Trucks & SUVs

Miata-Based Datsun Brings New Meaning to the Term ‘Sport Truck’

Although the Mazda Miata isn’t the only affordable sports car on the market, it is one of the most popular. That popularity means there’s a ton of aftermarket support for almost any kind of Miata build you could think of. From lifting it for off-roading, to transplanting AWD underneath, to shoving a Hellcat V8 under the hood, the tiny sports car has done it all. One enthusiast, though, decided to a slightly different route. Rather than putting something new in a Miata, he put a Miata underneath something else. Specifically, a classic Datsun mini pickup truck.

How a Miata ended up underneath a Datsun 520 truck

1968 Datsun 520 truck
1968 Datsun 520 truck | Bring a Trailer

The Datsun 520 compact pickup truck was one of the first Japanese pickups to make it to the US. However, while the 520, like the Mini Cooper pickup, was genuinely capable for its size, it wasn’t exactly sporty.

1990 Mazda MX-5 Miata
1990 Mazda MX-5 Miata | Bring a Trailer

However, as Hoonigan explains, Bob Boileau, President of the Pikes Peak International Raceway, saw some potential in the tiny pickup. So, he decided to transplant the drivetrain, engine, suspension, steering, and brakes from an NA Miata into the 1966 Datsun truck. The process took about 13-14 months, but the result was a totally transformed truck.

Instead of the original 65-hp 1.3-liter carbureted four-cylinder, the truck now has a 115-hp version of the 1.6-liter Miata fuel-injected four-cylinder. Underneath, instead of the leaf springs and solid axles, there’s fully-independent suspension with Bilstein shocks. The Datsun truck also rides 7” lower than stock. In place of the 4-wheel drums, there are brand-new 4-wheel discs.

Inside, there are 2 Sparco racing seats, complete with race harnesses. The gauges are from the Miata, but the switches are Datsun originals.

Interestingly, the build was actually straight-forward. The truck still rides on its original chassis, albeit with the Miata’s front and rear subframes attached, due to the suspension. But Boileau reveals that once the frame rails were stripped, the subframes basically bolted right up, the dimensions aligned so well.

Admittedly, getting the engine and transmission to fit required cutting through the firewall. And Boileau had to weld in the Miata’s floor-pan. But the only body-work that had to be done to the Datsun truck was fitting a new tailgate and shaving the gas tank door. That let Boileau move the fuel tank back, for better weight distribution.

What’s it like to drive?

Driving the Datsun-Miata (Miatsun?) truck, Hoonigan’s Larry Chen reports it drives just like a Miata. That is to say, very well. It corners like a Miata, and can even drift around the track controllably.

Boileau’s truck has been to SEMA, Japanese Nostalgic Car reports, as well as several autocross events. In fact, he took 20th in the nation a few years ago with the Datsun. He doesn’t baby it at all. And after a drive in it, Chen had a big smile on his face.

Recreating this Datsun truck build

1968 Datsun 520 truck rear
1968 Datsun 520 truck rear | Bring a Trailer

While not everyone has access to a shop and a welder, making Boileau’s 1966 Datsun-Miata truck is definitely possible.

NA Miatas can be regularly found for well under $10k, and the engine Boileau used hadn’t exactly had an easy life. And Bring a Trailer reports Datsun 520 pickups can be had for $5000-$10,000.

True, such a sport truck wouldn’t exactly be able to out-drag that Corvette-powered Chevy Colorado. But it would be just as much fun.

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