1976 Datsun 180B SSS, ooohh. The parts guy working at Repco who referred to it as a 180B Shit Shit Shit box, might not have understood, but to me it could almost be mentioned in the same sentence as Ferrari Daytona, Porsche 911 RSR or Jaguar E-type.
…well perhaps not, but in any case in 1995 it was my first car and to my eyes it was a mouth watering blank canvas. So good in fact I bought two. The first one was what planted the seed, a white unregistered 1973 model which just happened to be sitting on the verge near where a mate of mine lived. It looked pretty clean to the impressionable eyes of a 17 yo with $550 to burn. It was an auto model, but you know… that was going to be swapped when I put the FJ20 turbo engine in anyway so no problem… A quick drive around the block indicating that it was able to move under its own power sealed the deal. Unfortunately, once I had driven it home (with my mate in his Datto 1600 close behind or in-front to disguise the lack of any number plate) a closer inspection revealed that it was infact not an ‘overlooked minter soon to be race car’ but a reasonable condition datsun with quite a bit of corrosion.
Still undeterred though, I set about applying a liberal amount of body filler wherever there was a hole, however, after a couple of weeks of this the Road Worthy inspector delivered the bad news that the repairs needed were beyond my bogging ability and the harsh truth set in, I had bought a lemon.
Now most sensible, or non-car people, would probably take that as a wake up call and go get a finance deal on a nice new hyundai or something, but for me, 180B SSS’s were the way forward, so I figured I just needed to find another donor car and swap over the ‘good’ bits.
This fortunate target was found in the trading post (a newspaper printed each week where people used to sell all manner of things before EBay), it was another unregistered example, of course, and was currently without an engine, BUT, oh BUT, it came with a spare 2 litre nissan bluebird engine, a 5-speed! gearbox AND, twin SU carburettors (which came on the model when it was first sold). How much would I expect to pay for such a fine collection of machinery? I am sure I didn’t even look the car over as I handed my $400 dollars to the nice man and dreamed about unbridled 2L twin carb power and confidently slotting my gear lever into a 5th gear on the open road.
This time I thought I was doing things right, a mate of mine had a father who had a 180B sedan as his daily hack and the knowledge that he had once changed an engine made him seem on par with any formula one mechanic to me at the time. Now true to his word, my mate’s dad (thank you Mr Loveridge), helped me change the engine over from my first 180B SSS (the 2L never got used because there was no guarantee that it even worked) and he even resprayed the car and fixed up the rust and did some other small things that needed doing. The day that I went for the road worthy this time was sure to end in triumph, and apart from a leaking slave cylinder in the rear drum (yes drum) brakes, the car was good to go and I had my first ‘registered’ set of wheels.
The next few months were some kind of teenage driving nirvana I think, it was rear wheel drive, 2 doors and 5 gears. I still had plans to put an FJ20 turbo in it but after a few minor ‘offs’ over traffic islands, into gutters and other inexperienced oversteer related mishaps, the car wasn’t actually in that great condition. The end came when trying to take the ‘esses’ on my way to work, I had a blow out and the car launched over the median strip with violence that in hindsight was lucky not to rip the chassis apart.
The car never recovered after that, the tie rod ends were seriously bent, the struts had leaked pretty much all their oil, I then blew the head gasket and took bad advice to replace the engine which turned out to be much worse than the previous one and then an electrical issues irrecoverably blew the wiring to the dash, and all lights at the front of the car.
I finally decided to call defeat on my SSS inspired dreams and listed it for $1000 in the trading post. I couldn’t get the road worthy certificate, because, you know, I didn’t have time (mmmm) so it was being sold with no rego. Incredibly it was one of the easiest sales I have ever made for a car, a few people came to look at the same time, some young lads (who dodged a bullet), and an older couple who used to have the same model some years earlier. There was almost a bidding war as the older couple decided that since they had seen me drive up in the car, it must be ok and I wasn’t going to argue.
Interestingly, those 180B SSS’s are now a bit sought after and often exchange hands for $5,000-$10,000 and are popular on the vintage rally scene.
But with $1000 in my pocket and with need for a new car, the process started again, that weekend I bought my second (or is that 3rd) car. A 1977 Chrysler Lancer…