Technical Focus: The Return of the Datsun 160J

While the Datsun 160J is an important piece of Safari Rally history, the model has not yet emerged as a well-known Safari Classic competitor. This changes in 2017, when Kenyan-born UK resident Scott Armstrong brings his 160J to Mombasa to compete in the eighth running of our marathon event.

The power and speed of the Safari front runners is impressive to witness, but the skills and dedication involved in bringing a car like the 160J back to rallying are no less impressive. We are excited to follow Scott’s progress and that of all our competitors, wherever they are running. Here we examine what privateer Scott has managed to assemble and compare it to the all-conquering works cars from 1979 to 1982.

Nissan Works Spec Datsun 160J Violet

From 1970, when the Bluebird came first overall for the very first time, Datsun/Nissan dominated the Safari Rally. Following on from the Bluebird (P510) and Fairlady 240Z (HS30), in 1978 it was the turn of the Violet (PA10) to take up the challenge and it performed magnificently. From 1979 to 1982, it was the overall winner four times in a row, which was a first in the history of the Safari Rally.

The Nissan Heritage website tells us how the winning car in 1981 and 1982 conformed to Group 4 specification. Fitted with the LZ20B DOHC dry-sump engine, the oil tank was located in the boot. Before the Group 4 cars, the 160J PA10 Violets were built to Group 2 specification. The L20B single overhead cam engine with twin Solex carbs produced approximately 185bhp and the car weighed just 1080 kilograms.

Safari Classic Rally Datsun 160J (above)

“I have built my 160J Violet as close to original Group 2 spec as possible,” says Scott Armstrong. “It’s a visual copy of the 1982 winning car, but mechanically it is more the specification of the 1979/’80 cars.

“It has a 2 litre, 8-valve L20B wet sump engine with twin 40 Webers, which produces 120bhp but makes good torque. It is not powerful, that’s for sure! I do have an LZ 20B, but that is not assembled yet and I elected to go for simple reliability as it is my first Safari.

“The rest of the car is also simple. It has a H190 reinforced works axle with a 4.6 ratio. The gearbox is a close ratio works spec and heavy duty standard 240Z standard clutch. Brakes are 4-pot Sumitomo cast iron all around. I have twin facet Fuel pumps and a 120-litre tank. Suspension is standard Nismo rear dampers and front is MCA struts (these are second-hand items, used in the 2009 event on a Datsun 1200).

“Building and preparing a Safari Violet is easily one of the most difficult things I have ever done. There are nearly no parts or info available and I have had to research every part of the car and get some parts made. Very hard work! But I suppose that’s why everybody takes the easy route and goes for an Escort.

“With the car now at sea en route to Mombasa, the rally is like a rolling test session for us, as we didn’t have time to test everything properly. That is a shame but I am happy to bring the Violet back to Safari. The PA10 160J won four times in a row, making it one of the most successful Safari cars, but it has gone away un-noticed. My Safari challenge won’t be win number five, but it brings the car back to Africa. My aim is just to get to the finish!”