Welcome to Project Starletabusa!
By Alex Vendler
This project really got off the ground in reverse order and perhaps that's why it's going to be great. When Dave Coleman suggested that I start writing some project articles about the build up of what will hopefully be a really fun street and track whip I was deep in a world of inhaled toxic fumes and thusly wasn't able to document what I was doing at the time. The fumes have dissipated and now comes a bit of show and tell.
OK let's back up for a moment. It all started with really bad jet lag. I went on a trip to Italy a couple of years back and for some reason just could not shake the lag. I got nearly no sleep for over 2 weeks and while I wandered the streets of some Tuscan town or another at 3 a.m. Tuscan time, I came up with a seriously idiotic and simultaneously brilliant idea. Wait, let me back up again. You see I had been playing house with a motorcycle engine powered race car for some time by then and was becoming obsessed with the possibility of making a B.E.C. that could actually do more than terrorize a race track. Everyone knew that the issue was the bike transmission is really unfriendly for car use and suddenly it struck me. Don't use a bike transmission! These are the actual drawings I made back then:
As one may or may not be able to tell from these chicken scratches, the original idea was to produce a part that would plug into the existing clutch basket in the motorcycle engine and have a flange for a car flywheel on that. Thing is, I had no capacity to design or produce such parts. So I got some help from the likes of Mr. Coleman as well as super machinist, engineer, and Angry Hamster creator, Tim Taylor. This is all well covered in the Miatabusa articles to say the least. Ultimately we pooled our time and resources in the hopes that our efforts would yield at least enough adaptors that we could each build some mad-capped ride for ourselves, and perhaps sell parts to other brain damaged individuals as well.
So now that the dream of a super lightweight, yet powerful engine that can be afforded by the likes of this guy has become a reality, what car should I plug this hot mess into? Good question. Great question! When it comes to a personal use, fun only, hot rod, every person has their ideas of key features their fantastical machine needs to possess. Mine went a bit like this:
- Will work with Miatabusa driveline (north south RWD)
- Under 2,000 lbs ready to run.
- Rear wheel drive.
- Hard top.
- Somewhat unusual or vintage.
- Has a place for my dog to sit that's not the front seat.
My first solution to this list of prerequisites was the nifty early '70's street fighter, the Datsun 1200. Cute, super lightweight, simple, sturdy, and rear wheel drive, the little brother to the 510 seemed like the way to go. Until I started looking for one. Those suckers are rare and when you find one it's most often in horrendous condition, overpriced, or both. Another major issue was that the super simple suspension (leaf springs in the back) would need to be seriously re-engineered to get the car halfway into the modern world. Still not afraid of these stumbling blocks I kept at it. Speaking of stumbling, it was during this Datsun search that I tripped over this car on the local Craigslist:
All checkboxes checked!! And less than a 15 minutes drive from my house to boot. Hell to the yeah! Well so one would think anyway…