Scale Cars

Jada 1973 Datsun 510 (Widebody) Jonsibal Custom

Diecasts and Jada aren’t really my thing – I’ve worked with them before, when I was just getting into model cars, but I realized they didn’t really fit in with the rest of my plastic collection because of their scale. They’re marketed as 1/24, but in reality are slightly larger, probably closer to 1/20. I like a lot of the designs they put out, especially for cars that I can’t get as plastic kits from Japan (like the new Toyota FT-1), but being a stickler for consistency in my collection means I won’t allow myself to work with them.

I’m also not really big on older retro cars – a quick glance at my current model lineup right now is enough to confirm that I don’t really tread on cars older than the early 90’s. So that makes this Jada diecast Datsun 510 an outlier – the epitome of something I would never normally pick up. But there’s a contest being run, and these diecasts aren’t expensive, so I thought it would at the very least be a learning experience for working with pre-built metal cars instead of the usual plastic.

So, contest. A renowned auto designer named Jon Sibal is hosting a diecast contest via Instagram – a friend referred me to the info since they know I work with models. Jon Sibal is apparently the one behind the design of this model itself – even mentioned on the package. I was hesitant about getting one and attempting to enter at first, but after mulling it over some I determined that it would be good to expand my palette to stuff I haven’t worked with before.

The idea is just to take the Jada Datsun 510 (part of their latest JDM Tuners line) and customize it to your taste. Three winners will be chosen based on creativity, originality, and execution. The deadline is June 1st (tomorrow), so I had about three weeks to come up with my own original 510.

So, uh, a lot easier said than done. Part of why this project put me off at first and ultimately why I decided to take it is because it’s putting me very far out of my comfort zone – how do I mod this?

I’m so used to the modern tuner body look – slap a wing, canards, lip splitter, etc. on it and it’s instantly modded. The list is pretty standard – but a car like the 510 is a different story. These older classics don’t subscribe to the usual style of mods that I normally do to give my cars kick.

The old-school three-box body style doesn’t take to front splitters or a flat lip. It already has a tasteful duckbill, and the usual GT Wing that I throw on all of my other cars would look painfully out of place on this, I think.

An example of Jada’s scaling issue that I mentioned earlier, which keeps me away from them for the most part. There’s no way a 510 is actually larger in every way than an R34 right? Right?!

Japanese car models tend to be more realistically scaled and proportioned, whereas Jada takes artistic liberties and “toons” their cars a lot. Different strokes, which is unfortunate because if it weren’t for the sizing inconsistency I’d have quite a few of their releases in my own lineup.

Anyway, let’s start with the wheels, obviously. I actually like the ones that come on the car – they’re clearly a tribute to the classic BBS mesh style, though it’s unfortunate that they’re so large and the mesh is actually filled in, instead of being hollow. I used very similar wheels on my EM1 Civic.

I have a plethora of spare wheels leftover from old kits and unused parts sets, so to start off I obviously went with my largest wheel sizes – some 19 inch TE’s from my Aoshima R34.

I like the look, but it still feels painfully undersized on this body. Thanks to everything from Jada being just slightly larger than standard 1/24, my spare parts will all be ever so slightly too small. The stock wheels were probably 24 inches.

We’re saved. Remember these? Because I didn’t, until I dug deep into my spare parts box. These are off a roughly 1/24 Hot Wheels toy, that I bought on clearance and intended to use with my Acura NSX. They proved to be too large and aggressive for both the NSX and any other standard 1/24 model, but ironically I finally get to use them here. I still adore the design and deep look – and they’re just about the right size for this car!

What’s nice about these diecasts is that they all come apart fairly easily with a screwdriver – just about everything is held together by Phillips heads. The interior is spartan, somewhat befitting the race car look. The motor is disappointing, being only a half-mold, but I’ve come to expect that at this price for what it is.

Having the dash attached to the body instead of the interior tub is so weird. It comes with a full cage too!

