Testing to the Max

The weather has been glorious since the Covid-19 lockdown began here, so I have been making the most of it by working outside on my property. Naturally, this means the cars haven’t received much attention, especially as there are no car events to go to and all but essential travel restricted. I have made a little bit of progress on the Fellow Max though.

Currently, from what I am told, the DVLA have a massive backlog of paperwork to deal with, so I think it’s unlikely I’ll be able to get the Max registered before the end of summer. Despite that disappointment, I have pressed on with making it roadworthy.

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Max Power

Aside from a handful of re-named UK market versions of the long lived Daihatsu Mira, I’ve never owned, what I’d consider to be, a proper kei car. While I enjoyed each tiny Daihatsu in turn, first an L200 Mira, then an L500 Cuore and now my L80 Domino, none have really been a proper kei spec as the European flavours always come equipped with a bigger engine… in the case of the Daihatsu, the ubiquitous 850cc ED-10 three pot. While having a bigger engine naturally has it’s advantages in terms of performance, it also steers the euro models away from the true essence of Kei Jidosha motoring. For these cars a sub 660cc engine is the limit, and back in the 70s that limit was just 360cc. And it’s these class limits in both terms of dimensions as well as engine capacity that give the Kei cars their special character.

So I decided the take the plunge back at the start of the year and get me a true, quirky slice of miniature motoring. After a long wait for the ship to creep halfway around the world, I finally have my very own diminutive motor, fresh from Japan. Not only do I now have a proper piece of Kei car history, but it’s also the model that always been my favourite, the Daihatsu Fellow Max Hardtop! It’s got a pillarless body and a two stoke 356cc two cylinder! I’m in love! Here’s a quick walk around. I’ll post some more details on this little gem soon…

Mini Max

Isn’t this just the cutest little car ever?! I have lusted after one of these miniscule pillarless coupes for a long time, but now finally I own one! Today, I braved the Covid-19 lockdown, to go and fetch my new car from the docks, having just arrived after a world tour aboard the M/V Figaro. It could be argued that travelling to the docks was a non essential journey, but with the shipping company charging £13 a day or more for storage, I’d argue otherwise. Besides, it can’t sit there clogging up the port for months and being right next to the sea, it would probably dissolve!

I bought 1973 Daihatsu Fellow Max Hardtop back at the beginning of January, after seeing it advertised on Goo. A garage in Fushimi-ku, Kyoto-shi was selling it. The price seemed reasonable and from the photos, it looked like it was in decent shape. Mileage, a very reasonable 69,000km. It’s always a risk buying blind from halfway around the world, but first impressions are favourable. Sure, it needs some work, but overall it’s a nice solid little car and is pretty much complete. Plus, being a tiny two stroke twin, it sounds hilarious! Due to that it got christened Bim-Bim…

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Yo Homy

Ok, so it’s a Caravan not a Homy… but that doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that it’s currently say outside my house! Yay! Yes, the E23 arrived in Southampton a few days ago and after a bit of paperwork and more wallet draining by Her Majesty’s Taxman, I was able to go and collect it from the docks. I am so happy to have got hold of one of these beauties before the prices climb out of my reach. The journey was uneventful, with my latest workhorse tow wagon, a 2005 Hyundai Terracan, not even breaking a sweat…

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Caravan of Love

I have been looking at Japanese classified ads and online Auctions recently for a van. Initially I was after a Datsun E20 Caravan or Homy, preferable a short body one with windows all round. It didn’t take long to realise that these stylish old vans go for a lot of money now, so I started looking at the next generation, the E23. I figured that these would be more common and therefor cheaper. Also, the later model would have the benefit of a decent OHC engine (I didn’t want a diesel) and 5 speed gearbox, plus the biggest bonus… power steering. I was right about them being cheaper, although there are a few stellar examples going for strong money. These are usually the top of the line SGL versions, which are plushly trimmed and well equipped as standard. Naturally, this is the version I wanted and after much hunting I came across the one pictured above. Wow, what a van! It was love at first sight. Enquiries were made, bank accounts examined and transactions agreed. In a few months time I’ll have a 1986 Caravan SGL, equipped with a Z20 petrol engine and a massive sunroof. I can’t wait to show you the funky brown interior on this!

Datsun 1600 SSS

510sss00

So, finally my French Datsun 1600 SSS is home and I can finally take a close look to see just how much work I have taken on. The answer is… rather a lot! The rear quarters and boot floor are particularly poor, as are the sills, and the interior is in terrible shape, although remarkably the dash top isn’t split! Fortunately, I have plenty of parts stashed away including lots of new panels, original carpet and seats. A European 510 SSS is a very rare car and so it’s going to be worth every effort to restore it. Thankfully all the important SSS parts are there and serviceable. Literally the only SSS part that needs replacement is the gear knob. Click through to take a look at the car as it currently stands…

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La cinq-cent dix: Part 3

510SSS_sss

Time for the next installment of my continental adventure. In part 2 I made it all the way to Polisot and bought a 510 SSS. Now, at 3am in the morning, I had recovered from a day and a half without sleep and hit the Autoroute again. This time headed west towards the Vendée, more specifically an area right on the edge of the Vendée and Deux-Sèvres, a bit south of Pouzauges where an old friend of mine lives. Only about about a 440km drive…

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La cinq-cent dix: Part 2

510SSS_flag

…And so continuing from yesterday’s post, I arrived in France! As I needed to be chez M. Martin as soon as possible, I elected to travel via péage (toll road) which adds a bit to the cost but simplifies navigation a little. The penalty for travel this way is that there is not much to see but I did take a few snaps along the way…

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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…

510SSS_leboncoin

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.

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