Pocket Rocket: Jon Manilla’s 1969 Datsun 510

Ever been around a fellow car enthusiast who was into a model of car that you really had no interest in, but their enthusiasm and love of them started to make you take notice?
Well Jon Manilla, owner of MetalWorks Classic Auto Restoration in Eugene, Oregon had never really paid attention to Datsun 510s before hiring his head painter Tim Bridges.

Tim had been a long time fan of 510s… one of a select minority who had created a cult following of the Japanese cars.  Tim would drive his 510s to work every day, and show Jon the mods he was performing on them, and Jon started to dig what he saw, and wondered what he might do with one.
As fate would have it Jon got a hot tip regarding a 510 enthusiast needing to part ways with his Datun collection due to a divorce.  Jon and Tim went to check things out, and the next thing you know Jon is the owner of “sort of” driver 510, a parts car, and a garage full of spare 510 parts.

Now is where things got interesting because Jon is not a 510 guy, he is a muscle car and hot rod enthusiasts for the most part.  So instead of striving to build his 510 is a current 510 fad, or in a classic 510 style…Jon decided to build the Datsun in a fashion he was familiar with.

The end result you see before you could be summarized as an American hot rod version of a Japanese car…most people really love it, but it certainly has its share of haters.  The 510’s biggest fan is Jon, and isn’t that all the really matters?  Jon had a vision for the car, and stuck with it regardless of what others might think.
The Datsun’s original L18 was completely gone through including a set of flattop pistons, and its A87 peanut head machined by Rebello.  Other goodies include: a D.A.M.B. cam, MSD ignition, AFCO racing radiator, and a sweet set of 45 Weber side draft carburetors.  The engine also got some shine appeal with a chromed header, and polished valve cover.  A rough estimate on horse power is around 200 ponies…not too bad.  The hot mill was mated to a NOS 280Z five speed trans that was fitted with Subaru STI limited differential and CVs.

The 510’s suspension also received major upgrades including: adjustable camper plates, T3 coilovers, KYB shocks & inserts, Suspension Technique sway bars, Dodge D50 shortened springs, steering box brace, MD Machine bump steer spacers, and a Pnultimate slotted rear cross member.  Rota RB wheels with Yokohama tires help keep the 510 on the straight and narrow.

While all the drive line components were getting worked out the Datsun’s body was massaged to perfection and shot with layers of red and crème paint, then buried in several coats of clear.  Everything was then cut and buffed until you could shave in the reflection.  During the body and paint work the 510 lost its trademark rear vents, a real sticky point with purist, but it gives the Datsun very smooth appearance.
Inside the cockpit you will find a full leather interior that incorporates Pro Car seats.  Accenting the leather are BilletSpecialties appointments including the steering wheel, and window and door cranks.  Dakota Digital gauges help Jon monitor the 510’s vitals while jamming gears.

Yeah love it, or hate it Jon built one unique 510 deserving of a second look.  Jon’s not sure if he’ll tackle another 510 or not as there are a lot of cool cars out there left to build…for now, he plans to enjoy his latest build until the next project comes along.

Written by: Chadly Johnson

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