Unfortunately the windows and upper part of the cage were held in by rivets, instead of screws, so all that needed to be drilled out.

With the body isolated, it was time to strip the original paint. I had my vat of brake fluid still leftover from stripping my latest GT-R, so I dunked the 510 in there hoping to get a reuse out of the stuff.

Turns out even brake fluid isn’t strong enough to take off whatever paint they used for this thing It washed all the white and markings off the body easy – it looked like those were either really thinly printed paints or just straight up decal ink. The actual body is red, and diecast paint is always THICC. Thankfully though, being a diecast, the body is all metal, so I’m free to use much stronger stuff without worrying about it melting plastic. Cue some good ‘ol acetone.

It worked well, as you’d expect of something as strong as acetone. I can’t use that stuff to strip regular plastic bodies since it would basically dissolve the plastic, but of course the metal here is unharmed. Unfortunately, it didn’t end up as clean as I had hoped. There’s still a lot of stubborn flakes left on the trunk in particular for some reason.

To get the leftovers, I discovered that a dremel with a fine sanding bit worked wonders. I was surprised to see it also cut into the metal and leave almost a polished finish, despite some line marks.

Surfaces basically stripped; I’ll give it all a once over with sandpaper to smooth out any scratches or rough patches before paint.

Before paint though, a bit about the hood – this is how far up it normally opens on its hinges. Not a lot to work with here, which normally isn’t a big deal considering the underdetailed stock engine, but I plan to throw my own motor in the bay, so I’d like to open it a bit more to show it off.

Thankfully the hinge is really a separate piece rather than being molded to the hood, so I decided to just take it off entirely by drilling out the rivets. The hood will function as it does on most of my plastic kits – completely detached from the car, but able to lay flat when closed and will be able to prop up with an extra piece.

There’s something more that I really wanted to do with the hood though. The design includes a reverse scoop hood vent, and on the original paint job it was just painted in black. Going in, this was the biggest downer for me. With the motor I’ll be putting in, I thought it would be insanely cool to be able to see a lot of it through that hood vent with mesh. Unfortunately, it’s filled in with solid metal, quite thickly. I don’t have any tools that could really cut through that, and even trying to drill it out and pull the rest would take way too long. But then, when I saw that even the fine sanding bit on the dremel was taking away some surface material, I had hope – maybe the coarse sanding drum would eventually be able to take the vent out.

It took a while, but once I saw that the drum was indeed chipping away at the vent I knew it could be done. This is another big reason why I don’t normally do diecasts – metal is so much harder to work with than plastic. Cutting out a filled in vent on a plastic kit is worlds easier than this. Normally I’d want to open those louvers on the sides too, but that’s super not possible with the tools I have.

Surprisingly, it opened up very cleanly. Once I had dremeled it down to about paper-thin, it kind of all just broke off with some pushing, leaving a much cleaner edge than I had expected. I was prepared to need to dremel the edges smooth and everything, but that turned out not to be necessary.


Body painted in gloss white. For a contest, it’s kind of a boring body color, especially when all color variations of this car are half white anyway. To really stand out I could’ve gone with some unique green/gold two-tone shenanigans, but obviously there’s a plan here with this.

I bought this decal set from the same German seller I get a lot of my aftermarket decal sheets from, mostly just because I love the GReddy/TRUST livery style and intended to use it in the far future on a white R32 build. In the meantime it’s just sitting around, and I have a laundry list of cars I’d like to build before I get back to another R32, so I thought, to heck with it, I’ll just use these now.

The goal then, and obviously the reason for the relatively boring all-white body, is to go for the classic GReddy racing livery style. In this sense the body build won’t be relying so much on the paint but much more on the decals and callback aesthetics.

Of course, to really fill out the look we needed racing numbers. My local hobby shop has a giant bin full of NASCAR and American racing water slide decal sheets, many of which of course have random car numbers and the such. The original 73 on the sides of the 510 I’m pretty sure is in reference to the 510’s last model year – 1973. Though there could totally be some long-standing racing heritage reason that I don’t know about.

