Pro Touring The JDM Way
When Old Becomes New

Pro touring – it was a movement that first began to surface during the early to mid-1990s when American builders started taking vintage muscle cars and transforming them into well-rounded performance machines.

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The whole concept was to take the familiar shapes of the past and make them perform like newer cars. Modifications would include modern fuel injected engines, upgraded or sometimes completely redesigned suspension systems, big brakes, larger wheels and tires – and more.

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Pro touring cars weren’t just about going fast though. Refinement and reliability was a big part of the movement too, with the goal of being able to drive these cars thousands of miles in comfort without the headaches that often accompany ageing classics.

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As we know today, pro touring wasn’t a short-lived trend. Whether it’s grassroots garage builds or the mega machines we see at the SEMA Show each year, two decades on the genre is still going strong. And I certainly wouldn’t count on it going away anytime soon either.

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While the concept has become closely associated with muscle and pony cars from the ’60s and ’70s, there’s no rule that says pro touring should be a uniquely American phenomenon. There are any number of modified European and Japanese cars out there that could be described as ‘pro touring’, including the Nissan Bluebird you see here. It was built by Noriaki Miyamoto of Common Snapper and could be considered the sister car to the 510 two-door sedan that Dino featured earlier this year.

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Given Miyamoto’s wide ranging taste in cars, he’s the perfect guy to execute a Japanese take on the pro touring car. This Bluebird isn’t the first car he’s built this way either – the American style has been influencing his projects for quite some time. He also likes turtles, especially the common snapping variety, of which his shop is named after.

Modernizing A Datsun
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So how exactly do you go about building a Japanese pro touring car? Well, first you want to select a base car to work with, and it can be anything. Here in the States the most common choices are popular cars like the Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang. But what about in Japan?

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The Hakosuka and Kenmeri Skylines are both great candidates, as is the S30 Fairlady Z – a car which Miyamoto has plenty of experience with. But in this case he’s gone with the Nissan Bluebird, or Datsun 510 as its known in some places. Given the strong following that the 510 has all over the world, it was the perfect machine to receive Common Snapper’s pro touring inspired rebuild.

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The 510 was available in a few different body styles, but many would call the two-door coupe version the best looking of the bunch. All 510s are cool of course, but there’s just something about the swept back lines of the coupe that stand out when compared to its more boxy siblings.

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While some pro touring builders like to tweak the exteriors of their cars, the general rule is that the classic styling of the body should be preserved as much as possible. That’s very much the case with the Bluebird, which uses a nicely restored exterior as its base.

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If you were to just see the car passing by on the highway, you’d likely think it was a very clean Bluebird with a nice set of wheels – and that’s the idea behind many pro touring builds. It’s only when you look closer that you realize that this vintage machine is packing some high-tech goodies beneath its panels.

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For American pro touring builders, engine choices are usually pretty straight forward. Building a Camaro or Chevelle? Any one of the LS V8 engines is a perfect fit. Mopar guys have their choice of modern HEMIs and even Viper V10s. Ford builders have the amazing 5.0L Coyote at their disposal. But what about an old Nissan?

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As we saw during the feature of Common Snapper’s rotary-powered S30, Miyamoto-san is not one to let purist ideals get in the way of creating the cars that he wants to, so rather than dropping in a SR20DET or another engine from the Nissan family, he went for the high-winding naturally aspirated magic of the Honda F20C from the S2000.

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Brand allegiances aside, it’s hard to argue with the combination of high-revving VTEC power and the nimble 510 chassis. With basic upgrades like custom-fabricated headers and a Common Snapper exhaust system, the car now makes over 100 horsepower more than any stock 510 – without sacrificing reliability or road manners. You can cruise it lightly around town when you want, and dip toward the obscenely high redline whenever you want a rush.

Finding The Balance
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Of course, building a good pro touring machine is about a lot more than just adding horsepower. It’s the supporting modifications that take it beyond being just a souped up old car. Miyamoto has addressed all the key areas of the car, including the handling which now benefits from a set of Common Snapper Kanden adjustable coilovers.

