By on July 29, 2012

The California streets of my childhood were full of Datsuns like this one, and the B210 remained a common sight in (rust-free parts of) America until well into the 1990s. Then, without anybody really noticing, nearly all of them disappeared. Every so often, I’ll find one in a self-service junkyard; there was this slushbox-equipped ’74 last year, and now this mustard-yellow ’75 has drifted into range of The Crusher’s jaws.
The 1.4 liter Nissan A14 pushrod engine was quite reliable and minimized the painful effects of OPEC price-gouging, but the B210 was sluggish even by the lax standards of the darkest days of the Malaise Era.


Datsun saves!
In 1983, Nissan recalled 328,318 Datsun B210s to repair a rust-prone fuel-tank support. I don’t recall hearing about B210s dropping fuel tanks on the highways back then, but it must have happened.
Will the high price of scrap metal flush out all the remaining B210s from their garages and driveways soon? We’ll see.

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43 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1975 Datsun B210...”


  • avatar
    nvdw

    I always thought this car to be a very cheap and ill-proportioned knock-off of the Alfetta GT.

    Then again, I do like this car.

    What is most intriguing is that someone robbed this car of one HT lead rather than buying it new at the car parts shop. That must have been the cheapest man in recorded history.

  • avatar
    Joe McKinney

    I have always liked these as well. I have not seen one in at least five years.

    One of my cousins owned owned a brown 1976 B-210 hatchback she bought new and kept through the late 1980′s.

  • avatar
    wumpus

    Automatic???

    I learned on a ’76 Datsun B210 Honeybee (they don’t name cars like they used to…). To accelerate at all, downshift and floor it (also useful for maintaining speed going uphill).

    I can’t imagine trying to tie that engine to an automatic.

    • 0 avatar
      myleftfoot

      I had the four speed manual, directly connected to the transmission without cables. A pleasure to shift for me as my first manual. I test drove the automatic. Barely any forward progress was felt. Even with the manual, I had to floor it almost every shift. Maximum speed was 83 mph, at what RPM would only be a guess. My honeybee with the weird yellow green gray paint had no tach.

  • avatar
    kinsha

    I bought a 1975 B210 2 door in 1980 from a guy for 1200.00 only had 32000 miles on it. It was a honeybee model I think that’s what they were called. He was selling it for his sister. The honeybee logos on the sides had been removed ( thank God ) but it was still that wierd bright yellow green color with black vinyl top :-) 4 speed no air but ran like new. I bought it took it down to the local auto glass place and for 125.00 had them put a sunroof in it. I drove that car for four years and had alot of fun with it. I remember it was a California model I think because it had a big Catalyst light on the dash to warn you if the cat was overheating. I have put many stereos in cars and this one was the worst took all day. Sold it to a neighbor lady who was still driving it when I moved.

  • avatar
    Garak

    I don’t know what to think of those crazy ’70s designs, they’re both really ugly and really good-looking at the same time. Those US spec bumpers are ugly though.

  • avatar
    Herm

    I think these cars were only painted yellow, until they rusted.. they actually were pretty sporty when equipped with the sweet 5 speed stick shift..

  • avatar
    Ashy Larry

    My father had three B210′s, all acquired used. The first, a 1976 model, came free with partially smoked joints under the rear seat. The car was wrecked when a lady turning left poulled out in front of him and a 9 year old me 3 monts after the car was purchased. He promptly went out and bought another, with some sweet aftermarket pinstripes (5 of them, rainbow colored). It served us well for 2 years before it was rear ended. So what does dad do? He promptly goes out and buys a booger-yellow Honeybee edition B210. We had it for 9 months before we moved out of the country.

    I recall the car being solid, dependable, gas efficient, perfectly fine for commuting.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    A buddy of mine had one of these in high school. It was originally his sister’s car, but he inherited it when his sister went off to college. Free car in high school? Woo hoo!