Anyway, I went through the decal pile and basically picked out the numbers that I thought would look best with the livery (it had to be black lettering or black outlined) and were the right size. Cue this random McDonald’s sponsor sheet with giant 94’s. I have no idea what the original NASCAR or whatever looked like that used these numbers, and I think it’s probably better for me to remain ignorant there.

My main sources of reference and inspiration for my own livery design. GReddy’s traditional liveries usually sport 99 as their number; I have no idea why or what the history is behind that. Still, 94 is close enough? No? It doesn’t work like that? Shoot.

I actually found that I had some leftover 4’s from the Good Smile Racing decal set that I used with my NSX, and as much as I liked the font and style, the Jada sizing once again gets in the way by being too large for those small letters to look right.

The livery stripes are also made to look tiny next to the big Datsun body. The decal sheet comes with some thicker stripes and plenty of the thin ones, but obviously I wanted to save the larger ones for the center of the body.

The thick stripes were more difficult to work with than I thought – the decals themselves were thick, and thus had a hard time pressing in and conforming to bends and curves. They’d also flake and break thanks to me constantly massaging them into place, so I had to cut bits of the leftovers to fill in the cracks.

Added a few sponsor markings here and there, but held back from going all-in and making it too much of a sponsor-drowned racecar. It took a lot of restraint for me to hold back on decking the body (especially that blank roof) out with every aftermarket manufacturer’s name that’s under the sun, but I ultimately think the overall build will be cleaner for it.

The race seats included are retro-style wedges that I’ve never seen before – it took me some research to actually figure out what they look like in real life. They may be period-correct, but I still don’t think they’re attractive, so I’m pulling them out and replacing them with some traditional race buckets – these “Sparcos” are from my old S15 Silvia that has since been dismantled for parts.

Replacing the stock steering wheel and pedals (right) with leftover parts I had lying around (left). The dash and interior in general is almost hilariously blank, but that just goes to show how unused to older minimalist interiors I am compared to the usual shapes in modern cars.

As much as I thought I could get away with keeping the floor blank and plastic with the idea that it’s “shaved,” I still thought the tub was too plain not to add some spice to, with of course black flocking.

Silver accents for more interior parts added.

The dash is the greatest – it’s nothing but gauges, spread along the whole thing. Only one gauge is filled in with a speedo sticker when you get the car, so the rest I’ll be adding on my own – pulling from all the leftover gauge decals I have.

Some of them are too small to even really read what the gauge actually is, but the point is they’re all filled in.

The stock car also came with a roll cage and integrated harness bar, but the bars were too thin, and I wanted to build something a little more intricate that included door bars anyway.

I had originally intended to only build the rear roll bar and link it with a single door bar that ran down diagonally from each side, but ended up getting carried away and building nearly a whole cage. If I hadn’t run out of styrene, I would have built more roof and rear bracing.

I thought about painting the roll cage a flashy color like gold or red to really make it stand out and draw attention after it’s been mounted in the car, but ultimately decided plain ‘ol silver suited the restrained racecar theme better. The seats were stripped and refinished, with smaller and more properly-sized decals on the headrests – they’ve gone from Sparcos to Brides.

And as usual, if I’m building roll bars that usually means I’m just doing it so I get a harness bar out of it and can work with racing harnesses. Instead of the metal photo etched harness kits I’ve been working with in the past, this is an actual green piece of fabric that I had to cut to size.

Going with a four point harness for simplicity as usual. This harness kit gives you multiple options for harness points and you basically build your own strap lengths.

Because of how soft the fabric straps are, I can finally properly wrap them around the harness bar.

Slight speedbump: again, the size issue persists with Jada’s bodies and my standard 1/24 parts. The seats look tiny, especially when the headrest area barely clears the windshield line.

There’s nothing I can do to make the seats bigger overall, but at the very least I can boost them with some blocks to make them look taller when the doors are closed. I’ll just think of these as mounting brackets and sliders.

