Some of you may know that in addition to being a writer here at DPAN GT I also own a small parts restoration service, SSS Restorers. It was because of SSS that I had the privilege of meeting Dave, he’s one of our oldest customers. Dave is a great guy and a pretty well known 510 nut. His magazine featured yellow 4 door 510 was pretty much world famous and an inspiration to a lot of other cars. When I and the rest of the DPAN staff found out his car had caught fire and burned to the ground we were devastated along with him. When I talked to Dave at the time he wasn’t sure if he would ever build another 510. But… we’re happy to say he did. And while the yellow car will always be awesome, this car out does it in almost every way. One of the most beautiful and well built 510’s out there. We were excited to finally sit down with Dave and discuss his new Dime.
DPAN GT: First off Dave, can you tell our readers a little about yourself?
Dave: I grew up in Tucson, AZ and spent 33 years there before moving to Scottsdale. I have 2 daughters and a Pitbull named Jax. I always had a curiosity and passion for aesthetics, art, and cars. I still remember the Lamborghini Countach and Porsche 959 posters in my room. I have been into modifying almost every vehicle I have owned in some form or another since my first car, which was an ’85 long bed Toyota Pickup. I never wanted my vehicles to look or sound like an OEM model. My cars have been: Toyota pickup, 93 Civic, 89 Civic, 1999 Nissan 200SX, 2001 Acura RSX Type-S, 1999 4Runner Limited, and 2013 Toyota Tundra. My current vehicles are: 2014 Audi RS7, Overland heavily modified 2014 Toyota 4Runner, and a “new” 1971 4 door 510.
DGT: Awesome list, I’d love to see pictures of that RSX! We were all so sorry to hear about your yellow car. That car was well known and loved, can you tell us what happened?
Dave: I also loved the car and it had won HIN in Scottsdale the previous month. I was prepping it for Scottsdale Cars and Coffee and had been updating, cleaning and changing it for roughly six hours. I went to put the finishing touches on the inside c-pillar vents and saw smoke filling the cabin. I knew it was coming from the trunk so I opened the trunk and saw smoke billowing from every crack. At that point I looked into the back seat (where I was just sitting) and it was on fire. I tried putting it out but it was spreading too quickly so I pushed it out of the garage and a few minutes later it exploded. As I watched it burn, my heart sank as I knew what a special car it was and how much work had gone into making it what it was. The fire investigator could only say it was an electrical fire and the culprit was unknown.
DGT: I can’t imagine what a horrible feeling that must have been. Your quick thinking in pushing it out of the garage definitely saved you from a much bigger loss though and that’s at least something to be grateful for. Can you tell us what sparked your love for cars, and what got you into Datsuns?
Dave: My first real venture into modifying cars was with a 1993 Honda Civic Coupe EX. I had an ’85 Toyota Pickup which had a blown A/C so I traded up as I lived in Tucson, AZ, which is very hot in the summer. I wanted a coupe and a Civic for the reliability. I immediately put wheels on it which I eventually changed for a bigger size. I started with the stereo. I installed an Eclipse head unit, Image Dynamic IDQ 12’s and Dynaudio components. I had 2 Zapco amps and a crossover. All was installed professionally and eventually I started winning car audio shows in the SQ+ category. The system was completely custom with color matching vinyl in the kick panels and doors, as well as the amp and crossover surround. I eventually focused on the engine. I put in the standard go fast parts (exhaust, intake, plug wires etc.) I got bored with the performance and installed a Greddy turbo and eventually ended up around 215 whp. What got me into Datsuns? I always loved the way the old 510’s looked and one day, after years of admiring them, I decided to try and find one. After months of searching for a clean Datsun I came across the yellow 4 door. It was in Sacramento, CA so I bought it sight unseen. I had it shipped down to Scottsdale and immediately knew I had made a good choice. The Datsun is the most go-kart like car I have driven. I immediately added a resonator to the exhaust as it was ear splittingly loud inside at higher rpm’s. Shortly thereafter I had a RestoMod air conditioner installed so I could drive it during the summer. The rest of my mods came over the next 2 years. A lot of corners were cut when the car was originally built (wiring, paint repair, carpeting, stereo quality etc.). Of course, being the one to drive it all of the time, I was the only one who really noticed.
