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I call her Serendipity


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Months ago I put one or two photos of my beauty (1978 two-door sedan) up in the rollcall thread, but I feel like putting up more, so here she is:


I found her in my local Pick and Pull and bought her as a builder.

33254608992_fe989249b2.jpg20170226_092700 by emanistan, on Flickr


She spent a few months in a storage locker before I was able to convince the powers that be to let me bring her home:

32567512694_dc76e19dbb.jpg20170301_112116 by emanistan, on Flickr


Snazzy new tires and the grill restored:

36393025745_2fa15915c0.jpg20170328_122757 by emanistan, on Flickr


Finally home in my driveway:

36393025385_39509e8bf4.jpg20170622_121739 by emanistan, on Flickr


35557534684_559558e62e.jpg20170622_121922 by emanistan, on Flickr


Serious work finally underway:

35557533804_1c9209ba32.jpg20170629_124254 by emanistan, on Flickr

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Thanks.  It is remarkably straight, even bearing in mind that a lot of the damage she does have--dings and scrapes--doesn't show up in the pictures.  She's almost entirely rust free, and what little surface rust she does have (in the bottom of the spare tire cove in the trunk and on the floorpan in front of the passenger seat) I think was formed during the few weeks she was outside at the junkyard during the February downpour.  All the clues I've found point to this car being well cared for much of its life and driven up till the year 2003, after which it was stored inside till someone decided to get rid of it and it made its way to Pick and Pull where our paths crossed.


When I first bought the car, I was excitedly bragging to everyone that she still had the original paint.  Closer inspection showed that wasn't true; she has been repainted once in a color that is close to the original, but not quite the same.  I'm in a bit of a quandary over what to do about to this:  should I have it repainted in the original color or should I touch up and maintain the color on her now?  The problem is, even though original color is the way to go for the sake of authenticity, I actually like this shade of green better:  it's more vibrant and sets off the car's lines nicely.   The original code 601 green mist metallic was slightly darker, duller, and more olive.


In terms of what she needs to go back on the road, unfortunately, I'm one of those people who's always been in love with cars because of the way they look, but have next to no idea about what makes them go, so I'm learning as I go along.  She ran at the junkyard, but died easily, and the people there told me she had a tendency to overheat. A few months ago I tried installing a fresh battery, but I think I put it in backwards:  something popped, some sparks went up, and she's been completely dead since.  I'm hoping I just blew the fusible link; I'll put that to the test next week.  Once I get her actually running, I'll be able to diagnose things a bit better, though at some point I might just break down and tow her to a mechanic, if only to have them tell me what needs doing.


As for plans, I want to make her an immaculate 70s time capsule inside and out and use her as my daily commuter.  I'm going to install a modern sound system, but house it behind period faceplates.  The interior upholstery is in fairly good condition, so I'm just going to clean it, repair what damage there is, and re-install it.  


Everyone says these cars were severely underpowered enough that getting on the freeway with one is a scary experience, and that's without the automatic transmission and air conditioning (a necessity to have working during the summer months where I live) that mine has, so I may try swapping in a more powerful engine one of these days, but that's a ways down the road.

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Everyone says these cars were severely underpowered enough that getting on the freeway with one is a scary experience


Mine was marginal ('74 auto). Swapping in an electronic distributor (which you should already have), changing to a 1200 carb, and some de-smogging made all the difference in the world. It would do 75+ all day and had no trouble getting up to that speed. Only problem I ever had was on long hills. 


I would also suggest installing an external transmission cooler if you plan to keep the auto in it. That also made a lot of difference. 

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Nice looking Sedan.. I need to ask does your car still have the color code on the core support and is it visible still. If it is would you mind letting me know what it is.? I have the same color and my color code has faded away.

Thanks and I appreciate the help.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Mine was marginal ('74 auto). Swapping in an electronic distributor (which you should already have), changing to a 1200 carb, and some de-smogging made all the difference in the world. It would do 75+ all day and had no trouble getting up to that speed. Only problem I ever had was on long hills. 


I would also suggest installing an external transmission cooler if you plan to keep the auto in it. That also made a lot of difference. 

I missed this post before, but thanks!!!  I don't know what most of the things you mentioned are, but once I find out, I'll definitely look into doing all of this.

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Beautiful foundation. I've gotta find one of these. Bumper plans?

