There’s no denying a streetcar the respect it deserves when it performs as good as it appears. That being said, it’s not uncommon to see a show car equipped with high-end competition components and a dyno sheet to validate its potential. But in order to preserve the appearance and to keep cleaning to a minimum between shows, these machines rarely hit the track or street. But for those that build their cars to drive, wear and tear be damned if it stops them from really putting their ride to the test on the street, strip or road course.

Text and Photos by Richard Fong


Datsun 510 with a SR20 swap

Building on a 510 Dream

Ben Webb grew up admiring the Datsun 510. He remembered watching the 510s competing at IMSA races and thinking how cool it would be to actually own one. Unfortunately, this aspiration fell by the wayside when he got older. As a teenager, he started tinkering with VW Bugs before moving on to Hondas. Like many import enthusiasts, he fiddled with B-series engine swaps into a few of his projects. He briefly embraced the air suspension craze when he dropped a Tacoma on bags, but shortly after returned to the sport compact realm with the purchase of an SC300. Just before turbocharging the Lexus, he thought about the hassles he would ultimately face when it came time to register the car. As a longtime resident of California, one of the strictest of states with regard to emissions, Webb knew he would likely encounter quite a few hurdles whenever it was time to renew his registration. He explained, “I had some painful experiences working on cars in the past and dealing with smog laws. I came really close to putting the turbo kit on the SC300, but I changed my mind at the last moment because of all the challenges keeping it legal for street use.”

Datsun 510 with a SR20 swap

Age has its Privileges

Webb figured that the best way to avoid dealing with emissions headaches would be to seek a vehicle exempt from emissions testing. In California, it would be a vehicle manufactured prior to 1975. This was the perfect excuse to fulfill his childhood wish, as he began shopping for his old favorite, the Datsun 510. Webb eventually found and purchased this 1971 Datsun 510 coupe in 2009. Located in Southern California, it was rust free, painted primer black and benefited from an unmodified SR20 engine swap from an S13 Silvia. At this point, Webb intended to make a few refinements so that he would have a classic, smog-exempt daily driver with a touch of modern performance, reliability and safety.

SR20 in the Datsun 510

Professional Influence

The turbocharged 510 was not without its flaws however, as Webb noticed that the swap could have been cleaner, the wiring was a rats nest and other details of the build seemed hurriedly assembled. But he anticipated that shortcomings could manifest over time and still saw the project as the raw material he could refine to his personal taste. A key factor in the direction of his build could be credited to Formula Drift driver Luke Longberger.

Garrett turbocharger for the Datsun 510 with a SR20 swap

The Snowball Effect

To remedy some of the 510’s issues, Webb sought assistance at a performance shop where Longberger happened to work. Longberger helped Webb iron out some issues, including an idling problem. This encounter forged a new friendship. When Longberger opened his own facility, Blu808, Webb became a regular fixture at the shop. He rewired the engine harness and redid much of the plumbing and refined the engine swap. He also learned a lot about fabrication and how professional competition builds are designed, learning what it means for a car to be “race- inspired”. This moved him to step up his efforts, taking the 510 to full restomod status.

Not a Patina Proponent

While some might consider patina and other signs of “vintage” condition to be desirable, Webb wanted to give the 510 a showroom clean appearance. He stripped the chassis inside and out before having it sprayed in Datsun #637 Eggshell White, a period correct factory hue. The belly pan also received a fresh undercoat, further protecting it from the elements. Webb implemented subtle touches to the exterior, like the incorporation of a JDM Bluebird SSS grill and Bluebird taillights.

Inside the cabin, a pair of Sparco 960 seats replaced the couches up front while the door panels and the rear bench seat were reupholstered to match the Sparco themed interior. The custom CNC-cut dash panel was covered in black before a host of Auto Meter gauges were placed into the precision cut openings. As a finishing touch, a Sparco Mugello steering wheel, hub and shift knob complete the interior adornments.

Turn’t Up with Boost

Webb’s restomod project not only encompassed the exterior, it also enveloped the 510’s transplanted driveline. Progressively upgrading the stock SR20 engine with bolt-on upgrades eventually led to cylinder head upgrades in the form of HKS valve springs, retainers and Step 2 camshafts. Longberger then fabricated a tubular exhaust manifold that positioned a Garrett GT2871R turbocharger in a top-mount configuration. While a Blu808 custom downpipe and exhaust direct spent gasses through a Magnaflow muffler, a QTP electronic exhaust cutout diverts the spent gasses straight to atmosphere with a flip of a switch.

So Much for Staying Stock

Soon after, Webb jumped at the opportunity to upgrade to a built bottom end by Victory Machine, the machine shop that works on Blu808’s race engines. The engine featured Darton sleeves machined to the factory 86mm bore size. Arias 9.0-to-1 compression pistons filled the cylinders, while Eagle connecting rods join the slugs to the crankshaft. With tuner Mitch Pederson of MP Tuning calibrating the AEM engine management system to a maximum boost pressure of 21.5 psi, the 510 spun the rollers of Z Car Garage’s Dynojet Dynamometer to a peak output of 373 horsepower and 333 lb- of torque.

