In the early 1970s Trans-Am racing was a big deal, even among the small sedan makers, like Datsun, which is what Nissan was known as in the U.S. at that time.
A lot of folks will think of the pony or muscle car racers, the Mustangs, Camaros and Cudas, but Alfa Romeo was big in the under 2.0-liter (U-2) class and Datsun dominated the class in 1971 and ’72 when it had become the Trans-Am 2.5 Challenge.
Cars were simply modified street cars, but Datsun put a lot of cash into the class sponsoring Brock Racing Enterprises (BRE) headed by Pete Brock, a noted sports car designer. The red, white and blue BRE Datsun 510’s soon became synonymous with success. Now TSM Models comes out with a high-value 1/18 scale version, available through Replicarz.
Brock’s small team of racers and mechanics won six of the 10 races in 1971 and driver John Morton was the Trans-Am 2.5 champion, although in somewhat odd fashion, not that Morton and the Datsun weren’t dominant in most races. He set many fast laps and was often on the pole.
But in the final race Morton finished second after a late pit stop to refuel. Meanwhile his main competitor all season, Horst Kwech in an Alfa Romeo, went on to win. However, Kwech’s car had an oversized fuel tank, which allowed him to not pit and win. The winner was later disqualified and Morton declared the winner. That swing in points made Morton the champ.
The next year he came back to dominate the series and that domination led to the end of Trans-Am as competitors lost interest, factory support of other teams went away, the energy crisis was starting and the SCCA was accused of mismanaging the series.
The 510 itself was a great little rear-drive sedan that ended up selling 400,000 units. It was boxy, sort of like the BMW 2002, and had independent suspension, so handled better than many small cars of the day. A street version sold for just less than $2,000.
The BRE race version had a special close-ratio 5-speed manual transmission and its carbureted I4 engine made about 150 horsepower. To cut weight, the hood and trunk were made of fiberglass. There were disc brakes up front and drums in back and the car ran on 13-inch tires.
The BRE Datsun racing team presented a colorful red, white and blue livery that TSM recreates accurately with the black on white No. 46 emblazoned on the roof and sides and a white number on the hood. For those fond of the former Datsun name, it appears front and rear, plus both sides, the hood and roof.
This is cast resin with a sealed body, so no engine, but plenty of heft as resin models sometimes weigh even more than die-cast metal. The cube-like 510’s lines are well reproduced and there are inset metal door handles along with chrome front and rear bumpers in what looks pretty much like a stock car to the naked eye.
But TSM also includes photo-etched hood and trunk latches with safety wire, a black plastic fuel filler nozzle with safety wire sticking from the trunk and a giant yellow exhaust pipe poking from under the thin rear bumper. There’s PE window trim, black safety bands on the rear window and tabs on the windshield, black plastic wipers and smoked chrome 4-spoke racing wheels housing thick Goodyear racing slicks. The wheels don’t turn freely, so the model will not roll, but you can turn the wheels to make sure all the Goodyear logos are not in exactly the same spot for display purposes.
The nose is spiffy with red headlight covers, the driver’s side lights featuring Champion and Lee Filters logos. Below is a slick red and white chin spoiler with BRE markings. There are SCCA and Trans-Am stickers on both rear side windows and Valvoline, Goodyear and Champion logos on the rear quarter panel.
Inside is one black racing seat with red Simpson seatbelts, a 3-spoke racing steering wheel and a black dash with five gauges visible. A tall straight shifter pokes from the console and a black roll cage is visible. Looking inside is easy because both front side windows are open.
Again, this is sealed body, so no engine or opening doors, hood, etc., which accounts for its reasonable price for an attractive 1/18 scale racer.
The Model: 1971 BRE Datsun 510, John Morton driver
Maker: TSM Models
Stock No.: 140800