I'm one of the few people who actually like the later bumpers, so they'll stay as they are, except for some new rubber corner moldings to replace the old cracked ones.  The rear bumper has an old Triple-A sticker still on it, & of course that's staying.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I had a rude awakening reading through some of the other conversations on this forum yesterday.  I wish I could remember where I stumbled on this, so I could quote it directly, but I came across a conversation in which one of the old-timers told someone something like "don't be like the noobs and spend all your money on parts, then have to sell it cause you can't afford to fix it."  It hit me square on the head:  that's me he's talking about.  That's the road I'm travelling down.  So from this point forward, I'm putting a moratorium on body and cosmetic stuff, and all my time and resources will be devoted to figuring this stuff out:


36987738296_641e90d961.jpg20170301_174540 by emanistan, on Flickr


till I can get it to go...of course Redding is an oven right now, and the car's in an uninsulated garage, so I have a few weeks more before I run out of excuses. Still though, I can work on some of the parts I already have inside till then, but no new stuff except for parts that will make it go!...unless a tachometer should show up in the meantime, or an original decklid rack, or a Santa Cruz Datsun plate frame, or, well, you know....

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  • 3 weeks later...

SHE LIVES!!!....albeit in a semi-comatose state:


37270460882_ee960087c4_c.jpg20170923_181512 by emanistan, on Flickr


This past weekend, I finally, for the first time since she left the junkyard in February, got some signs of life from her.  For those of you not up to date on this Sunny's story, not long after I bought her--sometime in February or March--I tried putting in a new battery, but, being the noob I am, I think I connected it backwards.  There was a spectacular bang and a pretty geyser of sparks, and she's been dead ever since...until now.  My hopes were not high on Sunday, but I went through the motions of installing the new battery terminals and fusible link that I'd bought some time ago.  I thought Id probably have to buy a new battery as well, but, with the summer poverty not yet over, I decided to try hooking up the one I thought I'd blown before, just for the hell of it.


To my excitement, a beautiful click sounded from somewhere within the engine the moment I hooked up the new negative terminal.  With uncontainable excitement, I pulled the headlight switch, and behold, there was light:


36630074683_50fe4737fa_c.jpg20170923_181938 by emanistan, on Flickr


The dome light produced equally beautiful results.  Flathead screwdriver in hand, I climbed into the stripped interior, put the screwdriver into the ignition switch, gave it a twist, and heard the strong revving of the starter motor, followed by some bubbling and burping from the gas tank.  I never got the engine to engage, but that's no surprise: she had that problem from the beginning.  I think the next step--and hopefully some of you old hands can tell me if my head is on straight--is to get new spark plugs, clean out the fuel tank and lines, and probably replace the fuel pump.  How does that sound?  Am I thinking like someone who knows what he's doing yet?


Those of you with an eye for detail might notice a big change in the latest pictures:  she now has an early style grill.  I have to admit now that when I first saw the front of my car, I was a bit disappointed.  What's made me want a B210 for several years are the memories of these cars from my childhood in Santa Cruz back in the 70s, and the truth is, the square 77-78 grill is not exactly the look I'd remembered.  Still, a parent comes to love their children, even their imperfections, so I came to accept it and even meticulously restored the grill.  Then, a month or two ago, I came to Newark Pick and Pull.


I came to see two B210s that had landed there, and on this 76, found an intact pre-77 grill, almost perfect but for a few cracks which could easily be fixed with plastic cement:


36145952661_b47d7e0465.jpg20170722_102909 copy by emanistan, on Flickr


One problem was that someone had already picked all the emblems off the car, including the one on the grill.  "No problem," I said to myself, "I'll find one on Ebay." To my surprise though, it turns out that early series grill emblems appear to be in short supply.  There are always one or two 77-78 'D' emblems on ebay, but none of the earlier chevron-shaped ones.


I decided to use this as an excuse to visit my favorite junkyard: Salsipuedes in Santa Cruz county on the rural outskirts of Watsonville.  This place is a world away from the P&P branches, one of the last of a dying breed of old school junkyards chock full of classics which stay there for decades.  In addition to a junkyard, it's also a working family farm, and cars and car parts are laid out in decorative meandering paths.  One of these days I'll go back with a camera and do a photo-shoot for this forum.  There are old school Datsun things there, but that's just the tip of the iceberg.  Anyway, this would be my first visit there since getting the Datsun (usually I go down to get stuff for converting my van) but I thought I'd remembered a first generation B210 grill hung on the front fence during my last visit.  Unfortunately, what I'd remembered turned out to be a 510 grill instead.  Still, I searched through the place for an hour or so, and was just about to give up  when I wandered into a distant forgotten corner, looked over at the fence, and spied this:


