a little while wondering what a couple of buttons with no marking really did, so if you're bored, you can still turn those on and off. Nothing seems to occur anyway!
Once behind the wheel, the engine and its 2 Weber carburetors scream in your ears!! It’s just awesome! Nothing beats the sound of a carbureted race-ish car.
As far as the acceleration goes, eventhough I didn’t push it much at all, it’s not a very fast car. Sure it screams, sure it’s loud but compared to what we are used to today, it’s just not fantastic. I think it compares to what you get in a 1.8L Miata. It’s just not very fast, but still fast enough to induce a sense of speed. Add the fact that it always sounds like an old SCCA racecar and you have everything that makes a slow sport car fun today.
When comes the time to stop the damn thing, you really need to have good muscles to do so. The brakes were very, VERY hard. I have driven a lot of cars, and this one is in the top 2 or 3 of the hardest brake pedal I’ve ever dealt with. It just feels unassisted eventhough it is. Take your own car, go downhill, turn off the engine, pump the brakes a couple of time and then try to stop it... That’s how hard the brakes on this Bluebird are. It does brake pretty well but unfortunately, I can't really tell you about the endurance of those nor if they tend to overheat.
The gearbox was freakishly smooth though. Very light gear shifts, clutch was light too. It didn’t feel like a track car at all. Synchros worked perfectly, it was very easy to rev-match (the engine revs really fast too with awesome throttle response you never get in modern cars), really no problem at all. It was an absolute pleasure to just shift it for no reason. Each downshift brought a massive smile on my face!
Concerning the handling, despite the fact that I haven’t been able to really test the car properly, through a couple of corners, I felt a massive lack of precision in the steering along with a rear axle that was rather “old” to say the least. It made me guess that the whole thing might be a bit sketchy at higher speeds on bumpy mountain roads. On a track, or if the road is perfectly smooth, it should be alright. It also has an open-diff, which means that it won't like it if the rear starts to come around. With a few upgrades I’m sure this car would be awesome, but as it is, with such an approximative steering, I don’t think it would be that fun to drive fast. Sketchy, but most likely not very fun. It needs fixing. I’m sure a well sorted car is awesome, but as far as the handling one this goes, it just didn't feel like it was taken care of.
To conclude, this specific car needed a bit of work, mostly with the steering. A great engine noise and an awesome gearbox are not enough to make a great car, it also needs to be stable and look great. A little bit of cosmetic work (mostly interior) along with suspensions/steering tuning would bring a lot potential and value to this car. Still, what an awesome car it could be... Its sound is intoxicating and I need a carbed sport car in my life. Unfortunatly for me, this one was sold at auction... Sad Flavien is sad :(
Prices on those are climbing high and fast. My friend got an insane deal on it and needed the money, so it was a quick and easy flip for him. Buy one while you still can, well sorted ones might reach 4-door Hakosuka prices within the next few years!