I do have something to write about, but it probably won’t interest most of you. I bought a truck, something to play with, a 1967 Datsun 520 pickup. It’s ugly, it’s tiny, but it’s fascinatingly japanese and inappropriately fun to work on. It’s slow, noisy, the windows leak (well, I finally fixed THAT part with some junkyard window trim out of a GMC Jimmy), it’s got a spring that goes directly where your right ass cheek needs to be, and the carburetor is a fucking tragedy. It has 4.8:1 gears in the back (!!) and a four speed, which combines with it’s lack of any soundmat and the oddball exhaust leak to make it howl a pretty horrible tune at 50 mph. I don’t know what it sounds like going faster because I simply do not “do” that.
But, there’s a small, insanely talented, and incredibly passionate group of amateur tinkerers dedicated to these little trucks, and while most of them are interested in making them drag frame, there’s plenty of stop-good and go-fast knowledge out there. I’ve gathered parts for the first few upgrades, a 70a alternator (out of a Nissan Pathfinder), a remote reservoir, 7/8 plunger dual master cylinder out of a Mitsubishi Max (this thing is trick as shit, it’s gonna help with all kinds of intake possibilities), and a pretty nice looking electric fan plus shroud out of a Mercury Mystique (or something else domestic, boring, and saddled with a transverse V6 which wants for serious cooling power). Combined with some brackets that let you put Isuzu Rodeo vented rotors on all four wheels, I should have plenty to keep me busy during the winter months making sure that it can stop _really_ well. (For all values of “really” that include no power brake booster).
There’s a short term plan that I like to call “Get it safely drivable”, which… I dunno. It’s “Safe” now. But it’s too slow to really get out of it’s own way and the little stamped-tin Nikki carb that is on there has backfired on me a few times and drivability is waaay down. And I want to get the electrics all relay-ed and modernized. Also, the carb has gotta go, and while converting to fuel injection just isn’t going to happen on this engine, it IS, as it turns out, just a japanese clone of an MG BMC A-Series engine. So there are hop-up parts available (including headers and aftermarket intakes). Of course, in the face of a wall of aftermarket parts, what have I chosen? To buy some Keihin 35mm carbs from a motorcycle and try to make my own intake and throttle linkage. Because I’m an idiot. But I do have an ebay bid in on an MG heater-line heated intake manifold which will be the basis of my MC carb intake. (Hee hee hee.) Anyways… I also want to get the interior up from “swamp buggy” to something more like “daily driver”. Plus I want to get the stoppers and suspension ready for the inevitable engine swap.
Which brings us to the long term plan. The inevitable engine swap.
I’m still entirely open on this. Of course the Ratsun community is largely dedicated to putting more modern Nissan motors into these trucks (mostly the KA24DE which is cheap and plentiful, but also the SR20DET and the occasional enthusiastically-started-but-as-yet-incomplete VG30E swap (this engine is coming out on Craigslist as all the mid 80’s 300ZX’s stop being economically viable – It’s just too long AND too wide to fit in the 520 engine bay without some serious tunnel/firewall/radiator relocation shit). However, I’m Datsun agnostic. Though I have a Nissan car (a 2007 Nissan Versa), and think that the engine in it, the 1.8 liter MR18DE, is ultra satisfactory, quite fun and would whip the half-the-weight-of-the-Versa 520 around like a little fucking go cart, it’s a FWD only block and nobody has whittled up an adapter to mate it to a Nissan 5 speed. I really don’t care much for that kind of undertaking, so I’m going to go with something someone has already adapted.
That leaves the RWD Nissan motors. The KA24(E/DE, the E designating mEh and the DE designating Double mEh), the SR20DE(T/TT/TTTTT or how ever many turbos they ever made these things with – Fun fact, you take the number of T’s at the end and multiply by $2000, add $1500 to the total and that’s the price of these engines), the L16/18/20B (boooorrriiiinnnnggggggg gg ggg), the VG/VQ six cylinders (which would exhaust my patience for sheet metal work in about three weeks and take possibly YEARS to sort out but a VQ35 would be fucking hilariously fun, I have to admit), or… something less Nissan-y.
I went to the junkyard to measure some engines, just to see what kind of RWD pickings there were to be had. In a word: slim. The BMW baby sixes are too big by juuuust a skosh, and combined with the fact that there’s no such thing as a cheap BMW engine fix, and I think it’d force me to adapt a jointed steering columnt – they’re kinda out. Though if I could source one of the little ETA sixes from a late 80’s 3 Series I’d… I dunno. If it were cheap enough it could make it worth it just on the “you put a what into where” novelty. The Volvo red-block motors would fit, but… you know. Why. Nobody is gonna go “OH SHIT YOU GOT THE FOUR CYLINDER OUT OF A MID 80’S 700 WAGON, SNIP SNAP”. Plus they all put out about one-hundred-and-Zzzzzz horse power and don’t really get great mileage at all. And the transmission options all suck.
I could be the 8932nd person to make an electric Datsun. Eating up the entire bed with batteries which I’ll just have to replace in four years anyways. That’d be cool. Cough. Anyhow…
@conoat did suggest the VW TDI motor, which is really shit hot, and there is an adapter to RWD (toyota transmission pattern), but diesel? Do I want to go to all that trouble just to pay 45c more per gallon for fuel on a good day? Do I want to have to adapt a urea-injection device to get the particulate emissions down? No I do not. I’m gonna stick with what I know for right now and stick with gasoline engines.
Enter Quad4Rods.com and their little oddball adaptor business. Now, fuck a dickload of putting some mid-80’s GM-conceived-and-built Quad4 motor into my truck. I want it to run and NOT leak oil. I’m not interested in shoddy wiring or impossible to source bullshit belts. Plus if your engine is known for running rough, rough enough that you had to put a fucking balance shaft in? Sigh. I could go on about the Tempest Indy4 and how GM should have learned from that shit two decades before the Quad4 (like possibly when engineering the notoriously lumpy Tech4/Iron Duke) was ever built but I won’t. I’m no fucking engineer but just go ahead and fully counterweight your cranks people. But what I _am_ interested in is the Mazda MZR0based, Cosworth-racing derived Duratec motor that Ford has been putting in Rangers and… the fucking Ford Focus. They’re cheap as shit (I can probably pick up a 2.0 L Focus motor for $250, complete from wires up tippy top to oil sludge down in the pan, today, in any state of the union), they’re peppy (newer models are making 136HP/136lbft in stock trim) and easily upgradable (from more-modern intake manifolds to “how fast is your credit card feeling” bolt-on turbo kits), and thanks to Quad4Rods, adaptable to the ubiquitous, capable, and easily located T5 transmission. I’m going to have to get a custom drive shaft made anyways and Driveline Specialties don’t give a fuck if I’m having them balance a shaft with a Nissan end on the front or a Ford one. Plus the Ford Ranger came with the 2.3 liter, and there’s even a 2.5 liter four out in the wild today (probably won’t find one as cheap as a 2.0 right now but still). That’s a 171hp/171lbft naturally aspirated four. With proper inhalation-assistance that could be a half-size half-weight 302 slayer, and I won’t have to do anything more than hammer-dolly the transmission tunnel.