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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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    • profile image

      MrMarmalade 8 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 *****

    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 8 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!

    • TheBookGarden1 profile image

      TheBookGarden1 8 years ago

      Keep us updated on the conversion to electric!

    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 8 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.

    • profile image

      CleanerLife 8 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!

    • SaraMu LM profile image

      SaraMu LM 8 years ago

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

    • Natalie W Schorr profile image

      Natalie W Schorr 8 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*

    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 8 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! :)

    • profile image

      grannysage 8 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)

    • steveffeo lm profile image

      steveffeo lm 8 years ago

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

    • profile image

      ThomasC 8 years ago

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


    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

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

    • Aquavel profile image

      Aquavel 8 years ago

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

    • JenOfChicago LM profile image

      JenOfChicago LM 8 years ago

      Very funny!

    • Vitruvian-man profile image

      Vitruvian-man 8 years ago

      Very nice, great sense of humor.

    • EagleBayDesigns profile image

      EagleBayDesigns 8 years ago

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

    • SoyCandleLover profile image

      BW Duerr 8 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

    • SoyCandleLover profile image

      BW Duerr 8 years ago from Henrietta, New York

      P.S. Voted for it, too.

    • mysticmama lm profile image

      Bambi Watson 8 years ago

      very funny lens...5*

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