After extensive use of this forum and asking around Facebook groups, I was finally able to get my 1976 Datsun 620 Pickup SMOGGED and registered in California. HUGE thanks to everyone on this forum that answered my questions, especially DATZENMIKE, I wouldn’t have been able to bring this truck to life without you guys. This is my first real project car and I have learned so much in the two months I’ve spent working on it.
For those of you that care, this is the whole process I went through of buying and getting the truck registered.
My interest in cars and things that blow up began about 3 years ago, some time in the middle of high school, and I bought my own car two years ago, a 1996 Mazda Miata. There are three cars in my neighborhood that I’ve been seeing sit (or rot away) on a driveway. A gray 240z, which I always thought looked like a shark, a white FC RX7, which I knew at the back of my mind would be too much work and money to get running and maintained, and an old Datsun Truck, which I knew NOTHING about.
I’ve never had an interest in trucks so the Pickup I ignored completely. Being a college student without all the money in the world, I wasn’t able to afford something that would become a money pit so I did my research calculating how much I’d be able to part out these vehicles if I ever bought them and couldn’t get them running. Basically figuring out my budget and insurance on each car before I wouldn’t be able to make my money back from selling them. Several busy months go by and I forget about these cars. With more money now than I had before my confidence in taking up a project car came back, so while walking my dog I decide to ask the owners of these cars if they’re up for sale.
My first choice was the RX7.
“Hi, I’ve been seeing that RX7 sitting around for a while and was wondering if you were interested in selling it?”
“I’m actually thinking about junking it soon, I bought it a couple years ago and the engine locked up when I was trying to get it fixed up for smog, I think it’s flooded. I’m a little busy at the moment but give me your number and I’ll give you more information about it.”
The owner asked for MY number, I was beginning to feel excited. We exchanged numbers and I returned home.
“Rx7” was his first text. I replied back about how I’ve always loved these cars and when he’d be free for me to come check it out in detail and possibly buy it.
I asked him again some days later if he was interested in selling the car.
Disappointed I continued with my life for several more months.
Then there was the 240z. Same process: rang the doorbell and asked if the car was for sale. For a fact I’ve known this car has been sitting for at least 10 years, I remember walking by it as a kid and calling it a great white shark with its round eyes and sharp nose.
“How much do you want to offer for it?”
There was some cockiness in his voice, which filled me with doubt.
Nervously I said back “I still gotta take a look at the car before I make an offer.”
“It’s a 1971 model, has a Weber carburetor. I get a lot of offers for this car, a lot of lowballers, if you’re serious you can come back another time and take a look.”
I agree and he returns back to his house, I begin to return to mine too. From the way the owner was talking about his car it sounded like this 240 would be too much for me to afford. Was hoping it was one of those cases where it was a dad’s or grandfather’s car with no one in the house caring for it anymore. On the way back to my house I remember the old Pickup truck sitting on the driveway. “One last try” I thought to myself as my dog and I changed directions towards the house. At the door I was greeted by a middle-aged woman.
“Hi, I’ve walked through a couple times and was wondering if that truck was for sale?”
“Oh! It’s my daughter’s car, let me take your phone number and she’ll talk to you!”
I returned home with excitement and received a call in about 20 minutes from the dad who gave me nearly all the information on the truck. It was last started about a year ago, it was brought in from Oregon year ago, and it hasn’t yet been registered in California the time it was here.
“If you can take care of the registration and paperwork you can have it.”
That statement went over my head during the call but I thought about it after and was confused. “Have it” meaning give it to me for free? That can’t be right.
I texted the dad another time and set up a time to take a look at the truck. This truck was beyond original:
Autozone tachometer on the left gauge.
Tiny steering wheel about length of two fists
Cheap bucket seats with some tearing on the driver side
Toggle switches on a piece of sheet metal held onto a part of the center console by screws controlling fog lights, radio power, back up lights, dome light, gauge lights, and displaying battery voltage
Pin hood latches
Crappy bed liner
Amber lights under the hood
A good 50-75% of the wiring was redone
Fog lights bolted next to the original fogs
And a 1976 title with Weber carburetor and no smog equipment
The story of this truck is that it was used on a farm in Oregon. The daughter was visiting the state and bought the truck with plans of hauling stuff for a home in California. A couple plans fell through and the truck ended up sitting on a driveway for three years.
