A Beloved Piece of Vehicular History: A 1970 Datsun 510 Wagon
Guess what!" my husband said, grinning like a naughty kid. He'd just walked through the door and hadn't even said hello or "how was your day?" yet.
Uh-oh, I thought, now what?
Without pausing for breath, he told me, "I found an old car, and I'm gonna take the engine out and convert it to electric."
My husband was trying to fit the whole story into one line he could rattle off without triggering a bombardment of practical questions from me, his practical wife. I know he was thinking that if he made the story short enough, I might just nod and go back to what I was doing. Yeah, well, maybe he should have left out the old car part.
But, alas, he had my full attention.
(Hey, you're supposed to be looking at the CAR.)
The Rest of the $100 Datsun Story
Everybody, here's my husband....
Thanks, Deb, dear wife.
Okay, so here's the scoop:
Deb is really good at being patient with me every time I get a new idea, and I could tell she was trying to confront the unknown while still projecting loving support.
Also, I could tell she knew I'd already purchased the car, and I was already thinking about how and where to tow it.
So with too much enthusiasm, I added, "You're never gonna believe this, but the car I found is my old Datsun!"
I couldn't read the expression that came over Deb's face. "The junker you were practically living in?"
"Yeah, the same car we had our first date in at Zion." I had to add that little reminder. On that date, I'd turned off the headlights while driving through the tunnel and got a good squeeze out of it. (Ow! Hey, she just poked me.)
"How much do they want for it?" Deb asked with a smirk.
"That is, how much did you PAY for it?"
It really wasn't that bad, though. Deb and I had a lot of fun scooting around Arizona in that old car when we were first getting to know one another. The 1970 Datsun 510 wagon was the first car I'd ever owned as well as the first car in our relationship, and it was pretty amazing that after the ten years since I'd sold it, and having lived three thousand miles away most of that time, I'd encountered my beloved Datsun once again.
Going Back a Bit Further....
The Origins the Rust-Bucket
In the late Seventies, my best friend's dad, Nat, bought the Datsun for $100.00 from his trombone teacher, who had driven it here to Flagstaff, Arizona, from Texas and given up on it. Nat and his mother removed the old engine and installed a rebuilt one.
For years, the Datsun resided at Lowell Observatory, where Nat lived and worked as an astronomer. His daughter drove it throughout high school and college, and then it sat in the driveway.
In 1992, the Datsun became mine. I bought it from Nat for $200.00, but he refunded me $100 so I could install a re-manufactured carburetor. I drove the car during my senior year in high school, in college and while I worked at the Grand Canyon. I met Deb on the North Rim in December, 1995, and, from there, we went on that first, rather long date in Utah's Zion National Park. Had to do a little roadside maintenance on the way, which I'm sure really impressed my future wife.
When we decided to move back east in July, 1996, I sold the Datsun to a lookout tower guy for $600.00. He drove it daily for several fire seasons up 9,299-foot Mt. Elden and afterward to the East Pocket lookout, a 60-mile, unpaved round trip. He eventually sold the Datsun to a guy named Lars, who drove it to Seattle and left it to die.
Then, a guy named Rex rescued the car and somehow got it back to Flagstaff, where he intended to fix it up. But it just sat for a few years in his yard on Navajo Drive, in the neighborhood where I grew up.
One hundred dollars bought me the car for a second time, and, when I went to Rex's place to get it, the Datsun fired right up. I then drove it full-circle, back up to Lowell Observatory.
What's even more serendipitous about this whole deal is that, after having the seed planted in my head by my grampa about converting a gasoline-powered car to electric, and after researching how to do a conversion and suggestions about a suitable "donor" car, I just happened to stumble across the car I've always loved. Perfect! With a little elbow grease and some TLC, it'll be a piece of cake.
And Deb says: Yeah, right
Okay, That's Enough, Husband of Mine
Give me back my computer
Deb here again.
So, now that we have this lovely specimen sitting out in front of the house, we get to spend all sorts of money fixing it up, so it runs and looks halfway decent. And then we need to save up for the conversion, which will probably cost between $5,000 and $9,000 including the battery bank.
In the meantime, though, the car needs a new windshield and tires, for starters. Not to mention that it doesn't lock, the brakes need work and the weather stripping is falling off doors and windows. And did I mention the broken tail light or missing windshield wiper blades and front grill?
Regardless, though, I am actually kind of looking forward to the whole project and do have a soft spot for that ugly little car. But I'll be especially happy when it becomes an ugly electric Datsun.
