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white_averson New Reader
6/1/22 10:27 a.m.

Hey all, I've been sitting back and watching since my last "build thread." I had the '81 Rabbit Pickup and I unfortunately let frustration and lack of funds push me to sell it. It sold so fast I didn't even get a chance to consider my choices. Like the morning after I listed it, it was gone. To add insult to injury, I was financially able to take on a project fairly soon afterwards. That led to my fully embracing the automotive ADD. My search for winter rig turned into buying a '76 C20 crew cab that I drove threw the winter. In the end, the Chevy really wasn't for me and I had too much money tied up in it (this seems to be a theme). I did manage to sell it for a profit though. And, after putting have of the cash from the sale in savings, my search for the next project ended with this.

That's my cousin's Duramax towing home a 1963 Datsun 320. Making the story fairly short, I was looking for a small truck. I was thinking a Nissan Hardbody or Mitsubishi Mighty Max but wasn't having much luck finding the one I wanted. So, out of curiosity, I checked the classifieds on the Ratsun forums. This beauty was the only truck in New England. In fact, it was 30 minutes from home. I had to go look at it. And, because I'm not real smart, I bought it.

Now, the truck. Its very clean. At least for my low, New England car standards. The previous owner did a "frame off restoration" and the frame is painted and the body undercoated.

As you might be able to tell, there's always more to the story. In this case, I bought a half-finished project. The good news is it has a supposedly rebuilt engine, that reupholstered bench seat, and fresh brakes, among other things. The bad news is it needs fuel plumbing, brake plumbing, clutch plumbing, coolant plumbing, shocks, and a very thorough bolt check. The big challenge for me is that the wiring needs to be finished. Overall, that's not much compared to most projects but we will see if I am capable of putting it all together. I'll likely need some advice along the way. I will likely post this in the 320 section of the Ratsun forums also as there will be some other owners with specific knowledge of these tiny trucks.

Now, for what I've done so far. Not much. Mostly wrapping my head around what's needed and identifying all those parts in the bed. To start, does anyone have any idea what this might be?

Next, the biggest question for me on the wiring is the alternator. Does anyone know what this alternator is and if or how it could be wired to this Ford alternator regulator?

This is connector on the back of the alternator.

And the Ford regulator.

Any help with the wiring on that is appreciated.

Finally, things I've actually done. I'm waiting on a few things I've ordered to work on actually getting a first start on the engine. So the first thing I did was finish plumbing the brakes. They are now all connected and I wanted to get some brake fluid in the system. The previous owner claimed these were rebuilt?

Lots of crystallized brake fluid. I cleaned the brake master best I could and filled it with fluid. A couple pumps of the brake pedal showed that is was taking fluid so hopefully I can get those bled soon.

Otherwise, I've got the cab mounts all in but not tight and disassembled the clutch slave cylinder as it was pretty seized up. I didn't get pictures of that. Hopefully I can get the slave rebuilt and find a hose between it and the hard line. Then the clutch and brakes should be good to go?

More updates soon hopefully.

NOT A TA UltraDork
6/1/22 11:42 a.m.

Cool truck! Windshield wiper motor?

white_averson New Reader
6/1/22 11:48 a.m.

In reply to NOT A TA :

Maybe a part for it? If you look in the engine bay photo the windshield wiper motor is on the passenger side.

RoddyMac17 Reader
6/1/22 12:01 p.m.

It looks like a headlamp dip switch that's missing the bit you push on.  Looking at the Ebay ones, the wiring colours appear to match (red, red with white, and red with yellow) but the overall shape doesn't seem to be the same.

dculberson MegaDork
6/1/22 12:10 p.m.

That is a cool truck!!

Mezzanine Dork
6/1/22 12:12 p.m.

RoddyMac beat me to it. Looks like a floor mount high beam switch. 

Regarding the outstanding work, those systems are each very achievable for a garage mechanic. Work on one of them at a time and be methodical and it'll be done in no time. 

