Mike Brewer: ‘I needed a tetanus jab just to look at it!’
It is not often that I get close to giving up on a car, but having trawled the internet for years, trying to find a suitable Datsun 510, I was getting close. So, when I spoke to a farmer who said he had a running, driving two-door, I jumped on a plane.
When I got there I almost wished I hadn’t bothered. This car was hideous – I needed a tetanus jab just to look around it! It looked like it had been hand-painted blindfolded with a broom.
There was no interior to speak of, and the exterior had mismatched wings and a rotten back end.
However, there was something immensely charming about how it drove – it’s the closest you’ll ever get to an Escort MkI. Honestly, if you could blindfold me and stick me behind the wheel, I couldn’t tell the difference.
The reveal was a true OMG moment – what a transformation. Talk about knocking it out of the park. How was this the same car? Not only was it stunning but for the joyride Ant took me to the place where this car landed in 1972 – Long Beach Harbour. I think this car looked and performed better that day than it did 45 years ago.
This has to be one of our best builds ever and it just shows that no matter how bad a car is at the beginning, there is always a diamond in the rough. The first question I asked when I saw the car was: ‘Has Brewer gone mad?’ I’ve taken on some challenges in my time, but I think Mike was asking for a miracle on this one; this little car was hideous. Before I could even think about the paint job, I had to crack open my angle grinder and hit the welding torch to rebuild the back end.
This car was going to look worse before it was ever going to get better. It was that moment that all home mechanics face – it would have been quite easy to put my hands up and walk away – and I know many people who would have done just that. So I rolled up my sleeves, and stripped it in prep for a new paint job. On the way, I had to replace the gearbox and sort out the way it drove with a myriad little jobs.
Not many people know that I can paint – something I’ve done at home in my garage before. To keep costs down and to please Mike, I decided to paint the Datsun myself.
I chose a period blue from back in the day, that I knew would also give a modern twist for Mike to capture the growing market for these cars – a retro car with some modern elements – and I accented the paint work with grey trim rather than chrome. I think Mike was pleased!