Datsun 510 Long Term Test

pretty bikini girl next to a datsun 510

From Road & Track, February 1972

Caution: This is an old article. A lot of the information in this
article may be considered out of date or just plain wrong.

JAPANESE CARS are coming on strong in the U.S. and we
wanted to get more experience with one than just a
road test. We had been impressed by the specifications
of the Datsun 510 when it,was introduced and were convinced
after testing it (March ’68) that it was exceptional
value for the money. We approached Datsun’s headquarters
in Gardena, Calif. about borrowing a car for a long-term
test and they were happy to provide a test car, one of the
recently introduced 510 2-door sedans.

The car, red with black vinyl interior, was released to us
at the beginning of 1969; a 1969 model, serial no. PL510-
2D-041962, license no. YQF 025. The Datsun people had
put 575 miles on it to make sure it was a good example, but
it had had no special preparation and had a few minor
defects that we noted in our first few days with it: there was
a constant vibration in the instrument panel whenever the
car was being driven, the headlights were aimed too high,
and the engine idle speed seemed too high even for a nearly
new car. Otherwise it was its pleasant 510 self-a peppy,
light-steering sedan with lots of space inside, attractive styling
, good vision all around, a comfortable ride (except for a
distinct tendency to bottom its front suspension on dips) and
passable handling. The latter was made better than passable.
actually, because the distributors fitted the car with a set of
Goodyear 175-13 radial tires-being anxious that a tire
replacement not be included in the costs for the 24,000 miles
we proposed to do on the car as it had been on the Jaguar
420 we reported on in 1968. These and an AM radio were
the only extras on the 2-door and are included in the
delivered price we have listed.

Datsun’s service schedule for the 510 (see the Routine
Maintenance Summary) calls for an initial checkup at 2000
miles, another at 4000, and from 6000 miles on a regular
interval of 3000 miles between routine service operations. We
returned the car to the distributor for its 2000-mi service as
they had requested, got it back the next day and found all
our complaints corrected.

The only thing we noticed before the 4000-mile service
was an increased octane requirement (it now pinged mildly
on regular fuel, despite the official regular-fuel recommendation
in the owner’s manual, and would run on after the
ignition was switched off). From this point on we had the
car serviced at Barwick Imports in Laguna Beach, who cured
the running-on by resetting the timing: but the need for
premium fuel remained and we elected to use premium
from that point on. Bill for the 4000-mile service was $ 12.39.

We found ourselves driving the 510 hard and fast, within
the highly restrictive conditions of driving in Southern California
. The 510 seemed to thrive on it, and the radial tires
gave it roadbuilding that encouraged us to corner vigorously.
But we were getting 24.5 mpg by an odometer that was
slightly on the pessimistic side because of the oversize tires
(the normal size is 5.60-13) and this seemed highly
satisfactory except for the fact that the fuel, as with the Austin
America reported on two months ago, was premium. The
windshield wiper/washer knob came off because its set
screw backed out, the right backup light bulb burned out,
and we were occasionally getting a backfire on deceleration.
The backfiring seems to be an inevitability with engines
whose emissions are controlled by air injection; a “gulp
valve” diverts the air pump’s fresh air supply away from the
exhaust manifold and to the intake manifold for a short
time when the foot is lifted from the throttle to avoid the
backfiring that would be encouraged by a supply of oxygen
in the exhaust manifold, but it’s not 100% effective on any
car we’ve driven with it. This never became a serious problem.

Brake squeal-common with disc brakes on inexpensive
cars-was getting worse on the 510 but was not bad enough
to report it at the 9000-mile service. The ignition switch had
worked loose in i;s hole; a $4.50 labor charge for this-in
retrospect, this should have been covered by warranty-
and a 65c backup light bulb combined with the charge for
the routine operations brought this bill to $27.49.

