La cinq-cent dix: Part 1

Exactly one week ago, whilst sat in front of my computer enjoying a lovely cup of tea, I thought I’d have a casual browse of the marvelous French classified ad website, Leboncoin. There’s always interesting cars for sale on Leboncoin, even the occasional Datsun, although those are usually limited to models which are often not terribly desirable to me. However this time  an audible ‘mon dieu!‘ was uttered when the first thing I saw was this…


Now, I have been fiddling around with Datsuns for a pretty long time, and this has to be the first time I have ever seen a European spec Datsun 1600 SSS for sale. The legendary 510 SSS. I can’t imagine that many were sold in Europe at all! For me this model is the Holy Grail of 510’s (even more so than a Coupe), and one which I had never honestly expected to see let, alone have the opportunity to acquire. I had to buy it!…

I have been trying to learn a bit of French for the last year, but I’m a very long way from being able to communicate, as I’m still very much at beginner level. Regardless, this really had to be done, so using what little I had learned, along with some Google translate assistance, I fired off an email asking the seller if he had a Carte Gris (the French registration document), if it was more or less complete and whether he could email me some more pictures. I did make a point of stating that French wasn’t my first language (although I’m sure he could have figured that out!) but avoided trying to communicate in English as feel that’s a bit rude.

I’d had no reply by bedtime but by 8am the following morning the vendor had furnished me with some info (en français, naturellement) as well as another five pictures. Glory be! The 510 looked rather rough but seemed to be complete. At this stage, there wasn’t any easy way to tell if it was a real SSS but I had a gut feeling it was. As M. Martin had told me “elle n’a pas roulé depuis 1980″, I’m thinking who on earth would have bothered converting a regular 510 into an SSS look-alike back then? Not much cachet in having an SSS in 1980. Or even in having a Datsun at all, especially in France. It did have all the right bits too from what I could see… steering wheel, tacho, emblems, engine etc.

I figured that it was probably worth the money, even if it wasn’t a genuine SSS, so I messaged him back to say I would definitely buy it at the asking price and when could I come and get it? Simple non?… apart from the writing and speaking French bit. This was becoming a little daunting, as by now I figured I was dealing with a chap who maybe spoke no English at all, but not to worry… how hard could it be? Also, I wasn’t about to start haggling, as I figured the price was perfectly reasonable and by agreeing to that price I might be able to put a stop to anyone else snagging it before I could get there.

Now at this point, it was good Friday, I had no Euros, no trailer and nothing to tow it with. My trusty M10 Prairie, my only tow car, is in bits with no front suspension or steering. Although I’d not heard back from M. Martin, I figured I needed to get ready just in case I had to leave at short notice. First of all a trailer was sourced from a friend of a friend in my village. A lovely little Brian James, perfect for small cars and for not being hauled in by the cops for looking dodgy. Next, I needed a tow car. I have use of my girlfriends Alfa Romeo 156 Sportwagen, which is equipped with a towbar, but only on a 3rd party entitlement on my policy. I wasn’t sure if that’s even valid on the continent but regardless, I didn’t fancy my chances of an aggravation free trip should I get stopped by the French cops or worse still if I had an accident. And of course it’s an Alfa… I really didn’t fancy breaking down!

I really needed to get the Prairie sorted, especially as I was going to need sleeping accomodation at some point in France, so it was off out into the workshop to finish installing the power steering I’d sourced from a scrap one and rebuild the front end with new wheel bearings and brakes. I hate doing major work like this immediately before hitting the road un-tested for a long trip, but this was an emergency, so I figured it was worth the risk.


By about 8.30 pm the the Prairie was done and had been taken for a test run round the block a couple of times… the first one without any coolant after I forgot to re-fill it after putting the hoses back on (doh!). No harm done thankfully. Then I got the final word from M. Martin, the seller. The deal was on! He’d furnished me with his address and wished me “Bonne Route“. Trailer hooked up, sorted out tools, straps, continental driving kit, paperwork, map of France and Sat Nav. After managing to shut my hand in the sliding door of the Prairie, I nursed the pain away while downing a quick cup of strong caffeine, then pointed the Prairie at Dover and hit the road. At midnight.

My ever helpful girlfriend had got to the ATM and sourced me some cash during the day on Friday. I pulled some more out of a cashpoint in Dover and turned it into Euros at the Bureau de Change in Dover at 6am. I just missed one boat to Calais so ended up on the 6:40am sailing, having paid a bit of a premium for taking a later sailing, but it didn’t matter… buying a 510 SSS mattered and the clock was ticking…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s