There are few reasons for this. We recently moved to the other side of Sydney. That meant a HUGE chuck-out and sorting through parts. When we arrived in the new suburb, our golf needed repairs. I asked a local VW specialist if they fixed older cars like mine. The answer was, 'No'. When I asked him who does, he replied, 'no one anymore'. And that, really, was it for me. I was tired of link pin front ends. I was also tired of VW oil leaks.
Additionally, I wanted a Quaife LSD badly, but that was going to cost $3500 by the time it was installed in the transaxle, with an additional oil pump to make sure it didn't suffer oil starvation. Or, I could have installed turning brakes, but werl that's sort of illegal and I was just over it.
The car was by now club registered, which was the next mistake.
The idea of $50 rego was great, but 60 days a year was just not enough for our family in the new situation. So the car went up for sale. In the 8-9 years I've owned it, it's roughly doubled in value. Which is really cool. The car went to a family up in the Hunter Valley and they LOVED it so I know it will be well cared for, a long way from me. A friend from my car club had lent me his 98 WRX as a daily, so the pressure was off and I was in no rush to replace it. I'd got above $20k for the beetle and it was burning a hole in my pocket. So I started looking for something else.
Which terrified my poor wife.
I can't blame her, because my past exploits have caused lots of arguments. Mostly down to me spending dumb money on something that would never see a return. This time I was trying to think around that. Here were the specs I was using...
1. 1970-1995 year model.
2. RWD for plenty of sideways action.
3. Sporty car that I could easily get an limited slip differential for.
4. Around 100,000km on the clock.
5. White or silver in colour.
6. In NSW.
7. Something that would double it's value or close to, in the next 5-10 years.
8. No ridiculous projects.
In my heart of hearts, I really wanted a Datsun 180B SSS coupe. I'd resigned myself to that being unlikely, but I would have been happy with a really straight 180B sedan. I was also looking at MX5/Miatas, RWD corollas, AE86 sprinters, RX7s, E30 and E36 BMWs, 240Zs, Skylines and a host of others. My mechanic mate talked me out of BMWs, which I'm still sort of sad about, but not that sad.
The guy at the local parts shop is a total BMW tragic and even he said they're a disaster.
I looked at a bunch of cars on line. One Corolla T18 I came across had literally 56,000km on the clock.
I looked a few 180Bs online. I was keen on one in Victoria, but that was never going to happen and the owner stopped replying to my messages. I looked at 2 in person. The first was just awful. It had gaff tap in the driver's side gutter and had been painted OVER the gaff tape. In the doors, the bog hadn't even been sanded before they painted over it. The guy had two other Nissans/Datsuns but they were similarly dodgy.
On a whim I looked a 1600 automatic that same afternoon.
It was just around the corner from where we lived. It was super straight but didn't run. When I told my poor wife about the car not running she had apoplexy and demanded that from then on I'd only look at cars, 'that worked!'. I couldn't really blame her. It was around that time she told me she didn't want me to spent more than $15k because we are/were trying to buy a new house. Hmm...
The other 180b I looked at was a SSS coupe.
It was also a classic rally car, having been driven from London to Sydney in 1975, then all the way around Australia in a Repco trial in 1980. It had finished both events and really was pretty great considering. It was also rough as guts. Getting to the property it lived on was a challenge and involved a creek crossing. As soon as I saw the car, I knew I wasn't going to buy it. It's a fantastic project, but it's a project. The paint was just awful. The back guards were full of bog. ALL of the sills were caved in. I don't think I need to go on. However, there were two other Datsuns there. Graham, now a mate of mine, has a 1600 club car with a 2.2L L series stroker/K24 head and very straight, stock 1600 auto in the shed. Very straight.
So straight I offered him $11,500 for it.
He declined my offer after consideration, in the opinion he'll get more for it soon. I guess we'll see. His refusal left me in a slight dilemma. Datsun 1600s were looking more and more promising. I knew for a fact that a decent car would sell for $15,000. I also knew that they were rust prone, but I was in the curious position of coming across not one but TWO almost rust-free examples in as many weeks. I had looked at another 1600, fully registered with a L20 (2 litre motor), 5 speed and well, more bog than metal. Every lower panel had serious rust and the motor was pretty noise. It also scraped on every speed hump. Hmm, maybe not.