We learn a lot about the road test cars in the week we
keep most of them, but it’s amazing how so many more
things come out with an extended acquaintance. We got so
finely tuned to the car that we could pick up a slight engine
surge when cruising at 35-40 mph, due no doubt to the lean
carburetion required for emission control. We learned that
the 510 was a “cold natured” car requiring much use of the
choke in the morning. We came to appreciate the fact that
one key opened all locks-some cars have as many as three
-and we got very irritated at the ventless front windows
which create such a draft at anything over 30 mph that we
would wear ourselves out cranking the windows up and
down in stop-and-go traffic. Offsetting the latter is excellent
ventilation-so good that when motoring at 70 mph in
sunny, 100-degree weather we still kept the windows closed
-but at the low speeds mentioned this can t do the job.

By 11,000 miles the brakes had become very much noisier
and were pulling to the left sporadically. One day we took
the 510 into Barwick to get a diagnosis, and wouldn’t you
know it, they quietened down and would neither squeal nor
pull. Machines are as perverse as people sometimes! Sometime
around the 11,000-mile mark, a staff member had all
four tires and wheels balanced, for $6.00.

When we took the car in for its 12,000-mile ritual-
which is a major service-the brakes were consistently noisy
and the clutch pedal was squawking when used. So, in
addition to the extensive routine items, we had Barwick
sand the brake pads and they found the clutch pedal return
spring to be all bent out of shape. There was no charge for
the brake work-the car was out of warranty but we had
reported trouble earlier. The 45c spring and a 40c choke
knob to replace the one that had broken brought this bill to
$43.60. The new choke knob was of a revised design that
is less likely to break.

The brakes still squealed as loudly as ever, so we contacted
the distributor about them. As soon as we could get
the car in-which was at 14,500 miles-we left it off for a
day and a new set of pads was installed on the front disc
brakes (the rear are drums). These reduced the amount of
squeal on braking considerably, but now there was a strong
tendency for them to squeal during cornering when not
applied! We decided to wait a while before complaining any

The 510 isn’t specifically a long-distance car, and we
think most owners use it mainly for local driving, but it has
enough performance and such good ventilation that staff
members were usually happy to take it on long runs. One,
about to go to San Francisco, delayed the 15,000-mile service
until it was too late to get an appointment at the dealer and
had to settle for an oil change at a service station. As the
maintenance summary shows, this is of little consequence
and we got off cheap at $2.94. The trip to San Francisco
was not merciful unto the machinery: going up the car was
driven con brio on the swooping and twisting Cabrillo
Highway. But the willing sohc engine seemed to thrive on
the punishment of being repeatedly subjected to its rev limit
and wide-open throttle up through the gears. The shift
linkage-which we found to be delightful generally-began
to get sticky and at times we’d have difficulty getting into
3rd and 4th gears. For the record we tried regular fuel again
on this trip; the engine clattered and ran on again so back
to premium.

At the 18,000-mile service we had the dealer inspect and
lubricate the shift linkage; he didn’t find anything wrong.
The clearance light on the left front fender was burned out
and another 40c bulb brought this service to $20.45.

By the 20,000-mile mark the brakes had returned to their
previous state of being noisy at times, quiet at other times,
and usually pulling to the left when they were noisy. They
were at their worst when they were cold and once warm
were decent enough that we let them go and kept driving.
We had begun to note increasing slack in the steering at the
straight-ahead position, as well as worsening creaks and
groans from the front suspension. Not really worried about
either of these-Barwick had squirted some rubber lube on
the bushings at 18,000-we headed for Reno to test a
Ferrari, the Datsun’s trunk loaded with test gear. After
getting into Nevada we did the natural thing-opened the
Datsun up to its maximum of 98 mph. It went some 10
miles at this speed without overheating, but didn’t really
feel as if it were designed for this sort of thing, so we backed
off to about 85 and held this for the remainder. During
this trip we got up to elevations of 7000-8000 ft and what we
called “peppy” performance fell off to “gutless.” After all
if you follow the rule of thumb that an engine loses about
3 % of its power for every 1000-ft increase in elevation, we
were down 24% or making do with 73 bhp in a car that
was loaded to about 2500 lb. Looking at it another way
we still found ourselves passing nearly everybody, which
confirms our feeling that you really don’t need much
performance in America to outrun 95 percent of the people
on the road. Most Americans just don’t like to press down
on their throttles, even when they’re driving 300-bhp cars.