    A bunch of us who were on the football team together usually rode with Kevin in his B210 hatch, it must have been quite the sight to see four six-foot or bigger football players bail out of this thing like a clown car in the circus. The car had no acceleration with just Kevin in the car (he was 6’4″ about 210 lbs), add three more guys roughly about the same weight, that little motor never saw anything less than 5000 RPM and third gear on the freeway.

    I also remember a guy at our local 1/8 mile dragstrip had one of these B210s with a small block Ford motor stuffed in it. I never really got to see it close up, but the thing that stands out in my mind was the fact he used a Ford, not a small block Chevy, which seems to fit anywhere. It’s been more that 30 years since I saw the car, I don’t even remember how well it ran, but it must have been pretty zippy, considering how light they were. Even a lo-po V8 would make it a pretty sparkling performer, by any measure.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    I used to see these things all over but now, hardly. There was a pale yellow Honey Bee, I think a 76 that used to be parking near my building, but that was several years ago, I think the last time I saw it was in ’06.

    Back in the mid 1980′s, I worked for Domino’s Pizza and one guy had a yellow one that looked to have an undertone of blue to it and it was a hatchback like this one, with the manual too. I suspect it had been repainted due to that blueish undertone to the yellow.

    He drove it to deliver pizzas and I rode along to get the hang of the area and how to deliver pizzas on my first few days on the job.

    While it didn’t seem terribly fast, it seemed to be a decent enough car, even then.

    Design wise, I have always had an infinity for that period in many ways, part of it was I grew up in it, and second, the design ethos of that period was often very cool. Datsun I will agree had some off the goofiest designs out there, but it was all part and parcel to the era that was both ugly and cute at the same time.

    I agree, no one really names their cars like they used to, like with actual names (Impala/Malibu/Focus/Fiesta being some of the exceptions). Even when not using alpha/numeric naming like ZDX or some crap like that, the names actually used I don’t think are always as good as clearly thought out as they probably once were.

    This one, looks like someone’s gotten a bunch of parts from this one to keep their B210 running and all the spec stickers look suspiciously new for the car’s age.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    Honeycomb hubcaps on these cars, I wish people in the industry still had the balls to do stuff like that these days.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    My supervisor had one of these. It was an automatic, and had a white vinyl top over a pale metallic green body with tan seats and door panels and black dash and steering wheel.

  • avatar
    Polar Bear

    I still think the name change was a mistake. Datsun was a good name. It was forceful and distinctive. It was a valuable brand and they killed it for some Japanese nationalist reasons. Nissan? Nissan who?

    And what was wrong with Bluebird and Laurel? Look at Toyota, sticking with Corolla and Camry for generations.

    If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

    And now they want to bring Datsun back. In some countries. Great, bring on the confusion.

    • 0 avatar
      carbiz

      Nationalist reasons? At one time, Americans were smart enough NOT to buy Nissans because the returning GIs remembered all the tanks and trucks made by Nissan in Japan – and Manchuria, using slave labour. Nissan was an artificial construct of the Japanese military. Americans once knew that.
      The original Nissans didn’t sell in the Excited States, so they revamped and renamed as Datsun. That did the trick. By the late ’70s, most of the GI’s were dead, or too senile to drive, so Nissan restored its proud name.
      Mad Men did an intriguing episode where the heads of Honda come to the agency and one of the partners throws them out, but that was in ’63, so I guess memories were still a bit raw. I supposed the producers expects the audience to think, “Oops, talk about lost opportunity: getting in with Honda America on the ground floor!” I, however, took the other meaning, which is that there was a time when people stood on principles, not political or business expediency.

      • 0 avatar
        FromaBuick6

        You only continue to embarrass yourself with this ignorant, jingoistic crap.

      • 0 avatar
        Polar Bear

        Thanks for the history. Military production with slave labour. Sounds just like Volkswagen in World War II.

      • 0 avatar
        millmech

        Don’t mention the war…

      • 0 avatar
        ranwhenparked

        Except Honda didn’t even exist during WWII, it was a brand-new company started from scratch after the war (while Japan was under US occupation) and isn’t connected with any prewar keiretsu.

