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The Dave Frellsen Pages

The Dave Frellsen Pages

Before his five National Championships racing Datsun sedans,
Dave Frellsen made some waves with his Datsun 2000.

Dave Frellsen is one of the most successful campaigners of the Datsun and Nissan marque. With no less than five national championships to his name, he was an important advertisement for the company throughout the 1970s. Even in 2001, his cars feature in the Nissan Motorsports catalog. What is not widely known is that Dave's first two seasons with Datsun were at the wheel of a 2000 Roadster. These pages chart those early years and continue with a history of Dave's later successes at the wheel of a variety of sedans.

Dave wanted to race from about seven years old. In 1965, when he got my first job out of college and got married he started out with a Triumph TR4. The TR was Dave's only car and it didn't take him long to figure out that "racing your street car was not the way to go". He then bought a "very used" TR3 and proceeded to modify it for racing. The TR3 was similar to the TR4 except it was four inches narrower and did not have rack and pinion steering.

In 1966 and 1967 Dave worked on the TR3 and finally had the fastest one in the Chicago area. The width of the TR3 gave them a bad reputation for rolling over. Dave says: "When a tech inspector said to me "I see your driving a British racing green coffin today" I decided to build a new car."

TR3 at Wilmot

TR$ at Meadowdale

Dave's TR3
The first win, with wife Betty

Dave's TR4
Meadowdale 1968

Dave continues: "In 1968 I took all the good parts from the TR3, scrapped the rest, and built a TR4. By the end of the 1969 season I had the fastest TR4 that I knew of in the USA. However, by 1969, the Hitachi/SU Datsun 2000 Roadster had burst onto the D Production scene and, whatever improvements I made, I could not beat the 2000. I therefore sold the TR4 and found a cheap Datsun 2000 that had burned, with the remaining good body parts removed. I started with a good frame and power train." (Dave says that many 2000 Roadsters caught fire because the exhaust manifold was made from sheet steel instead of cast iron. The manifold often cracked between the second and third exhaust port, shooting hot gas at the carburetors. Most US cars had Hitachi made SU style carburetors with a rubber hose transferring fuel from the float bowl to the jet head. The rubber hose was attacked by the hot exhaust gas leak and the car caught fire).

The Datsun was a little tougher to do body repairs on than the Triumph because the rear fenders were welded to the body instead of bolted on.  Also Dave found that fire damage had warped the sheet metal so even when it was cleaned and painted it never looked right. The Roadster engine and transmission were absolutely wonderful compared with the Triumph. However, the clutch was a bit of a problem, although Dave discovered that if he replaced the soft rivets holding the thin steel straps connecting the clutch cover to the pressure plate with grade 8 capscrews, this doubled the clutches life to six races. At that time the clutch cover cracked.

Dave soon started winning with the Datsun. He says: "In 1970 I was finally able to win in SCCA National competition, and finished third in the Central Division, and 4th at the American Road Race of Champions (ARRC) at Road Atlanta. Jim Fitzgerald won in a Datsun 2000 Datsun, Carl Swanson was second in a Triumph GT 6, and Jack Scoville, winner of DP in 1969, was third in another Datsun 2000." Click below for the results.

1970 DP Results

"In 1971 I won the Central Division of SCCA winning 7 races. In a close fought race I finished 5th at the ARRC that year."  

1971 DP results

"At the end of the 1971 season I sold the car to Dick Starita and he went on to win with the car and campaigned it for several more years. At this point my wife Betty was about to have our first child and would no longer be working. Without a second income racing was out of the question. Dick Roberts, Head of the Datsun Competition Department, came to the rescue in 1972, asking me to build and race a 510 Datsun. Datsun provided support for the effort ." (see the linked pages below).



