1969 Datsun 510: The Green Machine

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[Editor’s Note: Stanley Yee is a young car enthusiast and current journalism student. We get offers for “articles” all the time from a variety of folks, but most are either spam or junk. This is neither, as it’s instead a bit of proof that the love of cars if alive and well in the Millennial generation.]
Daily driving a car from the 60s is far from the most intelligent thing to do, but my 1969 Datsun 510 seems to be an exception to the rule. Maybe it’s blind luck, but my 510 has been dutifully acting as my one and only car for close to a decade, and shows no sign of slowing down.
Automotive technology has come a long way in a short period of time, but my car shows firsthand why simple can be good. Think of it like this: my Datsun is a piece of sushi; there’s nothing fancy, just a few quality ingredients that work. Compare that to something of this generation, a Nissan GT-R for example, and the differences are staggering. The GT-R, an incredible machine in its own right, integrates cutting-edge materials and modern technology to create its own driving experience. The GT-R is akin to a fancy dish with numerous layers and components, all culminating into a singular complex plate.
At the end of the day, the two cars are on opposite ends of the spectrum, yet my tried and true Datsun can still hold its own against today’s modern machines.

datsun 510
With an engine in the front, a proper manual transmission, and power going to the rear, my 510 is a poster child for the automotive purist in all of us. Its lack of modern amenities makes it light as a feather, tipping the scales at around the same weight as a first generation Miata.
My 510 is, as you can plainly see, far from perfect. The paint and bodywork do nothing to hide their imperfections, the engine chugs 91 octane to deliver just 109 horsepower, and any original rubber bushings or seals have long since disintegrated. Yet in some Clarkson-esque way, these flaws give my car character.
This machine has no power steering, no power brakes, no A/C, and no power windows. To anyone else, driving my car is an absolute nuisance, but for me these traits are just its fine nuances. It’s like an old shoe that’s been broken in over the years, torn and ratty yet more comfortable than anything else you own.
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People come up to me all the time to ask me about my Datsun. Some ask about the drivetrain, others recount their old cars, and more often than not, they ask if my car is for sale. I assume most ask out of sheer curiosity, but it would take a seriously optimistic offer to take the car off my hands.
Unless someone comes along with a burlap sack full of cash, I will keep my car for the foreseeable future. One day it’ll get the restoration it deserves, but until then I’ll continue to use it as my daily driver, as it always has been.
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[Images copyright 2015 Hooniverse/Stanley Yee]

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  1. M44Power Avatar


  2. longrooffan Avatar

    The initial HCOT 2015 nomination for this oleongrooffan.

  3. Craig in SD, CA Avatar
    Craig in SD, CA

    I DD a '71 Volvo 142S (510 x ~1.2) and this article gets it just right.

  4. Van_Sarockin Avatar

    510s are great. Always have been. Nice that modern cars are starting to catch up. I hope my SF friends, with their fleets of 510 wagons are still going strong.

  5. MattC Avatar

    I love this article. I love the fact that a member of the millennial generation dailies a classic. I learned to drive a stick on a 510 that belonged to my best friend's father. It was also a 4 door with period correct mustard color. It also was a blast to drive and dead reliable. (Also as an anomaly at least in the in the Mid-Atlantic, his car had zero rust until the day he sold it).

  6. Mr smee Avatar
    Mr smee

    I am daily driving a 90 Cressida. More luxurious, but way closer to the 510 than anything newer. In fact, a lot of my friends can't even fathom how my wife and I drive Cressida in the winter.

  7. wisc47 Avatar

    Sweet 510. It's nice to see I'm not the only "Millennial" who not only loves cars but, above all good reason, decided to buy something classic.

  8. JJDuddles Avatar

    Great job! Looking forward to hearing more from you!

  9. I_Borgward Avatar

    510 = The poor man's BMW. A nice specimen!

  10. Chris L Avatar
    Chris L

    In the three seasons that are not our horrendous and long Wisconsin winter, I DD a 1969 Dodge Dart Custom sedan.

  11. wunno sev Avatar
    wunno sev

    i love 510s. such a cool little car, such a neat alternative to an E30. when i was looking for my first car, the only 510 for sale at all near chicago – budget notwithstanding – was a completely (completely) rusted-out pile near madison, and it wasn't running, and i still couldn't afford the asking price.
    meanwhile, there are several on LA craigslist right now. what an unfair world.