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Charlie69's 66 520 Build


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I purchased this truck on November 1, 2008 for $300 with a froze up J13 and 4 speed. The truck is all origignal except left front fender and the wheels.

The plans for this build are:

2" body lift, 1976 620 L20B DGEV 32/36 Weber and 3 speed automatic trans (both motor & trans will have complete rebuild), new 3 core radiator, 4 wheel disc brakes with upgrade power master cylinder, 520 dash top, 720 heater A/C, custom interior with buckets console carpet incorporating brown lemon orange & red, Double DINNAV with Boston Acoustics speaker system, complete color change to tangerine with brown lemon and red accents.










Here is the frame after sand blasting and painting with 1980 720 L20B 5 speed.
























Considering repainting frame brown to work better with planned color theme. Please give some feedback about the brown frame. Yes No?


Here are pictures of the modified steering column with rag/u-joint and custom firewall mount/seal.






Here is the modified 66 520 gear box and the inside customized column.














I scored a 1976 620 automatic trans last weekend.


I will pickup the 1976 620 L20b next weekend, dash power master cylinder brake pedal & gas pedal the weekend after. Using 50% off coupons can only use 1 at a time for 1 item only, takes more time but it helps the build budget stretch farther.

Edited by Charlie69
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The steering column/box mod included buying a column from a 90 nissan 4x4 truck refered to as the "donor column". I suppose any Nissan truck rag/u-joint will work. This mod requires a lathe and a welder to be sucessfull.


My brother Garret is my fabricator. I explain to him what I am trying to achieve and then we throw ideas back and forth of how to achieve the goal and I leave him alone and in a week or a month he will have fabbed up what is needed.


First he took measurements of the original column and box (length, ID &OD of column tube & shaft) did the same with the donor column. Also noted at what point the original column passed through the firewall. at this point I must note that the donor column tube & shaft are smaller in diameter than the original 66 520 column tube & shaft. Garret then disassembled both columns and the original steering gear box. He determined the maximum & minimum length of the rag/u-joint section of the donor column column as the is a little room for adjustment (error) because of the splines on both ends of this assembly. He took those measurements and laid out the cuts on both columns and shafts. He morphed the bottom of the donor column tube with the cut portion of the original tube & shaft. Garret took the rag joint apart and chucked the shaft centered in the lathe and used a parting tool to cut a 1" section of the spline off the shaft, rechamfered the end of the shaft. He then took the original shaft that is one piece with the steering worm gear chucked it up in a lathe found center and turned dowm the shaft to fit the seal he chose to use. Next he welded the 1" splined piece to the end of the original shaft. He tuned the ID of the original tube to the diameter needed for the seal. Garret made a plate that fit the original column boot hole with a pinch clamp to hold the column soild to the cab. This is possible because the cab movement is absorbed through the rag/u-joint. No more air leak around the column.














I will disassemble and get better pictures as soon as I heal up. I tore my groin muscle last Sunday and I am on crutches and restricted to minimal movement.


On my 70 521 that my brother and I did back in the 90's I just hacked the firewall for clearance for the 3" lift.


I am surprised that with all the talents and skills on this site that this has not been done several times already.


My brother works for a large metal fabriction shop here that has an incredible amount of tooling. Note the paperbag on the floor of my cab in the steering gear box photos. Any and all sugestions are welcomed.


Thank you all for the great site, you all make Ratsun.net what is,


Edited by Charlie69
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Great and informative post!! Thanks for coming in the door and contributing in a huge way! I know a lot of us with 521's fear that steering column harpoon through the chest!

Edited by fisch
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Hi Fisch,


How about some artist feedback about using brown for the color of the frame. I was thinking about detailing certain parts (Suspension) in tangerine & lemon.


Do you think this would be 2 much?


After looking at all your work on the internet I know you know and understand color.




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Yeah...I agree about the frame. Frames are just meant to be black. The brown would be pretty show truck-ish.


I am supposing that from your 2 inch body lift build concept, that you are building a pre-runner. The frames on these rugged dessert machines usually fall victim to all sorts of rock, sand, bush and other forms of normal trail damage. I think that easy touch-up would be a plus for you.