I'd encourage you to start fresh and roll your own on the wiring. If you choose to work with what's there, you'll have to do a lot of work to identify everything and make a wiring diagram. If you choose to start fresh, you'll have to do a lot of work to spec out all the parts you need and make a wiring diagram. The only difference is at the end you'll have good fresh components everywhere (including wire) if you choose to roll your own. A Painless Wiring or equivalent wiring harness should be able to get you all wired in without much drama. 

golfduke Dork
6/1/22 12:17 p.m.

Hey, I deliver beer to that store every Thursday!  Cool truck!  

white_averson New Reader
6/1/22 2:02 p.m.

In reply to RoddyMac17 :

I think you're right, I'll have to check the one in the truck as I know there is one in it but it may be an aftermarket switch. This one looks broken so most likely was replaced.

white_averson New Reader
6/1/22 2:02 p.m.

In reply to dculberson :


white_averson New Reader
6/1/22 2:06 p.m.

In reply to golfduke :

No way! Its the cheapest place to get fuel around town so I stop there often. They definitely seem to be the place to get beer around here too. Or at least the place for the Mass folks to get it sales tax free.

white_averson New Reader
6/1/22 2:09 p.m.

In reply to Mezzanine :

I appreciate the advice and you are probably right. The previous owner had an electrician friend wiring it and they were using an E Z Wiring brand harness. I've looked it over and each wire has labels on the insulation. It seems like it shouldn't be too bad. The alternator wiring was the big question I came across. My limited knowledge and research says its likely a Toyota alternator and I'm trying to decide if I should find a Toyota regulator or if the Ford one will work.

6/1/22 2:16 p.m.

On the wiring front.

You can get ebay universal wiring harnesses for under $200 that will even include switches, They make wiring about as easy as it can be, Quality? Meh, found a few issues but then again have found the identical issues with Painless and Frances harnesses.


Since I am an OEM fanboy, I would also consider harvesting an entire wiring harness out of a newish Nissan and then thin it out to what you need. If Nissan is like Ford and GM, the use the same wiring color conventions since they sold the first car.

ebelements Reader
6/1/22 5:18 p.m.

Love this thing! For being so close by, you really lucked into a clean example.

One of my very best friends fell into an old Datsun pickup in very much the same way, and has built up a lot of knowledge and contacts in the past few years. He's a 620 guy, but from what I've seen they're not too far off from the early ones like yours. I was really surprised at the relatively decent availability of maintenance parts. The only really expensive stuff from what I can remember is the bodywork and certain interior bits, but it doesn't look like you have to worry about that!

white_averson New Reader
6/2/22 10:59 a.m.

In reply to ebelements :

I think there are similarities up through the 620. A lot of parts from the 520 and 521 crosses over. It is a bit challenging to find some parts but I seem to have a pretty complete example to start with.

APEowner SuperDork
6/2/22 12:51 p.m.

Very cool!

white_averson New Reader
6/2/22 1:49 p.m.

Not much progress last night. I have the clutch slave cylinder disassembled.

It was pretty seized up and, as you can see, has some rust in the cylinder. My plan is to "hone" it with 1000 grit sand paper and rebuild it as I'm missing the boot and the only way I've found to get it is with a full rebuild kit. These have 2 3/8" bolt spacing which is apparently uncommon. They are shared with the Datsun roadster but the 2 3/8" slaves aren't cheap.

Also, I need the hose between the slave and the hard line. Its a 3/8-24 male fitting on one end and technically a 3/8-24 flare internal thread and 5/8-18 outside thread on the other.

I know people just get a custom one made but I just ordered an off the shelf one without the 5/8-18 external threads. It should work just fine.

TurnerX19 UltraDork
6/2/22 4:45 p.m.

Incredibly cool truck if you are small enough to fit in it.

white_averson New Reader
6/2/22 4:59 p.m.

