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1972 Datsun 510 - That '70s Style

A little lesson on knowing when to say "when"

Rodrez
Apr 29, 2019
Photographer: Patrick Lauder

We've all seen it before. A project car that goes from mild to wild then continues getting a little wilder, until the owner runs into a crisis of having made so many changes that it becomes more of a burden than a privilege to drive. It's a situation Matthew Tomczek knows all too well. But in his case, it served as a catalyst, leading to a whole new build from an entirely different era—and a little lesson on knowing when to say "when."

1972 datsun 510 JDM bluebird SSS taillights Photo 2/39   |   1972 Datsun 510 JDM Bluebird SSS Taillights

Matt's previous build, a slick, black STI, had it all: well-executed exterior, stout suspension, modified interior, and, most importantly, a built boxer that made more than 400 whp when it landed on the pages of Super Street in 2013. Continuing to build further after his feature, Matt fitted his Subie with new aero and wheels and bumped up that power number significantly; the car was producing north of 600 whp before he realized it was becoming a hassle to drive. He adds, "I had taken the car to a point where it just wasn't fun anymore, and I was too worried about it getting damaged by someone on the road, or getting tagged by police. It was time to move to something smog exempt, where I could truly build something from the ground up...with my own hands."

Parting out the STI produced the funds to start an old-school chassis build, which, in the beginning, was supposed to be a 240Z. The hunt didn't turn up anything worthy, so his attention turned toward tracking down a Datsun 510, but it wasn't the lucky Craigslist find you might expect. It was spotted sitting lifeless on a friend's driveway and Matt jokingly suggested buying it. Moments later, after discussing dollars and cents, Matt had procured this '72 Datsun for his latest project.

1972 datsun 510 SR20 swap Photo 6/39   |   1972 Datsun 510 SR20 Swap

Wanting to start from the very beginning, Matt stripped the car down to a bare shell at Troy Ermish Racing prior to it receiving a complete media blast treatment and some precision seam welding. To make sure the efforts weren't a waste, the entire shell was powdercoated primer gray, while the custom-built Troy Ermish 'cage was coated black. The process was going smooth, but like any '70s-era restomod, there's bound to be a snag or two. In this case, the floor pans didn't sit quite right and further investigation revealed a cover-up by a previous owner. Digging deeper, it was discovered the original metal was almost nonexistent, so Troy removed what was left and welded in fresh floor pans.

The heart of this restomod, based on Nissan's iconic SR20DET, was a chore in and of itself. Matt brought the engine to RBMS Auto Care, a friend's shop, where he completely tore down the 2.0L. CP pistons and Manley rods filled the block while a list of Tomei goods were fitted to the ported and polished head and finally, ARP studs joined the two halves. The original turbo was tossed in favor of a Garrett GTX3076 that sits atop a custom manifold and announces its presence by way of a Turbosmart wastegate and blow-off valve combo. A long list of upgrades help move that forced air into a GReddy intake manifold, and the entire act is directed by AEM's Infinity management system.

1972 datsun 510 BRE type air dam Photo 10/39   |   1972 Datsun 510 BRE Type Air Dam

RBMS, already home to the engine buildup, would also eventually be the destination for the chassis, as Matt spent an entire year test-fitting parts and getting the car to rolling status in order to make transportation duties easier. "Once at the body shop, we replaced every panel we could find new sheetmetal for—including new quarter panels, fenders, trunk, taillight panel, front lower valance, and such." A fresh coat of Anvil Gray from Jeep was applied and, once again, it was back to RBMS for final assembly.

Getting the car back on the road was the main objective, but not until Mike from GST Motorsports got his crack at tuning the SR to a solid 301 hp at just 10 psi—more than enough power to move the featherweight Datsun.

1972 datsun 510 bride brix II seats Photo 14/39   |   1972 Datsun 510 Bride Brix II Seats

The three-year effort that included countless late nights and weekend marathon wrench sessions to get the car complete weren't in vain. In 2018, the car's debut at Stancenation's show earned a Second Place finish along with judge's Top Pick, followed by Best Restomod honors at Wekfest San Jose, Best Old School at SpocCom Norcal, and a Judges Choice nod at Shukai. But that's all icing on the cake, so to speak. The life lesson in all of this is that yeah, you can go too far with a build, especially if you're focused more on gathering new parts than the big picture. You just have to know when to say "when."

