Never heard of a 510?
Well, when Datsun (the company that would eventually become Nissan) wanted to build a new passenger car, it picked a lofty benchmark: the popular BMW 2002.
The result was the Datsun Bluebird–but, when it came to the United States, Datsun changed the car’s name to the 510.
“They must’ve thought we can’t handle real names,” Lanny Ritz muses.
Lanny, and his brother Larry, are the founders of R&R Restoration and Repair and have been working on Bluebirds…ahem…510s for close to half a century.
But Lanny has a point. Datsun has a history of renaming its cars for the U.S. market. For instance, the 240z was christened Fairlady in Japan, and the 240sx was originally called the Silvia.
Whatever you want to call it, the 510 was an instant hit with the critics, who were largely impressed by how close the Datsun was able to get to its BMW inspiration.
Datsun took the 510 racing too, where it earned a good reputation on rally stages and road courses across the planet.
The Ritz’ own a fleet of 510s, including a station wagon, but it’s their track-prepped 2- and 4-doors that caught our eyes as they prepared to hit the Super Summit autocross course.
Both are experienced autocrossers and Lanny was a former tech with Nissan. “I used to have their performance department phone number memorized,” he jokes.
His brother Larry, a former racer, is no stranger to the 510 either. “I’ve owned 49 of ‘em,” he points out. Not to be outdone, Lanny gestures to his 2-door and mentions that this particular 510 was his first car.
Both “Five-Dimes” (a nickname popular among Nissan faithful) have been extensively modded.
They’re both 1970 models, with Larry’s being the 4-door and Lanny’s the coupe.
Each car boasts an Datsun L-Series 2.0L motor, a popular period-correct swap for the era and tantamount to shoving a big block Chevy into an early Nova.
They both feature five-speed manuals poached from Nissan’s 280zx sports car.
Lanny’s coupe has a bit more mods, carrying a Subaru-sourced rear differential and a four-corner disc brake conversion.
We said goodbye to the Ritzes as they both jumped in their Datsuns and prepared to hit the Autocross course.
510s are rare in this country, their economy-car origins meant that they were often run hard and put away wet. Now exploding in popularity, pristine examples demand impressive prices.
…Regardless of whether you like the name or not.
(There are more pictures below the video.)