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With all of the extra horsepower on hand, the Showa-era brakes were also in need of an upgrade. A set of Wilwood 4-piston calipers with slotted rotors now handle the stopping duties up front.

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Like so many of the projects that have rolled out of the Common Snapper garage, the 510 is wearing a set of the brand’s Barramundi forged wheels. The BMD Elevens measure 16×7-inch in the front and 16×8-inch in the rear with 195/40R16 and 205/40R16 tires front and rear respectively.

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While I generally prefer my old cars to have period-correct sized wheels and tires, the 16s do a nice job of filling up the fenders and providing a contemporary look without looking at all out of place.

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As I mentioned a moment ago, comfort and refinement are big parts of a successful pro touring build, and this little Nissan absolutely delivers in those departments. Although still easily recognizable as a 510 inside, the cockpit has been fully overhauled with many one-off parts and a number of creature comforts that were unheard of in the ’60s and ’70s.  There’s a modern audio system with an integrated iPhone slot and electric bucket seats sourced from an R35 GT-R. It’s not unlike the way you’ll find late-model Corvette components in many GM pro touring builds.

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The modern-looking control panel and center console have been built from scratch and the shifter for the S2000 6-speed transmission still retains a titanium Honda shift knob. As usual, it’s all about the little details.

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The original S2000 digital gauge cluster has also been set nicely into a custom housing, and the F20C fires into life with an original Honda push-start button.

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Even the trunk has been modernized, making it a much nicer place to put luggage during a road trip, or shopping bags during a grocery store run. This is where the ‘touring’ part of pro touring comes in.

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The way I see it, pro touring isn’t about starting with a specific type of car, it’s about taking an old machine and upgrading it tastefully and functionally for modern times. My feeling is that Common Snapper has executed the concept perfectly with this Bluebird.

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If you could pick your favorite classic car and reinvent it for the present day, how would you go about it? Would you go with traditional American muscle, a Japanese kyusha like this car, or something different altogether?

Let’s hear those ideas!

Mike Garrett
Instagram: speedhunters_mike

Cutting Room Floor
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Love it!I have put
62,000 miles on my “Pro Touring” 510, grinning ear-to-ear all the way.It’s been 100% reliable, returns 38 MPG is
silly fast, totally unassuming and TONS of fun to drive.I enjoy it equally at track events and
driving around with my family.My three
kids just barely still fit three-wide across the back, but they enjoy it
because it’s part of the family.
Great feature!


sweet ride, pro touring is really a nice way of doing it


Square body Chevy truck. Just to be ridiculous ;)


great car! i seriously don't understand why isn't everyone tuning cars this way.


The car is amazing but the turtle rules!!!


@Frozenstar time and money, I suppose ;)


A Saab 99 with an engine from a 9-3 Viggen would be cool and very uncommon as you probably very rarely see those cars anywhere, even in Scandinavia.


That is a seriously cool Bluebird.




Waxhaw Brad This thing is sweet! Do you have a build thread for it anywhere?


I would like to see a miata done with pro touring style but maybe this is what most miata builds could be labeled.  For my build I would use a 70's celica with a very torquey engine swap I think the styling which is like a mini muscle car would lend itself really well to this style of course again we run into the question of just what makes this different from lots of builds out there.  I guess with the celica using more muscle car type parts like american wheels and american accesories.


Slappy Pistons the concept isn't too expensive..


@Frozenstar Slappy Pistons It's expensive because even though the final product could be a daily driver, in many cases it takes a lot of time to get to that point.  That means you need another reliable car in the mean time. Plus not everyone has the garage/garage know how necessary to create such a machine and custom work gets expensive fast. No matter how you look at it, building a custom car even of a significantly lesser caliber than above, is expensive.


I want it


I want it


@Moldy The Celica is the perfect mini-muscle car. In my eyes it shares styling cues with some FoMoCo and CryMoCo cars from the late 60s and early 70s. Do it with something like a Honda F22 or Toyota 2AZ-FE for that good torque. Torque Thrust 2s?