'Cause Then We'll Be....
The Datsun 510's Latest Issues
If it ain't one thing....
September: Brakes not working. Oh ... wonderful. Steve says it's the master cylinder.
November: The brakes are okay now (he rebuilt the master cylinder), but the tires are bald. Here goes another few hundred bucks.
January: Got new tires and a new windshield, but now it's something about a bearing. I don't think I want to know any more than that.
February: The passenger-side door won't open.
March: Oh great, my husband got an air horn for the Datsun! Someone gave it to him off their doomed Subaru. Apparently, it's the same type of horn a truck uses.
April: I noticed we were getting low on plates. Why? Because my husband was accumulating dirty dishes in the Datsun. Shame!
June: While driving behind my husband in his Datsun, I noticed that his right break light only works now and then. But there seems to be a long wait between now and then.
November: It seems his car won't start when it's cold outside. So he has had to park it up at his shop, which is at the top of a hill. That way, when it won't start up, he can get it rolling down the hill and hope the engine kicks in before he gets to the bottom.
Do You Have a Decrepit Datsun 510, Too?
If so, here's a manual you might want to pick up....
Steve's copy of this book looks older than the car, he's used it so much. If he's under the car, it's under the car. If he's under the hood, it's under the hood, too.
And If YOU Want To Drive Around Town Suckin' Up Nothin' ... Even if you don't have a Datsun....
Here are some good books about electric car conversions. We have both (and I think they're both in the car).
Some Handy Datsun and Electric Car Sites
All things Datsun 510
A wide range of parts for Datsun restorations
- Down on the Street
Where they admire old vehicles found parked on the streets of the "Island That Rust Forgot." Here's an entry about the 1970 Datsun 510 wagon.
- Electro Automotive
Electric car conversion parts, information and how-to books
- Jerry's EV Conversion
A very well-done resource and blog about an electric car conversion
Do You Own A Clunker, Too? Comments welcome
HomesteadingChic on April 21, 2013:
What a neat project! Deb, you are such a good sport. I'm not sure if I would have been so "supporting" if I were in your situation. :) So how is the conversion coming?
TeacherSerenia on January 19, 2013:
@TeacherSerenia: Dodge Caravan. Wonderful lens, Debra.
TeacherSerenia on January 19, 2013:
Yep we own a clunker too It's a 1992 Dosge cravan - now 20 years old, purchased for $300, driven around for about 5 years, and now sitting in the basement because we can no longer afford to pay for the registration or the insurance.
Didge on June 29, 2012:
What an excellent lens: Thanks for sharing.
Svdharma LM on May 03, 2012:
I just bought a 1997 geo metro for $250... Got 45mpg on the way home with a blown head gasket.
Ales from Slovenia on February 29, 2012:
anonymous on February 28, 2012:
So, part of the sordid tale included:
âHe eventually sold the Datsun to a guy named Lars, who drove it to Seattle and left it to die.â
A friend bought his 1964 Datsun NL320 from a âLarsâ who had let it die in his West Seattle backyard (rotted tires, frozen hydraulics, weeds grown up through the grille, tarp-like substance spread over the paint, etc.).
Gotta wonder if it is the same âLars the Datsun Killerâ?
LauraTelier on December 08, 2011:
Great lens! My parents has a 240k GT they bought in 1979. It rusted out a little too far and they sold in in 1989. Two years later my father found another in the paper locally ad went to buy it - only to discover his original car rotting in the garden of the owners house! Being an excellent trade mechanic he bought both and fully restored the original car. He eventually sold it in late 2009, I'm still gutted!
In 1996 he bought me my first car, a mustard yellow 1978 120Y Coupe, which I loved - I think I had the least cool car at college but who cares, she was a legend!
anonymous on November 26, 2011:
Well I have always dream of driving a Lada. That's probably the worst car ever, but I just love to see people face . My Grand Dad had a datsun, in the late 70's. ugly car it was...olive green to boot.
mountainstevo on September 27, 2011:
The Datsun brings back memories!
Lorelei Cohen from Canada on August 11, 2011:
Lol...sorry but that sounds like one very dangerous little car. Too funny a story behind it though.
brymche on August 02, 2011:
My dad owns a 1987 Volkswagon Hatchback.... We have families of black widows living in it! :D
Paul from Montreal on July 15, 2011:
Awesome old car!