36630075733_dd418580d1_z.jpg20170812_153020 by emanistan, on Flickr


It was just before closing time, but I had enough time to retrieve my long-handled bolt cutters and snip the broken grill off the fence, being careful not to let my foot go through the piles of old car doors buried in leaves below and disturb any yellow-jacket nests.  The emblem was glued on, so I would have to take the whole assembly.  Last time I'd talked with the old patriarch of the family who owns the place, it had been in early 2016, and he'd been going on about how Donald Trump was a great man who'd save the country.  I was glad to observe that this time, he steered clear of the current occupant of the Whitehouse, and had to settle for moving down a few branches of government, talking instead about what an asshole Jerry Brown was.  I harumphed politely.  He wanted more for the broken grill than I thought it was worth, but since they'd given me some great deals in the past, I said nothing and paid what he asked for it.


It's strangely appropriate, since, for me, this project is about evoking my memories of Santa Cruz, that the 'figurehead' of my car should come from Santa Cruz County.  I already had a set of signal lights on the grill from Newark, but, in the same vein as the emblem, I thought it would be neat to have one of the lights be one that once cut through Monterey Bay fog long ago.  Unfortunately the body of the light--which had been resting against that metal fence in sea air for years and probably decades--was too far gone to be used, but the bezel and lens cleaned up beautifully.  Naturally I came to wonder about the car that had once worn the broken grill--according to the writing on it, it had been a 75--and looking at the rust damage, I started to wonder if this car had been a victim of the flood of 82.  I was 8 years old when it happened and remembered it well, and one of the halmarks of that year were the piles of wrecked cars hauled into every vacant lot by clean-up crews.  I remember plotting with school friend to hotwire one of these cars next door to our school in order to escape, either to Chuck-E-Cheese or to someone's mother's house-we never did decide.


I was worried that the emblem didn't shine up as well as I'd hoped, but I must say, shined as well as it is, retouched with Testors enamel, and mounted on the newly patched up and repainted grill, it looks damned good.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks!  Yours too, if that's it in your thumbnail.

Yep thats mine.  Looks like you're on your way.  Fun to find the grille badge.  Enjoy the process.  One cosmetic thing I did that blew me away was when I took a magic eraser to the vinyl headliner and sun visors...the white vinyl came out looking totally new.  There's a world of knowledge here so ask all the questions and the Datsun universe will answer them and then some.  Last year I changed the head gasket, intake gasket, new thermostat, new plugs/wires/rotor, completely rebuilt the carb, new rear drum brakes, new front calipers/rotors/pads, bled the brake fluid, new carb spacer, EGR block off plate.  I too blew the original fusible link and made one.  I had an ignition issue in which required some wiring and trial and error.  Keep updating us on your progress and congrats.

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Before anything else, thanks jboulukos.  I've already benefitted a lot from the world of knowledge here just in the archives without even having to post any fresh questions of my own yet, though that will probably change soon.  I'm not sure if I've tried the magic erasers on the interior vinyl yet; I used them on the glass back when I first got the car, and I experimented with Dow Bathroom Cleaner and Murphy's Oil soap on the two sun-visors with mediocre results.  Eventually I'll dig out the erasers again and see what happens.  As for the rest of the changes you mentioned, I'm happy to say that my automotive education is moving along well enough that the things you mentioned make a lot more sense to me now than they would have a month ago.


It's been close to a month since my last progress report, and if I weren't feeling lousy this weekend, it would be a week longer, but as things are, I've spent most the weekend indoors, if not in bed. So far the Redding area has been lucky enough to avoid the ravages of the 2017 fire season, both last month when Oregon was on fire to the north of us, and now with the wine country on fire to the south, but reminders of these disasters are carried to us in the valley on the wind, and it has bad consequences for those of us with respiratory problems. Even if I had felt better this weekend, it would have best been spent not working on the car, but working on getting the workshop prepared for the next few things I need to do with the car...or putting in overtime at work to be able to afford the materials for those next few things.


36752076543_6f4bf5461f_z.jpg20170930_194217 by emanistan


The last two weeks have not been idle. Two weeks ago I broke out my new shop jack and put the car up on jack-stands for the first undercarriage inspection since getting her home where I have enough lighting and space to really move around and take a good look. I knew she'd need a new muffler if nothing else because the old one was rusty with a massive hole, and I had planned to remove it, but unfortunately I found that the whole exhaust system is welded together, so eventually it will have to be just cut off. The whole rear exhaust pipe is rustier than the rest of the car, and it looks as if it was installed by a later owner. On the bright side, does this mean I might have a modern catalytic converter already? Probably not, at least not one that's still legally usable.


