When Gary Law was a young boy, his dad used to race Datsuns. When Gary was a teen, his dad owned a Datsun 1200 van that was modified and used to transport all their race car parts and service equipment around South African circuits.
That 1200 van was dubbed the Chocolate Mouse, because of its colour (brown) and its size (small). Gary has a lot of good memories of his late father, but one that’s really stuck was this particular van he built. So much so, that Gary decided to build his own. This is Chilli Mouse, the Chocolate Mouse‘s grandson.
As a machinist, Gary is used to working on and building interesting cars, often even creating his own parts. He also has an amazing project currently on the go in the form of an AWD, RB-powered and DCT-shifted 280ZX.
When it came to building this Datsun as a way to remember the early years with his father, Gary knew exactly what he wanted to achieve, and importantly, exactly where he needed to start.
With a pair of rear tyres. Specifically, staunch 295/50R15s.
Once Gary had the BF Goodrich Radial T/As in hand, the search for a donor vehicle was on.
Production of the Datsun 1200 carried on until 2008 in South Africa, although it eventually became the Nissan 1400, which was a more modern version of the van with different lights, a higher roof, and disc brakes up front.
Gary eventually found a 1400 van in the small town of Klerksdorp, and as you can see, it was in pretty average condition. He knew he could make it work though, so a deal was done and the van was transported back to his shop.
Without delay, the strip down began.
Getting the 295-wide tyres – and the accompanying 8-spoke-style wheels – to fit was clearly one of the biggest challenges. Out back, the wheels measure 15×10.5-inch, so the only way forward was to create steel arches from scratch.
Staying with the rear, the original load-bin – or what was left of it – was cut out and a brand new bin was fabricated and the chassis was notched.
Gary also built a custom 5-link rear end and fitted an M75 differential (with 5:1 final drive) out of a Toyota Venture, albeit narrowed to fit the Datsun. The rear brakes now comprise of Toyota Starlet callipers and BMW discs.
At 15×8-inches, the front wheels aren’t as wide as the rears, but they were still too wide for the stock fenders. The fix here came with custom two-piece front fenders featuring fibreglass flares and custom side vents.
For front suspension, Gary has gone with a pair of custom coilovers, with custom front lower control arms and radius arms with rose-joints, all made in-house at Gary’s shop. The front brakes use Toyota Cressida discs and FD3S Mazda RX-7 callipers.
The newer Nissan 1400 front was never going to suit the build, so it was duly replaced with the entire slam panel from an older Datsun 1200, complete with grille and headlights. Then, taking inspiration from the Skylines he often works on, Gary built a raised and vented bonnet in fibreglass.
For the power-plant, something like an SR20DET would have been the obvious choice, but Gary wanted to stick with a Datsun A-series. In the end he went with an A14 1,400cc unit that makes 85hp in stock form. This one is far from stock, though.
The A14 has been upgraded with an A15 crank and connecting rods, custom 78mm pistons, custom high lift/long duration cam, and a flowed cylinder head. There’s also a custom intake manifold, baffled sump, Carter high-flow fuel pump and an electronic distributor. With 10:5:1 compression and Yamaha R1 bike carburettors (with jet kit fitted) the engine now makes a solid 119whp and 140Nm on 95RON octane fuel. A full stainless exhaust system from VD Linde Developments ensures that it sounds great too.
Getting that to the rear wheels is a Toyota Altezza 6-speed gearbox with custom steel lightweight flywheel and a heavy-duty clutch.
Inside, Gary wanted to keep things simple and largely original. Highlights include a Sparco steering wheel, re-trimmed door cards, a custom shift knob, and an Autometer Sport-Comp 5-inch tachometer to keep the revs in check.
The standard bench seat was also rebuilt into a twin bucket design, which is much more comfortable – and a lot cooler – while keeping an OEM feel.
Driving and working on high performance sports cars is something Gary does on a daily basis, but the joy that the Chilli Mouse brings him is unlike anything else. And that’s exactly what cars should be about, right?
To see and hear Gary’s Datsun on the move, you can check out a video here.