        I don’t know where you get that “artificial construct” crap, but Nissan as a company dates back to the 1920s. It was started out as a holding company for the industrialist Yoshisuke Aikawa, to consolidate all his investments in the electronics, banking, auto parts, and foundry industries.

        And, in case you don’t remember, Japan was still one of America’s best friends in the 1920s, since they were on the Allied side in WWI and helped us in taking away everything Germany had that wasn’t nailed down.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I think its important to remember history or are we are doomed to repeat it. I don’t know the whole background of the Japanese automakers/heavy industry during the war, but I am happy to see someone at least bringing it up. Granted the fortunes of politics and war change from decade to decade, but its funny how the children and grandchildren of this era so quickly forget the atrocities of the past.

        I have a dear friend who lost grandparents and other relatives she never knew in the Holocaust, won’t touch anything German to this day. I don’t think shes ignorant or bigoted in this… although it makes helping her car shop a bit more interesting.

      • 0 avatar
        cfclark

        IIRC, the Mad Men episode wherein Honda gets kicked out the door was meant to illustrate the generational conflicts among Roger Sterling, the WWII vet who remains a Japanophobe; Bert Cooper, who is older and is consistently portrayed as a Japanophile; and Don Draper, who is a Korean War vet (never mind his blatant identity theft to get out of that conflict) and more pragmatic about dealing with the Japanese, especially if there’s money to be made. Roger may stick to his guns in this case, but there’s plenty else in the series that casts doubt on his tendency to stand on principle.

        I don’t think I ever rode in one of these, but I do recall a couple of high school friends who had the next generation 210.

  • avatar
    Geekcarlover

    For whatever problems they had (lack of power, thin body metal that rusted through quick, minimal passenger/cargo space) they had one awesome selling point. MPG. I remember an older cousin telling me how she freaked out the first time $8 didn’t top off her tank. A Ford LTD I think. She was convinced the gas station was ripping her off.

  • avatar
    OliverTwist

    If you think this one is ugly, my old school friend had 1976 Datsun 200SX (S10 body) in vomit yellow colour. One of the ugliest Japanese I have ever seen and driven.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nissan_Silvia#S10

    What I recalled the most was its unique feature: dog-leg first gear. That took me a while to acclimate myself to that.

    Thankfully, some brilliant idiot rammed into the 200SX, sending it off to the pasture…

  • avatar

    My parents had one of these. An orange fastback, manual transmission, honeycomb hubcaps. I only had to drive it once and while it was gutless and was kind of miserable to drive long distances, I still preferred it over their other, main car…a 1985 Chrysler LeBaron convertible.

  • avatar
    jco

    my uncle had one. he had turned it into one of those art cars with garage sale junk glued to it.

    i could see it being an entertaining classic with an sr20det drivetrain in it.

  • avatar
    carbiz

    Fortunately, Canadians were far more skeptical of these tiny tin cans. Our eyes weren’t offended by these powered roller skates. Too few bought them, and those that did regretted it: they all literally dissolved within 6-10 years. Gone. There were hilarious accidents, as shock towers collapsed into trunks, as wheel mounts snapped on hoists and wheels stayed on the ground as the vehicle rose. I worked for an Auto Parts dealership in ’81. Yep, I saw the Malaise Era at its best.
    Sometimes people forget that before there were the Japanese true-believers and the mind-numbed masses to hang on every press release from the motherland, there were the mechanics in the trenches who had to service those original attempts. Stocking parts was a challenge. Finding mechanics who could work on them was another issue. Initially, most mechanics we dealt with thought Japanese cars were quirky, a novelty – sort of like those cute British cars that never quite made it here. Of course, Great Britain didn’t throw her entire economic clout behind their dying auto industry, like Japan did. If England had an MITI and an interest in conquering the colonies again, perhaps we’d all be driving Sunbeams and MGBs today.
    I had the misfortune of renting a 1978 210 to go camping. Awful. Ontario has these passing lanes on long inclines and that car was stuck in the right hand lane on every one. Dump trucks pulled out and passed us. I fail to see how a car like that saves gas when your foot is to the floor half the day.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      If England had an MITI and an interest in conquering the colonies again, perhaps we’d all be driving Sunbeams and MGBs today.
      Yes, and know tow truck drivers and cabbies on a first name basis. WWII put the nails in the coffin of the British Empire. One of the more incredulous sentences, of many, that I’ve read on here.