Built an extended steering column so the wheel would sit closer to the seat. I also on a whim decided to add little stalks, made from scratch.

I was an idiot and accidentally broke one of the ends of the rear bumper off; it went down the drain and was claimed by the abyss forevermore. The curved end shape wasn’t very conducive to scratch building from styrene, so for the first time in a while I had to break out the ‘ol craft clay and sculpt a whole new end bit.

These older retro cars have so much chrome on them – the chrome bumper bars feel particularly old-school, so I decided to go with that instead of matching them to body color.

The original windshield banner was black with DATSUN in closed space lettering. I could’ve sanded and polished the banner off completely, but decided to stick with it, albeit with a new color and decal.

Finally getting to the motor – what I consider to be a highlight for this build, because it’s going to be a RB26 swap, and those are always kickass.

First order of business is cutting the stock motor out of the bay. It’s all molded in as one piece, so a heat knife is needed to take the entire segment out.

I don’t know much about what originally powered the 510 – or if this diecast version is even meant to have the “stock” engine. It looks like a naturally aspirated straight four with ITBs, so at least in some respects it’ll be similar to what I’ll be swapping in.

This particular RB26 has been through a lot. It was originally out of my very first Japanese 1/24 model car, my VeilSide Combat R32 Skyline. That model was really just a test run to get a hang of Japanese model kits, so it was scrapped back in the box immediately after I finished it. Later on down the line, I built a Rocket Bunny Scion FR-S, which had a nicely detailed engine bay and opening hood but no engine. The R32’s RB was just laying around, so obviously I put two and two together – the FR-S got the straight six. I’ve since scrapped the FR-S since I’m not happy with how it came out (I plan to rebuild it in the future), but that means for now the original RB was once again homeless.

The original RB26 as it came out of the Skyline was bone stock – and really only half-detailed. It’s not nearly as fleshed out as the twin-turbo RB I built for my R34 Skyline recently. This is where it gets interesting though – the resin EightyOne RB26 engine kit I used for my R34 came with option parts for both a twin turbo or naturally aspirated build. I used the twin turbo parts with the block on the R34, which means I have all the naturally aspirated parts left over, namely an ITB set and a set of headers. Between those parts and the RB block from the R32, I have a complete NA RB26 on my hands now.

Exhaust headers were coated multiple times, starting with gold, misted with clear blue, and finally misted silver to hopefully achieve a weathered and used effect.

It’s kind of amazing how simple the motor is in this configuration – I still have nightmares about routing the intercooler piping and fitting the turbos on my R34. I went with flat black valve/crank covers as a homage to another white Datsun that had a naturally aspirated RB26 swap – Sung Kang’s “FuguZ” 240z.

I was planning on decal-ing the gigantic rear diffuser in carbon fiber, but upon closer inspection it looks like Jada already has that covered for you – they molded a carbon fiber-esque pattern right into the plastic – a very neat touch. This means all I had to do was paint it gunmetal to bring it out.

I really wanted to paint the front lip chrome, but decided I needed to scratch that carbon itch somehow. I already held back on carbon decal-ing the hood, so the least I thought I could do was wrap the lip – it would match the rear diffuser as a bonus.

After looking at it with the body though, it looked weird to have carbon up front and in the rear with nothing tying them together in the middle. So, of course, the sideskirts are now going to be carbon too.

Perfectly uniform.

I wasn’t kidding about old cars being very heavy on the chrome. Modern cars have their weather stripping and window edge trims as flat or satin black most of the time – not the 510.

I’m basically deferring to chrome anytime I see a bit of detail and wonder if it can be brought out. It feels period correct.

I was going to use Craft Square Racing mirrors for this build originally, but then I forgot to fill the stock mirror holes on the fenders before I painted and finished the body, so I guess we’re sticking with the retro fender mirrors. Not that I mind – I really like this style, and of course – chrome everything.