The 21,000-mile service was done by the dealer in Reno,
and again a bulb-this time the right stoplight-had to be
replaced. Total bill was $6.66 with the bulb. Again we
mentioned the front suspension trouble but the dealer offered
no more help than “they all do that.” So we waited until
we were safely home and had Barwick do what was necessary,
which turned out to be new bushings for the front
suspension. A steering adjustment was done also, and the
bill for all this was $13.38. We think we can rightly lay the
blame for this premature front-end wear to the big tires and
our taking advantage of them so often.

We were nearing the end of our allotted time with the
510. Anything that went wrong with it from 21,000 on was
of a mysterious and sporadic nature. The shift linkage
would occasionally get sticky but could be freed by getting
it over into the reverse gate; a ticking noise would emanate
from the transmission on some mornings, and we found we
could usually stop the brake noise by tapping the pedal a
couple of times-indicating that the problem lay in the
caliper mechanism. The 24,000-mile service cost $38.98 and
it was time to return the car to Gardena.

What did we think of the 510 after 24,000 miles with it?
To be sure, it was well liked by most of the staff and was
generally considered an enjoyable and entertaining car to
drive. At the end of the test it still seemed mechanically
sound-certainly the much-used engine was as healthy as new.
The radial tires had at least 10,000 miles left in them despite
the hard driving. On the negative side, the brakes had been a
real bother, and there may have been impending trouble in
the transmission what with the sticking linkage and that
elusive tick-tick. There were a few rattles-the main heater
flap would rattle loudly when in the “room” or interior posi-
tion-and the knob seat-adjuster knob on the driver’s side
had fallen off. And we couldn’t help but remember how
many bulbs had burned out.

We have to conclude that the Datsun 510, excellent basic
package though it is, could do with better quality control and
that its front disc brakes probably need some redesign work.
What we can’t fault is the overall cost-per-mile: at 5.72c it
is the lowest figure we’ve recorded so far.

Quince Orchard Auto Show 6/9/96 Northern Virginia Z-Car

Morris Mini ?
Jaguar Model ?
Jaguar V12
Jaguar Model ?
Jaguar Model ?
Austin Healy 3000 replica – V8
Datsun 510 with a 225HP Mazda 13B rotary engine init.
Datsun 510 with a 225HP Mazda 13B rotary engine in it- engine compartment
Datsun 1600 roadster
Datsun 1600 roadster engine compartment – right side
Datsun 1600 roadster engine compartment – left side
Datsun 1600 roadster

Datsun 510 Better Handling And More Power

hot datsun 510

From Road & Track, xxx 1971

Caution: This is an old article. A lot of the information in this article may be considered out of date or
just plain wrong.

The 510

Ever since the days of the Lotus-Cortinas, I’ve found boxy little high-performance sedans appealing and I suppose that’s why I like the Datsun 510. Its solid sohc 4-cyl engine and independent rear suspension system, not usually found on economy sedans, give it lots of performance potential. It is the 2.5 Trans-Am champion (with a little help from Pete Brock and John Morton) and is quickly becoming popular in SCCA B Sedan racing. As a result of this racing activity and the increasing popularity of the 510, much high-performance equipment is being developed, and one of the main sources for such equipment is the Datsun factory.

Stock 510 Cornering

510 With Performance Suspension

Racing parts engineered by Nissan are availiable over the dealer’s parts counter by way of the Datsun Competition Department. The Competition Parts Department doesn’t sell the parts directly but has a separate warehouse from which the parts are shipped to the dealers. This department does deal directly with the customer, however, when offering technical advice and distributin competition parts catalogs. These are factory parts, most of them homologated for production-car racing, and the factory backs them by including them in the new car warranty. If a dealer installs the part, from L16 SSS cylinder head to the factory racing suspension kit, the warranty is still good – until the car is raced. It is conceivable, then, to have a highly modified 510 and still have the warranty in effect. It is a unique situation, great for the enthusiast and made possible because Yutaka Katayama, president of Nissan Motor Corp. in U.S.A., likes racing and feels that success in racing will improve sales.

