How can you not love a clean classic Japanese car? Their sleek lines, low bodies, classic sound? Sure they don’t sound like a loud rumbling V8, or the high-pitch scream of a supercar, but they just have a look and sound that’s unique to a classic JDM car. Now when you think of a Datsun 120y, the first thing that usually comes to mind is a grandma’s car. Old faded interior, a bit of rust, low kilometers, fairly stock, but slow all the same. Kristian’s car is far from that. The Datsun you see here has all the right parts, and the sleek look makes it one of the best looking 120ys around.
The Datsun was a bit of an exercise to acquire. After months of looking for the perfect starting car, a running shell was found online. About an hour after making the call Kristian and a friend were on a nonstop round trip to Geelong to pick the car up. From there on it was a 4 year build in the making. The car was stripped back to bare metal to see how the body was under all that paint, and sure enough it was clean and fairly rust free. It was only at this point Kristian decided on which direction to take the car, as it was too clean for being a dedicated track car. Not to say it doesn’t see the odd track day. The decision was made to keep it fairly retro and stock looking, but with his own personal touches to it. It also needed a good power to weight ratio for the times cash allowed him to go racing.
The original A12 motor could have been kept, and had all the best parts thrown at it to make a decent amount of power for an old 1.2L, but that wasn’t the vision for this build. Instead it was swapped out with an N/A Blacktop SR20, equipped with Tomei ITBs, and a custom set of headers on the opposite side of the engine. A Tomei Reytec ECU was used to make sure all the parts talked to each other, and a Datsport cooler keeps temperatures down. A six speed gearbox out of an S15 Silvia was also fitted up, along with an Exedy twin plate clutch. The rear end of the driveline consists of a custom made tailshaft fitted with FG XR8 universal joints, plus a shortened R31 diff with a 4.11 KAAZ 2 way centre installed.
The stock suspension in the car was ditched in favour of aftermarket parts. Front struts and inserts from Datsport were fitted, along with adjustable control arms, strut tops, and lower bracing supplied by Maddat in Adelaide. The rear end leaf spring design was kept, but B110 springs were installed after being lengthened and reverse eyed.
Brakes took a while to source as Kristian wanted to keep the SSR Longchamps he already had on the car. But being pretty small sizes at 13×7 in the front, and 13×8 in the rear, sizes were going to be limited. To keep the whole thing within engineering requirements, the end combo was picked. The front consists of u12 rotors from a Pintara and Landcruiser 4 pot calipers on a modified Stanza hub. The rear setup is currently a full R31 setup. Talking to Kristian, he revealed that the car actually braked better than an E36 BMW M-sport during the engineering tests. Pretty impressive for a set up of mixed and matched parts.
The body has been kept fairly stock besides a few subtle changes. The body has been fully resprayed by his father in law in the factory white with j-spec indicators, front spoiler and GX Sunny badges fitted. A bit of carbon wrapping has been done to the rear light garnish for a different look. Looking closely you can see the front bar has a small patch of rust from the chrome flaking off. When asked what happened, Kristian told a funny story: He got run over by his own car!
Once the car was finished, Kristian decided to drive it to his father in law’s birthday to show him the finished car. He decided to arm the alarm in case of any funny business. The alarm has GPS tracking and auto start, with a phone app to arm or disarm the car. At the time the car only had the GPS side wired in and no safety cut installed to the neutral position. The car was left in gear with no handbrake on; in Kristian’s own words: ‘The brain fart trifecta’. Start was accidentally pushed on the phone app and the only thing Kristian could think of was to run out and lean on the car to stop it. The car slammed him into a post! The issue was that it now had a taste for human blood, starting itself three times which resulted in Kristian’s thigh being shattered in 17 pieces and both knees being dislocated. Ouch! The front end was repaired but Kristian has left the bumper for a bit of a laugh and an interesting story when people ask about it.
The interior of the car was fairly easy to get together Kristian says. Most panels were found online and through various Datsun friends. The front seats were replaced with Cobra low back bucket seats and the rear was retrimmed to match the fronts. A deep corn Nardi steering wheel was fitted to combat the ‘T-Rex Effect’ that comes from being well over 6 foot and having the seats as far back as possible. The dash is from a B211 and has digital gauges supplied from Autobarn. Butterfly valve air vents were also sourced from Autobarn (Kristian is a franchisee), which slotted straight in, making an interesting addition to the dash. The whole thing was finished off with a bit more carbon wrapping for a cool classic look.
This Datsun may be a bit of a trailer queen, and despite being the official course car for the Classic Adelaide Rally, the car has only done 5000 km since 2013. Kristian doesn’t use the car as much as he would like: ‘Maybe its punishment for running me over’. Lack of seat time aside, there are more plans for the car in the near future, which includes a 2.4L EcoBoost engine and a 5 link rear suspension set up. Until then you can enjoy one of the cleanest examples of how a classic Japanese car should look.