Despite the offsets of the wheels I’m using being so ridiculous that brakes and rotors are basically meaningless, we’re still gonna do ’em. I wanted to use some of the nice photo-etched detail brake sets I had on hand, but none of them were large enough for the gargantuan wheels. So, we had to pull from another similarly sized Jada toy – my Fast and Furious Eclipse, I built the same car in proper 1/24 scalewhich has been sitting in storage ever since .

I really wanted to use these, since the actual metal slotted rotors would be a nice touch, but the disks are simply too small – they’d barely peek out behind the giant wheel hubs.

Standard 1/24 rotor on the right; slotted rotors from the Eclipse on the left.

Ironically the rotor hubs were too large to actually mount the wheels up, so I had to fill them in with styrene bits.

Cut down so they’ll provide the proper offset when glued to the chassis with the wheels.

So, I wanted to add a feature to my build that I was 90% would be completely unique – something that I highly doubt anyone else would go out of their way to do – turning front wheels.

The original wheels rolled on single solid axles, front and rear. I’m throwing those out completely; this car isn’t going to roll, like most of my cars. It doesn’t really matter to me since they’re all display models anyway – but moving front wheels is definitely very important, since it’s one of the few ways we can “pose” cars.

A year ago I wouldn’t have even entertained the idea of building my own turning axles from scratch. I was committed this time though, and when you really think about it the idea is ridiculously simple – some styrene rods attached to the back of each rotor, plugged into a hole in the wheel well up top, and held in by another piece at the bottom.

Little spacers wrapped around the rods will keep the height steady.

Inserted. So, the catch here is that I’m not actually building a steering rack. It wouldn’t have been difficult to do, but I didn’t have time to work out those kinks. As a result, each wheel is on its own independent turning axle, so they won’t turn together, but they’ll turn – and that’s all that matters to me now.

Little plastic holder glued to the bottom with a hole in it to accept the bottom of the turn axle.

Success! Turning wheels from scratch! It’s a very rudimentary system, but it gets the primary job done. I ran into a lot of hiccups with the fitment, since I wanted a very aggressive stance with the wheels in the fenders, but that obviously doesn’t lend well to having a turning radius. So, I introduced about a centimeter of wheel gap and got what I wanted – at the expense of the wheels not being able to turn backwards. There’s only enough room in those wells with this fitment to have the wheels turn one way – and for the sake of posing, wheels always look cooler when they’re turned inwards, so that’s the way they go. This means that the wheels will never turn in the same direction now, but you’ll never see both front wheels at once with how wide and blocky the 510 body is, so I took it as an acceptable compromise.

Getting ready to throw the motor in the bay, which means we need to start thinking about routing an exhaust. And of course, to route an exhaust, we can’t have a sealed undertray.

To boost the motor up so it sits at the proper height in the bay (it’ll be mounted to the bottom of the bay), a bunch of spacers were stacked to get it up.

Kind of ironic that the original four banger barely fit in the stock car, but here we are sticking a straight six in.

I ended up cutting a line all the way through the undercarriage to fit the exhaust piping, which meets up with where the headers end. The exhaust would straight up not fit if I hadn’t cut the underbody, since everything rides so low.

Keeping the exhaust simple with just a straight pipe from the headers back, though I did scratch build a muffler.

This is really the whole reason I even went through the trouble of grinding the hood vent out. Mesh is life.

My original plans included deleting one of the inner headlight bulbs to turn it into an air intake, but that would require drilling into the metal body, and I’m running short on time at this point. The only other thing I could think of to spruce it up was the classic yellow bulbs.

Lug nuts painted Coral Blue, in a fit of inspiration from my recent R35 GT-R. I’m honestly kind of surprised these wheels even have lug nuts molded in as detail, but I guess that goes to show I shouldn’t undersell them just because they came from a cheap Hot Wheels toy.

Last bit is adding all the bells and whistles to the engine bay, so it has a little more than just a motor in it. Stole a brake booster and battery from a spare Z32.