Then there is Pete Brock, who has a winning way with Datsun cars, collecting the C Production championship two years in a row with a 240Z and winning the 2.5 Trans-Am with a 510. The equipment Brock Racing Enterprises designed and developed for the Trans-Am car is available, and now that the season is over BRE is filling in the gaps by designing suspension and engine packages for street use. In fact the parts business has grown so much that Brock has formed another company, Interpart, to handle sales and distribution of BRE parts as well as Nissan factory competition parts.


We caught Brock and chassis expert Trevor Harris in the middle of designing a street/slalom suspension kit for the 510 and arranged to test a prototype of the kit. Our baseline on the skidpad for a stock 510 was 0.611g lateral acceleration, limited by the skinny tires and rims. Simply changing to the dealer-installed 13 x 5 1/2-in. rims and 165-13 Bridgestone radial tires jumped the figure to 0.739g. That brings us to the first step in improving the 510 – wheels and tires. They are the best possible investment for improved handling and bracking and should be the first step, as the original equipment here is strictly economy. Tires as large as 185/70-13 mounted on 13 x 5 1/2 or 6-in. rims will fit without rubbing the fenders (providing the wheels have zero offset), even with the car 1 1/2 in. lower than stock. Many of the wheels sold for 510s have too much offset and limit the size of tire that can be used. The wheel manufacturers now have realized this and have begun to make wheels with proper offset.

With the baseline tests complete, a prototype of BRE’s Phase III Mulholland suspension kit was installed. The kit includes shorter, 115-lb/in. front and rear springs (stock springs are 85 lb/in.), 15/16-in. (0.94-in.) front anti-roll bar, 3/4-in. rear anti-roll bar and Koni shock absorbers; this lowers the 510 about 1 1/2 in. but keeps the center of the headlights a California-legal 24 in. above the road. Harris replaced the stock, rubber-mounted drag struts, which connect the leading edge of the lower front suspension arm to the body with a pair of ball-jointed struts. These eliminate rearward compliance in the front suspension and result in more positive steering feel at the expense of ride harshness. Using the ball joints these struts sell for $100 a set, but BRE is experimenting with Teflon to get the price down. They are not listed in the Interpart catalog yet. The suspension kit without the struts sells for $240, but it made a $2000 difference in the car and upped the skidpad number to 0.808g, still on the 165-13 radial tires.

Goodyear A70-13 bias-belted tires on 13 x 7-in. 4-spoke American Racing wheels were then bolted on a brought the lateral acceleration to 0.823g, at which point the stock carbuetor gave up. The non-baffled float bowl couldn’t handle the load and caused the engine to cut out after two laps but this problem never appeared in normal driving. The ride with the Mulholland kit is slightly more harsh, but not as harsh as the factory racing suspension and although wheel travel is reduced somewhat, the benefits in handling are certainly worth the loss for those not concerned with rough-rod or full-load ride and handling.

We ran two additional suspension tests. A 510 with the factory suspension kit (new front struts with springs, rear springs, shocks and a 23-mm, 0.91-in., front anti-roll bar) and Bridgestone racing tires on 13 x 5 1/2-in. rims went around the skid pad at 0.826g. This car, with two sidedraft Mikuni-Solex carburetors, had no difficulty with fuel delivery. And BRE’s number 35 Trans-Am car, during a shakedown session, went around at 1.01g on Guddyear racing tires.


“What modifications can I make and still run my car on the street?” asked Bruce Armstrong, an energetic young Datsun dealer from Yuma, Arizona who had just come into the BRE shop. “I’ve got just the thing sitting on the dyno right now,” replied Pete Brock, “Let’s see if it’s right for the street.” The dyno engine with L16 SSS cylinder head, BRE 311 cam, factory 9.5:1 pistons, Mikuni-Solex carburetors, tubing exhaust headers, strengthened rod bolts, light alloy flywheels, competition clutch, single-point distributor with special coil, points and resistor was quickly installed in Armstrong’s 510 which already had the factory racing suspension and Bridgestone racing tires. It worked. So well in fact that Armstrong bought it. Armstrong, now with a Datsun agency in New Westminster, Vancouver, B.C., has over 6000 miles on the engine and it’s still going strong and getting 22 mpg. Now with a 5-speed transmission installed in his car (“It keeps the rpm down over 100 mph”, he says) the fuel economy is slightly better. His 133-bhp Datsun is so docile that his mother asked him to build her a slightly detuned version, which he did with factory racing suspension, 9.5:1 pistons, 311 camshaft, tubing headers, Offenhauser intake manifold with stock carburetor, DS11 brake pads, Datsun 2000 clutch and a BRE front spoiler. It’s the fastest, best handling Datsun 510 in town,” she says.