GoAceNate LM on June 30, 2011:
Ha great lens. You have to have a hobby.
glenbrook on January 19, 2011:
My "clunker" is a 64 Valiant wagon but I've always liked the 510. A friend of mine in high school had one. Nice lens:)
outsource123 on November 28, 2010:
BWDuerr from Henrietta, New York on February 21, 2010:
Thanks so much for visiting my salvage vehicle lens. I've rated and Fav'd this lens before. I'm not sure why I hadn't lensrolled, tho. Maybe before I wrote the salvage page, or didn't know about lensrolling yet? Anyway, it's a perfect fit. Thanks again. P.S. I love the last update. :D
luvmyludwig lm on January 21, 2010:
lol this is too funny!. I have had two clunker cars in my life (yikes!) my husband owned one of them, it was what we drove on our first date (age 16 and 14). When he first got it he nearly ran it into a pond (didn't see stop sign). When he got rid of it (4 years ago) the door did not open anymore, the fluffy foam in the ceiling was falling out, we had to crank it with a screw driver, and there was a spring poking up out of the seat that would stab you. That car sat in my husband's dad's yard for many years before he was able to sell it (for junk), and I really hate that it is gone even though it was for sure a clunker.
The other one caught on fire and that's all there is to say about that. lol
pkmcr from Cheshire UK on December 23, 2009:
Well I never! But very nicely done lens and Blessed by a passing Squid Angel :-)
Carol Fisher from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK on December 22, 2009:
I don't know how I'd react if Jim brought home an old car and proposed to convert it - badly I expect. Great lens, though, blessed by an Angel.
julieannbrady on November 04, 2009:
Say, did I ever tell ya that my hubby donated a $100 car? Hey! Your car looks familiar!!! ;)
anonymous on October 12, 2009:
Hah! My ex-husband bought a very cheap car once and then spent hours, weeks, months repairing it. We called it "Only-only" because he'd say "It ONLY needs this..." "It ONLY needs that..." our neighbor poked her head in and said, "I used to work on my own car, but now my time is far too valuable." Thanks for visiting my Christmas songbook lens. Best of luck to you!
clouda9 lm on October 11, 2009:
I am not going to even tell you about my hubby's 'projects' - umm one that sits in the carport for me to view each morning when I am making my morning coffee! Truly enjoyed this lens filled with lots of love and humor.
Ayngel Overson from Crestone, Co on October 11, 2009:
lol, my first car was a Datsun too! A B10 as memory serves, lots of fun times... Mine is or was somewhere in New Mexico, but it served me well. Love your style as usual, and love your love for one another even more...
rubyandmahoney on September 23, 2009:
This was a funny read! I look forward to reading updates on the conversion! My mom had an orange Datsun 710 when I was a kid. You can drive those Datsuns into the ground.
ideadesigns on September 04, 2009:
I love the clarity and personality in this and many of your lenses. God bless!
Sojourn on August 05, 2009:
You two are a riot - love the back and forth. Good luck with the project and thank you doing your part to improve the quality of the air in Arizona. :)
Linda Hoxie from Idaho on July 22, 2009:
What a fun and humorous lens! My first car was an big old ford, and cost $300.00! Best running car with a lot of power, but no driver window! LOL
poutine on June 21, 2009:
I'm glad my husband is not a "gadget" and handy man.
anonymous on June 05, 2009:
I promise I'll make it look pretty ... soon!
Vladimir from Australia on May 20, 2009:
Oh My Cod! I thought I was reading "My Husband brought Home a $100 CAT"! (I must force myself to eat carrots). However I scanned through this lens anyway and was agreeably surprised to find it of great interest. An electric conversion? Don't just follow your dreams; chase them -- and you will ultimately pounce on them and bite them in the neck. High Paw to you!
hlkljgk from Western Mass on May 01, 2009:
:D good luck with this project!
Susan Deppner from Arkansas USA on April 29, 2009:
Love this lens! I’ve actually encouraged my husband to get a clunker. He especially would like one from the year he was born, but anything THAT old would probably be an expensive antique!
sirkeystone lm on April 13, 2009:
Well, I'm not converting either of them. They still sit... But my 79 Chevy LUV is from Cottonwood and spent a fair amount of time in Flagstaff and so did my 76 Dodge Colt which was originally purchased in Phoenix! Now why are they sitting on my grandparents farm 3 miles from me in Northwest Arkansas, because my wife won't let me bring them home.... heheh
Great idea though. I might have to look for a more suitable driver for that, myself. These two have already been spoken for as far as performance. The LUV is to be a full custom with a Chevy V8, and the Colt is to be a drifter with a Dodge Dakota V6 under the hood.