Matt tomczek 2007 subaru WRX Photo 15/39   |   Matt Tomczek 2007 Subaru WRX

Baby Got Black
Matt's 2007 WRX feature back in 2013
420-whp build on E85
Carbon-fiber aero No shortage of JDM parts

1972 datsun 510 BRE type air dam Photo 19/39   |   1972 Datsun 510 BRE Type Air Dam
1972 datsun 510 personal steering wheel Photo 23/39   |   1972 Datsun 510 Personal Steering Wheel
1972 datsun 510 Tomei coilpack cover Photo 27/39   |   1972 Datsun 510 Tomei Coilpack Cover
1972 datsun 510 BRE type air dam Photo 31/39   |   1972 Datsun 510 BRE Type Air Dam
1972 datsun 510 ermish racing dash Photo 35/39   |   1972 Datsun 510 Ermish Racing Dash
1972 datsun 510 Matt Tomczek Photo 39/39   |   1972 Datsun 510 Matt Tomczek
By Rodrez
906 Articles
1972 Datsun 510 - That '70s Style
Tuning Menu
Owner: Matt Tomczek
Hometown: Oakland, CA
Occupation: Technical Program Manager at Playstation
Engine: SR20DET engine swap; Tomei Procam 270/270-degree cams, adjustable cam gears, rocker arm stoppers, valve guides, +1mm valves, head gasket, oil cap, oversized oil pan, sparkplug cover; Manley H-beam rods; ported and polished head; top-mount turbo manifold; 15-gallon fuel cell; Pro Series titanium valvesprings and retainers; Supertech valve stem seals; 87mm CP pistons with 9.0:1 compression; ARP head studs, main studs; ACL race bearings; Garrett GTX3076 turbo; TSR intercooler; GReddy 70mm intake manifold; Turbosmart Ultra-Gate 38 wastegate, Race Port blow-off valve; Injector Dynamics 850cc injectors; Walbro 255-lph fuel pump; Nismo engine mounts; Advance Black Series high output alternator; Wiring Specialties tucked SR20DET/Datsun harness; HKS oil filter; shaved engine bay
Drivetrain: Competition Clutch and flywheel; ARP flywheel bolts; Nismo stainless clutch line; B&M short shifter; Cusco 1.5-way limited-slip differential; Subaru STI R180 rear diff; Perrin high-capacity diff cover; billet mustache bar and transmission mount; Energy Suspension rear differential, lower control arms, bushings; Ermish Racing CV axle kit, billet R180 stub ends; Driveline Service custom one-piece driveshaft
Engine Management: AEM Infinity 506 ECU
Footwork & Chassis: Ermish Racing Version 2 coilovers, camber/caster plates, idler arm; 280ZX spindles and lower strut casing; FutoFab front sway bar; T3 torsion control rods, outer tie rods, negative camber roll center adjusters, steering box brace; ARP extended wheel studs; billet aluminum crossmember, lower control arms; Penultimate rear adjustable subframe; Suspension Techniques subframe bushings, rear trailing arm bushings
Brakes: Brembo Ferrari 360 Modena four-piston front, Subaru STi dual-piston rear calipers; Girodisc two-piece 313mm front and rear rotors; Hawk HPS pads; billet-aluminum brake mounting brackets and center hats; StopTech stainless lines
Wheels & Tires: 16x8.5 -6 Volk Racing TE37V wheels; 225/45R16 Advan A048 tires; Project Kics R40 neo-chrome lug nuts; 10mm rear spacers
Exterior: Retro-Spec carbon-fiber fender flares, BRE Type air dam; BMW E30 headlights; JDM Bluebird SSS coupe taillights; Solex door locks; Aerocatch hood latches; new OEM fenders, front lower valance, floorpans, taillight panel, rear valence, quarter panels, glass, rubber seals; shaved corner lights; seam welded and powdercoated chassis; media blasted; rust removed and repaired; Jeep Anvil Grey paint
Interior: T3 aluminum door panels, rear bulkhead panel, parcel shelf, rear side panels; Ermish Racing aluminum dash, rollcage; Takata four-point harnesses; Bride Brix II seats; Planted Tech seat brackets; Personal 300mm leather steering wheel; Works Bell Rapfix II quick-release; Speedhut multi-gauge with water temp, voltage, oil pressure, fuel level, speedometer, tachometer; Defi Advance boost oil temp gauges; AEM X-Series wideband UEGO; Tomei shift knob
Thanks: Mert and Winston at RBMS Autocare; Mike at GST Motorsports; Tom and Andrew at SpeedImage USA; Brian and Steve at Mackin Industries; Troy and Ashley at Ermish Racing; Marty at Turbosmart; Phil at Image Auto Body; Jade Motorsports; Mark Montuya; my family and friends that supported me

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