You know that one car that you own that you just can’t part with? It’s not the best car you own, not the greatest looking, not the most powerful, and it’s certainly not the most reliable.
Despite this, it’s still the car the brings the biggest smile to your face when you make time to drive it. The more time and hard work you put into it, the more satisfaction it brings when you turn the key in the ignition and the motor breathes to life. This is your car, and you understand each other.
As I say this, maybe a car you’ve already sold comes to mind. The one that got away, that you should have just figured out how to store for a couple months, that you should have just spent a little more time with. You wonder where it is now and who, if anyone, is behind the wheel.
This is that car for Sergio Edell. This 510 is his 510. Some also may argue that this 510, as a 1800 SSS Bluebird coupe, is also the 510.
I knew the three original body styles offered in Japan (as the Bluebird) were the same three offered in the US (as the 510), but until coming across this particular car I wasn’t personally familiar with too many details beyond that.
When these cars were new in the ’60s, the best Bluebird that money could buy was the super-hot high compression 1.6L SSS, good for 99hp. This setup was bested by the 1800 SSS in 1971 and only produced for one year, after which it was replaced with what we know as the 610. Thus, the 1971 1800SSS coupe is a special car in its own right.
To Sergio — who spent the entire morning wrenching on projects, washing cars, and driving his E-Type race car and 510 out for me — this car is even more special. The story of why this 510 is important to him actually starts with a ’65 VW Bug that he bought for $500 as a teenager in the ’90s.
After a week of restoration projects that totalled around $50 and a few weeks of advertising and showing the car, he was able to sell it for more than five times the original purchase price.
Sergio tells me that at the time a handful of skaters in the Bay Area were driving 510s, so he began to take interest in the chassis with the VW money burning a hole in his pocket. The tipping point was when one of his buddies purchased “the ultimate 510 from the ultimate 510 builder, Troy Ermish.” It had the whole nine yards – an FJ20 with Mikuni carbs, light tan leather seats, 5-speed, all the right mods, and Bluebird badging.
Finally, Sergio found one of his own, sold the parts it came with, wrenched on it and traded up to a proper, fully caged 510. Eventually he sold this one as well, and after flipping several more he moved to snow country to “become a snowboard bum.”
But the better part of a decade ago, Sergio really got the itch again for a good old fashioned 510. When he came across this example built by RH Factory in Japan with help from Kamaeri Racing, Sergio knew it was the one. He’s gone through plenty of Datsuns in his time, but this one is the keeper.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but as far as I know there are no more than five 1800SSS chassis in the United States, and this is the only one plated and registered, driving legally on the street.
I know I said I’d try and stay away from this area of the Alameda Naval Air Station, but time was running tight and the light was just right. I caved.
There is no mistaking the fact that it’s a bit of a cheater location, so you’ll have to bear with me, the San Francisco skyline, and a beautiful sunset. I hope you can manage.
One of the things that makes this particular 510 so great to me are all the old school racing style and factory decals that adorn the vintage body.
I’m a bit fuzzy on the specific history of this chassis, but it did see track time in Japan before making the trip across the Pacific to end up in Sergio’s hands.
Along the rear quarters of the car, ‘Butasan’ is proudly displayed. This directly translates to ‘Mr. Pig’ after the ’80s Japanese arcade game where you control a pig and throw bombs at other pigs. Makes sense.
Sergio’s thought of pulling the decals and restoring the car, but out of respect for the build he hasn’t found it in his heart to change anything just yet.
The same holds true on the inside of the Bluebird where you’ll find a couple untucked wires and the console likes to to pop out of place.
But it doesn’t matter, because check out that emblem.
Bride seats and Sabelt harnesses now keep the driver and passenger in place in the small coupe.
Sergio wanted to clean up the inside a bit before the shoot, but I asked him not to. This is a car that has more than a history; it has a future. It’s a rare bird that’s still enjoyed, and that’s the best part of this car to me.
When you pop the hood, this is where you notice Kameari’s touch on the build. The 1.8L makes use of Kameari street pistons, their 78-degree camshaft, along with their upgraded 46/36 valve assembly. This includes the Kameari race-spec valve guides, making the 1.8L a high-revving and dependable affair.
It obviously isn’t massively powerful, but in a car this size it just doesn’t need to be. The intake sound alone is enough to give any driver behind the wheel a sense of speed.
With race-bred trumpets shoving fresh air into side-draft Mikuni carbs, throttle response seems more than immediate. It’s as if the car reads your mind.
A Refresh 60 stainless exhaust header sends spent fumes back into a one-off stainless pipe that exits in the rear.
A 71B transmission from a later Datsun has been swapped in which easily handles the bump in torque and peak power from the wound-up 1.8L.
Power is delivered to the Work Equip 03 wheels through an R180 limited slip differential, while a Wilwood brake setup ensures the driver maintains control at speed.
With the Cusco coilovers, Mr. Pig handles the power to the wheels in such an analog way. Despite wanting to step out here and there, everything is communicated through the chassis to the driver, resulting in a car that feels like it’s on rails as it rips on the backroads.
Just looking at the Bluebird and experiencing it firsthand, it’s clear that Sergio no longer needs to look up to his friend’s amazing build from the ’90s that got him hooked.
Sergio now owns the ultimate 510 and it’s a car he drives more than any of his others. It’s the one that brings him indescribable satisfaction each time he’s behind the wheel.
The one that will never, ever get away.
Cutting Room Floor