Attitude is everything. Todd Bulkeley and his one-of-a-kind 1969 Datsun 1600 SSS Coupe are proof that positive thinking will prevail. Life dealt Todd a rotten hand back in 1999, when a nasty traffic accident put the Datsun-obsessed Sydneysider in a wheelchair.
“The doctor’s come in and said you won’t walk, you won’t be able to drive a car,” he recalls.
Deep in car culture, Todd had kept at least one Datsun in his garage since he was 17. The news was a major blow. But Todd is the kind of bloke who knows what it means to make the best of what you’ve got. He refused to let it get the better of him. “I got out of hospital after a six month stint. Me brother had a Datsun 180B and said, ‘Let’s get you trying to drive this thing.’”
“So, my poor mum, she lost her broom and her mop. Me brother cut the ends off them, zip-tied and sticky taped them [to the pedals] and then we started chucking laps around the estate. After that it was like, ‘I need to get myself another Datsun.’”
In 2002 Todd imported this 1600 SSS Coupe from Japan – a rare model never sold in Australia. After months of anticipation, its arrival was less than ideal. “I thought they’d dragged it behind the boat. It was completely rusted out,” Todd says. “It was absolutely shocking.” He could have given up at this point, but Todd saw opportunity. He was going to see his dream Datsun project through to completion.
“It was never meant to be a show car. It was meant to be a quick streeter, nice and tidy that I could take to the track and have some fun. Then it got to ‘let’s try this, let’s do this, let’s go this.’”
Detailed custom leather now covers almost every interior surface. Candy paint covers everything else, including the immaculately presented engine bay where a weapons grade Nissan FJ20 lurks.
“It’s got big cams, a stroker crank, ported head work, 6boost manifold, [GTX] 3582R with a Turbosmart external ‘gate. The intercooler, radiator and the airbox were all custom made. The inlet manifold is a Custom Plenum Creations billet spec with a 90mm throttle body on it. Haltech Elite 1500 with the dash, all that kind of stuff.” Michael Baghdadi at Mick’s Motorsport tuned the 2.2-litre stroker to a total of 515hp with 23psi. “I’m an FJ20 man, I wouldn’t put anything but an FJ in a Datsun,” Todd says. The transmission is a relatively unique setup. It is based around a Ford C4 auto gearbox, modified to let Todd shift manually.
“It is a custom-built Al’s Race Glides C4 with a transbrake. It’s actually paddle shift off the steering wheel, with a control panel in the centre. We have reversed them because I have to accelerate and brake. I just steer the car one-handed everywhere I go.”
Todd’s escalating vision for SIRDAT over an incredible 15-year build eventually saw it entered into Summernats. The car collected trophies in multiple categories, taking an overall Top 20 finish. The paint and panel was handled by Zelukovic Smash Repairs. Ben Zelukovic playing a critical role in the build, customising Todd’s hand controls for the most important part of any car project. Burnouts.
“Normal hand controls are a universal thing, so they bolt on to any car with big ugly blocks around the steering column. I took the whole system up to Ben and he custom made it so it does look quite sweet. “I push the accelerator [control] down to the ground, and I push it forward to brake, and then when I do them both together… that’s a burnout.”
Two decades have passed since Todd’s accident. He has never allowed that day to dampen his passion for wrenching on vintage Datsuns.
“I can pretty well do everything; I can pull motors out, I can pull gearboxes, I can service everything. You name it. I’m always up here working on them, and there’s always something to do. I don’t let the wheelchair stop me.”