Modernizing the Suspension

Continuing through the car, one of the major areas for updating and modernization is the suspension. The goal was to completely replace and update everything I possibly could to handle not only the new power levels, but also the loads that autocross and track duty will bring to the car. The updates also allow for a wide array of adjustment both front and rear. Originally from 1972 the car featured little to no adjustment that would really allow for any type of major performance driving. The new setup adds camber, caster, toe, height, rebound, and dampening adjustment to all 4 corners. (No caster in the rear, obviously)

In order to achieve all of this a fair amount of work was needed. It started with a set of brand new Ermish Racing Type 2 coilovers with Swift springs. The units are extremely well assembled and feature top quality parts and attention to detail.

dsc_0498 The front coilovers where then mated to a set of new 280z spindles with new ball joints and bump steer spacers. The hubs where also rebuilt with new bearings and ARP extended studs. The coils and spindles were then connected to a set of billet aluminum lower control arms. In order to get everything connected and setup properly a set of Techno Toy Tuning torsion bars and lateral links were added as well.

For the rears, the original crossmember was re-worked to allow for camber and toe adjustment by adding adjustable mounting brackets. The control arm bushings were also replaced with new urethane units from Energy Suspension. 44 years of wonderful age on the car brought with it a set of bushing that would not come out. The odd shape of the control arms also meant that pressing them out was not an option. So an entire Saturday was spent burning out the old rubber bushings then grinding out the metal sleeves. Once that was all done the new bushings were inserted and the control arms mounted to the car.

Along with all of the bushing work the rear hubs were also repacked with new bearings and grease and ARP extended studs were used to replace the old short Datsun units.

Headlight restoration and update

One of the first things I began to tackle this year was updating the headlights for the 510. The old sealed beam units just wouldn’t cut it and I wanted something a bit more modern in both function and look. As I dug around the web looking for ideas I came across a fairly common conversion that utilized BMW E30 projectors.

I ordered a set online and once they arrived began working on getting them to fit. Thankfully they are the same diameter as the stock 510 headlights, so no problems there. What needed a bunch of work is making them fit the 510 buckets.

First task was to take apart the original headlight assemblies. This was a fairly simple task, few screws, some adjustment springs, etc. and everything was apart. The main area that needed work was the outside bucket/light mount for the low beam light. The projector housing from the E30 is substantially different in size and depth and involves cutting of the bucket to get it to fit.


Quick test fit of the parts after trimming. New on the right, old 510 lights on the left.


Once the bucket was cut and everything fit I had the entire assembly powder coated gloss black to finish.



Here you can see the difference in buckets in order to fit the new E30 projectors. The bucket on the bottom right is for the low beam housing and had to be cut quite a bit to fit.


Final completed headlights with E30 projectors:


Updates and progress

So it’s been quite some time since I have updated the blog/status of the project. (Almost 10 months!!) 2016 has been a whirlwind of craziness which left me with little time to update the blog. I have however been documenting and making great progress on the project over the past few months.

While I was away from the blog I was able to finish up all of the prep and fitting before taking the shell to the body shop to begin it’s transformation into a beautiful shiny “new” car.  Over the next few days I will begin posting updates on how I got to the point the car is at and where it’s going.

Final shot before towing the car to the body shop.


Mert and Winston of RBMS Auto Care happy that my car was finally out of the shop and not squatting on the lift in the back corner!


Drop off at Image Auto Body!


Motor Part 3

With all of the major machine work out of the way, the short block assembled, and all of the parts collected it was time to start assembly of the SR20DET. Mert from RBMS Auto Care in Hayward (Who was a key part in the STI build, and will be helping me with the 510 build) picked up the block and head from Rob’s Auto Machine and began assembly. ARP hardware was used for all critical assembly points to insure the motor was as strong as possible.

With the basic parts of the motor now together, I packed up a bunch of parts and headed over to the shop to start putting it all together. First up was the assembly of the intake and exhaust manifolds along with all the associated parts. For the intake side of things I opted for the Greddy Intake manifold with large bore 80mm opening. Mated to the manifold is a custom built Naprec 80mm throttle body with billet aluminum throttle wheel. To deliver the necessary fuel to the car I opted for Injector Dynamics 800cc top feed injectors mated to a Radium top feed fuel rail. This setup along with the cams and porting of the head should provide plenty of airflow for the turbo.

Next up was the exhaust manifold and turbo setup. Having had fantastic experience with their products before on the STI, I opted for another Garrett GTX series turbo for the 510. I ended up going with the GTX3076 paired with a T3 v-band outlet hotside. Pushing the hot exhaust gases out of the motor and up to the turbo is a forward mount tubular manifold from McKinney Motorsports. The manifold pushes the turbo up and towards the front of the car to help with clearance of both the steering box and the drivers side strut tower. The manifold also features a 38mm external wastegate flange that I mated a Turbosmart 38mm UltraGate EWG to.

With both of  the above parts assembled and ready to go I mounted both up to the motor and began with the basic assembly. Adding the Nismo competition motor mounts, oil filter sandwich plate with temp and pressure sensors, water inlet and outlet housings, etc.

Once I had mounted the turbo, which came from the awesome team at Snail Performance, and figured out how it was going to need to be clocked we cut off the elbow that was on from a previous setup and began running the coolant and oil lines from the block. Next up is going to be the final parts of assembly including the oil pan, CAS setup, ATI damper pulley, water pump, etc. and then test fitting in the car.
Stay tuned for the next update coming soon!