      • 0 avatar
        Glen.H

        Perhaps we would have Sunbeams and MGBs built by slave labour too. The British Empire was no better than the Japanese Empire for its conquered people and deserved its destruction.

  • avatar
    C170guy

    I hear these were very light weight, and could be tailhappy if you lift.

    All the stories I have ever heard about them begin with how delighted their owners were to realize they could push them out of the snowbanks they were always hitting without a tow or extra help, and then go on to recall how they tended to “fishtail” in slippery corners.

    I don’t think they ever made the connection, or cared to understand lift-off oversteer, but in hindsight it seems like it was there.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    These rusted away quickly up here in the snowy Midwest. When I went to LA on vacation in 80′s and 90′s was amazed to see 70′s Japanese cars!

    • 0 avatar
      chicagodan

      I bought a 74 Datsun b-210 hatchback 4 speed stick. It was my first car. It was a bit of a dog on the acceleration, but not bad in handling for a $3200 purchase. To fill the tank would be less than $10. Got rid of the honeycomb wheel covers and sported it up a bit. It ran fine and was trouble free. Rust destroyed it in 8 years despite my best efforts. I still have the gear shift knob and side emblem!

  • avatar
    PenguinBoy

    Apparently the older Nissan engines were based on BMC / Austin designs. You can sure see the resemblance in this engine, with the exception of the “Datsun” badge on the valve cover this unit looks like something out of an old MG…

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    My mom had one, which I learned to drive with. Bog slow and it had an addiction to flat tires. It got so I could change a tire from start to finish in 5 minutes. We took a trip from Edmonton to Vancouver and it would only do 30 mph on long mountain climbs, which was followed by harrowing 80 mph downhill runs. At this time Datsun made some of ugliest cars in history, it’s a wonder they recovered and built cool stuff like the 300ZX, Sentra SER and the original Frontier truck.

  • avatar
    probert

    I think the front and rear u joints and the drive shaft had to be replaced as a single unit on these cars. Maybe that’s why they all disappeared at the same time.

  • avatar
    JaySeis

    My mom had a green one with a 5 speed. We drove the pants off it and if driven sanely (never) it was good for high 30′s mpgs, 40+ occassionally. I had a lot of fun in with girlfriends, long road trips to SF and back from the PNW. Sister ran it on no oil for 5 miles and only stopped when the engine made an odd whirring sound. New oil and filter and she drove 50k more, including to DC where she traded it in for a new CRX. East coast winters were hard on the already started rust. She got $100 on the trade in because “tires where excellent”. 60 HP out of 1300 cc? As I recall. Lousy seats. I locked myself out of it in Yosemite and took all of ten minutes to break in by running a wire under the rear vent windows and pulling the door handle open.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    Two buddies had one of these , both in turd brown , one a ’75 with automatic and a vinyl top , one a ’76 with the 5-speed , both with A.C. as this was in Texas . Drove with the friend and 2 other guys to New Mexico to go camping in the one with the automatic , absurdly slow with a big load – made my VW Squareback I owned then seem like a hot rod in comparison . And the back seat was terrible even for a 5’5″ little dude like myself . As usual , the other guys being 5′ 10″ or more I was always relegated there unless I was driving . It struggled on any small incline , let alone when we were in the mountains . The other friend’s ’76 with the 5-speed was a bit faster but the 5-speed was the same trans as seen in the late unlamented Datsun F-10 coupe with the upside down gearshift . They did get pretty good mileage and had the “unique ” honeycomb wheels .Datsun certainly had the most cartoon-like styling of anyone back then .