DGT: Ah man that brings back memories ha-ha, I’m sure a lot of us can relate to your start in the car scene. You mentioned the go kart like quality of 510’s and it seems like in the Datsun world you’re either a Z person or a 510 person, can you tell us a little more about what you love about 510’s?
Dave: They are small, light, and just plain fun to drive with the right engine. I feel like a kid again driving a 510 with the go-kart handling, no power steering and how low to the ground you are. The looks that they get on the road is also an attractive point, as there aren’t many 510’s around Arizona and certainly not in Scottsdale. There is just something very cool about having a car that doesn’t have all of the creature comforts of newer vehicles like my 4runner.
DGT: We were very happy to hear that the insurance company came through for you and you were able to replace the yellow car. Can you tell me what you’ve got now?
Dave: Yes! I was glad about that as well, though it did take 8 weeks to conclude the claim. I am just finishing up another ’71 4-door 510.
DGT: Awesome! Give us the details about your new dime… What makes this car stand out?
Dave: It had terrible paint and wheels and the interior was very incomplete when I got it. There was no carpet or center console and the road could be seen through the shifter cut out. The reason I chose this car over others was the build quality that went into the engine swap. It has a notch top SR20DET with many upgrades. It dyno’d at 340 rwhp at 16psi. When I had the mechanic inspect it, he said that it was solid and seemed like an engineer performed the swap. The car is very quick and much faster than my old Dime that had a KE24DE swap. In addition to the SR20, the previous owner also installed power steering, traction control, datalogger, and AC. The car rides very nicely with the suspension and brake setup (Wilwood and Tokico). When I got this car home from paint, and parked it, I noticed the front seat had smoke coming from underneath. I immediately pulled the seat and noticed that two fuses had melted and the wiring from the fuse block to the relay block had melted as well. At that point I elected to rewire the entire car as I could not trust the existing wiring (and didn’t want another Datsun of mine to burn). I hired Xavier Miller of XOR Motorsports to redo the entire engine harness. His work was meticulous and after he went through the wiring, it was discovered that the chassis wiring was also done sub-par with small gauge wiring (too small) throughout the car. One of the very reasons I had chosen this particular car was the wiring and it was found to be terrible. While Xavier was redoing the wiring I elected to replace the ECU, fuse block, and relay block with brand new ECU Master units. Xavier also created the custom electronic dash which shows, boost, battery, temperature, AC control, Check engine lights, fuel pump functionality etc… While the wiring was being redone, I tipped over the roof rack which hadn’t yet been mounted and it dented the rear fender causing paint chipping and scratches. In addition, while configuring the cruise control, during a test ride, the hood came up and damaged the surrounding paint and destroyed the hinges. I guess you could say it’s a love-hate relationship with this car as it has fought me every step of the way. I couldn’t find a replacement hood (that could be shipped to me), and Chris Petriancosta (the painter) said it was too stretched to repair, so I traveled to Costa Mesa, CA to pick up a Hartman Fiberglass Carbon Fiber hood. I replaced both hinges and hood struts and installed the hood. I didn’t care to have a big black square, so I had it painted and cleared by Chris while he fixed the other paint mishaps. I elected to leave the carbon fiber visible down the center of the hood and it came out great.
DGT: Sounds like the perfect 510, glad to hear you caught the wiring issues in time! For our readers that want all the info we will include a full mod list/spec sheet at the end of the article. You could’ve gotten any other car, I know you had others on the table, why did you come back to a 4 door 510?
Dave: I can’t say for sure. I considered a beautiful AE86 from Vancouver, but that was already built and done. I considered a blob-eye Subaru WRX and an old school VW beetle or Volvo. I kept going back to how much I liked driving the 510 and how fun it was. I also liked the uniqueness of it at the shows and on the streets. I felt I knew what I was getting into with a dime build as I had done it before and decided to build another to my exact liking. I also was swayed by seeing all of the truly amazing 510’s I saw on Instagram and Facebook and seeing the potential that the little dime has for being a show stopper. Since getting the car done, and before COVID-19 shut down shows, the 510 won best Old School car at the Elite Tuner Show in Phoenix. I was happy to see all of the hard work and money pay off with some recognition.