I like the idea of a pro touring mk4 Automatic na Supra.  I'd take a Direct injection 2jz make a simple turbo kit (Think something like a BMW x35 engine) and mate it too an ls430 6 speed automatic with a syvecs paddle shift conversion. My other mad idea is to use a diesel lx100 (diesel jzx100) and replace the engine with a modified 3.0 d4d engine running on biodiesel


Merc Waxhaw Brad 

Thanks Merc!  I've tried to keep a disorganized thread
on the 510Realm (our photo gallery was lost a few years ago so I need to add
more photos) here...

Here's a more recent shot with some "nearly-period"
Ronal R9's, and a cute (perhaps irresponsible) shot of my kids enjoying the
turns on a mountain drive.


Merc Waxhaw Brad 

Thanks Merc!  I've tried to keep a disorganized thread
on the 510Realm (our photo gallery was lost a few years ago so I need to add
more photos) here...

Here's a more recent shot with some "nearly-period"
Ronal R9's, and a cute (perhaps irresponsible) shot of my kids enjoying the
turns on a mountain drive.


It's awesome. But its not Pro Touring. It's Retro Mod. There is no chassis work detailed. :)
Still a nice car!


"pick your favourite classic" Impossible decision number one. "how would I go about it?" impossible decision number two.

Depending on application as to which car.

For everyday
Triumph 2000 estate mk1 with Quattro v6 tdi engine and 4wd. Standard interior apart from swapping the gauges out for modern ones and having the dash computer installed somewhere discreet. 

For fun
My Triumph Toledo with a similar setup to this bluebird, but I'd use an SR20 single turbo setup with a shortened rear axle. I'd probably put on dolly racer overfenders to allow for more rubber contact as 6" wide wheels would be too slippery with that kind of power.

Stuff of dreams
G-nose 280z, supercharged m3 straight six....


I REALLY like that it has no mirrors. Kinda want to track down a 510 now...


I have an odd pro touring idea. I've got a 1970 F-350 quad cab that will be getting a modern handling treatment and interior. the power plant will stay old school with a slightly modernized 300ci inline six.


Diggin this 510, never thought about popping a F20C in there though. 
Love these builds.


Love it, and wait... No over fenders?!?! What is the world coming to


Datsun 510 at it's best, with the heart of S2000 just make a surprise to everyone. Ha!


Love the Protouring way of doing things. Kinda OEM look but with a personal twist and upgraded performance and functionality. Its what I'm humbly aiming for with my own build even tho I'm a bit away from something like this....


I'm thinking a Toyota Carina with a  Beams 3SGE....

Gianluca FairladyZ

i love the paint job of the turtle, and guys.. that turtle has some serious stance :D


I'm planning to build a KE-70 with the 1.8l BP from a 2nd gen Miata, custom suspension front/rear(probably mcpherson front and double wishbone rear). I'm always a big fan of these resto-mod style builds, keep m coming!


My project is a 914, aka the duckling porsche.
Doing a full resto and adding upgrades too suspension, brakes and engine while keeping most of the classic looks.


Love the idea of this and I've got such a soft spot for the classic VTEC engines (B16, B18, K20 and the F20c) that the powerplant choice is perfect for me unfortunately I don't feel the same about the interior, not very well done at all in my opinion, they should take a look at what companies like Morgan do with their interiors, classic looking but with modern functionality.


that looks cleaner than most dishes after heavy waxing


Pure perfection, thanks Dino now I know what my style is called "Pro Touring". Here in Indonesia pro touring would work real well.


I think this is more resto mod than pro touring. 

Pro Touring cars typiaclly have much more metal work performed, from cleaing up the body lines, shaving the engine bay to giving a modern touch to the grill, bumpers, healight surrounds... That being said, this is a beautiful resto mod, I'm not a fan of the interior but that's just taste I suppose.

I don't think it could ever happen due to lack of available chassis, but I would take a Toyota 2000GT and make that a full on Pro Touring Car, probably with a blasphemous engine like an F20C or a Mazda B series Turbo. Or just go stupid and stuff a 2JZ GTE in there.


