In building cars, inspiration can come from all different places, and sometimes when you least expect it.
For Kuala Lumpur local Kean Yep, the idea to create a shakotan-style Datsun Sunny ‘Sanitora’ pickup came while he was sitting on the porcelain throne, reading a copy of SpecR magazine from Taiwan.
This was the pre-internet-blowing-up era, and for this particular issue of SpecR the editors had travelled to Japan to indulge in the street scene, uncovering some cool low-down and wide-wheel-equipped Sunny trucks built by MFP Works along the way. Fifteen-year-old Kean’s interest was immediately piqued, but it would be some time before he’d be rolling around the streets of KL in a Datsun pickup of his own.
The project got its start around 10 years ago when Kean was out driving in the Malaysian country, and spotted a 1972 GB120 Sunny looking abandoned on the side of the road. He immediately pulled a u-turn in order to get a closer look, and after confirming it was exactly what he had been looking for, began knocking on the door of the house it was parked-up outside of in the hope that he’d be able to make it his own.
An old lady emerged from the house, and after hearing out Kean’s reason for knocking explained that the Sunny had been owned by her husband as a commercial vehicle for their chicken farm, and that after his death some time ago it was parked and never used again.
At this point, Kean asked if it was for sale, to which the lady replied ‘yes’.
As you’d expect, the Sunny wasn’t in the best of shape having been exposed to the elements for so long, but Kean wasn’t going to let hard work get in the way of realising his vision. After ripping the truck apart, the engine was rebuilt, and the rust was remedied ahead of a full respray.
At first the Sunny retained its original look, but the shakotan cues and ultimately a Hakosuka front end conversion eventually found their way onto the Datsun.
Kean didn’t stop though; vintage Enkei Apache wheels in a 13×9-inch fitment (with custom turbo-fan covers on one side) and a PMC·S Hakosuka-inspired livery pulls the whole thing together perfectly.
The A15 engine up front has bite to match its bark too, with some Tomei internals, twin 40mm Mikuni Solex side-draught carbs, and a custom exhaust that rounds out with a SuperTrapp muffler. Helping to get the power from the 1,607cc mill to the ground is a dogleg Nissan 60L 5-speed gearbox.
There’s custom suspension work to set the Datsun lower, and 4-pot brakes up front to slow it down.
Inside, Kean has kept things simple with Corbeau seats and a GX5 steering wheel being the notable additions amongst a sea of accessories.
Building a custom car in Malaysia is not an easy task, and even more so when you’re talking about a older model like this GB120, so it’s a credit to Kean and those that helped bring the vision to life – NS Motorsports and Superskill Auto Garage specifically.
As it sits now – in the same form it was awarded ‘Speedhunters Pick’ at the 2019 Art of Speed show – the ‘Hakotora’ is complete, and Kean has no plans to change anything. A 23-window VW Safari Bus build could be on the cards soon, but that won’t come at the expense of parting ways with the Sunny – this one’s staying in the family.
Photos by Matthew Everingham