As I already knew, there was a swath of damage to the underside, probably caused by the people at the wrecking yard lifting her with the forklift, but I think and hope its mostly just cosmetic. The shaft is scraped, but I don't think it's bent, and even if it is, it can be replaced. A group of hardlines, probably having to do with the cooling system, have also been scraped, but hopefully they aren't fatally damaged, and again, if they are, it's fixable. The thing that might really be a headache is the damage to the undercoating, which is remarkably good everywhere but the one area. That stuff, from what I've learned from my research, can be a real pain to repair. Perhaps I can get away with just cleaning those spots and slathering them with an oil undercoating.


With my plan for removing the muffler stymied, I moved on to another thing which I needed to address: the infamous ignition/steering lock. The ignition is now operated by a flathead screwdriver inserted into the naked dangling ignition switch. This was because the car arrived at Pick & Pull without a key, so the employees just grabbed a random old car key they had lying around and tried to start her up by jamming it into the ignition lock. When that didn’t work and the key didn’t pull right out, they just stripped the collar from the column and removed the switch from the assembly, “but you’ll be able to get that out, no problem,” the young junkyard employee told me with a dismissive wave to the hand. That key did not budge, so I knew sooner or later that I’d have to remove the lock assembly from the column and get inside it if I hoped to use it again. Research on how to do this was not encouraging. It’s amusing how much trouble the Nissan engineers went to in order to theftproof the B210. Back last year at the beginning of my junkyard hobby, I managed to dismantle the entire forward cockpit of a contemporary W123 Mercedes down to the firewall, including removing the steering wheel, in a few hours with no prior research and a third of the tools I now have. A contemporary Mark III XJ6 Jaguar wasn’t much harder, but no thief was going to make off with anyone’s shiny new B210 if the folks at Nissan had anything to say about it. 


My first introduction to the Ratsun forum might have been when Google led me to the multi-page discussion on how to get that damned ignition lock off the column, and even the shop manual advised that it was very difficult to do and was best left to specialists with special tools. In the end—standing on the shoulders of the giants who wrote that discussion here—it turned out to be a surprisingly easy job. In my work on the B210 in Newark P&P, I’d learned how to easily drop the steering column, and once that was done, it was a matter of merely putting a left-handed bit from my extractor set into my drill and going to work on those self-shearing bolt-heads. The only bout of cursing during the job came about because it was so easy: the first bolt came out so quickly the moment the drill bit got a bite on it that it fell on the floor, and I had to root around to find it.  I never even had to use the actual extractors.


37165850600_151e114d6f_z.jpg20170930_220439 by emanistan,


Unfortunately, removing the lock assembly was not enough to solve the problem. It took a long time to disassemble it down to the cylinder, only to discover that the key that would come out “no problem” was thoroughly jammed in, and wasn’t going anywhere. Looking at the side of the key which had been facing the floor, I saw what might have served as a clue to the junkyard people that sticking it in a Datsun ignition might not work out so well:


37375797006_92a52b4a5a_z.jpg20170930_220916 by emanistan,


Maybe a locksmith would be able to extract it, but I’d probably be in the same Catch-22 I found myself in when I tried to get a key made in order to open the trunk: the locksmith wouldn’t make a key without DMV title documents for the car in my name, but I won’t be able to get title documents from the DMV until I get the car running and can have it certified as roadworthy. In the end I ended up going to a rival locksmith across town and telling them I needed a key for an old handmade tool-chest that my crazy old uncle had used car locks on, but I doubt I’ll be able to use that trick with an ignition lock. I’ll probably end up having to get a new lock cylinder, which means I’ll have to use different keys for the doorlocks/trunk and the ignition. 


I also did some general cleaning and took off the license plate lights. I’d noticed from the beginning that there was some rust around the chromed bolt-heads, and once they were off, I found lots more rust inside. Hopefully it’s superficial and I can polish the stuff on the outside off and use Rust-Mort and silver Rustoleum paint on the insides.