This is one of the best features for a while, the car is almost perfect. I always thought a 3S-GE/SR20/F20c Mk1 Ford Escort would be killer.


Very nice indeed smart build classy realistic and great dissisions made for transplant turtles got some swagger going on aswel! Haha


F20C's are so sexy. I was not expecting that under the hood


Definitely would take my dads AMC hornet X and throw in an ls engine


day_old_tofu U will like beams 3SGE.  Good motor


More like this men.....So done nice...All must bow to this owner...Enjoy it


JimmyJanik Yes!


PigInAnS2K It's actually become a rather popular swap choice for various old school RWD Japanese cars. Hard to argue with that kind of NA power and Honda reliability.


Oldboygarage Turtlehunters.


JoeWhaler Thanks man!


shiftyXTI 2000GT would be insane. I wouldn't be surprised if someone starts making "new" 2000GT bodies which would allow such a thing to exist.


Qu1N7 Well, this was obviously a bit more of a budget-build than a no-expenses spared type thing, but Morgan does know how to do a nice interior.


westhave That would be cool. BPs are solid little engines.


day_old_tofu Great choice!


MatsKarlsson I'm sure you'll get there. Gotta start somewhere, right?


prazzi Your eyes aren't deceiving you!


rdevereux I like it. Sounds a little like something that ICON would do.


AndrewTaylor Really helps with the cleanliness, doesn't it?


JDMDONG I like the way you think.


buzzboy Yeah early Celicas are just begging for the pro touring treatment.


Dill Pickle I think they are starting to make a comeback!


Waxhaw Brad Love this car! Thanks for the kind words.


Two words come to mind rather than common snapper, rocky auto.


Mike Garrett I've been in the automotive business 10 years, but Speedhunters has taught me to appreciate the small details! Thanks for all the work you (and the rest of the gang) do.


Mike Garrett I've been in the automotive business 10 years, but Speedhunters has taught me to appreciate the small details! Thanks for all the work you (and the rest of the gang) do.


Mike Garrett rdevereux I feel kinda bad about it, its been sitting for far too long now.


Easily my favorite car you've featured in the last couple months.  Call me crazy though, after having driven a couple F20'02's  I don't like that engine in euro/japanese restomods.


Such an awesome build! I love the clean lines and that F20C... yum. One question though, isn't the shaken test in Japan quite strict? How does the owner keep it road legal without those mirrors (not that I'm complaining)?


wouu! is that 3 rotor rotary engine for that ae86 with n2 over fenders? that would be an awesome build!


O hello there car of the month


My first car was a 1971 Ford Maverick Grabber (ive still got it). I drove it my first year of high school before parking it due to gas prices (250 i6's are still guzzlers!) i really want to turn into something more and redo all my batched work i did on it way back when. However, im not going to a V8 in it, but instead rebuild the original 250 with performance parts so it will retain most of its originality, as the car is full options aside from the 302 V8


This 510 is beautiful,

The driveline is dis-respectful to Datsun.


Love this whole concept as they are such clean cars that surprise anyone who dares take them on. For myself it would be an old Mitsubishi FTO (rwd version) with a 4G92 Mivec or a Lotus Cortina (not an original one of course) with a Duratec. There is something about classic rwd, screaming n/a & induction noise isn't there.


Absolutely Beautiful Car. This 510 looks different from most that I've seen in the States. The article says it's swept back variant, but is there like a specific model number for the swept back?


I'm loving this 510.  

Here is my resto mod (since sold).  4age + turbo, g/box, diff, suspension, suede S7 Rx7 seats, 850kg of fun!


Its a bluebird so why do you keep refering to it as a 510?


@mertle_s14 510 is the chassis code, 'Bluebird' is a moniker.


Number 3 picture is a different 510 then the rest of the pics of the feature car. I wonder why?


I would take a peugeot 504 coupe pininfarina and swap the engine for a psa es engine, same as the one modified by venturi (peugeot 208 T16) , so bi turbo. Still wondering for the interior.........


ModGuy I guess it's a good thing that Datsun is no longer around to be offended. ;)