Datsun 510 Brake Upgrade

Why Upgrade?

One of my first goals for the 510 was to improve safety. My eventual goals for the car involve replacing the Datsun L series engine with a fuel injected mid-90s Nissan engine such as the KA-24. Such an increase in power is incredibly dangerous without the appropriate safety considerations. Small front calipers with non-vented rotors, and drum brakes in the rear simply does have what it takes to stop even a lightly tuned modern engine let alone handle my crazy driving style. I had planned to thoroughly research my options and do the upgrade sometime in 2009. Unfortunately my time line for this project was accelerated when I was quoted a large price to replace the pads / rotors in the front and the drums in the rear. Why dump more money into hardware I didn’t plan on keeping. I might as well do a brake upgrade now.


There are many options for brake upgrades, each with their own pros and cons, and specific price point. For someone first learning about the vehicle the options can be a bit daunting. As usual I was first attracted to the shiniest, and most expensive, option on the market and slowly moved to a lower price point.

  • Skyline rotors / calipers on a very custom front / rear setup by Datsport in Australia
  • Wilwood calipers / rotors / mounting brackets
  • 280zx struts, calipers, rotors, brake master cylinder (plus a lot more)
  • Wilwood calipers / 300zx rotors / EDP brackets
  • Maxima calipers, 200SX rotors, EDP brackets
  • 200sx calipers, 200SX rotors, EDP brackets

My Choice

I had originally hoped to go with the 280ZX strut / brake swap. There are lots of options for coilovers for the 280ZX and this particular swap has a lot of support in the 510 community. I spent about a week combing through the various junk yards in the Portland, OR area looking for a 280ZX (and a R160 LSD diff). I finally found the car I needed, but the junkyard had dumped the car without the wheels and the rotors had been buried into the wet dirt. I tried to come up with a nice way to get the car off the ground, but it just wasn’t meant to be. Short of coming back with a shovel (which I may do sometime) those parts just aren’t coming off. I did manage to find a Maxima at that same junk yard so I decided to go with the Maxima caliper swap.

The Parts

I managed to find a pair of rear calipers with emergency brake brackets off a Maxima for $11 each. They were in good shape and cleaned up nicely. Unfortunately the front calipers had been destroyed by someone that only wanted a bolt so I’m still searching for the front calipers.

I originally bought a set of 200SX rotors at Autozone due to their warranty. Unfortunetly when I got home I discovered that the rotors didn’t even meet Nissan specs. The rotors lacked the venting down the center to prevent the rotors from overheating and warping. I took those back and picked up a pair of drilled and slotted 200SX rotors on eBay that were about the same price and much higher quality.

I purchased a set of brackets from Aaron at Engineered Datsun Parts (EDP). $130 shipped for the set of four. I could have saved $10 and picked them up myself since he lives fairly close by, but I left the country before the brackets were made so I had them shipped.

Brake lines:
I originally purchased a set of 510 braided steel brakes lines without even considering that these would not work with Maxima calipers. These will go back up on eBay at some point in the future for someone with a stock 510 brake setup. Aaron gave me a wonderful technical drawing showing exactly what I needed in the way of brakes lines and pointed me to a local Portland business that specialized in oil / brake products for industrial applications. They put together a very high quality brake line set for about $160.


Installation of the kit is going to be performed by My Daddy Muffler. The work has yet to be done, but I will post more information once everything is installed and I’m back in the country.

More information coming soon….


  1. riley baxter

    Hi there, enjoyed your description of your 510 brake upgrade. Im looking to the the exact same as you. I don’t see why I should go with the 280zx swap because I like my ride height and suspension, I just want the bigger disk and caliper.
    I could not locate Engineered Datsun Parts to source the caliper brackets. Troy Ermish and other sites only list some very expensive kits that I’m not interested in. I’m just street driving after all. Could you help me find them???

  2. 510finn

    Please take pictures of the parts and upgrade. Also, what are you planning for doing a parking brake? I heard that using the brake lever and cables from a 280zx should work, but am not certain.

  3. DAVID F.

    What year was the Maxima you pulled the rear calipers off of? Thanks for your time and patience on this matter,and have a great day.

    • Tim Smith

      You know I actually sold the car a while back and I can’t remember what year I pulled them off. I do remember spending a few rainy Oregon weekends in junk yards looking for just the right set of parts.

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