Guest contributor: Brandon Miller on his Five and Dime
I had wanted an E34 5-Series BMW since I saw my first one in high school. While looking for ideas on mods, I found one for sale, and I finally decided to pull the trigger. I contacted the owner, who parked it in his garage until I could get the funds together. After a few weeks, she was mine.
The car was already tastefully modded with Euro trim, Vogtland springs, Euro lights, and AC Schnitzer Type III replica wheels. When I got it, I added Koni sport shocks and Kmac adjustable trailing arm bushings, and replaced the Type III replicas with real ones. I then replaced all the Euro trim as it had been pitted from highway driving. In addition, I resprayed the front and rear bumpers due to chips and scratches. I removed the one piece crappy door panels and replaced them with 95 multipiece panels. I removed the wood trim and sanded, primed, based and cleared them with PPG black, followed by wetsanding and buffing. I did the same thing to the outside pillars as they were flat black from the factory. I then upgraded to aftermarket HIDs but hated them. So I bought a set of Acura TSX projectors and Philips D2S bulbs and went to town cutting the housing apart. I made adjustable brackets and was able to fit the TSX housings neatly behind the BMW glass. The headlight output is incredible now! One of the best mods ever.
Next, I decided the current powerplant had to go. I had previously had a 1995 Nissan S14 (that I did a Silvia conversion on) and then a Volvo 850R wagon, so I knew I wanted a turbo. After some research, I decided to lose the non-VANOS M50 engine and drop in an M52 with VANOS from an E39. I pulled it apart; cleaned and painted the block; honed the cylinder walls; dropped in some S52 cams, ARP head studs, and a thicker head gasket; and had aluminum bungs welded on the oil pan and filter housing for turbo feed and return.
I made an appointment with BMW tuners Turbo Charging Dynamics to do a forced induction install. I gave them a deposit and gave the freight company a deposit to have the car shipped from VA to MI.
And then it happened.
The night before the car was to be sent to TCD, I found one of my other dream cars: a clean 1972 Datsun 510 with a race motor which the then-owner knew nothing about. I used the turbo money to buy the 510, as I had wanted one since I was a kid (my dad had a number of 510s and 240Zs when I was growing up). Unfortunately, I lost quite a bit of money in the deposits to TCD and to the freight company, but after getting the 510, I realized it was well worth it.
I picked up the 510, which was near rust-free and straight, but had lots of minor cosmetic and wiring issues. It also ran like crap. I removed the BRE stripes, the M3 mirror, and the ugliest hood ever. I found a free parts car which I got all kinds of good bits from: hood, driver seat, dash, door panels, mirrors, etc. I even sold the parts car shell for $500 in addition to selling $600 of leftover parts.
I pulled the L20 engine from the car and measured the bore. Turned out the motor was a rare, Robello-built L20 bored and stroked to 2.3L. The car also had an Isky cam, Nissan comp headers, twin Mikuni 44 carburetors with short Mikuni manifold, ITG filter, Crane fireball XR700 ignition, Roadster 5-speed mid-close ratio transmission, Troy Ermish front and rear coilovers (cranked up too high), front and rear sway bars, a Sparco racing seat, and a roll cage. Good mods overall, but poorly executed and some no longer working. So I took it all apart, cleaned, and rebuilt everything. I also painted the engine bay, added full dynamat and a new carpet kit to the interior, and wetsanded and buffed the whole car. Lastly, I went through and cleaned up all the wiring, trying to hide as much of it as I could.
I recently dynoed the car at 128 HP at the rear wheels, but I need smaller pump nozzles in the carbs, and am hoping for 135 RWHP.
The Datsun is currently the top-rated 510 on Cardomain and the second or third-rated of all models and years of Datsuns registered on that site (approximately 3000).
It is a blast to drive and gets lots of looks.
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Words and images: Brandon Miller