Chassis/Body Part 1

A near 44 year old car is bound to bring it’s fair share of “issues” along with it when beginning a project like this. I fortunately was able to find a car that had very few of these “issues”accompanying it into my possesion. The normal wear and tear was present, very minimal body damage outside of a few dents here and there, and a very tiny amount of visible rust here and there.

The very first thing I wanted to do was make sure the chassis was able to handle all of the new found power and grip. So the car headed off to visit 510 master builder and famed racer Troy Ermish. We loaded it up on the trailer on a warm August night and sent it off for a few months worth of work. First task was stripping the car down to a bare shell.

Once the car was stripped bare, Troy and team loaded it up for a quick journey out to Lodi for a full media blast. The car was taken down to bare metal to look for any bondo, hidden rust, or anything else we needed to know. Along with finding out more about the car, the car needed to be bare metal in order to complete the next bit of work.

With the bare metal shell returned, Troy and team began the next stage of work. The front half of the car was fully seam welded and reinforced to help support the new found power in the SR20. Once the seam welding was done, Troy began building my full cage. The cage was spec’d to SCCA/NASA specs with a slight modification to the door bars. Most likely not legal for full competition, they were adjusted to allow easier entry and exit for street use. The rear of the car was tied together with full supports from the cage, adding much needed rigidity to the little car.

With the cage completed the car was loaded up again for a trip out to Lodi. Next up was a full body/chassis powder coat sealer to protect the bare metal body. After completing the full body coat, the cage was given it’s final finished coat in a fantastic satin black.

Sadly in doing the final prep for the powder coat it was found that the front floor boards were really rotted from rust and needed to be replaced. One of the previous owners had coated the floor boards in a layer of fiberglass and resin and we hadn’t noticed it in the early prep. It simply looked like a layer of weather sealer that the media blast wouldn’t take up. So new floor boards were ordered and after a few days they were welded in place. Looking like new the majority of the rust all taken care of.

The last bit of major work that has been done so far was replacing the rear tail light panel with a new piece from FutoFab. At some point the drivers side of the panel was pushed in or hit and was noticeably out of alignment. The stamped steel panel is a direct weld-in replacement for the exisiting panel and looks fantastic. First step is to cut out the old piece, and remove the old spot welds that connect to the quarter panels.


Stay tuned for more updates as the work on the body continues with the finished up rear panel, new dash, and modifications to fit the SR20 and transmission in the car.

Motor Part 2

Having been through the motor building game with the STI 3 times, I knew I didn’t want to cut any corners when building the SR20det for the 510. I wanted to build the motor once and be done with it regardless of power plans in the future. First up were the internals. Since the OEM crank for the SR20det is a really solid piece it was the one part I left alone. After great experience with them in the STI I opted for CP 87mm oversized pistons connected to a set of Manley I-Beam Turbo Tuff rods. To keep things spinning I went with a full set of ACL race bearings. To hold everything together I went with ARP fasteners for everything including head studs, main bolt, flywheel bolts, etc. All gaskets, seals, etc. were refreshed with a brand new master gasket kit from Nissan. Along with all of the seals I replaced the water pump, thermostat, and alternator with new units. The alternator is special order “black series” 135amp unit from Japan.

After getting the block back from the machine shop, it was cleaned a second time (Machine Shop steam cleaned the outside) to remove any remaining oils and then painted a battle ship grey to give a nice finished look.


Along with the short block, the head was also completely reworked inside and out. The intake and exhaust ports received a mild polish and blend, opening up the inlets and outlets to match the much larger manifolds. To help move all the incoming air from the turbo a set of 270 Tomei Pro-Cams was selected with all of the supporting goods. Manley titanium retainers and valve springs, Tomei valve guides, Tomei rocker stopppers, Tomei adjustable cam gears, Nissan OEM valve seals, and more.

A refresh of the valve cover with some new paint, updated assembly hardware, -10 an fitting for the breather port, and a brushed aluminum Tomei coil pack cover and everything was almost ready for assembly.





Motor Part 1

One of the first things I had already decided on for the car was the motor. A fairly popular option for the 510, the JDM only SR20DET was the easiest choice for me. With easy to acquire parts readily available in the states, the SR20DET is one of the most iconic motors to come out of Nissan. A turbo 2.0 liter in-line 4 cylinder with accompanying 5 speed transmission it has graced several various cars over its notable history. Of these are the famous and highly sought after Silvias. Starting with the S13 and moving through various iterations the SR20DET provides realiable power in a compact enough package to fit in the 510.

I specifically choose a S13 Blacktop SR20DET out of the 180sx/Silvia. Lots of available parts from both Nissan and aftermarket makes it easy to maintain and build upon. Mine came from Japan through Canada and included everything I needed for around $2600 shipped. After only 4 days in transit the motor arrived at RBMS in Hayward. I headed over there after work to inspect the shipment and begin tearing it down for removal from the pallet.

The motor was in such great shape, with the exception of two valves that needed to be replaced, that the motor could have been run as is without any updating. After going through everything I was very pleased with the purchase and relieved that I had received such a clean motor. Once everything was taken apart, the block and head were dropped off at Rob’s Auto Machine in Hayward for the machining and new parts.

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