A Datsun Violet with a Toyota 4AGE engine
Caffeine&Machine cultofmachine Yard Visitor Forbidden union: 4AGE-powered Datsun Violet

Forbidden union: 4AGE-powered Datsun Violet

Is this Toyota-powered Datsun Violet rally car the perfect embodiment of the Cult of Machine?

We love it when something leftfield turns up in the Yard. It was ahead of December’s Daikoku Nights that we received a phone call from father-son duo Barry and Billy, who owned an ‘interesting rally car’ that they were planning on bringing down on a trailer from their home near Manchester.

This was about all the information we had when this box-arched, red and white curiosity rolled into the Yard on a blisteringly chilly December afternoon. Like most cars of a certain age, though, this one has a story to tell.

Let’s address the elephant in the room – or in this case in the engine bay – first. This is a second-generation, ‘160J’ series Datsun Violet, but lift the bonnet and you’ll be greeted by a sight that will likely incense certain factions of the car community. That’s because powering this Datsun is a 4A-GE, an engine code that ardent JDM enthusiasts will instantly recognise as belonging to a twin-cam, four-cylinder engine from Toyota.

Granted, this combination probably isn’t going to break the internet the way that something like a 2JZ-swapped Skyline might, but it’s enough to ruffle a few enthusiast feathers. Younger co-owner Billy justifies the call: “It was just a slightly better engine than what originally came in the car. It does upset a few – my dad put it on a website and there were people saying ‘oh, it’s got the wrong engine in it’… there’s always one.”

It was an entirely pragmatic decision, though. The 4A-GE – Japan’s first mass-produced dual overhead cam engine – is a robust and rev-happy 1.6-litre four-pot that develops a surprising punch from its diminutive capacity. It’s been a popular unit for motorsport and a common swap within the Toyota community for years, so there’s no real reason its excellence shouldn’t be shared with other cars.

The unconventional engine swap shouldn’t define the car either, for it’s an interesting thing in its own right. The A10 Violet was one of Nissan’s most successful cars from its sporadic efforts in rallying, winning the gruelling Safari Rally four times on the bounce between 1979 and 1982. This isn’t one of those factory-built cars, though.

Instead, it was built by one Dave Blackburn, owner of a 4×4 specialist in the Lancashire town of Colne, and, according to Billy, “a very good driver.” A cursory Google search reveals that Blackburn entered the violet in a string of club level rallies and hill climbs throughout the 2000s, with a decent level of success. “I can’t remember which one, but it does hold a hill-climb record for a 1600cc car,” Billy says.

There’s a slightly sadder recent development, as Dave, the Violet’s long-time custodian, has begun to lose his sight, and has been forced to retire from driving as a result. It’s for this reason that Billy and Barry have taken on the car, giving it a shot at a new life. Like many cars with a story to tell, it comes with an enormous folder of paperwork and photographs documenting its life, including an appearance in Retro Cars magazine.

What this Violet is most of all is a testament to the ingenuity and intrigue that sits around the fringes of British motorsport. Away from the big-ticket corporate sponsors and multi-million-pound race transporters, there are interesting things happening nearly every weekend at dirt ovals, hill climbs and forests all over the country, where people like Dave compete in cars like the Toyota-powered Datsun simply for the love of the sport. Put simply, it’s cars like this that exemplify the spirit of the Cult of Machine.

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