We’re big fans here at GRM of comedian Adam Carolla. (Yeah, there are actually times when we do think of things other than cars.) When we’re in Los Angeles on business, we always listen to KROQ radio; and once the work day is over, we’ve been known to flip open a beer and watch a little Comedy Central.
Thanks to these non-car habits, it wasn’t long before we stumbled across Adam Carolla. Often teamed with funny man Jimmy Kimmel—who now has his own show on CBS—Adam has become an everyman’s comedian of sorts. As an example, he’s one of the few people we have heard rant on air about the odd door handles fitted to the Renault Le Car.
When we found out Carolla was not only a consummate car freak, but our kind of car freak with a Porsche 911 RS replica and a BRE Datsun 510 clone, we just had to meet this guy.
Looking for That Big Break
Adam's garage includes not just cars, but tons of memorabilia and many model airplanes.
Just about everybody in Hollywood is looking for their big break. For Carolla, that break came when he called KROQ and volunteered to help train Kimmel, at the time an on-air personality at the station, for a boxing match that was to be part of a radio stunt.
The two quickly hit it off, and Carolla, the carpenter who was born in Philadelphia and grew up in North Hollywood, was in show business. Don’t think success came instantly for him, though, because in addition to his weekend job as a boxing instructor, Carolla had spent years training with the famous Groundlings and Acme Improv groups in Los Angeles. He also spent considerable time as a standup comedian, appearing at the world-famous Improv and The Comedy Store in Los Angeles.
Kimmel helped Carolla get a job on KROQ’s “Kevin and Bean” morning show. Dr. Drew Pinsky, host of the “Loveline” show on KROQ, heard Adam and liked his style. In 1995, Dr. Drew asked Adam to co-host “Loveline,” and the two now have a show that’s syndicated across the country. (For a while, they also had a show on MTV.)
From there, Carolla partnered with Kimmel as co-host of the bluntly funny “The Man Show” on Comedy Central, as well as “Crank Yankers,” a unique puppet show found on the same network.
Hanging Out With Adam
An FJ20-spec powerplant, originally found in Skylines and Silvias from the 1980s, proudly sits in this 510's engine bay.
We recently spent some time with Adam in his San Fernando garage, where we learned that his on-air persona is not so different from the real thing; he can best be called a man’s man. He likes woodworking, fixing cars and messing with his radio-controlled planes.
His garage is a wonderful, eclectic old space with seriously cool model planes hanging all over the place, as well as the huge neon sign from the “The Man Show” set. (When queried about how he got the latter, he just snickered and said something about snitching it when he left the show.)
Adam’s taste in cars is just as down to earth as he is. In addition to the 510 and 911, Adam’s daily driver is a new MINI Cooper S—he’s already started to hotrod it—as well as a new Nissan 350Z and an E46-chassis BMW M3. Unlike some of his contemporaries, Adam has forsaken the traditional Hollywood Hummer and Navigator.
Like many other celebs, Adam’s love of cars is nothing new. While growing up on the mean streets of Hollywood and driving a ratty Datsun pickup to his carpentry jobs, he tried to fix up a Datsun Z-car in his driveway. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the time, money or talent back then to do the job properly. Like so many of us, he was trying to do too much with too little.
While he didn’t build the two cars featured here, Carolla tinkers with them and knows everything about them. The guys who did build those cars expressed a common opinion when asked about their current owner. According to Jason Len, the builder of this amazing Porsche 911, and Les Cannady, co-builder of the Datsun 510, Adam Carolla is a nice, low-key, down-to-earth guy who just really likes cool cars.
Five and Dime
The interior is correct with a few modern touches, including a pair of Sabelt cam-lock harnesses as well as aftermarket pedal pad covers.
Adam’s 510 was famous before he bought it, as the car was featured in Nissan’s “Dream Garage” ad campaign of the late ’90s. Les Cannady of Classic Datsun Motorsports did the build for Dave Hawkins, a sheriff from Vista, Calif., who later sold the car to Adam.
The car was first stripped down to bare essentials, while the correct BRE-style bodywork was sourced and the original engine was sold. Les filled the hole under the hood with an FJ20-spec engine, a twin-cam powerplant some say was originally designed for Formula 1 competition. A change in the F1 rules that banned turbochargers rendered the engine program unnecessary, but Nissan recouped their engineering dollars by using the FJ20 in their 1980s-vintage Skyline and Silvia models.
Reversing the front crossmember and fabricating a custom exhaust header allowed the engine to fit inside the vintage sedan, while Les used one of the last remaining new sets of SK side-draft carburetors in the build. A five-speed transmission originally fitted to a 280ZX, and a Quaife-fortified 4.11:1 R180-spec differential completes the driveline.
“We had all the components powdercoated by Olympic Coatings in Escondido; the exhaust and plumbing for the cooling system were custom done by Wholesale Tube Bending in Vista, who do a lot of the high-end custom and race exhaust systems in this area,” Les explains. “The radiator was a Volkswagen Rabbit unit custom mounted with a matching dual-fan setup from Summit Racing.”
Carl Azevedo, who worked on the Nissan GTP cars and now does cages for Anthony Woodford Racing, handled the roll bar, engine mounts and other custom fabrication. Other cool, custom bits on the car include aluminum plates installed to strengthen the steering box mounts.
The suspension incorporates many trick features, including custom Tokico struts. “The custom suspension work was from Don Oldenburg at Design Products in Huntington Beach, who does the best Datsun suspension work I know of for the Zs and 510s,” Les says. “He does most all the 510s in vintage racing out here as well as many of the better street cars [for people] that want things right.”
The end result is a 510 that has a true vintage look and feel, yet sports some later-model technology. As Les explains it, the original goal of the project was to create a glorified street car that has the potential to do more.
Those who doubt whether a BRE clone has the blessing of the men who made the original car famous may want to check out the firewall of Adam’s 510, which sports a few signatures that should be familiar to any Datsun fan: BRE team leader Peter Brock, team driver John Morton and the universally known Yutaka Katayama—aka Mr. K—the man who helped turn Nissan into a household name.
View comments on the GRM forums
You'll need to log in to post.