I seriously entertained the idea of the T18.
The example I looked at had to be the best in the country, probably in the southern hemisphere. It was that good. The owner wanted about $7k for it. I thought a little too much, but he was negotiable. ALL the important parts for it are interchangeable with AE86 sprinters. They share the same platform. The 4AGE motor bolts straight in, or you can swap a 2TG head over onto the 3TC block. Here's the thing though.
I could throw $15k at a T18, but it only be worth the $7k I paid for it.
And that was the same issue I had with the 180B. Besides the fact that I could NOT find a single straight 180B for sale in NSW, they were $7k cars at best. Nothing I did was going to change that really. 1600s on the other hand were actually worth something. They were also lighter than the T18 and 180B. The parts for the 1600 were plentiful and cheap. I could buy a L18 and 4 speed gearbox for $600 off Gumtree.
I explained this situation to my wife. She sounded hopeful. Course I should have know better. What she really heard was...
'I could fix that white 1600 for $600.'
So on a whim, I texted the owner to ask if it was still available. Three seconds later he called me back to tell me his own wife had said to him, 'it goes or you go.'
Five minutes later, I had bought an automatic Datsun 1600. That didn't run.
I had a few problems...
1. My wife honestly thought it would cost $600 to fix and register. Ouch.
2. I had no way of getting to my house.
3. The $600 engine/gearbox on Gumtree had been sold.
I needn't have worried though because my car club buddies came to my rescue. Christian Autosports is a haven for many former and current Datsun tragics. They were more than happy to help my sad new problem. Helping with a trailer and parts. They're all excited about the car.
So I suppose I should say something about it now.
It's a 1969' model, was made in Japan and exported here with a manual gearbox. At some stage in it's life it was swapped over to a Stanza automatic. The standard L16 (1600cc) engine is there. The body is amazingly straight and original apart from one ding in the back panel. The original paint is all there, if somewhat thin. I think it lived most of it's life in the country, driven by someone old and slow. Imagine a Datsun that is the brother of my old beetle, but hadn't been messed with by idiots. There are various things to fix but the good news is this.
The motor does actually turn over by hand.
The fan belt had welded itself to the pulleys and wouldn't allow it to turn. I also think the starter is cactus. Not that it really matters because the L16 will be yanked and replaced by a worked L18. Which is the other thing that needs to be said about Datsun 1600s.
The parts are CRAZY CHEAP. Cheaper than the beetle and that's saying something.
I've managed to buy a whole driveline for $1000 that's ready for motorsport. A stock VW 1600 dual port can go for more than that. The cylinders for the clutch were $65 brand new. Wheels are stupid cheap. $100 for 4 alloy wheels. Getting alloys for my beetle was $700+ just for rims. Second hand was almost impossible to get. And I get independent rear suspension, ball joints up front. disc brakes, easily adjustable camber and castor.. I can transplant a Subaru R180 differential in. They still make R180 diffs for Hyundai, Subaru, Nissan, etc, etc.
What the heck was I doing with a beetle all these years?!
For those of you worrying about my marriage, relax. My wife told me, after we pushed it up a big hill into the garage...
'It's a cute little car.'
Recently, after she'd clearly said she didn't want three cars, she proclaimed, 'well as long as it's in the garage and I can't see it, I guess it's fine.' I was gobsmacked. I'm just not used to this level of positivity to project cars. When I wiped the chalky coating off the paint and found out it was really cream, (not white) she was happy about that too. Of course there are things like this to deal with...
But she doesn't care. I have to admit, for a 1969, Japanese car, it's pretty reasonable. So for now, the current aim is to clean it up and get it running as is. The original paint will be waxed and the inside of the panel fish-oiled like no tomorrow. Once it's regoed and manual-ized, there's other upgrades waiting. But they can wait for another time.
Til' next time...