It was known as “The World’s Cruelest Rally:” The Mobilgas Trial, 10,000 miles all around Australia. In 1958, there were two entries, regarded as a joke by the burly Aussies: A pair of tiny Datsun 210s, named “Fuji” and “Sakura”.
The suicidal idea was had by marketing manager Yutaka Katayama. Aged 102 years, he is still alive to tell the story:
“Fuji” and “Sakura” rounded Australia for 19 days. Only 36 out of 67 cars managed to complete the rally. Surprisingly, the two Datsuns were amongst the survivors.
Even more surprisingly “Fuji” won its class title. “Sakura” finished fourth.
Back home in Japan, the cars had to hit the road again. This time on a celebratory tour around Japan. The unexpected win helped pave the way for Nissan’s exports to the United States, led by Katayama as president of Nissan Motor Corp U.S.A.