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[Datsun 1200 encyclopedia]

Ddgonzal's Sunny Truck

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Categories: Sunny Truck | Featured Cars

Friday June 20, 2008 I bought a Sunny Truck down in Los Angeles. At that time, as far as we knew there were five 1200 Utes in USA:

  • two South America-built LHD
  • three Japan-built LHD

They are becoming less rare every day smil49ca0afcd5ff3.gif

My Datsun 1200 Pickup
17121.jpgAlbum 17121 16599.jpgAlbum 16599

POST Ask a Question/Discuss/Project Thread


The Search

Sunday June 22, 2008: My quest for a Sunny Truck began almost five years ago in August 2003, about the day after I bought my 2-dr sedan smil49ca0afcd5bbb.gif.
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POST leosnake_2000 had told me about the ex-Nissan yellow/gold pickup that was for sale out of Arizona. That got me seriously planning to buy one... way back in December 2003. Unfortunately, we could not find the seller as his contact information had changed.
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I considered getting a ute from Japan or Australia, or even Costa Rica. The latter is probably a good way for Americans to buy. As we found out, the 1200 "camionetas" (little trucks) were built in a Nissan factory in Ecuador for some time. The price in Costa Rica is average but shipping is half the price compared to Japan. And if you are so inclined it could be driven up to the States on the Pan-America highway.

Anyways, after these five years of searching, researching, talking and dreaming, one finally came up for POST sale, out of Los Angeles. This was Jose's red Sunny Truck from South America.
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Jose's truck was reported to me as fair condition for a 35 year old vehicle, which means it had quite a few small dings and you might say could use a new paint. He was asking $6500 on craiglist in May 2008, which apparently did not sell because on eBay, June 2008 the same truck was offered, and the high bid was $2850 "reserve not met".

At this point I called G-speed again. They had shown a nice 1200 Sunny Truck from Japan at the October 2007 JCCS — America's Japanese Car show.
1510613281_ccb23756a9.jpg_z.jpgflicker click to view

G-Speedᴬᴿᶜᴴᴵⱽᴱ is an import/export business, specializing in 'Japanese engines', especially hot ones like SR20DET and CA18DET. They can get you a JDM car too. USA fans, ask for a pre-1985 Datsun so there are no USA registration hassles, and be ready to make a deposit. Ask for Kenji.

In the spring of 2008, G-Speed had told me "not for sale" as it was a good promotion for their business. But this time when I called they were willing to talk about selling. Within a couple of days we had made an agreement on the phone. I made arrangements to fly from Seattle to LA (distance: 965 miles), and called everyday to check on paperwork and other questions.

Yes, it made the 1,000 mile journey up to Seattle without any major problems. Although there were many minor mishaps along the way ...

Here's one along the drive home.
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ddgonzal's Sunny Truck with Mount Shasta in the background

Datsun Road Trip

What were the minor mishaps? A 1,000 mile (1600 km) journey is no light undertaking — unless you are driving a Datsun.

First, instead of the 19 hours I expected the drive to take, it was 23 hours ... too long for one person in one day ... but all pumped up by Datsun 1200 driving excitement somehow I did it.

So, the day before, on Friday, I drove it about three hours in LA, out to a friend's house, then hunting down air filters for the sidedrafts, and getting back to his house.

Those Solex/Mikunis ran flawlessly. What a wonderful sound dual sidedrafts make, something 1200rc has been telling about for years and now I hear it myself. I'm guessing this engine was either built in Japan (because of the Solex brand) or tuned by the 'experts'. It looks like a new A14 done with brand new carbs. They are jetted rich but run great. The idle is lopey, but smooths out as RPM climb — and "revs" hard as they say. On the deceleration it burbles and has little (good sounding) backfires. Like a race car.

POST Fandatstick There is nothing quite like the sound (music?) of sidedrafts burbling away.

So I put on the air filters, aired up the tires, top up the radiator, etc. get everything ready for the trip the next morning. I left at 5:30 am just after sunrise ... and the truck barely runs. I figured it was just because there was no choke cable — but anyways it ran when I floored it. So I get on the freeway and am doing the 65 mph (106 kph) no problems except it doesn't sound quite right. Unfortunately, even after it warms up it won't run part throttle, it backfires etc. It will idle but not well. But since it runs OK at 55-65, and great at 70 ... I just keep going.

Gasoline Credit Problem

The next problem is I have to stop for gasoline about every 200 miles. The little 10 gallon tank isn't very big when it's only getting about 20 or 25 mpg ... also I'm put in Premium (high octane) because I'm worried why it running lean and have no idea what kind of compression ratio this A14 has.

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On the Road: Wolf Creek, Oregon

On about the third gasoline fillup, my credit card wont' work at the pump for some mysterious reason. Oh well, I have a few dollars in cash.

Later, not even 1/2 way home, I have spent all my cash on gasoline, but it doesn't even fill the tank .... I eventually thought to VISA from my cell. They had stopped the card because of all the "unusual activity". Is it because of the $400 plane ticket? The thousands charged for the vehicle? (I charged the vehicle purchase) smil49ca0afcd5ff3.gif . No, they are worried about all the gasoline "fill-ups" that were charged that day. Anyways the phone call fixes that. (They also stopped the card once again on Sunday for the same thing).

