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My Husband Brought Home a 100-Dollar Datsun

Updated on August 31, 2016
Steve and his Datsun
Steve and his Datsun

A Beloved Piece of Vehicular History: A 1970 Datsun 510 Wagon

Guess what!" my husband said, grinning like a naughty kid. He'd just walked through the door and hadn't even said hello or "how was your day?" yet.

Uh-oh, I thought, now what?

Without pausing for breath, he told me, "I found an old car, and I'm gonna take the engine out and convert it to electric."

My husband was trying to fit the whole story into one line he could rattle off without triggering a bombardment of practical questions from me, his practical wife. I know he was thinking that if he made the story short enough, I might just nod and go back to what I was doing. Yeah, well, maybe he should have left out the old car part.

But, alas, he had my full attention.

(Hey, you're supposed to be looking at the CAR.)

1970 Datsun 510 Wagon
1970 Datsun 510 Wagon

The Rest of the $100 Datsun Story

Everybody, here's my husband....

Thanks, Deb, dear wife.

Okay, so here's the scoop:

Deb is really good at being patient with me every time I get a new idea, and I could tell she was trying to confront the unknown while still projecting loving support.

Also, I could tell she knew I'd already purchased the car, and I was already thinking about how and where to tow it.

So with too much enthusiasm, I added, "You're never gonna believe this, but the car I found is my old Datsun!"

I couldn't read the expression that came over Deb's face. "The junker you were practically living in?"

"Yeah, the same car we had our first date in at Zion." I had to add that little reminder. On that date, I'd turned off the headlights while driving through the tunnel and got a good squeeze out of it. (Ow! Hey, she just poked me.)

"How much do they want for it?" Deb asked with a smirk.


"That is, how much did you PAY for it?"

It really wasn't that bad, though. Deb and I had a lot of fun scooting around Arizona in that old car when we were first getting to know one another. The 1970 Datsun 510 wagon was the first car I'd ever owned as well as the first car in our relationship, and it was pretty amazing that after the ten years since I'd sold it, and having lived three thousand miles away most of that time, I'd encountered my beloved Datsun once again.

Going Back a Bit Further....

The Origins the Rust-Bucket

In the late Seventies, my best friend's dad, Nat, bought the Datsun for $100.00 from his trombone teacher, who had driven it here to Flagstaff, Arizona, from Texas and given up on it. Nat and his mother removed the old engine and installed a rebuilt one.

For years, the Datsun resided at Lowell Observatory, where Nat lived and worked as an astronomer. His daughter drove it throughout high school and college, and then it sat in the driveway.

In 1992, the Datsun became mine. I bought it from Nat for $200.00, but he refunded me $100 so I could install a re-manufactured carburetor. I drove the car during my senior year in high school, in college and while I worked at the Grand Canyon. I met Deb on the North Rim in December, 1995, and, from there, we went on that first, rather long date in Utah's Zion National Park. Had to do a little roadside maintenance on the way, which I'm sure really impressed my future wife.

When we decided to move back east in July, 1996, I sold the Datsun to a lookout tower guy for $600.00. He drove it daily for several fire seasons up 9,299-foot Mt. Elden and afterward to the East Pocket lookout, a 60-mile, unpaved round trip. He eventually sold the Datsun to a guy named Lars, who drove it to Seattle and left it to die.

Then, a guy named Rex rescued the car and somehow got it back to Flagstaff, where he intended to fix it up. But it just sat for a few years in his yard on Navajo Drive, in the neighborhood where I grew up.

One hundred dollars bought me the car for a second time, and, when I went to Rex's place to get it, the Datsun fired right up. I then drove it full-circle, back up to Lowell Observatory.

What's even more serendipitous about this whole deal is that, after having the seed planted in my head by my grampa about converting a gasoline-powered car to electric, and after researching how to do a conversion and suggestions about a suitable "donor" car, I just happened to stumble across the car I've always loved. Perfect! With a little elbow grease and some TLC, it'll be a piece of cake.

And Deb says: Yeah, right

Datsun 510
Datsun 510

Okay, That's Enough, Husband of Mine

Give me back my computer

Deb here again.

So, now that we have this lovely specimen sitting out in front of the house, we get to spend all sorts of money fixing it up, so it runs and looks halfway decent. And then we need to save up for the conversion, which will probably cost between $5,000 and $9,000 including the battery bank.

In the meantime, though, the car needs a new windshield and tires, for starters. Not to mention that it doesn't lock, the brakes need work and the weather stripping is falling off doors and windows. And did I mention the broken tail light or missing windshield wiper blades and front grill?