In reply to TurnerX19 :

It is comically small. Luckily I fit pretty comfortably but I wouldn't if I was much taller.

preach (dudeist priest)
preach (dudeist priest) Dork
6/2/22 5:14 p.m.

Wait where did all the NH folk come from?

Sweet truck, hope to see it ouot and about some day!

white_averson New Reader
6/3/22 11:17 a.m.

In reply to preach (dudeist priest) :

Right? Kind of surprising to have several New Englanders pop up in one thread. I hope its up and running soon. It feels like a lot to do but in reality it shouldn't take too much.

Yesterday's progress was also pretty limited. Had the wrong parts show up which was frustrating. Will likely be bouncing around on tasks until I have enough parts to go system by system.

First, on the alternator wiring, my research on Ford regulators and the 70's Toyota alternator (?) resulted in this wiring diagram. Hopefully I'll get to test it soon.

Next, the steering wasn't bolted up. Got that all wrapped up. Should make moving the truck around easier.

Also, the tie rods look like they really need to be replaced. Not high priority right now but something else to think about.

All that means a couple things are crossed off the still growing list of things to do.

white_averson New Reader
7/18/22 2:52 p.m.

Well I finally got back to it. Its been a busy month and this summer doesn't look like its going to let up. I'll have to be more intentional about putting time into this.

Wanted to wrap up the brakes so that one system was off the list but the master seems to be leaking from the valve on the bottom? Need to sort that out.

So I started to look at the fuel system as that is actually necessary to get this thing running. First the fuel and tank were generally dirty.

I made a half hearted effort at cleaning them.

The big item is the fuel line from the tank to the fuel filter. It was originally a hard line but I'm missing the hard line and it appears that it was cut.

So I'm going with a soft line just out of convenience. The fitting on the fuel filter is threaded.

So I got a barbed fitting. I was under the impression it was 1/4 NPT threads on the filter but they definitely aren't. I then got a 1/8 NPT fitting and it still doesn't seem right. Hopefully it doesn't leak.

I also need to get a new element and gasket for the kind of crusty looking fuel filter.

The fuel line is currently just run into the wheel well.

I also started looking into the coolant hoses. Specifically the tee to the heater hose. As far as I know, a direct replacement for that hose doesn't exist and my original is toast. My current solution is a brass tee.

That results in this mess.

If anyone has a more elegant solution, I'm  open to suggestions.

TurnerX19 UltraDork
7/18/22 10:02 p.m.

Your pipe threaded fittings on old Datsuns are 1/8-28 BSP.  1/8-27 is NPT and they might leak but will force their way together. 

white_averson New Reader
7/19/22 9:01 a.m.

In reply to TurnerX19 :

Thanks, that's good to know. I kind of figured it was BSP when it didn't really thread properly but had come across another 320 owner that claimed NPT worked. They might have just had a totally different fuel filter.

white_averson New Reader
7/26/22 11:01 a.m.

Alright, so a little progress the last few days. First, some helpful people on the Ratsun forums pointed out that the port that is plugged on the water pump is often used with a fitting for the heater hose. That would mean that I can run the lower radiator hose without the tee fitting. I'm going to do that.

Next, on the continued fuel system work. I bolted on the fuel sender and flared the remaining fuel tube for the soft line.

Then, loosely hung the tank and connected the fuel hose.

Need to connect the fuel filler and vent line and replace the gasket and element in the fuel filter and the fuel system should be done?

Another random question, the tube for the vacuum advance, I believe, isn't connected. It looks like the little bracket should have been on the stud near it.

Is that a head stud? Can I remove the nut and put the bracket on safely?

And I also installed all the cab mounts just so I could cross something off my large checklist.

TurnerX19 UltraDork
7/27/22 12:01 a.m.

You can remove and re-install that head nut and torque it to spec, but if there is enough stud protruding through the nut is is better to use a second nut on top. That head stud in that location is one of the many ways that Nissan improved the original BMC engine design that they had previously made under license.

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