Journal: What to Pay for a Driver's 510

What to Pay for a Driver’s 510

Avatar By Alan Franklin
April 10, 2013
10 comments

Called the “poor man’s BMW” when new, it was the 2002 they were referring to. Four decades later, the sentiment remains true for buyers looking for a small, light, rear-wheel drive shoebox in a late ’60s or early ’70s vintage.

Because it was produced in plants around the world in relatively large numbers (of which a high percentage remain due to its robust nature), appreciation won’t make you rich, but as an investment in stylish fun a 510 is hard to beat.

Old Datsuns enjoy a strong following, members of which form a huge, knowledgeable, and active on-line community, meaning help and advice is never far away if you get stuck—though good parts availability and the bone-simple nature of 510’s means that’s pretty unlikely. Rust, as with many Japanese cars of the period, remains the biggest threat to Bluebird health. Aside from the dreaded tinworm though, 510s aren’t really problematic, provided they’ve been maintained of course. Click here for a good, casual buyers guide thread we found over at The 510 Realm.

Prices for nice “drivers” have remained pretty constant for about six years now, with about $5,500 buying a clean coupe or wagon, while sedans command about $1,000 less across the board. The way we define driver is a car in solid mechanical and cosmetic shape with few if any needed repairs. A driver isn’t a “time capsule” or even a 8/10ths kind of car, but rather one with a realistic patina that one should expect of a machine introduced during the height of the Vietnam War—in other words, the kind of car that’s reliable enough to enjoy on a regular basis but not so pristine you’d be afraid of parking it outside your favorite café.

You’re spoiled for choice in the $5k range of vintage Japanese sports cars, with serviceable 240Zs, first-generation RX-7s, and Toyota Celicas readily available at this budget point. All offer their own unique charms and quirks as well as RWD thrills. Which particular car tempts you most is a matter of personal taste—though our dream recipe involves the clean and reserved style of a 510 with the buzzing rotary heart of an RX-7. How about you?

Photo Sources: Specter23, 350z-tech.com, Ratsun.net, Old Parked Cars, CarTalk.com, Zilvia.net

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Taylor Adney
Taylor Adney

I fell in love with the 510 via the internet, then, last year, I hunted one down and drove from Tulsa, OK to San Diego, CA. and back in less than 48 hours to get “the one”. I paid $4750 for my driver, and boy is she fun!

rommelrommel
rommelrommel

I know of a very original 510 coupe that’s sat in a garage/shop since the early 80’s. Sadly, an auto and the owner/friend will never put a price on it but has made it clear that it wouldn’t be cheap. I offered a couple grand a few years back, knowing how much would need to be done to make a car that’s sat for 30ish years a safe driver and he scoffed saying he’d let it sit until he was offered a lot more. Sadly the thing will probably rot.

Damian Solorzano
Damian Solorzano

Man, Coulda Woulda’s . I believe it was ’72 when a family friend drove his 510 into the driveway of the house directly across ours. It was in 1988 that he told me it could be mine for 1000.00…I had a Girlfriend and two kids , not my own, AND an Alfa to support. Sigh.

No way I’m selling my Mk2 Supra.

Rodney Wren
Rodney Wren

Makes me a little okay really sad that I sold my Datsun 510 to my brother for $125 and he drove it into the ground.

Kevin Fitzpatrick
Kevin Fitzpatrick

That makes me sad. I’d take a clean 510 coupe over a 2002 any day of the week. That brown one..

Josh Clason
Josh Clason

Are you referring to the top one? If so, you can see more of it in this past video I did https://vimeo.com/42180356

Garrett Hammerel
Garrett Hammerel

Please don’t stop the Classic Japanese or Datsun articles. It’s like reading porn without having to feel guilty.

Afshin Behnia
Afshin Behnia

We’ll keep ’em coming, Garrett! By the way, I don’t think I’ve ever “read” porn 😉

Liam Shubert
Liam Shubert

5K will get you a crummy shell these days. Finding a relative clean, fairly unmolested 510 is a rarity; as most have been modded, lowered, or “tuned up”. Those with a nice paint job, and/or engine swap are all running 8-10K, and a visit to any datsun gathering will tell you that owners aren’t looking to sell any decent car for cheap. Im my experience, 510 prices have more or less doubled in the last 3-4 years . . . thanks to internet sales, forums, crazy ebay listings, and the general popularity that simple old japanese cars are getting. Thank… Read more »

Zach Roether
Zach Roether

I’ve always liked these cars, though I’ve actually never driven or ridden in one…. one day perhaps! They do definitely make me think of the BMW 2002’s. I think the BMW strikes my fancy more, but the cost of a decent one is starting to creep up.