The Rat

The Rat - a '68 Datsun 1600 that followed me home

This story goes all the way back to July, 2003. I found a couple of roadsters parked in a yard full of junk in an industrial area of Seattle. One of the cars had been pushed out in the street and it looked like they were headed for crusher. Of course, I left a note and soon got a phone call from the owner who really wanted to get rid of them. It was one of those “$500 but you got to take both” deals.

This was the "other" '68 1600.

Long story short – I dragged them both home, the “other car” was stripped for parts and I began work on The Rat.

You can read more here – A couple of stray cars. That brings us up to April, 2008, but there is more to the story. The car was finally running and driving well, other than a little overheating issue due to the clogged radiator. I had forgotten how much fun the R-16 engine and 4-speed could be. It might lack the top-end grunt of the U-20, but off the line and in town a 1600 is a whole lot of fun.

The interior was a great learning process, I got new interior vinyl, door panels and a carpet kit. A new “skin” made the high-window dash look much better. I made a custom shifter surround out of MDF and covered it with textured paint. My wife sewed up an outer shifter boot.

A new exhaust system was put on. The car was given a full shake-down and everything was tuned and tweaked to make a solid “runner”.

By this time I had bought and resurrected a ’69 2000 and I still had my ‘67.5 2000 long-term project and two more dead roadsters in the driveway. Time to find The Rat a new home. So up on Craigslist it went.

As is often the case with car guys, finding a good home was more important than the money. Just like a litter of puppies or kittens, the new owner has to really want their new charge and must pass an interview process. Dave was excited to be the new owner of The Rat and promised to take good care of it. I installed an EI dizzy, a new coil and had the radiator rebuilt. The Rat was ready for its new owner.

I made Dave promise to drive the heck out of it, and to get to know the car before doing anything to it.

Here’s what he posted on the board:

This Past Sunday I adopted the Rat and drove the 60 miles home from Hood River to Portland. I couldn’t stop smiling the entire way home.

Back in the early 80’s I had a Spanish Red 1969 1600, I loved that car. I was young and stupid and didn’t treat her right. I warped the head at least twice. Bottom line is I couldn’t afford to keep her running. My parents told me that the repair shop the car was in had a fire and that my car was caught in the blaze. I always thought this was, shall we say – not true, in any case my roadster days were over.

Last month I was surfing Craigslist, I saw the Rat, I was intrigued by all the work that was done by Leigh, and how long he has been at it. I explained to my wife that I wanted to take a dive and have a peek. I met up with Leigh and fell in love with the Rat. I made the deal with Leigh to have the EI Dizzy and new radiator installed and then waited for the phone call. In the mean time I have read every post on this site, Even The EI Dizzy “dispute” wow. The wealth of knowledge on this site has already come to be useful.

This will be “MY” fun car, I plan to drive it to work as much as possible. My 15-year-old son all of a sudden wants to “help” me in the garage. I think he likes it too. My wife on the other hand is not – shall we say – as excited as I am. She calls it my mid-life crisis car. Oh and she was steamed when I moved her car to the curb to make way for my new baby.

And from June of 2010:


It’s been two years since Leigh Brooks let me adopt the RAT. I gotta say that the workmanship done by Leigh was TOP NOTCH! The Rat runs so well I have had to only tinker with the SU’s once or twice. Secondly, I appreciate everyone who has submitted to the tech wicki and discussions forums, without out the input from everyone I would have been lost.

Things I’ve done in for the last two years:

1> I did get that new soft Top, although it rarely goes on the car, I find it easier to put on the hard top, which is now White.

2> Found a center console and other odds and ends for the interior, I still look for stuff, better window cranks, knobs, other stupid stuff when I can find them.

3> Wheels. Found some old American Racing Vectors, put in longer wheel studs. (thanks again Tech Wiki!!!) while I had the wheels off I installed KYB Gas Adjust shocks (Tech Wiki saved me again)

4> Had the dent on the passenger side fixed and a friend and I attempted to paint the Rat, We did a fairly crappy job of it, I know understand why painting a car correctly cost so much, The rat looks good from 50 feet, any closer than that, and you can tell a bunch of amateurs painted it.

5> Stereo …. Well I didn’t want to hack up the console so a friend of mine said just run a amp to your Ipod, ok so its way overkill but it sound fantastic even with the top down doing 70 on the freeway. I put a 300 watt amp in the trunk installed on a 10inch subwoofer, power on switch and ipod minijack plug runs up to the center console. I also installed outdoor speakers on the rear deck. This set works very well and it is loud!

I also had the gas tank boiled out, this eliminated the need to change the fuel filters every time I went below a half of tank of gas.

I followed the Tech Wiki and changed out the head lamps to Hella with Halogen, and new Victoria British wiring harness.

Things to do:

1> 2nd gear syncro needs to get looked at.

2> Need to get the seats reupholstered

OMG I think that’s it!! No wait I have the Roadster bug, I’ll find something….

Bottom line. This has been the best purchase I have made I a very long time. The enjoyment I get from this car has been amazing. So if you see a 45-year-old man driving down the road with a smile of a teenager, It’s me! And If you ever get a chance to purchase a roadster from Leigh, know that you have a quality car!

Thanks for the kind words Dave! So now you have the rest of the story.

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