Monday, November 25, 2013

Racing with the Sun

Words and snaps by Ben

The story of this feature started quite a few months back, when I first saw this Datsun B310 on my way to work. It was only a few traffic lights away from my house when it pulled up next to me at the red light. 

It first caught my eye as, as I learnt later, this was the last remaining B310 on the island, but as I stared at it, I felt that there was something else to it. Something I believe motorheads will get, how you can see when a car is being well taken care of, and loved. Was it the way it sat, stopped at the light? The choice of wheels? I couldn't put my finger on it, but I knew from that moment that this car wasn't just a simple old car kept for memories' sake.

Then it drove off, and the sound of the exhaust convinced me that this car had a story to tell. Yet with the simple change of colour of a lamp, from red to green, this Sunny disappeared.

But it was not the end of it, for I saw it again, a few weeks after that, at the same traffic light. I saw it make a turn further down the road and tried to make a loop to intercept it at the other end of the road, but I never managed to find it. I made a promise, then, that the next time I would see it, I would hunt it down, even if it meant for me to be late at work.

For about 5 months, I stayed on the lookout for the Sunny everyday on my way to work, but there was no sign of it. Until it finally drove by, and I took it in chase to its destination, less than a kilometer away. So much for a wild goose chase, but all the better.

I think I must have freaked out Mr. Pang, the owner, as I trotted over to him, one hand out and a big smile on my face. He probably thought I was gonna ask for his kidney, and after a quick  introduction, I started questioning him further about his B310.

While he was rather cautious about his answers at first, he obviously judged that I wasn't after his internal organs and relaxed a bit. It's at this point that I saw that spark in his eyes. The spark that all motorheads have. "You want to see the engine?" he asked with a smirk. And I knew I was in for a great story.

I wasn't disappointed - Mr Pang was a late 60's early 70's man with gasoline running in his veins, and the works he did to his Sunny, were well planned and thought-out.

Under the hood, the A13 1,288cc engine (rumored to actually displace more than 1.3L) had received some special attention, and the first thing that caught my eye were the duo of Webber 45 DCOE carburetors. Not only did they look gorgeous, they also sounded awesome, as M. Pang gladly let me hear.

The rough, uneven idle revealed yet another mod done to the engine - Mr. Pang complemented his setup with a set of high cams. The powerplant, mated to a close ratio gearbox, delivered the power to the rear wheels through a 1.5 way LSD.

Mr. Pang estimated his works to bring the power rating to 160bhp which, for a car that tipped the scale at about 900kg, was a healthy amount of power!

Tackling the handling of the Sunny and giving it that subtle stance are Tein coilovers at the front, while the rear axle has lowered racing leaf springs.

Complementing both the handling and looks of this Sunny was a set of what seemed to be classic JDM wheels. In all honesty, I haven't been able to identify them, so if anyone knows, feel free to let me know in the comments!

Obviously, Mr. Pang knew what he was doing when building his car, and when I asked him why he chose the B310 wagon, his answer was one of a true motorhead: "To carry the tyres when going to the racetrack".

Indeed, Mr. Pang was a track enthusiast, and he shared with me the pictures of his heydays at the Pasir Gudang track, when he was racing his AE86 Levin track car, back in 1999.

One of the pics showed the car he missed the most: his track-prepped Datsun B110.

While Mr. Pang did not frequent the track much anymore, he continued to work on his B310, and his job as an industrial machine repairman gave him access to all the right tools to craft the parts he wanted. Among these was a new cylinder head, which he had ported and polished himself.

With this and the hand-build crankshaft he had also crafted (the original one had only one counterweight per piston), Mr. Pang expected the engine to rev higher, for more power and, of course, more fun. All the crankshaft needed was a little balancing, before being installed.

Inside, Mr. Pang kept things stock, with the original 1980's seats, trim and steering wheel.

The centre console was garnished with era-matching oil pressure and battery voltage set under the factory cassette player. Yes, you read well, cassette player! It didn't get more classic than this!

Behind the wheel was the most high-tech-looking piece of equipment inside this ride - an Air/Fuel ratio gauge, with a black marker notch to indicate the optimal level.

At the feet of the passenger seat was the last piece of motorsports hint of this Sunny: a fire extinguisher. Safety first!

If you saw the way he looked at his Datsun, you would know Mr. Pang loved and cherished it, and he shared with me his plans on getting it a new paint job next year. It is to note that he drives his B310 from Singapore all the way to Thailand once a year. A long, 7-8 hours trip north.

When I asked about the top speed he reached on the highway, he said that he usually cruised at 190km/h. The car can go faster, but the front lifts at 200km/h, so he sticks to controllable speeds.

Mr Pang was, to me, the epitome of the motorhead, a man that accumulated years of experience playing with cars, yet kept a young heart that can never stop modifying the ride he loved in the elusive quest for more power, and fun too, of course.

Sunny B310 wagon
1.3L A13
Drive Layout
Max Power
160bhp (estimated)

Oil pressure, battery voltage, Air/Fuel ratio

45 DCOE Webber Carburetor
High Cams
Drive Line
1.5 way LSD, Close Ratio Gearbox

Front: Tein Coilovers
Rear: Racing leaf springs (lowered)
Duro Performa HP1 195/45R15

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