I’ve never actually had the privilege of meeting Dave Jernigan in person although I did meet him through another Datsun story we both worked on together. It became clear right away that I had a lot in common with the guy, having both come from a muscle car background before diving head-first into the Datsun scene. David is a good guy, you get that right away after meeting him, laid back, chill and down to earth… in a way a lot like the car he drives, a Datsun 521. I think you can really see David’s personality in the details of this truck, like a lot of our cars, it really is an extension of him. In interviewing David I was interested to know how he came to own the truck? Why not something more mainstream, like Z or a 510? Why a Datsun at all?
Logan: Tell us about you and your automotive background…
David: I grew up in Pensacola Florida in the old-school hot-rod scene. My dad had a 71 Vega GT, 68 Nova SS, 68 Camaro SS, a 66 Impala SS and more. I grew up with him taking me to an abandoned strip that served as a secret drag strip. They would race anything from kids on tricycles to semis. I grew up always surrounded by muscle cars, so when my cousin got a Celica GT in 1976 or 77 it blew me away. It was banana yellow with louvers. That car made a lot of sense to me, it was functional, practical, and stylish. And it drew a ton of attention and I definitely recognized that novelty aspect of it as well. I fell in love with Japanese cars right then. Eventually I moved to Miami in the 80’s and was heavily influenced by the custom car and low-rider scene there.
Logan: So then, what made you get into Datsuns?
David: my mom had a Datsun B210 that she would use to cart my brother and I back and forth from Florida to Colorado after my parents were divorced. She and that car were determined souls, and I picked up on that. After spending what was literally months in a Datsun, I grew to love it. We would make up stories about tags written in Japanese that we would find under the upholstery and bodywork, I really love Datsuns ha-ha. None of the mechanics in my family ever really encouraged me to follow their lead and it wasn’t until later in life that I realized that I had it in me to wrench on stuff without killing it.
Logan: Great story! So, why the 521 not something else?
David: To me the 521 checks too many boxes not to have: practicality of a truck, styling that is “Pininfarina inspired” design. I got the truck last year in Eugene from Datsun recyclers run by Al Rasmussen of Datslocos Oregon chapter. We drove it 8 hours home along the coast as a way to test her mettle, she buzzed home with zero issues.
Logan: Awesome, tell us more about the truck!
David: Over the last year I have gotten more comfortable with the gear box and that has led to some engine wear that made it necessary for me to pull it and give it a complete refresh. This included new brakes, bearings heads resurfacing, new seals all around, electronic distributor and a Webber 32 36. While the motor’s out I have been doing essential cleaning and treating of rust and build up. By the end of this weekend I will have the entire frame treated with por15 and hopefully some detail painting/highlighting/pin stripping of the leafs pumpkin and various suspension bits done. I am going to try and preserve the patina on this one so no repaint as of yet. I would like to eventually get the bed inlaid with bamboo and find a camper shell to refurbish. I am hoping to have it where I want it by September when we have a local car show and cruise called Cruzin Eureka. It’s our local scene’s Holy Grail, we have a thriving hot rod and custom culture car scene here in Nor Cal.
Logan: I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say we can’t wait to see it finished up and back on the road. The truck is awesome Dave, but any plans for another build?
Dave: After the truck is ready for Cruzin Eureka, I would like to turn my attention to a stock car 510 that I have dreams of giving a redneck Kyusha treatment to…..
Logan: Nice! Definitely looking forward to that!
I don’t think Datsun love goes any deeper than Dave and his 521. He has a deep connection to these cars, and I for one definitely look forward to whatever else he’ll pull out of his California garage in the future!
Words by: Logan Neet.
Photography by: The owner, David Jernigan.
Editing by: Logan Neet, Neet Perspective Photography