Phil Morton’s Datsun 1200 (Sunny) coupe is pretty unique in British rallying. Not many people would have chosen such a rare car with which to attack the forest stages, for fear of unobtainable parts, but having previously campaigned a Datsun Sunny (B310), there was a good deal of logic in the choice for Phil. Running the B310 had left him with a nice hoard of performance goodies for the Datsun A series engine. Also, the suspension set-up of the B310, which was pretty much tried and tested, could be re-worked into the B110 fairly easily. The big advantage of the B110 of course,was its minimal kerb weight, which ensures a very healthy power to weight ratio, even with a relatively small displacement engine. The other, not so obvious bonus of running such an unusual car, is the extra publicity it generates. People always love a giant killer and running a small stylish little coupe like this is sure to grab peoples attention, which in turn means the potential for more sponsorship…
Work on the car started with it being stripped down to the bare shell, which was then painstakingly seam welded and modified to take a fully rose jointed four link rear axle conversion, designed for an Escort. The weedy stock rear axle was replaced with a stronger Ford unit complete with a 5.1:1 ratio limited slip differential. The lateral location of the rear axle was taken care of by a watts linkage sourced from a Rover SD1. The transmission tunnel was chopped out and a larger one welded in its place to accommodate the Getrag gearbox. The rear floor was raised over the differential to allow for plenty of suspension travel. To go with the newly four linked rear end, turrets were welded into the rear to mount adjustable Bilstien heavy duty rear coil-overs. Whilst the stock B110 coupe body shell has a boot lid rather than a tailgate like many small coupes, it still lacks any kind of rear bulkhead. So to increase the rigidity of the body and create a firewall between the cockpit and the boot mounted alloy fuel tank, a steel bulkhead was fabricated. Finally, an extensive roll cage was constructed, starting with a modified Safety Devices cage from an Escort. This then had extra bars and bracing added to bring it up to the standard required for stage rallying.
The aging body also needed more than its fair share of rust repair, all of which was carried out very thoroughly, before finally fitting the body up with new outer panels. The wheel arches were cut out and raised before adding works style, bolt on fibreglass flares to accommodate larger wheel and tyre combinations. The completed body was then painted inside, outside and underneath in red and finished off with its distinctive white stripes.
Once the new rear suspension was completed the front was tackled by fitting some custom built, adjustable Leda struts, based on Nissan 240RS items. These were mounted with spherical top mounts and adjustable, rose jointed lower control arms. Steering duties were taken care of with a clever rack and pinion conversion, which utilises a Talbot Horizon rack. The rack and cross-member had previously seen service with long time Datsun rally driver, Ralph Lockey, so it was a tried and tested set-up. Brakes were taken care of up front by a combination of AP four pot calipers, along with Nissan Serena vented discs. On the rear there are discs and calipers from a Ford Sierra, and the whole lot is controlled by an adjustable bias pedal box. Stainless braided brake hoses were fitted all round and a vertical hydraulic handbrake assembly replaced the stock setup.
Power comes from a modified A14 (1397cc) engine, which is fitted with a Janspeed big valve cylinder head and a Kent rally camshaft. A heavy duty oil pump takes care of the lubrication, with a rare large capacity winged alloy sump providing plenty of extra oil capacity. The engine is fed via a set of 40 DCOE side-draught carburettors and a Nismo four branch (4 into 1) manifold takes care of the exhaust gasses. Finding a better transmission to suit an A series is always tricky, especially with 5 speeds gearboxes for them being so rare. Phil came up with a unique solution by making a custom bell-housing from and old A series gearbox casing, which allowed fitment of an ultra strong Getrag gearbox. This has closely spaced ratios as well as a direct drive 5th gear.
The inside of looks very business like and is dominated by the cage and a pair of full rally spec kevlar Corbeau big wing seats, equipped with three inch harnesses. Safety in the event of an accident is a major concern, especially in a car as small as this.