Are you going with an auto trans for any particular reason? The L20 is not really known for being a screamer...the power to control shift points really helps all of the "L" series motors opperate closer to their true powerband...and keeps them there until they have sufficiently been flogged into subjection.:lol:


Looking forward to seeing a high quality build for this really cool truck.


More pics as you get em man....as usual!:blink:

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kiznook, 2" body lift was for clearance for firewall to trans clearance. I did not want to cut the firewall. I was thinking originally of cutting the firewall and floor out completely and fitting an 85 720 firewall and floor back in. This would have given me the clearance and all the mountings for the master cylinder newer heater/AC and the newer seat and seat belt mounts. I missed getting the donor truck by 1 day.


I have to agree the black will look better for the frame.


On my Harleys I would paint stock bike frames black and custom bike frames would be painted the color of the bike.


gen4maxima536, the reason for the dash change is a/c ducts & stock datsun tach. I am still contemplating on this mod. I really like the how plain & simple the 520 dash is. It would be much easier for me to cut up a 620 dash.


denveratsun, Daily driver is what I am building. 2" lift is for clearance. The automatic is because I have knee problems and would like to save my knees for my CDL. I drive trucks for a company that does Power lines and substation work.


I do appreciate the feedback.


Thank you,


Edited by Charlie69
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yello620, black is what the frame will stay. Because I beleive this quote.


"denveratsun Yeah...I agree about the frame. Frames are just meant to be black. The brown would be pretty show truck-ish."


denveratsun,you hit the nail on the head with that statement.


My intentions for this truck will be a daily driver unless I get a 1978 620 with a utility bed I am looking at. The 2" lift was for firewall transmission clearance.


As for the choice of the automatic I drive for a living and I am having knee problems, so in my daily drivers I will have automatics.


I appreciate everyones input,


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Cool...yeah, these things are a lot of fun to drive regularly...mine is my normal driver and it is way cool to see the people respond to it all the time.


Do you feel that you need the body clearance for the bellhousing of the new auto trans? I am fairly sure that if the trans was originally in a 620..you ought to be able to fit it in place in the 521. I have been wrong before:lol:


I had access at one point to 4 inch aluminium axle stock from a massive water wheel (think next to an old mill with creek water diverted to run over it while it turns...creating electricity or grinding wheat) and I had some 1in wide discs cut out of it and a hole drilled in the middle of each one. Chamfered the edges, smoothed the outer corners and BAM!!! 1 inch body lift...!:D


Consider the options...maybe 2 inch is a bit much?


Looking forward to more.:cool:

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denveratsun, there are actually more reasons than just the bell housing, There are 2 ridges that run horizontally across the 520 firewall. these ridges catch a casting ridge on the head and on the valve cover.


The engine compartment on a 520 is 5" shorter from the firewall to the radiator support frame. This makes it necessary to raise the cab in order to be able to pull the motor & trans as one unit.






When I get healed up from my injury I get the automatic installed and work with this some more. If I can work it out I would like to have no lift at all.


I appreciate you ideas of the lift blocks made out of the aluminum axle. We need more creative thinkers in this world.


Also I had a 70 521 that my brother and I swapped a Z20 5 speed into and it had a 3" lift with 15" BFG all terrain radials on it. I put a little over 200,000 miles on that truck configured like that.


I know that the fad now is to go low but I have never been classified as NORMAL! LOL


If at all possible the body heighth on this truck will be as close to original as I can get it.


Keep the ideas and comments coming, it is very helpful.


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Wow! Impressive, both the planning, the logical reasons for the mods, and the execution.


One question I didn't see answered: Why the steering mods?


Oh, another vote for black frames.

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Can't go wrong with black for the frame. But I've always had thoughts of painting mine red. I just love old skool hotrods with red frames. Especially if everything else under there is black and everything on top is ratty! Brown seems odd to me, but you'd be blazing new ground!!


I'd have to see a pic of the tangerine and lemon combo (or photoshopped version) to know if it would work. It might, but I think I'd choose one accent color. I love pumpkin colored accents!


Look up Pac's green goon. He has done some kool green accents IMHO. Here's a link!