For those who can’t afford 133 bhp, there are steps in between. An assortment of camshafts, pistons, tubing headers and carburetors is available, but the L16 SSS cylinder head, part of a regular production model called the 510 SSS and not available here, is the key. Adding all the equipment available won’t improve a thing and, in fact, may actually hurt the performance of an engine with the stock cylinder head. A stock engine with a good tune-up, rejetted carburetor and perhaps the single-point distributor does a good job and that’s as far as some owners will want to go. To go beyond that the head must be replaced.

Factory 5-speed transmissions are sitting on the parts shelves for those who are serious ($355) about going racing or high-speed touring. Installing the 5-speed requires a new driveshaft ($65) and rear transmission mount ($23.75). Limited-slip rear ends in rations of 4.11, 4.38, and 4.63:1 are factory supplied ($170) and a limited slip is a good investment for those who drive hard. Study the catalogs and ask the firms specializing in Datsun parts – Datsun Competition Department, BRE, Bob Sharp Racing and Ray Reed Racing – for advice. They can help you build a better 510.

Datsun 510 Fuel Tank FAQ

pretty redhead girl checking out datsun 510 engine


My question is this, is the fuel cap designed to be vented to the atmosphere? I noticed a collapsing of the filler tube when I go fill her up (it is a replacement rubber model-the rubber ends on the original steel tube were leaky causing a stink in my trunk) and there is obvious pressure on the cap when I remove it. There is also the stock vapor recovery tank mounted directly below the trunk lid/above the package shelf. Could that be blocked up causing the negative Pressure? I reconnected the tubes to the tank and tightened all connections. Any suggestions on modifying this system to relieve the pressure are appreciated.


What year Model? 510’s had closed systems, the cap was not vented. [Not sure about Canadian models, nor early USA 510’s. Seem to recall my sister’s ’68 having the evaporation tank… but this was not a requirement for roadsters until 1970!].

On the driver’s side firewall is a little thing with three lines to it. One comes from the tank vent, the other two lines are connected to the air cleaner (when the tank becomes to pull a vacuum from the fuel being drawn out of it, it will get its “air” supply from the line connected to the air cleaner). The other line goes to the crankcase (the little tube above the PVC breather). If you fill up the tank on a hot day, and the full expands it will pressurize the tank… this allows the pressure to be “vented” into the crankcase.

So check the line from the tank to the little “2 way valve” is open and clear. Then check the valve itself. (This is also the source off funny noise after you shut the engine off, and notice a “clicking” sound from the engine compartment).

To check the WHOLE system to be “air tight” I’ve used an air compressor – which is regulated to a MAXIMUM of 5 PSI – and connected this to the “vent” line. Once pressurized, you can easily check the system for either “air” of “fuel” leaks. Then The Fuel line was disconnected from the carb and held into an empty gas can. Pressurizing the system purged all the old fuel out of the car… easy way to drain a tank on a 510! (Car had been sitting for some years, and had a few gallons of ‘soured’ gas in the tank. Also with the pressure you’ll locate leaks fairly quickly.

Converting a Datsun 510 to an Internal Regulated Alternator

girl with oil can

by Thomas Walter

For those 510’s with the simple “T” style connector into the back of the alternator, this is a pretty straight forward conversion.

The Alternators

The OLD (externally regulated Alternator) had the “N” and “F” connected by the plastic “T” connector.

“N” Neutral was connected by a Y (yellow) wire.
[This is the top of the “T” connector]
“F” Field was connected by a W/B (White, black stripe) wire.
[This is the stem of the “T” connector]

The NEW IR ALT (internal regulated alternator) will have two connections, also in a T configuration like the old unit.

