AR Feature #1 - Datsun Sunny LWB - Respect The Rust

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AR Feature #1 - Datsun Sunny LWB - Respect The Rust

When we were looking for our first feature car for Auto Refuge we wanted something totally recognizable from the local community, something that caught your attention not because of its immaculate paint work or huge power figure, a vehicle that just makes its own presence felt, in a word - character.


So, it goes without saying that when we were talking about doing our first feature Steve and his Sunny popped into our minds. Having known Steve for several years and still awaiting his 'unicorn' to be finished (long story and on running joke about his S14a) we hit him up to talk about his Datsun/Nissan Sunny LWB. 


When Steve got his hands on the 1990 Nissan a lot of work was needed, but working slowly and adding piece by piece it has been brought back to life. From the front the Hakosuka chin spoiler, NOS Datsun chrome bumper and NOS Datsun Fairlady Z fender mirrors along with the other pieces of chrome around the car allow the Sunny to shine through it's haze of rust.  



The deep dished set of SSR Longchamp XR4. In specs of 13 x 8s all round (with 0 offset front and neg 15) and stretched 165/55 tyres, really pop and  the fitment is spot on all thanks to a rather large combination of mismatched parts all working together to get the ute to the ground - static.


Originally, the Sunny featured a very rusty front end and very dissimilar from the face it now wears due to extensive modification. Steve has replaced the guards, bonnet & tailgate with a mix of aftermarket and NOS items, bringing back to its former glory and adding his own unique spin.



Not wanting to paint the whole car Steve has left them in the black primer and after a few months nature took its course. It was at this point he decided to leave them and the Ratsan was born. With slightly rusted panels warn with pride and a semi matte clear coat to keep them from rusting further. The rest of the paint work was polished up and all of the imperfections and dents were left to add to the whole ratty worn look the car now shows off.


The Japanese Rising Sun the tonneau cover grabs all the attention from behind, custom made by Glen at Kustom Auto Trims in Braeside.



Popping the bonnet and you'll see the factory A12 (24hp) engine was ditched and a 'big block' A14 fitted, after several blown head gaskets, two rebuilds and a ton of patience later the little Datsun is now seeing just north of 100hp at the rear wheels with the heavily modified A14 heart in place. To say the little 1400cc engine is highly strung is an understatement, especially considering what work has gone into it. For starters a Wade 296/297 cam with 11.5mm lift was fitted with custom made dual valve springs and oversized valves for good measure. The H89 oval port head was also fully ported & polished to allow the beast to handle high revs. With the head now having minimal restrictions, the bottom end had to play its part. So, it was lightened and balanced the standard rods were retained (as they already handle rather large hp numbers) and flat top high compression pistons fitted, the rest of the engine was refreshed with new bearings, gaskets and the like. After an initial compression test was carried out it was found to have a ratio of 11.9:1 and the only way to make it driveable on normal 98 premium pump fuel was to fly cut the pistons, so once again the engine was pulled down. When completed and reassembled Steve had managed to bring the comp down to more friendly 10.8:1, while still allowing it to spin to redline @ 8,000 RPM. When you hear the noise of the those Twin 40mm Dellorto carbies sucking in air and expelling it through the 4-1 headers and 2.25-inch exhaust. you will agree it has been worth all the pain and suffering.



The interior when compared to the outside car is quite the opposite, just about everything has been given a new breath of life. The Nardi steering wheel looks right at home. With the factory seats & door cards re-trimmed featuring a custom design for the suede centre inserts and red stitching to link it all together. A rare uncracked dash pad was also sourced and hugged in black vinyl to complete the look. Once again all work was carried out by Glen of Rocket Kustom Auto Trims in Braeside. A genuine Datsun 1200 Deluxe centre console and white faced 10,000rpm Omori tacho add to the overall interior experience.


On a day to day basis Steve says it is a dream to drive around, sure in the 40 degree Australian summer and no AC it gets a bit toasty, but you learn to deal with it, generally speaking its small and compact, Steve can fit through gaps that almost every other car would not even get close to getting through but being this low does come at a price as it changes where and how fast he can drive it.



Up until recently Steve has had no cop trouble at all, they always seemed to give him thumbs up and wave. On the rare occasion when he has had police stop him, they just seemed to say “Piss off and leave before we change our minds and start looking at the car properly." Unfortunately, Steve’s luck ran out a week after the photo shoot and the Ratsun received its first defect.


So, for the foreseeable future the little truck will be up on blocks while the fixes stated by the law are applied. But knowing Steve it will be out lurking at a cruise or event sooner then we think.

- Autorefuge

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