Taz Harvey owns Dublin Nissan in Dublin, Calif. He’s also a racer who likes old-school Datsun 510s. He bought “Purple Haze,” the car you see pictured here to race at La Carrera Panamericana, but ended up buying another 510 to race in that event, so the purple car was left sitting in Harvey’s race shop with no real purpose. So they decided to race it Thunderhill.
“A friend of mine, Troy Ermish, said, ‘We made a 510 last 24 hours as LeMons car. Why can’t we make this car last 25 hours?’” Harvey said. “I said there’s no reason we shouldn’t.”
When they returned from La Carrera Panamericana in late October, they set to work prepping the little 510 for Thunderhill. Three weeks later, it was ready to race, but it needed numbers. His team suggested 46, the number of the most famous 510 of all, the one John Morton drove for Brock Racing Enterprises back in the day.
“I said, ‘I don’t know. That’s kind of a sacred number. I’m not sure if that’s cool with everybody,’” Harvey said. “When you put 46 on a Datsun 510, you’re kind of taking some liberties with history.”
They did it, but here’s the mind-blower. Harvey got a call from a friend, Mark Mitchell, who asked him if he wanted John Morton to be one of the team drivers at Thunderhill. “He’s a cool guy. He’d probably do it,” Mitchell told Harvey.
“So, Mark calls me back and said, ‘Well, John had a bunch of stuff going, and he can’t do it — but he sure thought about it,” Harvey recalled. “Two days later, I get an email from John Morton with the words, “Hey, is it too late for me to sign up with the team?”
So now they had John Morton driving for their team, along with Northern California’s 510 guru Troy Ermish. The team had four drivers, one in his 40s, one in his 50s, one in his 60s, and John Morton in his 70s.
The car ran fine in E3 until about 5 a.m. when the alternator housing broke, tossed the drive belt and overheated the engine. Harvey was driving when the engine blew, but he’s resolved to building a new one and campaigning the car in the Western Endurance Racing Championship series in 2013.
“It was fun to have (Morton) on the team. He’s such a great guy. He was a total team member,” Harvey said. “We had the oldest car in the race. Most of the drivers in the race weren’t even born when that car was driving around.”