Regardless, though, I am actually kind of looking forward to the whole project and do have a soft spot for that ugly little car. But I'll be especially happy when it becomes an ugly electric Datsun.

Converting a Datsun to electic
Converting a Datsun to electic

'Cause Then We'll Be....







Datsun 510
Datsun 510

The Datsun 510's Latest Issues

If it ain't one thing....

September: Brakes not working. Oh ... wonderful. Steve says it's the master cylinder.

November: The brakes are okay now (he rebuilt the master cylinder), but the tires are bald. Here goes another few hundred bucks.

January: Got new tires and a new windshield, but now it's something about a bearing. I don't think I want to know any more than that.

February: The passenger-side door won't open.

March: Oh great, my husband got an air horn for the Datsun! Someone gave it to him off their doomed Subaru. Apparently, it's the same type of horn a truck uses.

April: I noticed we were getting low on plates. Why? Because my husband was accumulating dirty dishes in the Datsun. Shame!

June: While driving behind my husband in his Datsun, I noticed that his right break light only works now and then. But there seems to be a long wait between now and then.

November: It seems his car won't start when it's cold outside. So he has had to park it up at his shop, which is at the top of a hill. That way, when it won't start up, he can get it rolling down the hill and hope the engine kicks in before he gets to the bottom.

Do You Have a Decrepit Datsun 510, Too?

If so, here's a manual you might want to pick up....

Steve's copy of this book looks older than the car, he's used it so much. If he's under the car, it's under the car. If he's under the hood, it's under the hood, too.

And If YOU Want To Drive Around Town Suckin' Up Nothin' ... Even if you don't have a Datsun....

Here are some good books about electric car conversions. We have both (and I think they're both in the car).

Convert It!
Convert It!

This is the book we're currently using. Uh ... that my husband is using. I'm just watching.


Do You Own A Clunker, Too? Comments welcome

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    • HomesteadingChic profile image


      6 years ago

      What a neat project! Deb, you are such a good sport. I'm not sure if I would have been so "supporting" if I were in your situation. :) So how is the conversion coming?

    • TeacherSerenia profile image


      6 years ago

      @TeacherSerenia: Dodge Caravan. Wonderful lens, Debra.

    • TeacherSerenia profile image


      6 years ago

      Yep we own a clunker too It's a 1992 Dosge cravan - now 20 years old, purchased for $300, driven around for about 5 years, and now sitting in the basement because we can no longer afford to pay for the registration or the insurance.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      What an excellent lens: Thanks for sharing.

    • Svdharma LM profile image

      Svdharma LM 

      7 years ago

      I just bought a 1997 geo metro for $250... Got 45mpg on the way home with a blown head gasket.

    • biltenales profile image


      7 years ago from Slovenia

      great car

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      So, part of the sordid tale included:

      âHe eventually sold the Datsun to a guy named Lars, who drove it to Seattle and left it to die.â

      A friend bought his 1964 Datsun NL320 from a âLarsâ who had let it die in his West Seattle backyard (rotted tires, frozen hydraulics, weeds grown up through the grille, tarp-like substance spread over the paint, etc.).

      Gotta wonder if it is the same âLars the Datsun Killerâ?

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great lens! My parents has a 240k GT they bought in 1979. It rusted out a little too far and they sold in in 1989. Two years later my father found another in the paper locally ad went to buy it - only to discover his original car rotting in the garden of the owners house! Being an excellent trade mechanic he bought both and fully restored the original car. He eventually sold it in late 2009, I'm still gutted!

      In 1996 he bought me my first car, a mustard yellow 1978 120Y Coupe, which I loved - I think I had the least cool car at college but who cares, she was a legend!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Well I have always dream of driving a Lada. That's probably the worst car ever, but I just love to see people face . My Grand Dad had a datsun, in the late 70's. ugly car it was...olive green to boot.

    • mountainstevo profile image


      7 years ago

      The Datsun brings back memories!

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      8 years ago from Canada

      Lol...sorry but that sounds like one very dangerous little car. Too funny a story behind it though.

    • brymche profile image


      8 years ago

      My dad owns a 1987 Volkswagon Hatchback.... We have families of black widows living in it! :D

    • Timewarp profile image


      8 years ago from Montreal

      Awesome old car!

    • GoAceNate LM profile image

      GoAceNate LM 

      8 years ago

      Ha great lens. You have to have a hobby.

