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.

8 thoughts on “Retro Rally Sunny

  1. HoTWire says:

    This is such a great car, I’m glad it lives in the UK. Makes me re-consider preping my 310 for hillclimbing, but I’m not sure I can put up with people telling me I’ve “ruined” it. Has Phil had much stick?

    I’m not sure I’ve seen Phil’s B310 actually, is it a saloon or coupe?

    Interesting point about the rear firewall, I’ve noticed a few of the TS-cup cars have this as well, or some really meaty rear bracing.

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  2. RatDat says:

    I doubt it, rallying is a different world. Although the car is well known in rally circles most folks outside of rallying will not ever have seen it. Most Datsun people, myself included wouldn’t dream of using Ford parts in our cars but Rallying is different …it’s more about functionality than show. A lot of rally cars are hybrids in this way and to be honest even back in the 70’s many Datsuns used in rallying would have used Ford parts due to the lack of performance Nissan stuff.

    When Phil originally said he was going to build the 1200 I did try to persuade him otherwise as I was concerned about the lack of parts for these cars but I eventually came round and actually ended up supplying him with panels etc to build it with. It was a brave move to build it really.

    His old B310 is still doing the rounds. It’s a four door that has been converted to a two door. It’s been a rally car for many years. Not sure who owns it now.

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  3. HoTWire says:

    Brave is definatly the word. The fact he has managed to build a great A-series engine is testament to his dedication to getting the Sunny out there.

    What sort of condition was the 1200 in when he got it?

    I’ve seen a picture of a rallying B310 saloon which I think was in the UK, so I’m guessing its his old one in that case.

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  4. RatDat says:

    The 1293 engine that he originally ran was quite trick. That had titanium con rods in it!
    The 1200 wasn’t really rough but had rust in all the usual 1200 places.

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  5. retyredrallyist says:

    This is a lovely car! I would love a set of those arches!!
    Any idea where I could try for a set.
    Again great work, very envious!

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  6. RatDat says:

    I am having a set of moulds made to create some extra sets right now. I don’t have a price yet but should do shortly. I only passed on the originals to the guy this weekend so it’ll be a few days before I know a cost for them. I will post something up about it soon as I know.

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  7. retyredrallyist says:

    Thanks Ratdat, I wait with much anticapation, my email is strategic_alliance@bigpond.com if you could let me know the outcome that would be great. regards R

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  8. BLT says:

    I am now the owner of Phil’s old B310 which can be seen competing regularly in the Scottish Tarmac Rally Championship. Unfortunately the Datsun A-Series that was in when I bought it was pretty tired so it was sold back to Phil last year. It now runs with a tuned Toyota 4EFE (1332cc). I would ideally like to get hold of one of those 200bhp 1600cc Pulsar engines that they use in Japan, but I have never seen any for sale over here…
    If anyone is interested the car will be running at Crail on the 14th & 15th of June and I am always on the lookout for service crew……

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