DGT: Well we think you definitely made the right choice! The finished car is stunning and we’re sure there’s many more trophy’s in your future. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Dave: I just want to say that the Datsun community is a great one; the demographics range from young to old and from green to very skilled & experienced. I haven’t met or talked to any Datsun guy that isn’t willing to lend a hand, opinion, or advice. It is a common love that we all share. I am blessed to still be a part of the Datsun community. Thank you for your time.
Full Miami Blue paint job done by Chris Petriancosta
Full Ceramic coating done by Hyer Quality Detail
Clear bra (Hyer Quality Detail) on the roof to protect paint from the roof rack fairing
Swapped OEM mirrors for black fender mirrors
Tint 20% all around and 35% on the windshield
Changed the OEM grill for a SSS grill
ZCar Depot LED Headlamps
Swapped out all bulbs for LED
Replaced warn turn signal lenses up front
Installed the funnels and fogs that were on my old dime
Swapped out warn and chipped bumpers with the painted bumpers which survived the fire.
Front bumper chopped 4 inches
Refurbished headlight bezels
New chrome surrounds for the taillights
BRE carbon fiber air dam
Hartman FG Carbon Fiber Hood
Replaced warn or missing emblems
Rare JDM Center taillight garnish refurbished after the fire (done by Logan Neet at SSS Restorers)
Shaved license plate lights replaced with LED screw lights
One-off copper roof rack adorned with Marvel comics (built by me)
Full Custom interior done by Scottsdale Auto Upholstery in black leather with blue stitching
Skillard aluminum door sills
Billet door-pulls and window cranks
Billet headlight and windshield wiper pulls
Billet C-Pillar Vents
Carbon Fiber Quick-release steering wheel hub
Nardi 330mm steering wheel
Retro-Spec Carbon fiber dash gauge pod
Billet faceplate behind headlight and wiper knobs
One-off painted and milled Skunk 6 speed shift knob
Shaved rear door lock pulls
Billet front door lock pulls
New rubber throughout
Trunk prop strut
Replaced all AC vent hoses
Custom fire extinguisher and mount
New dash cap and rear deck
1999 S15 SR20DET notchtop
6 Spd Transmission
Toyota Celica power steering rack
Full rewire (due to poor wiring job from original builder) by Xavier Miller of XOR Motorsports
Carbon fiber spark plug cover
Paint matched the valve cover (Miami Blue)
Replaced old silicon hoses with blue counterparts
Replace majority of screws and bolts with chrome or stainless steel counterparts
Full Tune done by UMS tuning
HotRodAir Air Conditioning
AEM intake air sensor relocated
Blitz radiator cap
Tomei oil filler cap
Dual exit custom exhaust
Fuel cell with high-flow pump
Autometer Gauges (tach, speedo, oil pressure, fuel, voltage, water temp, boost gauge)
ECU Master EMU Black ECU
ECU Master PDU16 PDM done by XOR Motorsports
Custom electronic dash in center console by XOR Motorsports
JL Audi JW13 Subwoofer
Alpine Head unit
Bass control knob
Odyssey PC925 battery relocated to trunk
Suspension and wheels
T3 strut tower brace (feet painted to match car)
FutoFab adjustable TC rods and LCA’s
FutoFab trailing arm camber adjustment brackets
Tokico Illumina 5 way adjustable shocks in front (180 pound)
Koni Shocks in rear (200 pound)
Ground Control coilovers
280ZX struts and camber plates
Wilwood 4 disk brake conversion with reverse pedal mount
Modified rear brakes to fit smaller JDM wheels done by Fast Brakes
R200 long-nose clutch pack limited slip
15×8 SSR Longchamp wheels
15×7.5 Koenig Rewind wheels
Toyo Proxes T1R 195/45/15
Still to come: Volk Te37v 1920 limited (SHIPPING Late June)
Words by: Logan Neet
Photography by: Angel Cruz