1974 Datsun B-210 hatchback

Datsun B-210

Long story here! You might notice that this is the only import car I've written about. That's not a coincidence; I've never owned many imports. I'm a big believer in buying American, though this particular car sure drove home the fact that the Japs do indeed build a quality car!

I bought "The Little Car That Could" in 1980. Gas prices were high, I had a growing family and a new mortgage, and I needed a small, fuel-efficient car. When I found this one, it had a mere 17k miles on it. However, it's condition was not what the low miles might lead one to expect...

It was owned by a young woman who married a bloke with more money than brains. She inherited a loaded T-Bird, and so the B-210 was abandoned.. sort of. More like it was butchered. The gent had an up-scale ride of his own, so they didn't need the B-210, and he decided to turn it into a rally car. The dumbass pulled the original A13 motor, which was barely broken in, and after much butchery with an acetylene torch, "succeeded" in dropping a 2-liter Datsun truck motor and 4-speed trans into the car.

Drop 'er in!

However, at that point this genius realized that he had no place to mount the radiator, short of hanging it on the front bumper. Then there was the little matter of the gearshift ending up in the back seat! At this point, he gave up, and the car languished for 5 years, until I found it. I was able to put it into service almost immediately by buying a rolled '74 B-210 from the scrapyard. It had everything I needed, though the engine had 120k+ on it, and was a bit tired. Still, it got me around for more than a year, while I leisurely rebuilt the original mill, a rebuild necessitated solely by the fact that Einstein had disassembled it, thus allowing it to rust.

I had everything boiled and the block bored +.030, the crank ground -.010, and put it all back together with new pistons, bearings, oil pump, timing chain/gears, exhaust header, gaskets, and assorted other bits and pieces. All were obtained from Warshawsky & Co. (aka J.C. Whitney). Now some folks sneer at their parts, but I've always had good luck with them. Heck, some of them, the oil pump, for instance, were jen-yoo-wine Nissan. And I got nearly 150k out of that motor, so I'd say my choice was vindicated. A couple of notable parts that did not come from Warshawsky were a mildly lumpy cam and a down-draft Weber carb. Along with the header, these resulted in an A13 with more than the average zip, though to be fair, it was still no speedster. But I never did get the car to idle smoothly, despite fiddling with it for years.

After the new engine was in place, I prepped the car with Duro X-tend, a rust preventative compound (a really fine product, which I recommend highly; the stuff works!), and had the car repainted in the original shade of orange. All in all, I got a decade's worth of daily service from the car, 160k+ miles, and it never once let me down. There were no repairs to speak of, except for an unfortunate tendency for the muffler to rust through at 3-year intervals, and for the front brake pads to wear out after a mere 20 to 22k miles. I kept meticulous records, and I calculated that those 160k miles cost me about $1,800 all told, excluding expendables like gas, oil, tires, and brake linings, but including the rot-prone exhaust systems. And all the while averaging a solid 28 mpg!

All in all, while not a car that I loved, exactly, I did have a great fondness for the way it saved me money. And I certainly respected it's simplicity, reliability, and utility. Dollar-for-dollar, it's probably the best car I've ever owned.

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