BRE Datsun 510

This project started out as a result of the generosity of Datsun fanatics Gary Caballero and Dennis/Peggy Hale. Dennis offered Gary's old car to the Gunn Auto class as the foundation for a basic autocross car. While most of the car was there it was badly rusted out and suffered some body damage. The mechanical end of everything was in sad shape too. The transmission bearings were shot; master cylinder and brakes needed attention as well as a host of fluid leaks.

We started by washing the grime off the thing with Comet cleanser and whatever we could find. We stripped off the minuscule stock exhaust. We removed all the bumpers, emblems, lights, grille, and antenna. The front splash panel was too badly damaged to repair so we cut it off. Dennis Hale would find a less dented one from a piece of a front clip he had laying around…we cut it off and bolted it up. We put a piece of aluminum in the floor just in front of the passenger seat to cover the rusted out "Fred Flintstone hole."

About this time the class started asking just what we were going do with this car and what it should look like when it was done. When I showed them a picture of the BRE car they said, "Let's build that!" I looked at the pictures and looked at what we had to work with. I thought about it. This was going to have to be a VERY low budget car. There are not a lot of funds to dedicate to a project like this in a high school auto program. I decided we should try anyway.

The tires and wheels were what we needed first. I assumed they would be the hardest to come by (age) and probably the biggest expense. Some Internet surfing aligned us with Stoney Meager, fellow Datsun aficionado who had just upgraded his tires and wheels. We struck a very good deal on his used tires/wheels. The students put them on the car and modified the fenders to allow them to fit. We were started!

The paint job would be done by the local Miracle Auto Painting, hopefully at a reasonable price. All we had to do was show them how we wanted it and what shades of red/white. The rocker panels were all rusted out and would require some extensive bodywork. They decided to help us out and did a quickie (no guarantee) fiberglass job on the rust.

The search for the various vintage decals became the next challenge. Ebay became the primary source. Swap meets would yield some too. We got some extra help from Jeff Jio (Mountain View Firestone) and Marty Smith. Some of the other details like the number 46's were cut freehand in Auto class. We had to judge the sizes and colors from pictures. The box from Revell's famous BRE Datsun model kit proved to be a great asset as well.

When the car came back from the paint shop everything started to fall into place. The kids carefully (no scratches please!) reassembled the car. Spray painting, like the details around doorjambs and windows, became the norm in class. Using Steel wool to shine up the rusty chrome pieces and using paint remover to clean parts, the kids divided into small groups to accomplish each individual task.

The transmission was removed and we replaced all of the bearings. We installed an old rusted exhaust header (we cleaned it up) that we found in the trunk. The valve cover was removed and polished up. A new clutch was installed. Michael's Muffler of Mountain View donated the exhaust work and muffler. Gaskets were replaced everywhere. The clutch hydraulics were worked over. The brakes were done and the wheel cylinders replaced. The ride height was adjusted (several times) to get just the right stance. The shocks were replaced. We got the engine running and tuned it up. Before you knew it we were ready to go!

The initial outing was the 33rd annual "Duel at De Anza" autocross in 2001. 4 kids, 2 girls and 2 boys, had the chance to try their skill behind the wheel of their new BRE Datsun. While not all of the details were completed we did manage to bring home a 4th place trophy. A very rewarding aspect of this project was the reaction to the car from everyone. Both Dennis and Peggy had no idea what we were up to. They had assumed someone had shown up with just another BRE replica. Dennis was the first to catch on. He was almost (is he ever?) speechless. He couldn't believe that this was the same car that had been rusting away in his driveway just a couple of months earlier!

This last year the Auto students modified the front struts and installed camber plates. All of the window straps were fabricated. The remainder of the decals were added and the tail panel painted white. The bumpers were reinstalled. The under hood area was cleaned up and the battery relocated to the trunk. A BRE style front spoiler was painted up and mounted. A Wink mirror was added to the interior. The work is not yet complete. There will always be something that we can improve on.

Best of all is the pride the kids have in knowing they have created something special. The newly aroused interest in the original BRE car along with all of the recent magazine articles have reaffirmed our decision to build our car the way we did. Sometimes timing is everything! At a recent Vintage Race in Monterey I showed John Morton, driver of the original BRE #46 car, pictures of our high school car. He smiled and said he was truly impressed. He then took the pictures from my hands and started showing them to his associates in the paddock area. A couple of the kids who helped work on the car were with me to witness this. They later retold the experience to their classmates. You could see the difference in class that week.