Super Street - - CONTENTS - WORDS Micah Wright PHO­TOS V

There are two sides to ev­ery story, and in this case, two builds for one chas­sis. In essence, the Dat­sun 521 pickup was the mi­cro ma­chine ja­panese al­ter­na­tive to the heavy-handed Ford F-se­ries and the strongly lined Chevy C-se­ries. But where the lit­tle Dat­sun pickup owned the Amer­i­can com­pe­ti­tion in the weight depart­ment, even the truck's most po­tent 1.16 pro­duced fewer than 100 car­bu­reted horses right out of the gate, and its slug­gish four-speed man­ual gear­box was never widely known for acute­ness. Which leads us to the first of our two Dat­sun 521 pickup builds to­day, and the man who went to great lengths in or­der to in­stall some­thing spe­cial un­der the hood.

Jose Tarin knew he wanted one of th­ese odd­ball au­to­mo­biles the minute he wrapped up his pre­vi­ous 240Z project. The 521 in par­tic­u­lar was what con­tin­ued to strike his fancy. After a few months of search­ing, he lo­cated a scut­tled spec­i­men for less than two grand. One glance at the Dat­sun in per­son and Jose knew he was tak­ing this pint-size pickup home.

Upon tak­ing pos­ses­sion of the truck, the no­tion of keep­ing the stock L16, four­speed trans­mis­sion, and drum brakes started to take hold, at least un­til Jose hit the in­ter­state for the first time. It needed much more power in or­der to keep up on the free­way, which also meant adding a cou­ple more gears for high-speed cruis­ing and bet­ter sus­pen­sion for safety.

Dump­ing the tired L-se­ries for a Toy­ota 3S-GE BEAMS swap im­me­di­ately put the build on the spe­cial side, and with its higher rpm range, breathed new life into the tired old Dat­sun body. Jose proudly states that this is the first BEAMS swap on a Dat­sun pickup from this era, and that it re­quired a met­ric mess-load of cus­tom fab­ri­cated com­po­nents in or­der to be deemed op­er­a­tional.

Siz­able in stature, the mo­tor’s front sump setup made fit­ment be­tween tor­sion bars a royal pain though, and so the re­moval of por­tions of the fire­wall as well as parts of the trans­mis­sion tun­nel were needed to prop­erly equip the sixspeed Toy­ota J160. Jose also says that the stock sway bar ended up im­ped­ing progress as well, so a 1-inch ver­sion had to be added to the list of manda­tory mod­i­fi­ca­tions. Once the swap was nearly ti­died up, Panic-wire was called in to re­work the stock har­ness so the ECU could be mounted in­side the cab.

It was on to in­te­rior up­hol­stery next, some­thing that Jose was happy to han­dle per­son­ally. Grey leather and green vinyl were sourced in or­der to match the ex­te­rior pig­ments of the 521, and since Jose has al­ways been a fan of sim­ple and clean interiors, a Speed­hut tachome­ter, speedome­ter, and a 4-in-1 gauge for wa­ter temps, oil pres­sure, volt­age, and fuel were ap­plied.

Go­ing with a Seafoam green color from a Dat­sun 546 helped make the truck look as close to orig­i­nal as pos­si­ble, plus with three-piece Work wheels un­der­foot, retro ap­peal oozes from ev­ery wheel well. But that paint and those al­loy rollers are far from be­ing Jose’s fa­vorite parts of his pickup. That honor is re­served for the rich red oak stake racks that make the 521 pickup look all the world, like a mildly mod­i­fied av­er­age work­ing man’s truck, which for all in­tents and pur­poses, is pre­cisely what its owner wanted in the first place.


The other truck in this fea­ture lies a very dif­fer­ent build al­to­gether. While Jose’s story ap­pears to be quite straight­for­ward in many re­gards, Ja­son Tayler’s tale is one that is filled with twists and turns, and it all starts with his wife’s fam­ily be­ing Dat­sun 510 fa­nat­ics. Ap­par­ently, Ja­son’s fa­ther-in-law had a turbo six-cylin­der­swapped 510 at one point and when she was in her twen­ties, his wife daily drove a 510 with ITBS. For Ja­son, it was the ap­pear­ance of a lit­tle green Dat­sun 521 that tipped the scale. He was en­am­ored be­yond words with what he saw, and even though the ask­ing price was ab­so­lutely asi­nine, he knew he had to have it. Low­ered and mildly re­freshed, with an in­te­rior that was in ac­cept­able con­di­tion, all orig­i­nal paint, and not a bit of Bondo to be seen, he was sold even with the high ask­ing price. Ja­son cruised around for a cou­ple months and then be­gan to fret over his prized pos­ses­sion. Ev­ery time he heard a strange noise or no­ticed an odd aroma, he pan­icked. The pickup may have looked badass, but it was bor­der­line un­re­li­able and des­per­ately needed an up­date in a mul­ti­tude of ar­eas. So, with a nat­u­rallyaspi­rated SR20 swap on the cal­en­dar, and the goal of not a gauge, stereo, or speaker to be seen, the clean OG ap­proach was look­ing like the way to go, at least all the way up un­til the build be­gan.

