Born across the ditch and finessed in New Zealand, this little Datsun 1200 packs a serious punch
While stereotypes might dictate that we must under all circumstances only sit within one automotive camp, and act like soccer hooligans towards anyone identifying with other camps, there are those among us who are a product of their environment. These are the folk who throw the middle finger to the accepted norm, and fill their shed to bursting point with any and all manner of machinery. One such petrolhead is Scotty Craig, whose only criteria are that it has to be fast — and loud.
He served an apprenticeship at a Mazda dealership, and later worked at an engine rebuilder, which screwed together plenty of powerful V8s, so you can see why his shed is home to everything from big stonking V8 street machines, to race cars and rotaries. The fastest of the current crop would indisputably be the one with the smallest capacity engine and smallest stature, a Datsun 1200 coupe with an intercooler for a grille that in no way hides the fact this little Aussie battler is built to brawl.
The Garrett TO4E turbo has been on the car since its days across the ditch, and will one day receive an upgrade to a more modern unit when it gives up the ghost. The motor is built to take a lot more boost, and Scott — the madman — is keen to see that happen.
Originally owned and raced in Austrailia by Scott’s brother, Mark, the club sprint machine was pretty rough around the edges, and as Scott explains, it was “held together with builder’s glue and screws,” a condition brought upon the car long before Mark got his hands on it. Not that it really bothered him, he just got on with the business of driving the pants off it.
Scott also got a taste of that action, and just had to have it, as he explains. “It was incredibly fast, but you looked at it and you were scared shitless.” A brotherly deal was struck, and the Datsun headed for greener pastures in the Waikato, but Scott wasn’t to fully realize exactly how rough it was until he took it to his first event on New Zealand soil at Hampton Downs, and discovered that parts were literally falling off. “The more I started looking at it, the more the list grew, it was fu*cking sketchy, to be honest. I decided to take it off the road and do everything at once. It was a bit embarrassing, as people see something and assume you built it.”
A very comprehensive rebuild began that would see the car stripped bare, and rebuilt from the ground up to right all those Aussie wrongs, including those embarrassing mods like the chequer-plate inserts. The extent of the work eventually saw a new car emerge from the ashes, but one which retained the spirit of the first, with many parts carried over.
Charlie Evans was tasked with building a new front end with tubular crossmember, new engine mounts, and rose-jointed suspension arms. The body itself was the coupé’s only saving grace, as it was pretty straight to begin with, but that also received the full treatment, and a fresh coat of yellow and white, a nod to the fact that Scott still sees the Datsun as his brother’s car.
Charlie Evans built a custom tubular crossmember and rose jointed the factory control arms and swaybar. The steering drag link has also been beefed up to help steering feel. It’s all the little modifications like this that really transform the 1970s-style sloppy-at-best handling
Halfway through the build, and as frustrations with local suppliers began to mount, a phone call was made to Green Brothers Racing, which became instrumental in the completion of the rebuild, but was also the bearer of bad news when it strapped the 13B turbo onto the dyno for the first time, and found it lacked that all-important compression on the rear rotor. Scott’s a silver lining type of cat, and he wasted no time in dropping the engine off to have Green Brothers work their magic.
Thankfully, the 13B had been a big-dollar build in Aussie, so most of the parts were in great nick and were able to be reused. With a new dose of porting, dowelling, balancing and clearancing, the motor was back in the hole and back on the dyno, where it made 254kW (340hp) on only 8psi. While this might not sound like much in the scale of modern power figures, Scott tells us that with no progressive boost control on board, even second gear is unusable on the track and will result in the rear slicks vaporizing instantly.
When the coupe arrived from Aussie it ran on tiny 215s, which did nothing but light up any time the loud pedal was touched. The car now runs 15×9-inch custom Arrow wheels with 245 Hoosier slicks
But for Scott that just adds to the fun, which is all he is really interested in: “I don’t have the time or money to run a competitive season or anything like that, it would just break me, so I’m happy to just get out and have a skid at track days and dual sprints”.
Mark had run the car in Aussie at his local dual sprints, where it was quite competitive, even taking home the championship, though we’re told it would smoke and steam after each run. Here in New Zealand the family continues the tradition, and is often found super sideways in the local dual sprints, running side by side with Dad’s 13B PP Ford Escort. “That’s real father and son bonding, if you ask me.”
And what does Mark think of his brother’s rebuild? “He loves it, but did call me a pussy for making it so damn nice. It really is a completely different vehicle.”
Currently Scott is juggling three projects, so the Datsun is gathering more dust than it is dirt, but that doesn’t mean it’s been forgotten and that the tweaking has stopped. “The idea with the build was to get it to a point where it was a solid base that ran. Over the years it will continue to evolve into a really fast little machine. At the moment I can just leave it in the corner and focus on building other cars.” With each trip to Green Brothers, the suspension geometry is tweaked, and the boys labour towards making the car work and putting the power down effectively.
Over the next few years we will likely see the Datsun develop into a white-knuckle machine capable of some respectable times, assuming Scott doesn’t just choose to smoke the
bags for the fun of it.
Either way, this little Aussie battler needs a passenger seat, quick-smart.
Age: Younger than he is old
Occupation: Sadly yes
Build time: Two years
Length of ownership: 8.5 years
Thanks: Morrinsville Auto Electrical, Chris and Richard Green at Green Brothers Racing, Nicole at DNA Hair Studio, Lachlan at A Street Custom
1973 Datsaun 1200 coupe
ENGINE: Mazda S5 13B, twin rotor, 1300cc
BLOCK: Stage two ported plates, extra dowels, balanced rotating assembly, modified oil system, baffled sump
INTAKE: S5 manifold, S5 throttle body, custom intercooler
EXHAUST: Three-inch exhaust, single rear muffler
TURBO: Garrett TO4E
WASTEGATE: Turbosmart Progate 48
FUEL: Bosch 044, Carter lift pump
IGNITION: Bosch coils, Magnecor leads
ECU: Microtech LT10s
COOLING: Alloy radiator, RX-4 oil cooler
EXTRA: GFB boost tap, deloomed, Jaz catch can
GEARBOX: FC RX-7, five-speed
CLUTCH: Heavy-duty Carbotic single plate
DIFF: Ford Falcon
STRUTS: (F) Koni shocks, (R) leaf sprung
BRAKES: (F) 300ZX calipers and rotors, (R) Ford Falcon calipers and rotors, A Street customs hydro handbrake
EXTRA: Tube crossmember, modified chassis
WHEELS: 15×8-inch Custom Arrow wheels
TYRES: 245/580R15 Hoosier slicks
ENHANCEMENTS: All factory
FUEL: 98 octane
This article originally appeared in NZ Peformance Car issue No. 250 — get your grubby mitts on a print copy by clicking the cover below