    • glenbrook profile image


      8 years ago

      My "clunker" is a 64 Valiant wagon but I've always liked the 510. A friend of mine in high school had one. Nice lens:)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Good lens

    • SoyCandleLover profile image

      Beth Webster-Duerr 

      9 years ago from Henrietta, New York

      Thanks so much for visiting my salvage vehicle lens. I've rated and Fav'd this lens before. I'm not sure why I hadn't lensrolled, tho. Maybe before I wrote the salvage page, or didn't know about lensrolling yet? Anyway, it's a perfect fit. Thanks again. P.S. I love the last update. :D

    • luvmyludwig lm profile image

      luvmyludwig lm 

      9 years ago

      lol this is too funny!. I have had two clunker cars in my life (yikes!) my husband owned one of them, it was what we drove on our first date (age 16 and 14). When he first got it he nearly ran it into a pond (didn't see stop sign). When he got rid of it (4 years ago) the door did not open anymore, the fluffy foam in the ceiling was falling out, we had to crank it with a screw driver, and there was a spring poking up out of the seat that would stab you. That car sat in my husband's dad's yard for many years before he was able to sell it (for junk), and I really hate that it is gone even though it was for sure a clunker.

      The other one caught on fire and that's all there is to say about that. lol

    • pkmcruk profile image


      9 years ago from Cheshire UK

      Well I never! But very nicely done lens and Blessed by a passing Squid Angel :-)

    • Stazjia profile image

      Carol Fisher 

      9 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

      I don't know how I'd react if Jim brought home an old car and proposed to convert it - badly I expect. Great lens, though, blessed by an Angel.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Say, did I ever tell ya that my hubby donated a $100 car? Hey! Your car looks familiar!!! ;)

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Hah! My ex-husband bought a very cheap car once and then spent hours, weeks, months repairing it. We called it "Only-only" because he'd say "It ONLY needs this..." "It ONLY needs that..." our neighbor poked her head in and said, "I used to work on my own car, but now my time is far too valuable." Thanks for visiting my Christmas songbook lens. Best of luck to you!

    • clouda9 lm profile image

      clouda9 lm 

      9 years ago

      I am not going to even tell you about my hubby's 'projects' - umm one that sits in the carport for me to view each morning when I am making my morning coffee! Truly enjoyed this lens filled with lots of love and humor.

    • ayngel boshemia profile image

      Ayngel Overson 

      9 years ago from Crestone, Co

      lol, my first car was a Datsun too! A B10 as memory serves, lots of fun times... Mine is or was somewhere in New Mexico, but it served me well. Love your style as usual, and love your love for one another even more...

    • rubyandmahoney profile image


      9 years ago

      This was a funny read! I look forward to reading updates on the conversion! My mom had an orange Datsun 710 when I was a kid. You can drive those Datsuns into the ground.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I love the clarity and personality in this and many of your lenses. God bless!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      You two are a riot - love the back and forth. Good luck with the project and thank you doing your part to improve the quality of the air in Arizona. :)

    • ArtByLinda profile image

      Linda Hoxie 

      10 years ago from Idaho

      What a fun and humorous lens! My first car was an big old ford, and cost $300.00! Best running car with a lot of power, but no driver window! LOL

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I'm glad my husband is not a "gadget" and handy man.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I promise I'll make it look pretty ... soon!

    • VladimirCat profile image


      10 years ago from Australia

      Oh My Cod! I thought I was reading "My Husband brought Home a $100 CAT"! (I must force myself to eat carrots). However I scanned through this lens anyway and was agreeably surprised to find it of great interest. An electric conversion? Don't just follow your dreams; chase them -- and you will ultimately pounce on them and bite them in the neck. High Paw to you!

    • hlkljgk profile image


      10 years ago from Western Mass

      :D good luck with this project!

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 

      10 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Love this lens! I’ve actually encouraged my husband to get a clunker. He especially would like one from the year he was born, but anything THAT old would probably be an expensive antique!

    • sirkeystone lm profile image

      sirkeystone lm 

      10 years ago

      Well, I'm not converting either of them. They still sit... But my 79 Chevy LUV is from Cottonwood and spent a fair amount of time in Flagstaff and so did my 76 Dodge Colt which was originally purchased in Phoenix! Now why are they sitting on my grandparents farm 3 miles from me in Northwest Arkansas, because my wife won't let me bring them home.... heheh

      Great idea though. I might have to look for a more suitable driver for that, myself. These two have already been spoken for as far as performance. The LUV is to be a full custom with a Chevy V8, and the Colt is to be a drifter with a Dodge Dakota V6 under the hood.

