Text: Wooley  //  Photos: Jason Scott

9 years is a long time, but no it ain’t.

If you’re lucky enough to make it to 90, then 9 years is a tenth of your life. Hold up your fingers; put one finger
down – that’s 9 years.

BUT – the first 10 years of your life are spent as a child having fun & trying to figure out which way is up. And the next 15 are spent figuring out who you are & what you’re made of. So boom – that’s 25 years already off the board. Because even though ‘it’s life’ and you’re taking it all in, the grown-up world isn’t ready to give you any real credit. Meaning – you haven’t earned your stripes yet. And that’s kind of a bummer, because sometimes looking back, these are the clearest years to make sense of things – but no one listens.


Getting back to it – if you take the first 25 years of your life off the top, then really, 9 years is more like a seventh of your life. But let’s be honest, unless you’re just like a total G… you’re not out their skydiving and starting up business ventures in the last 20 years of life, so we’ve got to shave some more years. Let’s take those last 20 years off the backend, and chalk them up to retirement, reflection, & easy living.

That’s means 9 years becomes about 20% of your adult chaotic life. If adult-life were a hundred dollar bill, 9 years would be about 20 bucks of it. If adult-life were a Monday-Friday summer beach vacation… 9 years would be one whole day of it. Sobering huh. And you wanted 1 day of that vacation just to do nothing & relax. No time.


At 25-years-old, 9 years into the future seems like forever. At 35, 9 years seems like it went by way too damn fast. And I don’t even wanna know how quickly 9 years shoots by at 45 or 55.

The point is – everyday counts. You’ve heard it said before, yet we all still sleep in. If you’ve got a dream, start now. If you don’t have a dream, go somewhere & find one. Don’t let the months & the years get pissed away. And if you’re waiting for the official starting gun – it already fired dude.


I mention the ‘9 year’ thing, because that’s how long ago Rich Tomlin started his company – Apex Auto Works. 9 years seems so measurable… like a substantial enough amount of time for anything. But when you’re doing cars that may take 6-12 months to build… 9 years goes by in a flash of parts-ordering, backorders, roadtrips, and track weekends.

This Datsun is full of nostalgia for Rick.

This is a car that Richard drives to shows on a Sunday… and then has it back out on track by the next Saturday, doing what it does best. In fact, Rich ran the car in the Chihuahua Express in this car – a 1,700km historic race/ rally through Mexico. You can tell me this car doesn’t just ‘seem right’ running WFO over dusty Mexican roads.


This Datsun’s history with me started in ’99, when my friend purchased it locally for $23.00. Yes – 23 dollars (the local shop owner had it on a mechanics lien). The motor was in pieces in the trunk. The car was a faded & torn French Blue. And the engine bay had dash collection plaques stacked up from a history of track events in Florida. My friend ended up giving it to another one of his friend’s, who was an auto-shop teacher at a local high school. That guy lugged it around for about 8 years & 3
high schools – where the kids rebuilt the motor, welded in a cage, and ended up painting it Trans Am yellow. Another local competitor purchased it around ’06, and ran some track day events, and a vintage race or two. But the local vintage club would not accept the car, because the motor was bigger than the rules allowed. At this point, the car was sold to a local track owner – who enlisted us (Apex Auto Works) to build the car.


We started by cutting out the roll cage, which was scary at best, as high school students that were definitely still learning built it. It got a completely new cage made out of 1 ó’ .092 DOM tubing. The cage is tied in at 12 points. In addition, it has dimple dye plates in 5 locations – one of them being the dash that’s made of sheet steel. The current color was selected, and the cage was painted in the Ford Grabber Blue.

The Datsun’s previous bodywork was another one of the students’ learning curves, so it required us stripping the car completely in order to get it right. We cut the original flares out, and saved what we could. Bodywork progressed and new flares were grafted onto the body. We finished up the body prep, and ended up convincing the owner to ‘just trust us’ on color combination. We used a SEM ‘Hot Rod’ black for the lower section of the 2-tone… and then painted the topside with the Grabber Blue. We then hand-pinstriped the 2-tone accent line, cage, hood, and trunk. The car then went to the track mechanic, where it got a race-legal engine build, and all-new suspension.


The Datsun left us, and raced for 8 years in SCCA & vintage events around the country. It made/makes a great race car, because it’s able to run in multiple classes with easy & quick changes – such as wheels. This makes it a ton of fun to go win events… and then return in the faster group, only to win again. This 510 was the first car that we were hired to build under the Apex name. And in the process of building it, I really got attached. It meant a lot to me. The owner had always said he’d give me first rights to the car, if it were to ever be sold. So 9 years later, the time came. We worked out a deal, and the 510 is finally back home. 🙂