“S” Sense is connected to the battery (direct +12 Volts)
[This is the top of the “T” connector]
“L” Lamp is connected to the Warning lamp light.
This connection has TWO functions. By Sensing the circuit is turned on when the ignition is, it will energize the alternator. SECOND: when the alternator FAILS, and the engine is running, it will GROUND this connection – providing a ground path to turn on the “ALT” warning lamp. (you should see the “ALT” lamp glow when the ignition is first turned on, before starting the car).

How to modify the wiring

Before tossing that old voltage regulator into the trash bin
cut OFF the connector block.

Splice the W (white) wire to the Y one. (Sense circuit)
Splice the W/R (white/red) wire to the W/B one. (Lamp circuit)

This the wiring at the HARNESS, compare it to the regulator wiring, both should be the same – but some replacement units did not follow the color code. See Kelvin’s wiring diagram to be sure.

Plug the connector back onto the wiring harness. Quick, simple, painless to swap back if the need every arises.

Things to consider

The Alternator lead to the battery may be too small to handle the additional current capability of the new alternator. (Best to use a FUSED 10 gauge wire direct from the alternator to Battery).

There is also a splice in the harness, of the alternators positive lead (white with a red stripe) and the main power line from the starter to the fusebox (white). You may want check the condition of the splice, as it is buried in the harness and, if corroded, could cause problems. [From Robert Broad]

For those ’72 and later 510’s that use the electrical choke. The choke relay was powered up by the voltage that appeared on the “N” terminal of the relay. To energize correctly, the relay was designed for the lower voltage (about 6 volts) of the “N” Terminal when the engine was running. Even if you replaced the Carburetor, the relay most likely still wired up, so you may see the ALT light glow for this extra load).

Alternator Mounting Brackets

Most of the IR Alternators will have 10mm holes, so use a bracket from a later series L engine to bolt up the alternator (the 510’s OEM 8mm bolts had a habit of breaking).

Quick, simple, and clean installation. Also this allows for a quick return to a stock setup should you ever desire to do so.

Datsun 510 Wiring Diagram

This wiring diagram is copyright DAMB productions. A large laminated copy can be ordered from Kelvin Dietz (see below).

Did you ever notice that 510 wiring isn’t particularly self-explanatorily? A little strange, to say the least? And then to top it all off, when you try to troubleshoot some of this wiring, the only clue you have to where all those bits of copper and plastic go is a 8 x11 drawing that all runs together in a spiderweb of black lines that have been smeared into illegibility from too much use, making it all but impossible to use even if you did have a working concept of automotive wiring which at this point you’re wondering if Datsun engineers did and you KNOW that Datsun draftsmen didn’t!!!.

Well, you get the picture. Or not, as the case may be.

DAMB Productions to the rescue. With a little encouragement from my Internet friends, I decided to create the ultimate Datsun 510 wiring diagram. I had a graphics arts friend color in a 11×17 enlargement of the diagrma and after about 20 revisions we had this multicolor version of the original.

During this process, I was tearing my harness apart for another project, so I could compare actual wires to paper wires. And I found a few discrepancies which I fixed on the diagram. I also took the suggestion of a friend to include connector pinouts. A great idea, considering some of those white wires don’t look all that white anymore. I also added connectors where the original diagram doesn’t show any or shows the wrong ones.

Other features include optional wiring for an internally regulated alternator, firing order, and legible switch diagrams. A few lines have also been re-routed to show them going through actual connectors. Finally, the diagram’s laminated so you don’t have to worry about smearing or tearing it. Those dirty fingerprints wipe right off.

This diagram is explicitly for a 1971 manual transmission 510 Sedan. From what I’ve seen it will work on most of the late model wagons or sedans. (’70 –’73) There are various relays, lights and switches that might not be there, but the majority of the diagram is accurate for these cars as well.

I’ve gotten good reviews for this product from everyone who’s seen it and I’m happy to make it available at a reasonable price to all 510 enthusiasts. $12 each or $40 for four. Why not buy four. They make great placemats!