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Vintage race car from a Junk Yard Dog – Part 1.

Piston Broke’s US correspondent (and Datsun enthusiast), Brian Zana begins the journey of transforming a well used Datsun 1600 roadster into a vintage race car. 

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Las Vegas, USA: It was a typical weekend for me as I was tracking down leads on Datsun roadsters to part-out or rebuild. You see, I have a business called Sin City Datsuns and I restore these forgotten little sports cars. This weekend was special as I was given information on the possible location of four of these little cars right in my own town!

When I got onto the property I found a ’66, ’67, ’68, ’70 1600s and a ’69 2000. None of the cars had titles so I made a $200 offer on the ’67 and it was mine. I planned on coming back to finish the deal on the others and would eventually buy two more from the seller.

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Brian constructed a rack to store the body once lifted from the chassis.

The ’67 did have a certificate of dismantling. This meant it could never be titled for the street. I found out from the seller that he used to own a local auto salvage yard and when he sold the business he kept a couple dozen cars in the deal. The roadsters were part of that group of cars.

When I got the car back home I started to do a full assessment of its condition. I knew that I couldn’t restore it for the street, and it was too nice to cut up for parts, so I decided to make a vintage race car out of it. I had raced in the past but never in a vintage sports car. This was a great opportunity to make a car the way I wanted it and to race against other more seasoned cars with full race histories.

The first order of business was to strip the trashed interior and pull everything from the body. Next I removed the body from the frame in preparation to power wash the frame. The car had sat in the Nevada desert since 1982 and had layers of caked-on dirt and sand on it.

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The car had sat in the Nevada desert since 1982 and had layers of caked-on dirt and sand on it.

After removing the body and placing it on a body rack I made, I got down to the job of cleaning the frame. After the power wash I pulled the motor and four-speed transmission. The frame was in typical, dry western state’s condition with no rust or rot.

A few weeks past and I finally got down to the job of removing the rear axle and suspension, as well as, the front suspension.

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Brian knew he couldn’t restore the Datsun for the street but it was too nice to cut up for parts.

With a bare frame to work with I started to strip it in preparation for a rust prevention coating. After a week of work the frame was ready to be coated. Instead of going with a typical powder coat I decided to use a newer product from Australia made by KBS Coatings.

The system cleans and degreases, then you spray on a zinc wash to bond to the metal and finally you spray, brush or roll on the coating. The flow out was so good that when it dried there were no brush or roller marks left.

Well, the car sat for quite some time while I had other projects to complete but I eventually got back on it. In the next segment I will delve into the powder coating of the suspension, and replacement of parts.

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With the body removed from the chassis, the work began in earnest.

Words/Photos: Brian Zana.