Thirty-two years ago, the first Five and Dime rolled off the production line, and since then the Datsun 510 has been a popular platform among old-school and new-school tuners. With limitless suspension and engine transplants ranging from the popular L20B (Datsun 240SX), FJ20 (Nissan Skyline), 13B Mazda rotary to the SR20DET found in the Japan-only Silvia, the only limits are the ones in each 510 enthusiast's imagination.
Craig Shiraiwa of Gardena, Calif., took his Datsun 510 (orange) to a new level of modification. The 1972 two-door coupe received extensive restoration to the body and numerous engine upgrades in the last decade. Constant wear and tear put on the 32-year-old factory L16 engine took its toll, so Shiraiwa opted to transplant the highly popular SR20DET.
At the time, only a handful of Datsun 510s had the same type of SR engine swap, so it was a unique and challenging exercise for Shiraiwa. Using an SR20DET S13 front-end clip from Japan, the 205-hp turbocharged inline four was removed from its original home and fully disassembled for a complete overhaul. The used engine was in excellent condition on arrival from Japan, but Shiraiwa questioned the overall condition of the stock turbo, so it was discarded in favor of a newer T28 ball-bearing turbo, which is available on the Silvia S15.
On the compressor side of the inlet housing, a custom fabricated TSR intercooler routes the compressed air through a pair of TSR aluminum intake pipes, then home to a GReddy intake manifold. On the hot side of the exhaust housing, the S15 turbo is mated to a custom TSR stainless-steel manifold in combination with a 3-inch stainless downpipe. Spent gases are expelled through a custom 3-inch stainless exhaust pipe, finally terminating through an HKS Hyper exhaust.
Using a highly restrictive airflow meter on the SR20DET can minimize horsepower potential on any high-performance vehicle. Shiraiwa swapped the factory unit with a Cobra airflow meter, calibrated through a Jim Wolf-programmed ECU. Besides obtaining the proper voltage and functionality of the larger airflow meter, the Jim Wolf ECU controls all aspects of fuel and ignition timing to the new powerplant. Upgraded 555cc Tomei side feed injectors, a SARD fuel pressure regulator and a Z32 fuel pump drawing fuel out of a custom fuel tank enable the 510 to boost safely beyond 1 bar (14.7 psi).
The added horsepower necessitated an upgrade from the factory suspension and underachieving brakes. Tokico Illumina five-way adjustable shocks, in conjunction with TSR custom coil-overs and Cusco camber plates, replace the factory 510 suspension. Suspension Techniques front and rear anti-roll bars, alongside a full Energy Suspension polyurethane bushing kit, minimize body roll while dramatically improving the 510's responsive handling.
The factory brakes were excellent for a 96-hp vehicle, but with power upgraded to 300-plus hp, the 510's factory drums and rotors were nearly ineffective. Shiraiwa chose a set of Nissan 280ZX front calipers and rotors and a complete Nissan 200SX rear package.
To compensate for horsepower, the factory rear end was replaced with a Subaru R-160 pumpkin. Drivetrain loss is kept to a minimum as the tires are spun through an HKS single-plate clutch. A rare rim selection of 17x7 and 17x8 Volk GTPs wrapped in Toyo Proxes FZ4 205/40-17 and 215/40-17 add an aggressive demeanor to the 510. Finishing off the suspension is a set of TSR front and rear cross members and a four-point roll cage.
Making the orange 510 unique is a passion for Shiraiwa. Using a complete setup of Bluebird (Japans name for the 510) components ranging from the SSS grille, SSS taillights, emblems and a Silvia trunk lock (all supplied from Superior Nissan), the 510's exterior is truly J-spec.
Inside, an Auto Meter speedo and tach gauges reside in the once-factory cluster holes, while a GReddy oil pressure, GReddy water temp, air/fuel meter, and HKS boost gauge monitor engine vitals.
Shiraiwa contacted the professionals at Pro Audio Motorsports to replace the ancient 1972 push button radio and clean up the 510 wire clutter, using a custom plug-and-play wire harness. Euro orange-and-red turn signal housings, BMW mirrors and a Nismo graphic scheme transform this 510 into a true work of art.
Mario Lozano Jr., a longtime friend of Shiraiwa and a fellow Datsun 510 fanatic, also took his 1972 Datsun 510 to new heights. Lozano, owner of TSR fabrications in Gardena, Calif., has been in the Datsun fabrication business for more than 11 years. Having owned 33 510s since early adulthood, Lozano is a true 510 fanatic.