To make this truck legal I would have to buy an original carburetor, intake manifold, exhaust manifold, egr, smog pump, and all smog related components. Again, this was a 1976 model, so smog is required. This was going to be a lot of work. This would be the exact car NOT to buy considering the condition it was in, but I (stupidly) accepted the challenge. In my head I saw this truck as a clean slate, something I can work on and beat up without much care. It wasn’t an all-original example I would feel guilty about modifying and ruining. I returned back with fresh fuel, oil, oil filter, and fuel filter and it started up almost instantly once those were changed.
“This is the best I’ve ever seen this thing idle. Every time I’ve started it up you would have to feather the gas to keep it alive.”
That same day I drove the truck three blocks into my parent’s garage without paying a cent for it.
Immediately I was overwhelmed by the amount of parts I had to find for the truck. I’ve worked on my Miata before, but suspension work didn’t compare to what I had coming. First I needed to find the parts. I began searching through Facebook marketplace and Craigslist for parts: carburetor, intake/exhaust manifolds, and smog equipment. I got extremely lucky and found a guy three hours away with almost everything I needed so I scheduled a time to meet up and picked up the parts. With all the parts I needed at home, I began tearing it all apart to clean. The hole on the exhaust manifold where the EGR pipe went into was plugged and I had to drill through that, same with the pipes where the smog pump pumped air into the manifold were so I drilled through those, I took off the EGR and made sure it was working, everything else was also cleaned.
Then came the Hitachi DCH430 carburetor which looked like every gasket was torn and springs missing. I’ve never taken apart a carburetor, I barely knew how one worked. I was given two carbs but had to buy another one on ebay for $20 to have enough parts to make a complete one. I then chose the carburetor that looked the best condition and tore it apart for a rebuild. Carefully labeling everything and laying them down in order. It was honestly a lot of fun sitting in my backyard tearing it apart and rebuilding it with new gaskets. I’ve now completely fallen in love with carburetors.
After making sure everything functioned and was clean a good amount I put everything together and it started right up, which filled me with excitement. Other things I had to do were: get the choke working right, hook up all vacuum hoses, get an original thermostat housing to fit the thermal switch, valve clearance, check timing (which was already at 12 degrees), and tune the carburetor. I also tried looking for a catalytic converter and did find ones that would be CARB legal for the truck but found out that since my truck was a federal model I wasn’t allowed to put one on.
A month and a half went by and I was finally done, spending almost every single one of those days doing something to the truck, whether cleaning, tuning, or learning about where things go. The truck was ready for smog but I wasn’t. The last two months got me in a pattern of always working on SOMETHING. But I was finally done. After double checking everything I headed to the first smog place that didn’t reject me when I told them it was a 1976 truck. I was rejected by several other places when when I told them it was a 1976 truck, my friend and boss later told me it was most likely because of the lack of OBD so the smog process was more in depth. It was stressful. This was the moment I find out whether all my hard work and long hours reading the FSM paid off. Guess how much it passed by.
MAX CO% was 1.82 and I got 1.81. 0.01 was how much I passed by and I couldn’t believe it. From what I'm reading, it seems like my truck is richer than normal, but passing is passing. Whether or not I’ll pass smog in 2 years I don't know but I’ll deal with it when that time comes. But for now, the truck is registered and will stay alive for as long as I can help it.
These past two months have been both a fun and stressful experience. I had many doubts and several times considered giving up and parting out the truck. I’m glad I ignored the several people who suggested I run away from this project and buy a truck that was already properly running and registered. Again, I can’t thank you guys enough for your enthusiasm to share your knowledge. Even if this project failed, the knowledge I gained was more than worth it. I can confidently say I’ll definitely own more Datsuns in the future, although I’ll be trying my best to stay away from the ones after 1975.