Drivability Problems

Around noon I stop for lunch in Sacramento and lurch around town. But when I hit the freeway again it won't go over 50 mph... smil49ca0afcd69b3.gif

I stop again and finally figure out the rubber insulators between in the manifold and the sidedrafts are cracked. They look new, but but maybe it's just a flaw. Well I've got a bag of zip ties I bought to put the license plate on (American plate doesn't fit Japan plates holes smil49ca0afcd5ff3.gif . I pull up on the carbs and tie them up. Yep, it works well enough to get up to 70+ again. The faster I go the better it runs.

I had to keep stopping every few hours and tighten the zip ties ... it would get to running worse, tightening it would help.

Then it got bad and the zip ties didn't help ... I looked around a while and found two intake manifold bolts were loose. smil49ca0afcd66ba.gif I spend all my cash but it doesn't even fill the tank ...


Regarding the airleak, you're probably already onto it but the "O" ring type insulators between the carbs and manifold are a good bet (Either the metal type with rubber molded to them Or the plastic type with an "O" ring on each side.)

I put some RTV silicone on the outside as a "road fix" (bush fix) but it didn't seem to help. Time to just unbolt it and see what's up.

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Road Repair: Zip ties and silicone sealer

Not A Problem

After I got home POST I discovered:

  • the alternator main wire was not bolted on, just sitting there somehow it still worked
  • Heater hose wasn't fastened (clamp was 100% loose!!!). After about three weeks it started dripping water onto the driver's floor
  • the tailgate is FRP, actually looks like ABS but in any case it is plastic
  • those late-sunny truck disc brakes sure are small, the look to be smaller than B110 coupe rotors. But surely they must be just as big? smil49ca0afcd90b5.gif

All in all, as good as I expected. No regrets in buying this 1200 Pickup.

Not Overheating

California is known as a "Hot Land" and August is the hottest. In the early morning I had both Air Conditioners rolled down, and the center air control on high (just like a 1200 sedan) smil49ca0afcd5bbb.gif.

Once I got over the Grapevine mountain pass heading out of LA (even at 6am, there were already three cars overheated on the Grapevine. The little Datsun passed 'em like they were standing still which come to think of it, they were ...) ...

In the central valley, it was so hot it was almost cooler to roll the windows back up. it was so hot when I stuck my arm out the window it felt like a blast furnace. When I got to Sacramento for the next three hours or so it was around 100% humidity occassionally raindrops fell on the windshield but it never actually rained. Temp was only 97 degrees ... but with the humidity I was chugging bottled water all day. The water in the bottle eventually got up to about 90 degrees hot, but I kept drinking it.

Muffler Bolts

Here's another Road Fix. The muffler nut fell off and banged around on the shock, on the driveshaft, etc. I had those zip ties I bought to fix the license plate with.

My first two attempts with Zips, the muffler fell off again the next time I stopped. After three tries with the Zip Ties, I got a semi-temporary fix. It only rubbed against the driveshaft sometimes ...smil49ca0afcd5ff3.gif

16569.jpgAlbum 16569

Initial Plans

POST Ask a Question/Discuss this Project 1200:

what are your plans dd...are you going to do anything to it like a respray, bigger engine???

23 June 2008: The A14 is surprisingly powerful, so let's see how it goes. The company I bought it from had all these CA18DETS, RB sixes, SR20s, etc. sitting there for sale ... it was tempting for a guy with a credit card, but I successfully resisted.

My plans are to change the loud muffler for a more quiet one (my ears are still ringing). And I suppose I should take all the company stickers off the car but they cool in their own way. The blue metallic paint is flawless and there are no dings in the body. It is show-quality.

It really doesn't need much done to it, just minor stuff. I'd like a bench seat but I guess only South Africa 1200 bakkies got those.

And fix the speedo and add a tachometer. It was kind of a pain driving for 20+ hours and having no idea what speed I was actually doing ... Sounds like it was running about 4000 rpm mostly. If it wasn't before, it will be 'broken in' now. Maybe I should re-torque the head bolts and adjust the valves smil49ca0afcd90b5.gif

And hook up the temperature gauge. It was kind of unnerving not knowing if the engine was overheating. But after a few hours I stopped worrying about that. smil49ca0afcd69b3.gif

POST wolki101: i'd definitely be taking those stickers off pretty quick, you'd hate to have the paint fade around them.

Wheels and Tires

I'm not crazy about the red centers, but the wheels are nice. The tires are great.

Wheels: MK-2 by Speed Star Co., Ltd
Front: 14x7 with 0 offset with Advan 175/60R14 tires
16549.jpgAlbum 16549

Rear: 14x8 with 0 offset (fenders are flared about 1")
with Advan 195/60R14 tires
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POST converted: i dunno..its a bit japanese boy-racer look DD.

You see utes done like this regularly in japan..

Oh no, you have burst my bubble. But I think so too. And you haven't even seen the honduh muffler, but you've seen it on dozens of other Japan 1200s.

