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.
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
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."
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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
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.