The 1966 Datsun Sports From Japanese Classics: The Cleanest Fairlady Retro Build There Is


The SEMA 2019 show brought a tremendous surprise for fans of the JDM culture in the Fortune Auto booth, a project that, at the time, took about a year to be finished. Of course, we are talking about their unique 1966 Datsun Sports 1600 bespoke build, also called the Fairlady.

The base vehicle was in the hands of Chris Bishop, the proud owner of Japanese Classics, for 12 years already, so it was an excellent platform to build upon. For Chris, the most significant aspect of this build was to “maintain a 60’s feel with the car, just modernized in all the right ways.”

For instance, this meant that the engine could not have turbochargers, as there was no such thing in the 1960s, so he decided to keep the car naturally aspirated. Another aspect that weighed a lot in Bishop’s mind was reliability. He wanted this bespoke build to be able to be used every day without any issues. “I wanted to build a car that would start without hesitation, every time. I also didn’t want to burden the car with a standalone [ECU] and have to tune and tweak constantly.”

All things considered, the powerplant of choice for this 1966 Datsun Sports resto-mod was the Autech S15 SR20DE engine, which made sufficient horsepower in its naturally-aspirated form and could be successfully controlled by an OEM engine management system. They equipped the Autech SR unit with a Freed Engineering intake and a custom stainless header and exhaust system, which, believe it or not, terminated with a motorcycle muffler from Yoshimura.

The final power figure sits around the 200 hp mark, which is more than enough for this sports roadster to provide exciting drives if the one behind the wheel so wishes. Not least, how the engine bay presents itself was not overlooked. For example, over 40 hours were invested in the valve cover alone. Those hours of painstaking labor include cutting the original S15 cover in half and mating its front half to an S13 valve cover’s rear half for a one-off look.

The general appearance of the vehicle is one of a vintage racing car. Nonetheless, major efforts have been put to also become as refined as possible, maybe even mistaken for a production car by the untrained eye. The Japanese Classics Datsun roadster features significantly sharpened fender flairs, a lowered front fascia. Furthermore, chrome elements like the front grille, the bezels surrounding the head- and taillights complement the machine’s elegant design, giving off an OEM vibe as well.

The cherry on top, you may ask? Well, there is just a single yellow headlight, making it an unmistakable presence on the road. It perfectly blends with the paint job, the vehicle being finished in Japanese Classics’ own custom blend of green. The Work Wheels Equip 40 that are used in this build are Bishop’s favorites, finishing off the vehicle superbly. They maintain the car’s vintage racing appeal while still performing admirably on the street.

Maybe one of the most troublesome aspects of the vehicle’s exterior is the ultra-low windshield. It was integral to the 60’s racecar feel the team wanted to accomplish so, a lot of thought was put into its design. The low screen does look good but, it certainly feels terrible when driving at speed. Fortunately, it features a modular design, being very easily interchangeable with the OEM unit. Additionally, a hardtop can also be bolted onto the car, making it usable in any weather.

The interior cabin is a delightful place to spend time in. The door cards have been rewrapped in fine leather upholstery, and the race bucket seats have been completely fabricated from scratch, with inspiration taken from the ’80s-era Nismo seats. The dash gauges are stock but have been restored by the guys at Global Tech Instruments, who also installed modern electronics inside them to interface properly with the new SR20DE powerplant.

This one-off project is the pride and joy of Japanese Classics and, it deserved to be praised for what it represents. The result of great passion for the JDM community, hard work, and dedication to obtain the best result possible, this 1966 Datsun Sports 1600 may very well be the most impressive and clean retro build ever manufactured on this platform.