Thanks for stopping by the pop page too!
Ruth Coffee from Zionsville, Indiana on April 09, 2009:
I will not, under any circumstances, allow my husband to see this lens. He needs no additional influence to attract old, nearly useless things to putter around with for like a million years, in my way the whole time. Not going to happen. He's been mentioning just such a project for quite some time now. I just pretend I don't hear. Good lens nonetheless.
Bambi Watson on April 07, 2009:
very funny lens...5*
BWDuerr from Henrietta, New York on April 04, 2009:
P.S. Voted for it, too.
BWDuerr from Henrietta, New York on April 04, 2009:
I can't wait to hear how this turns out. 5 stars and Fav so I can stay tuned. :D
EagleBayDesigns on April 02, 2009:
This is such a cute story! Hope you get everything working soon!
Vitruvian-man on March 05, 2009:
Very nice, great sense of humor.
Jennifer Sullivan from Chicago, IL on March 01, 2009:
Aquavel on February 27, 2009:
Great story! I can hardly wait to read the sequel. Please, please, keep us posted!
anonymous on February 24, 2009:
Hey, I see you used the photo of my better side for the intro. Gee, thanks! :)
ThomasC on February 20, 2009:
What a great story! I hope you all get the car going just the way you want it! Angel Blessed!
steveffeo lm on February 12, 2009:
This is such a cool story boy Karma is a wonderful thing,
grannysage on February 09, 2009:
This is great! Husbands are such good topics for lenses. I have one about why my husband never gives me flowers. Now I'll have to think about some more ideas. Great job (and funny too)
Liam Tohms on February 09, 2009:
What a great lens. Funny and informative. Have you seen the sports cars that are being produced by [url=http://www.teslamotors.com/]Tesla Motors[/url]? They look great, but are a bit more than $100 for the basic car :-)
Deb Kingsbury (author) from Flagstaff, Arizona on February 08, 2009:
[in reply to ottoblotto] Don't tell my husband, but I'll sell his Datsun to YOUR husband for a mere $1000! :)
Natalie W Schorr on February 08, 2009:
Oh my gosh, I can't wait to show my husband this lens. He's been on the lookout for a suitable car to convert. I think this is great! 5*
SaraMu LM on February 07, 2009:
This lens is so clever...love the dialogue between you too. Nothing like a junky car to bring a couple closer together:)
CleanerLife on February 05, 2009:
I once bought a 1977 Datsun Hatchback for $70. I loved that car! It looked like I had just rescued it from the scrap yard, but constantly got more than 30 miles to the gallon, usually around 35, but once as high as 40. It was a 4 cylinder and did not lack for speed.
For as good as the mileage was, I would love to still have it, and have it converted it to electric.
Oh, did I mention that I spent $2k to get that car street worthy? And it still looked like it should have been on its way to the car crusher!
Deb Kingsbury (author) from Flagstaff, Arizona on February 01, 2009:
[in reply to The_Book_Garden] Will do! Only problem is, you can't do a conversion little by little if you don't want to be without use of the car for long. So we need to save up the $$, have it all planned out with all parts ready, and then do the conversion. That is, my HUSBAND will do the conversion. I'll just try to keep the place as clean as possible meanwhile.
TheBookGarden1 on February 01, 2009:
Keep us updated on the conversion to electric!
Deb Kingsbury (author) from Flagstaff, Arizona on January 25, 2009:
[in reply to MrMarmalade] Wow, I'd say our Datsun clunker is doing a wee bit better than yours. So far, we haven't had to push it or give it running start and jump in. Got my fingers crossed!
MrMarmalade on January 25, 2009:
I have also owned a Datsun wreak. Pick it up Friday night. Return to garage on Monday morning, broken down as usual. Still you could say we were able to ride on Saturdays, push it on Sundays. Then to be returned to fixed up again for Friday night.
It nearly got me killed once. Stalled on railway line at two AM Saturday. An hour latter I coached it to start again. Managed to drive home
It stalled again. Went inside and woke my Father up to give a push.
I really wanted him to steer, while I pushed. No he had to help push. Car took off downhill very fast. As this car was precious to me I could only stop it by falling under the front wheel. Great result Car was stopped and I sustained three broken ribs
Given you five Stars and fav U *****