DF: "Glenn Branstad was my Chief Mechanic on the 2000 Roadster and all my Datsun/Nissan racing efforts. A diesel engine development engineer by day, Glenn was designated the SCCA "Mechanic Of The Year" in 1975. He is racing and winning with Go Karts even today at the age of 70. He was a constant inspiration and a wonderful workhorse who kept me plowing ahead when I would have preferred to take the night off. We usually worked from 8PM till midnight during the week and most of the day on Saturday and Sunday. I envied the full time professional teams I raced against because they could devote their most productive time to racing while we had to start at 8PM what they could start at 8am. My children thought Glenn was the guy who lived in our garage. I couldn't have done it without him."

"My racing experience with the Datsun 2000 set the stage for the successes that I would have with later Datsun/Nissan products and made me aware just how good a stock automobile could be manufactured. Quality control on Datsun products was just terrific. Very few special made racing parts were as well made as stock Datsun parts."

Dave is now retired and lives with his wife on a lake in northern Arkansas.

Profile - 1971

1972 article

The Dave Frellsen Datsun Roadster Gallery
The following images from Dave Frellsen's own archives chart his 1970 and 1971 seasons at the wheel of his Datsun 2000.
  (Click on thumbnails for enlargements)


Road America 1970 - 2nd place


June 1970 - Road America, on the way to a 2nd place finish behind BRE's John McComb.

ARRC Road Atlanta, 1970- Turn 5 The 1970 ARRC at Road Atlanta - Dave on his way to 4th place

Mid-America Raceway - St Louis 2/1971 - 1st place February 1971 - Mid-America raceway, St Louis - 1st turn and 1st place

Road America 1971 - 1st place June 1971 - Road America - Dave and Glenn Branstad ready for the victory lap.

Sharp follows Road Atlanta, 1971 - practice - Bob Sharp (Datsun 240Z) follows.

Road Atlanta Road Atlanta, 1971. Dave Frellsen chases Gene Felton.

Gene Felton tussles with Bob McQueen Road Atlanta, 1971. Gene Felton and Bob McQueen lead . Dave Frellsen and Jim Fitzgerald in the background.


DF: "The yellow and black paint scheme came about out a desire to make the race car stand out in a crowded pack of cars. The black hood came from copying WW 2 fighter planes that painted the area in front of the cockpit black to prevent sun glare from reflecting in the pilots eyes. The yellow was originally a color popular in the late 1960's on Chevrolet Camaro's which I liked. When I was in the military I remember being told that the Army had done research and determined that yellow and black had the greatest contrast and was most easily seen by the human eye. A benefit later discovered was that yellow and black photographed sharply with black and white film that most newspapers and magazines used and sharp photos got published more often. An artist friend of mine added white very effectively to my 1974 Datsun 710, and I stayed that way with subsequent cars up to 1983."

The Dave Frellsen Datsun Sedan Pages
The following pages chart Dave's most successful years running sedans. The images and material have been kindly supplied by Dave himself - other material courtesy of Nissan.


Dave Frellsen's Datsun 510


Datsun 510 - National Champion B Sedan (1973)

Dave Frellsen's Datsun 710 Datsun 710 - National Champion B Sedan (1974 and 1975)

Dave Frellsen's Datsun A510 Datsun 510 - National Champion B Sedan (1978) and GT-3 (1980)

Dave Frellsen's Nissan Sentra Nissan Sentra - campaigned in the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) Proformance series, from 1982. The pages include an amazing crash sequence from Dave's 1983 Sentra campaign.


The Dave Frellsen Pages

Many thanks again go to Dave Frellsen for the excellent images you see here as well as the further information included throughout these pages.

Other research by Rob Beddington. Thanks also go to Nissan.

Should you have any further information or images which you think would benefit these pages please E-Mail me.

Rob Beddingtondatsun.org/fairlady counter

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These pages and images, unless otherwise stated, are copyright ©1999, 2000 and 2001, Rob Beddington & The Classic Fairlady Roadster Register. No part to be repoduced in any form without the prior permission of the owners.