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Should I buy 1979 620 Datsun with 46,000 miles?


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I love old cars.  Sold a 1987 Suzuki Samurai tin top in July and still kicking myself because I didn't even need the $1,000 profit.  My first car was a tiny 1966(?) Datsun sedan in high school.  Just came across a 1979 Datsun Gazelle Chinook 620 truck / camper.  Young gentleman bought it about 2 months ago to restore but wants to pass it on for $2,700. He states that he has too many car projects, which I certainly believe having looked at his 3 other Datsuns.  The title and odometer register about 46,000 miles.  Clean as can be expect for sun damage and a small amount of surface rust.


Two issues I'm concerned about (1) LOTS of oil build up on the bottom of the engine/oil pan and (2) the fact that we couldn't take it for a test ride because the owner emptied the fuel tank, changed the fuel filter but short trips around town causes it to stall because he did not drop the tank to clean out any residue.


The 620 is in remarkably good shape, engine top clean, little rust, but the owner bought it from someone who acknowledged that the truck had been sitting for a long time; maybe years.  I can't get a clear conception of how long this '79 has been sitting in the past.


Question.  Can a 620 engine and/or transmission be ruined if left idle for years?  Can the seals dry up to a point that the drive train is essentially useless and needs to be replaced, or is it possible to use after market sealants  that  could restore and "tighten up" a long sitting drive train.  Any opinions appreciated,  I'd love to restore and put the 620 back on the road unless I'm in for a expensive rebuild of the drive train.


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First the odometer only goes to 99,999...... then it 'turns over' and back to 00,000 miles again. A well maintained L series can go a quarter million miles and easily 146,000. Just so you know. Look at high wear areas like the brake pedal pad, wear on the floor under the gas pedal, steering wheel, driver's seat, shift knob. A truck driven only 46,000 will not likely have jury rigged ghetto wiring hanging under the dash and missing knobs. I've seen a house light switch on the steering column for a horn! It most likely will have the original rad, carburetor, fuel pump, starter and alternator. One thing might fail and get replaced but several things say a lot more miles on it. Are the tires all one make? Are the front ones worn unevenly like on the insides? indicating worn steering parts? At 46,000 the engine is just broken in and should run well and not smoke. It would be good to replace all the engine, transmission and differential oils but sitting won't harm anything. The point of the fuel filter is to catch any crap in the tank. Just buy a coupe and change it as needed till the tank is clean. If this is the excuse and you can't take it for a ride and test things out, I guess he doesn't want to sell it very badly, pass on it and run away from it. Who would marry without a test ride????



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Can't tell ya how much I appreciate the input!  Brake / clutch pedals like new, 5 digit odometer matches the title, no loose wire except that the middle plastic consul between the two seats was removed but still included as part of the  deal.  All that said, it still appears to be a primo, dare I saw "barn find".

  My biggest concern is not necessarily built up crud in the fuel tank as dried up seals in the tranny and engine. In 2006 I bought a 1993 ford escort wagon with 27k on it from a retired insurance agent. He bought it for his wife brand new but would never let her drive it. All trips had to be in his Jeep Wrangler. Long store short, I bought it for like $2,300, got it home (12 mile ride) and woke up next morning toa nice puddle of fluid under the tranny.  Dealer said the transmission pump seal went bad (dried up) because the car basically sat for 9 years in a garage.

This is my main concern, why am I seeing a fair amount of oil crude on the bottom of the engine / oil pan on a 620 truck that's only racked up 46k in 41 years??

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Thanks to both datzenmike and thisismatt!  I've given purchasing the Datsun the proverbial "sleep on it" and decided to pass on it - shame because in researching yesterday I read somewhere that they only put like 3,000 Chinook camper shells on Datsun trucks (most went on the Toyota HiLux and later models, I think).  If I was 20 years younger I wouldn't hesitate because these pop up campers are rare indeed  and they look like an ideal camping vehicle. Anyway, I think I've figured out how to post the Craigslist ad if anyone close by Rimrock, AZ (South of Flagstaff)  is interested in contacting the seller.  Again, thanks for the help, this is great website!      



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You're absolutely right about the walk through cut out behind the seats. Basically behind the seat you have a truck bed frame and fiberglass shell attached to bed frame with wood; which would be less than ideal in any accident situation.  My interest in these actually stops about 1979-80 because soon after RV manufacturers started buying  cab / bed frame units from the factory and loading them up with huge shells that were tall enough to stand up in. Put all kinds of weight on the standard rear axle and resulted in a recall I think. After mid eighties they went with a heavy duty one ton axle that apparently solved the problem of broken axles.


On a side note: just read a very interesting thread on the site about clogged fuel lines and the difficulty in diagnosing whether rust in the tank, leaky lines or a broken pick up tube could cause fuel delivery problems to the carb.  The seller of the Chinook and I could not go for a test drive yesterday because he has this exact issue - truck stalls and a look at the new fuel filter when it stops in town shows empty filter is empty. This was another reason I decided to pass; the seller bought it off someone who'd let it sit for years.

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I hear ya NC85ST: Called and got the wife today and asked her to thank the husband for spending time showing me the camper yesterday, but that I was going to pass. Been second guessing myself ever since.  Husband is also kicking himself for not dropping the tank as he thinks he is stalling periodically because small flakes or residue of rust my be starving the engine.  Still thinking about it, might change my mind.

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How is it on rust? If it's rust free, I say go for it. You can pick up L20's professionally rebuilt for a song and have a brand new engine in it if you are too concerned. And the swap takes like 2 hours if you know what you're doing. I would talk him down myself, and pay no more than say 2400 IMO. But it's a reasonable price if it's straight, rust free and a good hard start.


And I don't know the smog laws where you are. But if it passes, or you don't need to, score.

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All I know on the air conditioner NC85ST is that is runs fine in terms of the fan blowing air but it his yet to be converted from R12 to R134a (I think that's right).  Drawing fuel with what I assume is the original fuel pump is not the issue, it started up just fine and idled for a good 5 minutes as we talked. Owner said that we couldn't take it out for a test ride, however,  because it would eventually stall out on him around town, didn't recall if it was going up / down a hill that made a difference or why it would just stall and inspection of the new gas fuel he put in would then show it to be empty after it stalled.

Engine seems fine Eomund with the exception of a lot of oily crude built up on the bottom of the engine from a seal leaking somewhere.  Nice to know that in a worse case scenario dropping a  new engine in is not a huge issue.  Price wise, the owner started out at $2,750 eight days ago and just dropped the price to $2,650.  He did mention that he's had interest but bids were coming in at about $1,500.  NO rust on the door rockers or underneath, a couple of really minor small paint chip spots, but surprisingly the only noticeable rust is on the passenger side rear view mirror. Still debating, room to work on around the house is an issue, but sure hate to pass up a rare fine.



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