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ppeters914, the steering mod is because of the 2" body lift. When a person does a body lift or a body drop it changes the location of the hole in the firewall that the steering column passes through. Thus in my case the hole is 2" higher because of the 2 " body lift. On newer vehicles this is not a problem because the steering columns have rag/u-joints already in them. on these older vehicles L320, 520, 521, and even some of the 620's Had solid steering colum shafts and tubes that do not allow any changes to the angle of the steering column. The 2 options that I had as I saw it was to cut the firewall to allow the column clearance(Not an exceptable choice) or do this mod.


Here is a picture of the new steering column angles created buy the 2" lift.




I hope this helps.


Fische, Pat's Green Goon is awesome, as for the brown frame i am going black for now. The idea of a milk chocolate brown frame came from the idea the the bright orange (tangerine color) body color. I was afraid that the black frame with the 2' body lift (frame more visible) would end up looking like a halloween themed truck. Also i found a 1986 Honda Accord LXi with a really nice set of brown buckets seats and dark brown seat belts. This car also had dark brown carpet in it and personally I really liked it. I am really tired of black, grey, red, blue, and that ugly tan color that Datsun/Nissan uses on the interiors. That is why I am choosing tangerine for my paint color and am considering considering a brown frame.


I am concerned though that the brown frame might make my daily driver to much of a "Show Truck" look because the norm is black.


As for the accent colors of lemon, brown, and red as possible pinstripping colors and if I can come up with a decent size Ratsun Logo of doing it in brown on the doors similiar to yours.


Back in the early 80's I built a custom 68 shovel head that was done in a metalic tangerine. I had a set of 3.5 gallon fatbobs (fuel tanks) chromed for this bike. They looked great, however in the bright AZ sun the glare off the top of the tanks made it unsafe to ride. I taped off the bottom half of the tanks and scuffed up the chrome on the tops and had them primed and painted the metalic tangerine. I had a black and lemon pinstripe run horizontally around where the tangerine met the chrome. The black pinstripe was on top and the lemon went under that and met up with the chrome. Tried the reverse order first black againsthe the chrome but in shadows you could not see the black it blended in with the chrome.


The lemon works with the tangerine if used cautiously.


The tangerine paint I use on this truck will not be a metalic or metel flake, but it will be a custom mix that will be a headturner. I know a lot of people do not like orange for a color but I do.


After I get this truck done and all of the bugs worked out I might go ahead and try a brown frame just for grins.


I was at the Pick a Part today and met a person that has a 720 and a 240zx he is really getting interesred in these little cars and trucks so I referred him to RATSUN.NET. He joined today as aka "ride1782"


Like "hacked" wrote to me about his "No Fear Attitude" when doing something different "It gets him NOTICED!" Could not have said it better.


Thank you all again for your imput it really does help. Please keep the imput coming!!!




Edited by Charlie69
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Well I am off the crutches now I worked Sunday on pulling the dash and original pedals out of the cab. I picked up a gas pedal and an automatic brake pedal out of the 76 620 that I got the auto trans out of. I worked with fitting them in to the original mounts. The gas pedal worked out great. But I am going to use the original brake pedal and add the larger foot pedal part to it. this looks like the best way to go. The old pedal bushing is machined bronze and the newer pedal in bushed with plastic. I will include more pictures later.


And in last post I left out the 521 on "hacked521" name. I appologize for this and in the future I will try my best to get everyones names wright.



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That's the same color my 520 was when i bought it but without the stripes, can't wait till you drop that motor in would like to see how you do it,i'm getting ready to drop a L16 w/5-speed in my little pup hear in the next few months and was wondering what it takes. Nice Truck Man! Good to see another 520!

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Thank you for the complements. You can see the motor setup with a five speed and all the other pictures at my Photobucket album link on the bottom left of my posts.


I am going to run a radiator out of a 1976 620. It will already be setup for an automatic, I will just have to drill some mounting holes. As soon as I get the radiator I will set the automatic in with the L20B and the radiator, & check all of my clearances. If possible I might relocate the motor mounts a little more foward if I have enough clearance for the radiator and stock 1976 water pump and fan. If I move the motor mounts forward I will also either have to build a custom cross rod link or customize the oil pan for clearance.


These old trucks are enjoyable to own, drive, and work on.



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  • 1 month later...

I Have not had time to work on my truck was working hard to keep my job. But last Monday the inevitable happened layed off.