Dyno for the SR20 swapped Datsun 510

Checked off the Bucket List

Buying and building the car that inspired him at the IMSA races of his youth made one of Webb’s dreams a reality. He shared a little about the experience, stating that “Seeing it all come together for the first time was really cool. Although it became much more involved than I had originally aspired, my 510 still became the restomod that I ultimately desired. My goal was to build a car that would bring me the greatest enjoyment while driving it, so I never lost focus on keeping the car streetable. Driving it on the weekends in the Santa Cruz mountains brings me a lot of satisfaction. It handles like a street-legal go kart. Since I bought the car, it seems like there has been a sharp increase in the number of Datsun owners getting together for regular meets, fun runs and swap meets, which I’ve really enjoyed being a part of.”

Datsun 510 with a SR20 swap


 

SPEC SHEET

VEHICLE
Year / Make / Model: 1971 Datsun 510
Chassis Code: PL510
Vehicle Weight: 1,950 lbs.
Redline RPM: 7,000 RPM
Peak Boost: 21.5 psi
Fuel: 91 Octane Pump

ENGINE
Engine Code: SR20DET
Displacement (cc): 1,998cc
Bore & Stroke (mm): 86mm x 86mm
Peak Horsepower (@ RPM): 373.2 whp @ 6,400 RPM
Peak Torque (@ RPM): 333.8 lb-ft @ 5,500 RPM
Dyno Type: Dynojet Dynamometer – Z Car Garage
Engine Builder: Blu808
Block Modifications: Darton Ductile Iron Sleeves
Machine Work: Victory Machine
Pistons/Compression Ratio: Arias Forged Pistons, 9.0:1 Compression
Connecting Rods / Crank: Eagle Connecting Rods
Camshafts: HKS Step 2 Camshafts & Adjustable Cam Gears
Valves/Springs/Retainers: HKS Springs, Retainers & Rocker Arm Stoppers
Cylinder Head Gasket: A’PEXi 1.2mm Head Gasket
Head/Main Studs: ARP
Intake Manifold/Throttle Body: GReddy Intake Plenum
Air Induction System: AEM 4-inch DryFlow Filter
Custom Intake Pipe
Fuel Injectors: HKS 555 cc/min Injectors (x4)
Fuel Delivery System: Walbro 255-lph Pump
Holley Fuel Pump
Custom Surge Tank
Summit Fuel Pressure Regulator
Yamato Garage Billet Fuel Rail
Engine Management System: AEM EMS Converted to Speed Density
Engine Management Tuner: Mitch Pederson (MP Tuning)
Boost Controller: Blitz Dual Spec
Spark Plugs: NKG BRK7
Exhaust Manifold: Blu808 Custom Stainless Steel Manifold
Exhaust System / Downpipe: Blu808 Custom Stainless Downpipe and Exhaust
Magnaflow 3-inch Muffler, QTP 3-inch Low Pro
Electronic Exhaust Cutout, ATP GT28
V-band Adapter
Blow-Off Valve: GReddy Type RS
Intercooler: GReddy S13 Intercooler w/ Custom Pipes
Cooling System: Griffin Radiator w/ Custom CNC Shroud
Spal Puller Fans (x2)
GReddy Air/Water Separator
Mishimoto Overflow Tank
NISMO Thermostat
Factory S14 Water Pump
Oil System: GReddy High Capacity Pan
TSR Fabrication High Flow Oil Pickup
Blu808 Custom Baffled Valve Cover
Fuel Cell: RCI 10 Gallon Aluminum Fuel Cell
Performance Electronics: AEM MAP, AIT, Wideband UEGO

TURBOCHARGER
Turbocharger: Garrett GT2871R
Frame: T28
Compressor Wheel Specs: 71mm Major, 51.20mm Inducer
Turbine Wheel Speds: 53.9mm w/ 56 trim
Turbine Housing: ATP 4-inch T04E Housing

CHASSIS/DRIVELINE
Springs, F&R (Make & Rate): Eibach Springs 200 lbf/in (F), 300 lbf/in (R)
Shocks, F&R (Make & Rate): Koni Short Stroke Adjustable Race Shock (F)
AGX Short Stroke Adjustable Shock (R)
Techno Toy Tuning Coilover Kit
Additional Suspension Components: Techno Toy Tuning Adjustable Camber Plates
Ermish Racing RCA, Adjustable TC Rods
MadDat Racing Front Swaybar
Transmission: Factory S13 Silvia 5-Speed w/ B&M Short Shifter
Clutch / Flywheel: ACT HD 6 Puck Clutch, Fidanza Lightened Flywheel
MadDat Trans Bracket w/ Energy
Suspension mount
Differential(s) (Make & Type): NISMO 4 pinion R180 LSD
Final Drive: 4.11:1
Axles / Driveshaft: Custom Driveshaft
Wheels (Make, Size & Offset): SSR Formula Mesh 15×7-inch +1 (F), 15×7.5 +11 (R)
Tires (Make & Size): Kumho Ecsta 195/50R15
Brake Calipers (F&R): 280ZX Turbo Calipers
Brake Rotors (Diameter, F&R): Brembo 280ZX Turbo Rotors
Brake Pads (Front & Rear): EBC Greenstuff Pads
Brake Lines: Techno Toy Tuning Stainless-steel Braided Lines

INTERIOR
Seats: Sparco 960 Seats
Harnesses: Sparco
Steering Wheel / Quick Release: Sparco Mugello Wheel / Sparco Hub
Gauges: Autometer Speedo, Tach, Oil, Boost & Temp

EXTERIOR
Front Lip Spoiler: BRE “Spook” Spoiler
Taillights: JDM Bluebird Coupe Tail lights
Grill: JDM Bluebird SSS
Paint: Datsun #637 Eggshell White (Original Datsun Color)
Custom Body Work: Shaved Rear Vents / Marker lights

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