Anyway, that was two weeks ago.  Last week was more ambitious.  First, I gapped and put on new spark plugs, the first time I’d ever done this on any car.  Next I went about changing the fuel filter. The filter had been a freebie.  I found it in the trunk (which I managed to get open with the new key three months after buying the car) still boxed.  Instructions in the shop manual were straightforward:  pull one hose off the old filter, pop it out of its holder, pull off the other hose, then do the reverse with the new filter.  They failed to mention the stream of gas that would pour out the instant the first hose was disconnected.  These are the sorts of surprises that make auto restoration exciting. In a panic, I pulled an empty gas can over, but the car was too high up on the jacks for the hose to go into the can, so I had to hold it there as a urine-like yellow stream of 14-year-old gas poured out.  Both hands busy, I tried to kick over an oil-collection pan just barely in reach of my feet, and after a few desperate attempts, finally managed to get it underneath the stream so that I could free my hands, climb out from under the car, and google the situation.  I quickly learned that this situation was normal, and that the problem could be easily solved with a common mechanic’s tool that I luckily had close at hand: a thumb. 


The next task was to drain the fuel tank so that I could remove it, clean it out, and fit it with a new fuel pump in the weeks to come.  Google research revealed a few techniques for doing this.  I settled on getting a small drill-powered pump to get the siphon going.  Unfortunately the pump had come without hoses, and the hoses I later bought at the hardware store turned out to be the wrong size.  With a few four-letter words I flicked the useless pump into the trunk and went to plan B: a rubber squeeze pump I’d picked up at Harbor Freight.  Fortunately this came with its own hose, but no matter how hard I squeezed away, I couldn’t persuade the gas to flow out.  A few times it almost made it through the tube, but then slipped back into the dark recesses of the filler again.  This was when the air really turned blue with profanity.  In utter desperation, I turned to another technique many people had mentioned, but that I didn’t believe could possibly work:  I stuffed two lengths of hose into the tank, blocked the filler pipe around the hose with a plastic bag, took a deep breath, and blew into the top hose.  With a metallic gurgle, a strong yellow river began flowing through the bottom hose into the gas can, and soon the tank was drained of 5 gallons of 14-year-old gasoline.


37715822672_317ed42766_z.jpg20171008_091809 by emanistan, "Still-life with the remnants of a day working on a fuel system"


It’s a baby step, I know, but it’s in the right direction, and damn, did I feel proud at the end of the day! In addition to all the rest, last Sunday was a great day of education. The service manual and my other how-to books are making more sense to me now, and I’m learning my way around the engine. The suggestions some of you have made which sounded like technobabble a few weeks ago are starting to make sense. Datsunfreak gave me a whole list of suggestions for boosting the engine’s performance. One of them was making sure I had an electronic distributor. I read a lot about distributors last week, opened mine up for the first time after changing the plugs, and discovered that, yes, it’s electronic. Thank goodness I won’t have to worry about points on top of everything else.


From the first week I owned the car, I started collecting pictures of other people’s B210 engine bays to compare them with mine to see what it should look like and what might be different, but only now do things under the hood make enough sense for me to pick out the differences and find out what they mean in the shop manual. Luckily, so far, they are nothing to worry about: on the passenger side they boil down to the fact that this car came equipped with air conditioning, and on the driver’s side, it has to do with the fact that it’s a post-1975 California car which needed different ductwork from the air-cleaner because of an air valve for protecting the catalytic converter. The only part that still confuses me is why my valve cover is metallic candy-apple red instead of the usual blue everyone else has.


37716032802_e91fbc0cbe_z.jpg20170301_174540 by emanistan,


37716032462_2de5acb826.jpgdatsun-210-engine-bay by emanistan, 091216-Barn-Finds-1978-Datsun-B210-4 by emanistan, 23894968958_7723a0d0b0.jpg80 by emanistan, on Flickr


Just before I went to bed that Sunday I ordered a carburetor rebuild kit and a new fuel pump which I planned on using/installing this weekend, but it was not to be, and in a way, it’s just as well: I think I jumped the gun a bit in ordering these things before buying the chemical cocktail I’ll need to clean the fuel tank and carburetor parts, and before doing anything I’ll need to work on straightening up the shop more and clearing my workbench, so that’s what’s in store. I could say a lot more, but this is growing long, and I want to get it posted before next weekend.

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Well that's one hell of an update.....

I laughed at the Toyota key because when I first got my datsun I had no keys... I worked at a motorcycle junk yard and we had a big box of keys...

In the end we found a Toyota key that worked the locks.....

Probably the same scenario.... junkyard just finding something that fit....

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