So now I have time to work on my truck but I have had to trim no cut my budget for the truck! LOL


So now I will have to lean more to the Ratsun side on this truck. So I am going to go ahead withh the Rustoleum orange paint for the interior and the engine compartment instead of the expensive custom mixed color I had chose.


I will tear down both of the L20B' that I have and choose the best of the parts determine the machine work needed and to as much work as I can myself on the motors.


I have 4 automatic transmisions and between the 4 I should be able to peice 1 good one out of them minizing my cash output on the transmision to a new torque converter and a rebuild kit.


As for the heater and dash I will run what I have for now. As for the A/C it will be 2 windows down at 60 mph. LOL


Well guys a little bit of adjusting and I still might make Canby 2010. LOL


Any info on a good reasonable source for motor and tranny rebuild kits would be helpful.

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hey man that really sucks about getting layed off, i know we were talkiing about it while I was up there picking up the stuff.


Id like to thank you again for everything you gave me, I just threw that distributor in my l16 and runs great now. The internals on the l20 looked surprisingly good for as much mileage it sounded like it got. thanks again man.


Youre a cool dude and think that what comes around goes around, youll get your end of the bargain eventually.


Im gonna be getting a majority of my parts for the L20b from rockauto.com they seem to have allright prices.

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  • 3 months later...

I have my transmission rebuilt and finishing the rebuild assembly on the motor. I took a different approach than most of the people on Ratsun. I wanted a rebuilt long block. So I searched out a rebuilder that I felt comfortable with. Some of the criteria for determining which rebuilder was, reputation, complaints online and with BBB, quality of parts used, number of years in business, quality of workmanship, was all phases of the long block rebuild done in house, 1 year unlimited mileage guarantee, and were they easy to work with.


Well after approximately 2 months I found Five Star Engine & Cylinder Head remanufacturing in Glendale AZ.


They were great to work with. They even picked up my motor from my house for no charge.


They tore down, thermally cleaned all parts, bored 30 over, turned crank, rods 20, mains 10, reconditioned rods, completely remanufactured cylinder head with new stock cam, reassembled long block with all new timing components, new oil pump, brass freeze plugs & complete gasket set. Five Star timed and adjusted the valve backlass cold. This all comes with a 1 year unlimited mileage guarantee. $1192.42


The motor came back looking good. Five Star painted block black, timing cover matte silver and gave me a can of each hi temp paint for finishing the parts for the motor.


I had to clean and assemble oil pump pickup, oil pan, and valve cover. Also had to install new oil pump (supplied with long block from Five Star), shaft, distributor, intake, carb, and exhaust.


I had NAPA Machine Shop vat (hot tank) oil pan, dip stick tube, motor mount brackets, oil pump pick up, crank pulley, alternator & AC compressor brackets. I also had them professionally clean the intake and exhaust manifold. All these parts were also glass beaded. $50.00 I live in a neighbor hood that has a strict and well inforced HOA rules. So I clean parts at my brothers house when I can. In Maricopa County that I live in there are dust cops and we had one visit from them at my brothers house for sand blasting. No fine or written warning as they did not catch us in the act of sand blasting. That was from when we sand blasted my frame for my truck. We will be media blasting my cab and bed soon so if we get a fine I want it to be for something worth while not just a bunch of little parts.


All and all I am pleased with this rebuild as long as it holds up and time will tell.


The transmission was rebuilt by Sav-On Transmission in Pheonix. Ernie owns and operates Sav-On and is a good friend of my fabricator brother Garret. Complete automatic trans rebuild with new torque converter, and 1 year unlimmitted mileage guaratee, $430.00


I will be installing the motor and trans this weekend. I will be working on the cab next week calculating installing a 1980 720 firewall and transmission tunnel. This is to install 1980 brake master cylinder & booster, brake lines, AC/heater, gas pedal, and wiper motor (updating for comfort & parts availability). This might invovle reworking the fresh air intake for the cab.


I will post pictures as soon as I start the assembly and take some.

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  • 1 month later...

After much trial & error I decided to try a 521 oil pan instead of the 620 oil pan. The pictures tell all. The silver pan is the 620 & the black pan is the 521. This will take care of my clearance problems with the firewall & the tunnel hopefully. Also hoping to loose the 2" lift.


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