My first car was a Datsun 510. I didn't realize just how cool that was until later in life. I mean I knew it was cool, I just didn't know how cool. It ran fine when I bought it but I didn't let that stop me from taking it apart and making it “better”. There are quotes around better because one man’s better is another man’s stranded on the side of the road at night in the rain after the clutch disc disintegrated for the third time in 18 months swearing his next car won’t be an old Datsun. This isn't to say the entire ownership experience with the 510 was difficult, because it wasn't. There were plenty of less frustrating, less dark, less swearing and more fun times.
I changed and modified most things guys who do such things change and modify. Suspension, tires, exhaust, seats, paint…but the piece de resistance was the high performance motor build and drive train swap. If you are still wondering how Datsun 510s are cool go hit up google and see for yourself. If you are wondering why built motors and drivetrain swaps are cool, get the hell out of here. We don’t need your kind in these here parts.
I learned an awful lot of what I know about cars from working on that 510 and because of this I have a bit of a soft spot for them. Plus, they are just plain cool. In light of these extremely valid and compelling reasons I've found myself occasionally looking at 510s for sale on line. Which, let’s be real honest, is a rabbit hole I needn't be going down right now as I’m firmly down the - build a car in your garage – rabbit hole. However…
I haven’t been working on the kit car much recently. Good progress was made through the spring. There was a weekend of productivity during the summer where the chassis and frame were mated, which was a big step, but I have since done, well, nothing. Life, especially one with two teenage kids, has a way of taking free time and turning into not free time. What is one to do when progress can’t be made on a project due to lots of not free time? Research said project on google while sitting in hotel rooms in North Carolina during weekend lacrosse tournaments of course. This research presents one problem.
I was one of the first forty or so guys to order an American spec Exocet chassis. Only maybe a dozen or so of those guys are sharing their builds in detail on line. Of those dozen only two or three are farther ahead of where I am in my build. It doesn’t take too long to go through three build threads. I could start looking at upgrade paths to follow once the kit car is road worthy but part of the reason for building the car is to satiate my car hobby appetite for years to come. Camshafts, intake manifolds and mono tube shocks will come in due time. So naturally…
I’ve been casually looking at older, cool, and affordable cars online. I’m not sure what makes it casual. But it is. I assure you. Looking at classic cars for sale on the internet is a meandering process full of justifications, validations and occasionally good sound reasoning. I start by looking at Datsuns and end up at Alfa Romeo, via Triumph. At one point I almost had myself convinced the SPICA mechanical fuel injection systems of late 60’s early 70’s Alfas couldn't be that bad to keep up. Besides, an Alfa Romeo is probably the only Italian car I can afford to put in my garage (see, there’s the justification I mentioned earlier). But that’s the problem. To the uninitiated and unfamiliar an Italian designed and built fuel injection system over 40 years old can indeed be that bad. It can probably even be worse, than what I don’t know, but worse.
To complicate things further beyond that of marque specific fuel systems is the year or so my track Miata saw street duty before becoming a track only car. It did everything the classic sports cars mentioned prior can do only better. Except maybe catch fire, leak oil and rust. The Miata goes, turns and stops better than any classic Japanese, British, Italian or German car I can afford. And that’s stock. Throw a little “better” at it and the gap widens tremendously, plus the clutch doesn't blow up.
So I've found myself looking at older Miatas for sale, which is crazy because I’m building a kit car based on a Miata. What’s wrong with me? In my defense I am casually looking.