What to Pay for a Driver’s 510
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?