Similar to Shiraiwa, Lozano scrapped the underpowered L16 engine in favor of a SR20DET from a Silvia S15. Using a set of NISMO hardened motor mounts, the engine was carefully shoehorned into the engine compartment. With the aid of a Jim Wolf ECU, the new S15 ball-bearing turbo and fuel management was fine tuned under the watchful eyes of Lozano.
Lozano replaced the inefficient, overly cost effective intake pipes and corner-mount intercooler by fabricating a custom intercooler setup with one-off aluminum intake pipes. Fabrication for the new powerplant includes a full lineup of custom stainless-steel products such as a stainless exhaust manifold, 3-inch stainless downpipe, and 3-inch exhaust pipe, enabling the SR20DET to expel spent gases freely under boost. HKS stainless pre-mufflers keep exhaust decibel output to an acceptable level and an HKS titanium Hyper muffler slightly juts out the rear bumper.
On the show side, a custom billet valve cover plate with HKS power scribed into it adds flair to the show-worthy powdercoated SR20DET valve cover. A GReddy oil catch can ensures excess blowby is properly discharged through one of many Earl's steel-braided lines within the engine compartment.
Lozano minimizes engine clutter using a Toda Racing billet crank angle cover anodized in red. GReddy oversized pulleys minimize parasitic drag. Earl's -6 steel-braided lines and a custom fuel tank with a 300ZX twin-turbo fuel pump extract the necessary fuel through an SX fuel filter. A custom TSR aluminum radiator and dual SPAL fans replace the often inefficient factory brass unit.
Next, Lozano completely stripped the vehicle to the shell and repainted the body Nissan 510 white. Influenced by new-school appeal, Lozano replaced the factory hood with a TSR carbon-fiber bonnet.
Pro Audio Motorsports installed a set of hood shocks that replaced the factory lock mechanism. Custom projection headlights made for the Honda Electric vehicle, a hard-to-find 1973 one-piece JDM grille and Euro turn signal housings add authenticity to the overall appearance of Lozano's ride.
Since so much attention was paid to the engine, unsurprisingly Lozano went above and beyond to set up a proper suspension. Koni five-way adjustable shocks up front and Carrera billet coil-overs in the rear combined with Eibach springs and HKS camber plates offer handling characteristics that are second to none.
A Suspension Techniques rear anti-roll bar and full Energy Suspension bushings replace the worn factory components. Brake upgrades include Brembo front and rear calipers with 13-inch rotors. Lozano himself then fabricated a custom stainless-steel steering box bracket.
As an increase in horsepower could cause severe drivetrain wear (and possible breakage) after a few miles of hard street use, the 510's rear end was addressed. A new one was installed that's incorporated by Fuji Heavy Industries, the same company that manufactures automobiles and components for the Subaru.
The differentials are known as R-160 units because the 160mm diameter ring-and-pinion came in several ratios on the 510. The R-160 is available in many vehicles such as the Subaru Legacy. Not only is it considered bulletproof by many high-performance 510 owners, it's also an inexpensive and logical solution for upgrading the stock rear end.
Dropping horsepower on the rear wheels is a six-speed transmission from an S15 complete with reverse lockout. Rolling stock consists of 18x7.5 and 18x8 Racing Hart C4 wheels combined with Yokohama Paradas 215/35-18 in the front and 225/35-18 in the rear.
Interior amenities include a Sparco steering wheel utilizing a RAPFIX quick release for easy access in and out of the Recaro DC5 bucket seats. A four-point roll cage firms the chassis, while a set of front and rear TSR cross members are included in the mix.
With old-school cars making a comeback in the import performance world, it's no surprise these once economically priced $2,000 cars are presently selling for more than three times their original retail value.
Shiraiwa and Lozano have a special place in their hearts for the Datsun 510 as they constantly strive to upgrade their old-school cars with new-school technology.
Countless hours of fabrication and tuning were spent on each of their rides; they'd like to thank Phil Lee, Gary Nishimura of Nish Designs, Mike Jurado of Superior Nissan, Kevin Hengl of KRG Designs, Lucky Dodge of Hose Techniques, Obed Riviera, and Shari Kuruma-Sheridan, and of course each other as 510 owners for the inspiration.