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My 510 history

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I have a history section here in addition to the blog. The blog is great for little details, but having a page with a history is probably easier to read. So this is mostly for the convenience of people who are at all interested in my relationship to these fantastic cars.

Around 2003, my friend were all into cars and had specific cars that they felt represented them. In with the mix, we had a pearl yellow 3000GT VR4, a first generation white MR2, a black Civic, a second generation blue RX-7, etc., etc., and at the time, I didn't have a car that I loved. I had a lot of cars, though. Not all at once, but by the time I was 25, I had owned as many cars - I bought and sold them and never got attached to any of them.

Some time in the summer of 2003, I narrowed down my interests, and decided that what I really wanted was a lightweight rear-wheel-drive car. I also wanted it to be relatively simple to work on, since I was still learning how cars even worked. I whittled my options down to the 1982 Toyota Corolla GTS and the early 70s Datsun 510s. Immediately after narrowing it down, I found a 71 510 in the classified ads in my local paper.

The car was in pretty rough shape, but for $500, I was able to drive it home and really get a feel for the thing. The car drove like crap, actually, because the carb was out of tune, the engine needed a severe rebuild, and the plugs and wires were old and crusty. But the car did come with boxes of extra parts, and it was by selling those parts that I ended up making $1,500 on the car, which was enough to buy the next 510.

The next car was a rolling shell that came with an incomplete L/Z hybrid. The previous owner started a project he didn't want to finish, and was willing to let everything go for $800. The car itself was in fairly good shape, except that it appeared that it was painted without being primered first. Also, the car was being prepared for drag racing, which means that it had no rear glass, no side windows, and no lights.

The first thing I did was trade out the L/Z hybrid project for the VG30ET (Nissan's V6-turbo out of the early 300zx), thinking that it would be a great idea for a swap. However, after careful consideration and some heavy-handed chastizing from my friends who warned me about putting that much extra weight in the front of such a light car, I traded the VG30ET for the Z22E, a fuel-injected 4-cylinder that was pretty easy to install.

I learned a lot with that install -- namely, that I had no clue what I was doing. It wasn't until after I abandoned hope on the project that I learned why it didn't work: vacuum leaks everywhere. The engine could never find a groove with the amount of unmetered air being sucked into it. Also, after pulling the transmission down, I learned that I never tightened the flywheel bolts. I'm glad I didn't get the engine running, or that could have been a disaster.

I was eventually convinced that I should try to build up an L/Z hybrid motor (which was the first motor that came with this car...), and since I understood the process a little better, I gave it a try. I used the Z22E block and rods, got a set of 0.75mm-over late Z22E pistons, bored out the block, and threw the L18 A87 head with the Shadbolt cam (510 lift, 280 duration), and the L20b crank. This combination put the engine at 9.58:1 compression ratio, which is a bit better than the stock 8.6:1 or something. I've got the engine breathing through a set of 38mm SUs, but I may eventually go to a fuel-injected setup. We'll see.

Here's the current setup:

  • Bore size: 87.75mm (Z22E bored out .75mm)
  • Stroke: 86mm (L20b crank)
  • Headgasket bore: 88mm (that's a guess; I just figure it's gonna be 1mm over the stock bore)
  • Compressed gasket thickness: 1.2mm
  • Combustion chamber volume: 45cc (A87 open chambered head)
  • Piston dish volume: -9.32cc (stock Z22e pistons, but they are shaved down a bit, so this might be a little less)
  • Deck clearance: .2mm over deck (shaved down from .4mm)

At the moment of this writing, the car drives GREAT. My first engine build has been a success, and once the car is legally able to be on the road (glass, lights, etc.), I'll make myself learn all about upgrading brakes and suspension and all that fun stuff.

Last Updated: October 21, 2008