Zordmaker’s Datto Project
This Datto 1200 started life in August 1972 with a middle aged woman living in Rooty Hill west of Sydney. Originally an automatic, it was basically the classic lady’s car used for the weekly trip to the shops and the occasional long distance trip to her son’s place on the North Coast.
It came to my attention after I decided that my original Datto (which I had since 1985 and had undergone numerous complete rebuilds since - but that’s another story) was finally due for replacement after 12 years and around 400,000km in service.
The “new datto” (as it has become known) only had 83,000 miles on it, had been garaged all it’s life and had been resprayed once (from light blue to white). All the mechanicals were original and rust was almost non existent. It was snapped up in an instant!
Through 1997 it went through a slow process of rebuilds which included a new 2 pack spray job and general body repairs. When the “old datto” finally met it’s end in January 1998 (it was rolled after avoiding collision with a wayward motor cyclist) it was immediately stripped of all parts in preparation for the mechanical upgrade of the “new datto.”
This included a new (well, second hand) motor (an A12A Japanese import) and conversion to manual using the equipment salvaged from the old datto. Motor wise it was nothing outstanding and pretty much bog stock 120Y standard with the only under bonnet upgrades being electronic ignition and a bigger alternator.
The suspension and rear axle was also replaced as at the time I used the datto for work which meant it ran with heavy weight in the boot and back seat. Long ago I had upgraded the old datto with a Ute suspension Kit which raised the rear and made it far more drivable over Sydney’s bumpy and speed hump riddled road system.
A new Kmac front end was also added. All this was transferred overf to the new datto in 1998. All my dattos have run 120Y gear underneath for decades and use the ute diff and still use drums all round. The other unusual (for a datto) addition was the towbar. At the time I was required to regularly tow fairly heavy trailers full of sound equipment with the datto, the laden weight would often exceed the weight of the unladen car (p.s. the car never travelled unladen – it always had at least 400kg in it as well.) Heavy loads and non power assisted brakes is something I had become quite used to with both feet needed on the pedal on a regular basis to bring the whole thing to a stand.
In March 1998 the “new Datto” entered service and remained faithfully replacing the old one in “work service” until January 2000 when it met the end of it’s “old life” on a trip to Canberra. Charging up a particularly steep hill around the back of Bungendore with the motor at around 5k rpm in 3rd gear there was an almighty bang and then nothing.
It turns out that the car had been the victim of a batch of bodgy Sydney fuel, probably heavily mixed with Ethanol – a problem around Sydney at the time. The result was a sizeable crack in the inlet manifold. Try as I might, it was impossible to track down a replacement manifold anywhere in Australia as the bolt pattern on the A12A is very different. Wreckers only had the original style in stock. I was stuck, and needed a car fast for work.
Sealing it with “silicone sealer” got it working enough to get the thing home again where it was reluctantly put into storage up the back of the factory unit while I went madly hunting for a replacement vehicle. (This ended up being a Hilux dual cab ute which remains in service today alongside another newer one).
The Datto was since transferred to another factory unit when I moved units in 2002, and then transferred on trailer again in 2005 when I moved to a semi rural area north west of Sydney and the datto was stored right up the back of the shed and essentially “buried”. And here in January 2011 it’s finally come back out – 10 years later – and ready to start it’s next phase in life.
The Zordmaker Datto Project
The project about to be undertaken is a slow 1~2 year project with an estimated cost of around $25k. Basically this will be a “back to original condition” street legal project not intended for racing use.
First step will be a complete body rebuild, repair the right rear damage (caused by reversing into a tailgate loader at work back in 1999.. I donna wanna talk about it), replacing the right front guard (bent) and drivers’ door and hinges (cracked). I also need to replace some of the ill fitting door rubbers which were “rare spares” ones fitted as part of the rebuild in 1997 but have never really fit properly and prevent the rear doors (in particular) from closing properly. A new enamel 2 tone repait in Red and Blue and removal of the (no longer needed) towbar will complete the outside.
Inside, all seats (which thankfully are still in good mechanical condition) wil be re upholstered. The dash (likewise in very good condition) will be retained and just polished up. New moulded floor carpets will be needed as the old floor was merely painted black steel (in keeping with the work nature of it’s previous use). The roof is in good condition and only needs a polish and the door panels will probably be re upholstered to match the seats.
Next step will be a running gear rebuild with brakes, transmission and steering dismantled and fully overhauled. The datto will retain it’s current 13” wheels and rubber although I’ll be looking for something more suitable than the “blue” painted rims it currently has.
The A12A motor has been started and appears to still be in excellent shape after 10 years, remember it had only done about 50,000k in Japan before it was imported and only did another 25,000k here before it was mothballed so for a 75,000k original stock motor it’s really “just run in” and unless I want to bore it out or mess with the cams it should suffice for the time being.
I have sourced a replacement manifold direct from Japan and noted that there are also now two throat versions available which bolt directly on to this motor. The two throat option seems the best as it will be compatible with the radical step detailed below. Initially the completed car will be readied for the road and re-registered (as basically a stock standard datto) once this is all done.
Then comes the radical step. The fuel tank will be removed and the car converted to “LPG only” operation. It is planned to do this using two “donut” converters bolted to the top of the dual carby setup. Then comes a bigger exhaust to get it breathing plus a few other naturally aspirated goodies to see how much can be squeezed out of an A12 on LPG on the dyno.
Whilst the project doesn’t have a “ready date” as yet it certainly has a sizeable budget set aside for it and that should see some progress soon. At present I’m just rebuilding the existing carby to get the car running so it’s easy to move around the yard and on/off trailers to/from body shops etc over coming months.
I’m open to suggestions form all Datto 1200 enthusiasts regarding this project. In particular I’m keen on securing details on worthy parts suppliers and Sydney based shops who might be interested in some of the (particularly body) work.
Long live the Datto!