Jump to content

1981 210 bound for Gambler 500

Recommended Posts

Hi everyone,


I have had this 210 since 2010 when an army buddy gave it to me. I was getting out and going to college and he was moving away and dint need it. I haven't driven it much personally but I have lent the car to some people in need of transportation. So it has had some use and some repair but mostly forgotten about, I just got it back from a buddy who let it sit for 3 years, worked like a charm... I don't need this car but it means something to me, I read about the Gambler  500 and have always been fascinated with rally type events and autocross. What options do you see in the short term to boost the datsuns chances? I want to get some nice shocks, additional cooling/reservoir would be nice, bigger springs? is that even an option? I know most of this car is unsupported and some random zx cars would make great donors, but too tough for me to coordinate that. I also have too many cars in the house as it is...

I want to know: 

Has anyone has done such things in the past and how far did they take it?

What can I realistically do with springs and shocks?

What are my best resources? I'm an autozone/oreilleys guy but they disappoint.


I plan on larger tires but if I change hubs/spindle then its a different story. I am getting a bigger radiator and electric fan, she's being gutted, grinded, sealed and rhino-lined. I have a union welder buddy that can help with some mods (towers, skid plate, push bar, skeleton?), I'm willing to cut her, part of her is rusting as is.


Thanks for reading!

Link to comment
  • Replies 6
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Top Posters In This Topic

A lifetime ago I had a almost-free 210 wagon I thrashed on and off road, they are pretty sturdy really.  Pretty decent ground clearance for a 2WD car which is a help.


I'd keep the 13" wheels and just use bigger rubber, 175/80 would be a starting point that would easily clear but obviously with surgery you can go bigger.  There exist some old style truck tires in this general size range. The balloon tires will help with effective suspension travel and mitigate the ride harshness.  Do check/replace your motor mounts since they are ancient by now and often fail on hard landings if old.  In front change out your strut oil at least and in back you will want some longer springs and shocks (don't forget the longer brake line)

I've managed to distort the under-bumper valence and have it get hung-up on stuff in really aggressive terrain so take that off but make sure to leave the air flow plate in front of the motor as it helps cooling greatly.   The wagon has longer and heavier springs so if yours isn't a wagon, that would help.  If you have a manual car, go ahead and put an automatic pumpkin in there for the torque to help offset the bigger tires.  If you relocate the exhaust I think you can remove the bump-stop in the center of the back axle.

The unibody will slide over some terrain so mostly just protect your oil pan, suspension, and whatever else might snag.  To that end it's also good to grind down any bolts that hang down.  Rerouting the exhaust system outside of the car will help with power and clearance as well as adding markedly to the Mad Max of the whole thing.

Keep in mind the light weight of the car is your single biggest asset, less is more is your mantra here, anything not absolutely essential should go and that includes the weight of rhino-lining, undercoat, anything.  The cooling systems are pretty well sized to keep up with hot weather, particularly if you aren't suffering a slushbox or A/C, just stuff a big electric fan on your freshly flushed radiator add some water-wetter and the highest-pressure cap your system will support and odds are you should be fine.  Buying an aluminum radiator would help of course for weight and cooling, so that if you have the time.  The radiator support on the 210 will support a much wider radiator than stock.  Of course you will be buying a tiny battery and relocating it, an areovoltz will cost as much as some of the cars people are running so perhaps just the motorcycle size Odyssey...

Your bumpers are heavy, as are the shock absorbers they are connected to, just saying, you can at least pull them off and gut them of the reinforcement internals.

Sway bar, limits both suspension travel and body roll a great deal.  Keep it or toss it but if you are keeping it replace the links and washers since I've seen them tear out of the sway bar.


Heh, I'd love to see a 210 on a set of these:



Keep in mind that the 5-speed tranny is worth upward of a grand if that's what's in your car, if if you wreck it save that part. 🙂


BTW: I have wagon/auto parts if you need stuff.

Edited by pdp8
Link to comment

You'll need some ground clearance and good tires(and a spare) GPS probably will help too. KISS, keep it simple stupid.... Rather than replace the strut inserts just dump the oil thin hydraulic oil and replace with 20w (or thicker) motorcycle fork oil to firm them up. While they are apart replace the springs with something in the 175-225 pounds per inch spring rate. (stock are probably 100 or lower) Rears too and some new shock absorbers.


How rough is the terrain? If 'rock crawling' loose the sway bar. If just rough gravel roads keep it.


Make sure your exhaust is not 'dragging the ground'. It'll just get ripped off.


If you plan to drive this car after, you don't want to remove too much and have to put it back. If this is a 'one way' race the sky's the limit..... 


Get a helmet. Shit does happen when driving like a fool.


First aid kit, bottled water, snacks, jack and some tools.....  


A stock engine isn't going to over heat but check the cooling system over and specially the fan belt. A good tune up check ALL fluids.... transmission, differential, brake, clutch masters, washer reservoir, replace wiper blades. 


Remove any wheel covers.

Link to comment

My son and a friend of his have driven the Gambler 500 for two years now with a half ton 2wd Chevy pickup. It has fair ground clearance.  I don't know much about the Gambler, but I have driven central and eastern Oregon roads and trails for many years. What the two previous people have said is very true. The motor mounts, cooling system, suspension, exhaust system, and anything hanging down below the frame is something to pay special attention to. Most of the logging roads (gravel roads) in that area are in reasonable condition, until you get away from gravel roads, then anything is possible. Also, tires in real good condition are a must as many places the "gravel" used can possibly be volcanic cinder rock which can possibly be very hard on tires.


The biggest thing you will face is that you will usually be a long ways from any repair parts or mechanics, so use your head wherever you are. Walking because of a breakdown can be time consuming and a long ways to go. Some real good maps are important, and maybe even a GPS. The best maps that show roads/trails, that may even be old enough to be abandoned, are the fire maps that can only be found at the National Forest Service centers, and only for the area that particular National ,Forest Service center covers. 



Link to comment
  • 3 weeks later...

weld the diff so you dont get stuck on a rock doing a 1 tire fire. make some strut hat spacers to give it a "lift kit"

maybe put a snorkel on it for hitting big puddles... seal the dizzy up and the rest of the ignition.. epoxy filled coil instead of an oil filled one....


A series are tough little buggers.


its probably worth it putting a skid plate on it... a winch that you can move from the front to the back probably isnt a bad idea... no one likes getting stuck.


otherwise GIVER and have a GOOD TIME!!!!!!!!

  • Like 1
Link to comment

Use a Nitrile 'rubber' glove on the distributor. Poke tiny holes in the fingers and thumb, pull the nipples off the wires, poke them through and reassemble. Roll the glove down over the distributor like a condom. Keeps water out like a charm.

Fly screen the front of the rad to keep bugs and trash from plugging it.

Use only NEW wiper refills and Rain-X the glass, all the glass.

Upgrade the headlights or get bumper mounted ones. If bumper get HID or LED.

Wear absorbent under garment.


Link to comment
  • 4 weeks later...

I'll 2nd the recommendation to weld your diff and lift it up as high as possible with bigger/taller tires and a skid plate under the engine. I took my 210 wagon on some off road trails and can verify a unlocked diff, crappy tires, and no ground clearance will shut you down REAL quick. 

Link to comment

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.