I figured it might be good to write a bit about some of the cars we have owned in the past which we no longer own. Back in 2004 I’d started to stray from the path of old car righteousness and had started spending too much of my time messing with less worthy modern cars. This culminated in me coming over all fast and furious by 2005 when I took up drifting and ran in a couple of championships. I’ll admit I had a huge amount of tyre smoking fun throughout 2005 but back at home all my Datsuns sat forgotten. By the end of 2005, having spent every penny I had on hooning around sideways in a 200SX, I realised I needed to get down to some serious work and get my neglected old cars sorted. What I needed was something easy to ease me back into old car tinkering… an old car that already worked and that was on the road that i could just drive and enjoy to bring back the passion. And it so happened that my friend Jon came up with just the remedy needed to kick start my old car enthusiasm once more. A 1976 Datsun 160B (610).
When I was offered this 610 I didn’t hesitate to go for it. It was solid and more importantly, on the road. I have to admit, my relationship with this car didn’t get off to a flying start as it broke down several times on the way home from collecting it… alas a legacy of it having stood unused for many years. But with it’s low mileage, once a few minor problems were sorted, it drove nicely if a little lethargically, being only a 1.6.
By the summer, the Retro Cars event at Santa Pod loomed large on the calender… just the ticket for boosting ones enthusiasm for old motors. I’d missed this the year before due to it clashing with a drift championship round but I was determined to go this time and better still, I had the 610 to go in. But as the event drew near I began to feel the 610 needed a little something special… after all this event was held at a drag strip and I couldn’t really be taking it down the 1/4 mile with it’s stock 90hp (sae). So with little over a week to go before the event the 610 was driven into the workshop for a heart transplant.
What tempted me into doing an engine swap was simply the fact I had the SR20DET from the car I used for drifting the previous year just sat there in my workshop. It seemed a shame to have an SR20DET sat idle and I knew I had enough parts to install it. I already had an SR20DET fitting kit to suit a 510 which I’d previously bought from Maddat in Australia and it only took minor changes to make it suit a 610. I saved a little time by using the modified front cross-member from my 510, which has been altered to fit back to front, allowing fitment of an engine with a front sump. A Maddat steering cross-rod was fitted to clear the SR20 gearbox. The engine already had a few modifications including a larger throttle body from an SR20DE, a GT28R turbo with adjustable HKS wastegate and a lightweight chromoly flywheel. Once mounted a large front mounted intercooler was added along with an HKS dump pipe and a 2.5″ exhaust system. All the extra power was certain to break the stock diff so a welded R200 with 3.9:1 gears was fitted. Fours days after rolling it into the workshop, the engine was in and the car was ready for a test run. With no time to really do any major suspension work I had to settle for fitting a set of old lowering spring intended for a 510. These were a little too soft and sat the car a bit too low meaning I had a lot of negative camber on the rear. No doubt this would compromise traction which turned out to be the case on it’s first run. As it happened that test run was to be at the Retro Cars show where on it’s first run it ate a Saab 900 Turbo for breakfast…
13.32 was a pretty good result considering how little traction it had! The 60ft was nearly three tenths of a second which is pretty slow and it was very hard to make use of the power in 1st and 2nd gear but once into third it gripped and was gone! The acceleration at that point was insane! The run above wasn’t actually the first run of the day. The first run resulted in a rear driveshaft snapping but thankfully I managed to get a loan of another shaft which thankfully held out for the rest of the day with the car running in the 13’s. With the suspension sorted I could have seen an easy 12 second quarter from this car. Later, readings done with a G-tech Pro meter measured pretty consistent 0-60mph times of 4.6 seconds which would only improved with more work on the suspension and the use of good tyres. That’s a seriously quick road car for the money it cost to put together!
It was not to be though, as not long after the Retro Cars event, I parted with the 610. My good friends Dave and Julie, who are pretty keen on 610’s (they already had three) bought the car minus my SR20DET. Why did I part with it? Well, it had really served it’s purpose. The enthusiasm for messing about with old cars was well and truly back but I couldn’t help but think I should have been doing the work on my 510 rather than the 610 and having both modified in the same was seemed rather pointless. Having made up my mind it was going I removed my engine and replaced both rear quarters and the back panel (a future tech article methinks?) to eliminate the rust which had started there before letting the car go to Dave. He fitted his own SR and has since converted the suspension to coilovers all round and added a special fully adjustable rear suspension cross-member which I built for him. The brakes which were stock when I ran my SR are now huge vented discs all round with four pot calipers. Hopefully the car will be hitting the road later in 2008 or during 2009 when I’m sure you’ll be reading more about it here!