We lived in Los Gatos from 1987 to 1993. It was already becoming a high-priced enclave for Silicon Valley high fliers then, and now it’s utterly transformed. The Ford, Chevy and even the Honda dealers are now all shuttered, but the RR, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Lamborghini and Bentley dealers are flourishing. Disneyland-esque mansions the size of hotels have replaced little ranchers. Driving back into to town after a wonderful hike in the hills with friends, I saw the ultimate extremes: a brand-new “reproduction” full-sized water-wheel “mill” on a dry, scrubby hillside, “turning” slowly while the pump-fed recirculating “stream” spilled from its “sluice” to “power” it. This thing was the size of a two or three-story house; a “lawn ornament” of grandiose proportions straight out of a theme park. Ok; I don’t have any problems with folks having lots of money; but do they have to spend it in such grotesque ways? But just a block away from our old house I found the perfect antidote to my nouveau riche nausea: a 1977 Datsun 810.
Datsun was late to the game with six-cylinder sedans. Toyota had been selling their Buick-esque Crown since the mid-sixties. Finally, in 1977 Datsun sent this 810 our way, utilizing the Z-car’s 2.4 liter SOHC rated at 125 hp. It was essentially a federalized version of the Nissan Bluebird Maxima, and the subsequent generations reverted to the Maxima name to this day.
These cars shared their platforms and quite a few other parts with the second-generation Datsun 280ZX, including their semi-trailing arm IRS. They were fairly straight-forward, traditional and pretty boring RWD sedans, similar to the Tokyo taxis that Nissan and Datsun built for decades; the Japanese Mercedes w123. To my memory, they never sold in significant numbers, but gave loyal Datsun buyers a way to move up the ladder without leaving the fold. And there definitely aren’t many around these days. Thank you, Datsun 810, for being there so that I could stop holding my nose for our brief time in Los Gatos.