      Thanks for stopping by the pop page too!

    • RuthCoffee profile image

      Ruth Coffee 

      10 years ago from Zionsville, Indiana

      I will not, under any circumstances, allow my husband to see this lens. He needs no additional influence to attract old, nearly useless things to putter around with for like a million years, in my way the whole time. Not going to happen. He's been mentioning just such a project for quite some time now. I just pretend I don't hear. Good lens nonetheless.

    • mysticmama lm profile image

      Bambi Watson 

      10 years ago

      very funny lens...5*

    • SoyCandleLover profile image

      Beth Webster-Duerr 

      10 years ago from Henrietta, New York

      P.S. Voted for it, too.

    • SoyCandleLover profile image

      Beth Webster-Duerr 

      10 years ago from Henrietta, New York

      I can't wait to hear how this turns out. 5 stars and Fav so I can stay tuned. :D

    • EagleBayDesigns profile image


      10 years ago

      This is such a cute story! Hope you get everything working soon!

    • Vitruvian-man profile image


      10 years ago

      Very nice, great sense of humor.

    • JenOfChicago LM profile image

      JenOfChicago LM 

      10 years ago

      Very funny!

    • Aquavel profile image


      10 years ago

      Great story! I can hardly wait to read the sequel. Please, please, keep us posted!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Hey, I see you used the photo of my better side for the intro. Gee, thanks! :)

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      What a great story! I hope you all get the car going just the way you want it! Angel Blessed!


    • steveffeo lm profile image

      steveffeo lm 

      10 years ago

      This is such a cool story boy Karma is a wonderful thing,

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      This is great! Husbands are such good topics for lenses. I have one about why my husband never gives me flowers. Now I'll have to think about some more ideas. Great job (and funny too)

    • Liam Tohms profile image

      Liam Tohms 

      10 years ago

      What a great lens. Funny and informative. Have you seen the sports cars that are being produced by [url=]Tesla Motors[/url]? They look great, but are a bit more than $100 for the basic car :-)

    • Ramkitten2000 profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Kingsbury 

      10 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      [in reply to ottoblotto] Don't tell my husband, but I'll sell his Datsun to YOUR husband for a mere $1000! :)

    • Natalie W Schorr profile image

      Natalie W Schorr 

      10 years ago

      Oh my gosh, I can't wait to show my husband this lens. He's been on the lookout for a suitable car to convert. I think this is great! 5*

    • SaraMu LM profile image

      SaraMu LM 

      10 years ago

      This lens is so the dialogue between you too. Nothing like a junky car to bring a couple closer together:)

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I once bought a 1977 Datsun Hatchback for $70. I loved that car! It looked like I had just rescued it from the scrap yard, but constantly got more than 30 miles to the gallon, usually around 35, but once as high as 40. It was a 4 cylinder and did not lack for speed.

      For as good as the mileage was, I would love to still have it, and have it converted it to electric.

      Oh, did I mention that I spent $2k to get that car street worthy? And it still looked like it should have been on its way to the car crusher!

    • Ramkitten2000 profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Kingsbury 

      10 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      [in reply to The_Book_Garden] Will do! Only problem is, you can't do a conversion little by little if you don't want to be without use of the car for long. So we need to save up the $$, have it all planned out with all parts ready, and then do the conversion. That is, my HUSBAND will do the conversion. I'll just try to keep the place as clean as possible meanwhile.

    • TheBookGarden1 profile image


      10 years ago

      Keep us updated on the conversion to electric!

    • Ramkitten2000 profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Kingsbury 

      10 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      [in reply to MrMarmalade] Wow, I'd say our Datsun clunker is doing a wee bit better than yours. So far, we haven't had to push it or give it running start and jump in. Got my fingers crossed!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I have also owned a Datsun wreak. Pick it up Friday night. Return to garage on Monday morning, broken down as usual. Still you could say we were able to ride on Saturdays, push it on Sundays. Then to be returned to fixed up again for Friday night.

      It nearly got me killed once. Stalled on railway line at two AM Saturday. An hour latter I coached it to start again. Managed to drive home

      It stalled again. Went inside and woke my Father up to give a push.

      I really wanted him to steer, while I pushed. No he had to help push. Car took off downhill very fast. As this car was precious to me I could only stop it by falling under the front wheel. Great result Car was stopped and I sustained three broken ribs

      Given you five Stars and fav U *****


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