I’m basing basically the entire engine bay off of Sung Kang’s 240Z, for convenience’s sake since that car used the exact same engine configuration. Scratch building random little reservoirs and peripheral accessories here.

Going in with engine wiring, lines, and the like. I recently picked up some braided wire for use with my bay detailing – first time using it in this 510.

The battery is supposed to mount in front of the passenger side of the firewall, but room is tight back there, so it’s going up front instead.

And finally, finished.

It ended up being a satisfyingly clean build, though really only because I consciously held back from going too crazy and tried to tie it together with a clean racecar aesthetic.

I still wonder if the body is too plain – like it should’ve had more decals and more crazy unique aero bits – but I’m hoping it’ll come across more as period-correct and restrained than it will boring.

Of course, everything that opened originally still opens. The trunk was a complete afterthought though – I toyed with the idea of throwing a fuel cell back there and making it all fancy, but I had thrown all my resources and time into the motor up front instead.

Speaking of which, I’m glad I ended up being able to do everything I wanted to do with the motor. The flat black engine top inside a retro white body is a nicely matched look – thanks, Sung Kang.

It’s kind of funny how much stuff in here I ended up having to chrome, because having them in plain silver just didn’t look right. The radiator up front is also scratch built, since the original engine fan assembly didn’t fit in the tight bay.

Keeping the hood up is a much more precarious process than it is with my usual plastic kits. The metal is heavy, and tends to throw its weight forward when propped up. I’m always worried it’s going to spontaneously fall and break something in the bay.

Quite a bit is viewable through the big hood vent, including the cam angle sensor for the motor, part of the radiator, and part of the battery. Satisfying payoff for all the grinding work it took to open that piece up.

I’m so glad I held onto those Hot Wheels wheels from so long ago. The staggered look is pleasantly unique on a 510. The unique ride height brings the front lip nearly flush with the ground while keeping the rear somewhat raised, giving it an aggressive stance.

I also wouldn’t have been able to fit an exhaust or muffler if the rear weren’t raised slightly. As it sits, the rear of the muffler already makes contact with the ground.

I sort of wish the GReddy stripes were more pronounced, especially along the sides, but I take solace in thinking that it’s mostly accurate to how the livery appears on other cars.

I don’t get the luxury of opening the doors on my plastic kits to view all the work I put into the interior – but of course that’s a perk of these diecasts. I’m very satisfied with the Takata straps – they turned out to match with the vibrant red Bride’s a lot better than I thought they would.

Most of my shots for this car are from eye level or below, meaning you don’t really get the full effect of the livery until you take an overhead view – I think seeing the hood stripes carry to the trunk is really what makes the look, but the 510’s big blocky roof will be in the way most of the time.

And for the record, I did at first think that the thick stripes were supposed to run from the hood all the way through the roof and to the trunk unbroken, but after looking into the livery design some more, it looks like it’s always meant to be broken on the roof.

I could’ve just run the stripes on the roof anyway, but decided that keeping the roof white was critical for the correct look.

The car’s shoebox block design has really grown on me (as long as I’m not seeing it directly next to a 240z). I suppose if nothing else this build was a successful exercise in getting me to appreciate retro cars a little more.

So, of course this build has entered the contest it was built to compete in. I thought I would have a solid chance at first, but after seeing the entries right up to the contest deadline, it looks like I may have been knocked out of the race before I even finished the car – the competition is stiffer than I had hoped. I’m not sure of the exact judging criteria, though I imagine it’ll be Jon Sibal himself personally picking the three winners. I doubt I’d be able to beat out the guys who built crazy monster truck 510’s in terms of creativity, and I don’t actually think my skills are refined enough to take home much for execution either. My body design will most likely take a back seat next to the guys who created authentically rusted bodies.

Regardless of a win or not, I ironically ended up liking this build a lot more than I thought I would when I started, so I’m still satisfied with what I got out of it. Eyeing up a custom Toyota FT-1 from Jada now…

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