If I paint the wheel centers black and remove the stickers, it should look more low key... smil49ca0afcd69b3.gif
Or color match the wheel centers blue?

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Stretched Tires

18664.jpgAlbum 18664 18662.jpgAlbum 18662


  • 17mm Anti-sway bar (stock size)
  • Flipped rear leaf spring
  • Coilover front struts (though doesn't appear to be lowered)
  • Late model disc brakes


Engine is A14 with +2.5 mm pistons (78.5mm). 1491cc total (larger capacity than an A15 which is only 1488cc).

H89 closed chamber A14/A15 cylinder head.

Twin Carburetors

They are 40mm (PH40). Says "Solex Mikuni" on the tops of the carbs. Every Japanese classified advertisement says "Solex" I guess they are the most popular over there. Well, Mikuni was the Nissan Competition brand so it must be OK.

16537.jpgAlbum 16537

Being that this is a Right-Hand-Drive (RHD) Datsun 1200, the twin sidedrafts fit. They will fit an LHD but because the brake master cylinder is right there there is no way the air cleaners would fit.

While we are on the subject, for a LHD 1200, you could move the Master Cylinders. For some very general information see:

RHD Sunny Truck/ute/bakkie has a clutch cable, so no clutch cylinder is needed. LHD 1200 pickups I expect will have a clutch cylinder system.

Shifter Fixing

So the shifter is just flopping around, can't shift too well. It also has a "Razo" shift knob which doesn't fit and falls off all the time.

Solution: genuine Datsun B310 shift knob with correct 4-speed pattern diagram:
16630.jpgAlbum 16630

As expected, the shifter pivot bushings had disintegrated. I fitted used ones in there. Now the shifter feels like it should.

I used this cleaner named "Goof-Off" to clean up the 28-year old shift knob. Now it looks almost new again. Goof-Off cleans all kinds of gunk.

Carburetors Fixed

When I bought it, it ran great. But while driving it home the next day, it ran poorly. It took me about three weeks to think of the solution.

7 July 2008: Got it fixed. She was running lean. The 'cough' (backfire through the carburetor) now only happens with engine cold, no choke — it's exactly the same symptoms. But now with the chamber vented, no problems after she's warmed up.

The problem was the air filters. I neglected to notice the Mikunis have the air jet/float chamber vents in a different place than the Webers (the air filters are for Webers).

A couple of holes drilled in the right places and she's running like new!

16688.jpgAlbum 16688
Air Vents

Tachometer Fitted

7 July 2008: Added a Datsun 620 pickup tachometer. It matches the newer 1200 dash.

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The newer wiring harness didn't seem to have the tacho/coil loop wire, so I ran a single wire in from the coil — the 620 taco looks like the PB110 gauge. It uses a single neg trigger wire (unlike B110 tachometer). All the other wires ran to the back of the gauge cluster (lights, IGN and ground).
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One annoying thing that caused confusion: the 1200 dash wiring connector (big round connector) doesn't have a ground wire! So unless you actually bolt in the dash cluster, the lights and things don't work right (turn signal lights get stuck on, etc). So I added an extra wire from the cluster to the dash frame. Then it works for testing even if not securely bolted in.

Stickers & Decals

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Well I should have taken your advise ... I tested some of the small stickers and they came off so easy on a hot day.

But when only the biggest remained, they are of a different type, and I pulled some of the paint off:
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Now there's a missing spot of paint about the size of a ping-pong ball on each door. I don't know what to do about it. And now I'll have to get an expert to remove the last one (on the bonnet).


Momo steering wheel
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The wheel is not just for looks, it is flattened on the bottom to allow more room to maneuver into the driver's seat.

POST 21 March 2009: Got original seats back in the Pickup:
19288.jpgAlbum 19288

Traded the red Bride seats for stock 1200 Coupe seats. Good factory seats are rare, difficult to find in USA.

Quiet Exhaust

Another pic of the muffler. I had the large muffler added, you can see it back there.
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Dual Mufflers

It sounded exceptionally great with the little stainless straight-through muffler. But exceptionally, painfully loud. It is simply a glass-pack design. Looking in the pipe, you can see the (fibre)glass insulation around the perforated interior of the pipe.

August 2008: With the large "V8" muffler in the middle it doesn't sound the same at all. Now it has a fairly quiet idle, and loud at speed. The "greatness" quality is gone. Still sounds good though.

Show Time

POST 24 August 2008: I love this 1200, took it to the Blue Lake Nissan-Datsun show a couple of weeks ago:

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Blue Lake: Won "Best 1200" and "Truck 2nd Place" awards

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The blue convertible truck won "Truck 1st Place" trophy


When I bought the Sunny Truck it was fitted with a Coupe Grille with a black mesh center:
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It looked great!
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But I wanted a stock look, so after a year I fitted standard early ute stainless grille:
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I'm tempted to change it back. I think it looks more 'vintage' with the stainless grille, and more 'modern' with the blackout grille.


It came with racing red buckets
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They had good clearance with the steering wheel, but hard to get in and out of.

Changed to Coupe Seats to get more room side to side:
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Then changed to Sedan seats:

* Change water pump

Photo Index


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