Ex­tra parts sud­denly needed or­der­ing, costs not in­cluded in the orig­i­nal quote mag­i­cally arose, is­sues with paint­ing and shav­ing of the en­gine bay ma­te­ri­al­ized, and the shop he had se­lected wanted to use the old ex­ist­ing mo­tor mounts in­stead of fab­ri­cat­ing new ones. The e-brake also needed to be re­moved since it wouldn’t work with the stock man­i­fold, the speedome­ter didn’t work, and the ECU wasn’t be­hav­ing as it should.

Frus­trated yet op­ti­mistic, Ja­son de­liv­ered his project to an­other shop to solve a cou­ple of the prob­lems, for ex­am­ple a cus­tom header which al­lowed the re­ten­tion of the stock e-brake; how­ever, things still weren’t go­ing well over­all. Upon closer in­spec­tion, Ja­son was dev­as­tated to find that the mo­tor mounts were cracked from be­ing twisted and forced into po­si­tion, and the tranny mount was a lit­tle more than a hunk of iron with mis­matched bolts. The wiring was also a com­plete mess, there were runs ev­ery­where in the paint, weld­ing wire could be seen all over the place, and the truck had been sit­ting out­side in the el­e­ments for weeks.

Long story short, the shop ended up fab­ri­cat­ing most of the brack­etry and reengi­neer­ing the truck’s three-link kit be­fore re­do­ing the en­tire front-end in or­der to make the coilovers fit. Then after pop­ping in a lim­ited-slip, Ja­son took the truck home for the first time. No more than 15 miles down the road, and an ex­plo­sion erupted from the un­der­side of the truck, fol­lowed by a loud grind­ing noise, no light­ing, and a cell phone bat­tery that was al­most dead. After the fourth call to the shop, the owner fi­nally an­swered, lis­tened to what hap­pened, and then re­sponded with a snide, “You can have it towed here but I can’t look at it for at least two weeks.”

After nearly an hour of in­ter­state agony, and a $300 AAA bill loom­ing, Ja­son was feel­ing be­yond de­jected. While wait­ing on the wrecker, a lit­tle Mi­ata sud­denly pulled over and a kid who couldn’t have been older than 19 hopped out. His name was Ra­mone, and he wanted to help. Ja­son told him what had hap­pened and how he only had ten re­main­ing AAA miles, to which Ra­mone replied, “I have 100 miles on my AAA, you wanna use mine?”

Ja­son was left speech­less by this un­ex­pected act of ran­dom kind­ness, and after get­ting the truck home safely, promptly gave up on both shops and took the truck to Hoop­ers Rear Ends. After look­ing un­derneath, it be­came ob­vi­ous that the axles had been in­stalled with the wrong amount of play, and since the bear­ings had not been greased, they had seized on the free­way. For­tu­nately for Ja­son, he had pulled over just in time, and in the process saved the freshly built LSD.

So, with two days to spare be­fore JCCS ’17 thanks to a kid named Ra­mone and small dif­fer­en­tial shop called Hoop­ers Rear End, the lit­tle 521 pickup was fi­nally ready to roll, this time with­out risk of cat­a­strophic con­se­quence. It was a sur­real time for Ja­son, as just a short time prior, he had lost all hope of mak­ing JCCS.

At the show Ja­son ran into Ra­mone and his dad. He was quick to com­ple­ment the young man’s fa­ther on what an out­stand­ing job he’d done in rais­ing such a gen­uine and gen­er­ous gen­tle­man.

While Ja­son didn’t get to take home a tro­phy that day, he left with a cou­ple of prizes that no car show judge could ever of­fer–a new­found re­spect for com­plete strangers, the power of kind­ness, and fi­nally com­plet­ing a week­end cruiser that his whole fam­ily could love and ap­pre­ci­ate.

All told, what you have here to­day are two com­pletely dif­fer­ent build sto­ries and pow­er­plants, but all based around one in­cred­i­bly loved lit­tle odd­ball chas­sis. Ja­panese pickup trucks from this era are a bit of anom­aly in the tuner world, and be­cause of that one must ad­mire what both men have gone through in or­der to over­come all odds and build the ul­ti­mate dy­namic Dat­sun duo.

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