  • avatar

    I recently purchased a 1978 B210 w/ a ZX bodykit (yes, I said ZX) from a seller off of craigslist in Dallas… The car had been on craigslist for nearly 2years & had been sitting outdoors for over 18years… I couldn’t bare to see it rot away or being sent off to a crusher, so I saved it. Upon further research (& w/ help from the inter-webs) I was able to track down the B210ZX’s original owner /builder/mastermind… The former owner/builder actually sent me pictures of the original ZX conversion that took place in the early 1980s.

    The B210ZX is currently being transformed to run the 24Hours of LeMons. Our debut event will be Sept 29th & 30th at MSR Houston.

    Follow the build at: http://www.ProsperPerformance.com

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    The late 70′s 510 parked next to the B210 might be worth a write up even though they pale in comparison to the 1st generation aka poor mans BMW 2002.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    The B210′s name was catchy in a cool way back then. I really like the coupe shape. Rust-free Datsuns could run a very long time; rusty ones just a long time.

  • avatar
    nrd515

    A friend of mine who graduated high school in 1982 got a nearly identical car to the one pictured when his mom couldn’t take it’s sluggishness any more and wanted something bigger, faster, and with an automatic. I think it was a ’77. He drove it like a lunatic for about 2 years, and then one day he made (or attempted to make) a hard turn at way too high a speed, and the left rear suspension tore loose and he sideswiped an old Buick Electra and then ran into the back of an old Chevy pickup. Needless to say, the Datsun never was on the road again. His next car? A brown AMC Pacer. I guess it was a step up. We still laughed at his car though, the squeaking it made was legendary. His last couple of cars has made up for his early days of gutless slugs though. He had a 2006 Chrysler 300SRT (sadly stolen and chopped up) with a bunch of mods and now drives an ’09 Challenger SRT8 with a 440 stroker and a blower on it making over 700HP at the rear wheels. Fun indeed.

  • avatar
    mjal

    Say what you will about quirky designs by Datsun, their 240z, to my eyes, is still one of the best affordable sports cars ever designed and still looks good to this day.

  • avatar
    SuperACG

    My mom had one of these…never saw it, but I heard stories of it. SHE HATED IT! She had a blue Fiat, which she loved, but my dad sold it saying it was unreliable, and got her a puke-yellow B210 which she drove in contempt until he got her the 1972 S-Class Mercedes that I remember as a child.

    I remember seeing these cars while sitting in the back seat of the Mercedes. I thought the hubcaps here cool! When I said anything about those cars, off my mom would go about how much she hated them!

  • avatar
    AnsonYu

    I still have one. They are gutless but mine has done well enough to get to 525k miles.

  • avatar
    phxmotor

    I had 2 of these in the 1980, unbelievably reliable, both stickshifts. No rust in Az where I lived at the time so they lasted forever. Crazy reliable! went back to the North Dakoda hoestead for a 100 year reunion of my wifes family. Same clan that invented and built the factory for the “Bobcat” mini bulldozer. Took the B210 over to Lake Superior and went around the lake into Michigan. Drove great on every long trip and we took many trips. Fully loaded, no problem. Heck we bought it with ver 100k and sometime after 200k it finally needed a clutch. Had no $ at the time… so I went to a UPULLIT yard… bought a used clutch disc for $5. I kid you not, this is a true story. Put the clutch in w/o replacing anything else. The car was still running fine at 325,000 miles when I sold it for $1500. I still saw it running around town years later.
    The engine is a slightly revised (better oil seals… better carb… better water pump) Emglish MG design. Nissan bought the rights to copy the engine. It still is the only EZ swap for an MG Midget or MGB of the 1970′s. Because its the same. Just better.Never cared that it was underpowered, Always figured by over engineering and underpowering it it was designed to last. And it was! Same years GM was making the Vega and Ford the Pinto. The pinto was actually an OK car, but the Vega was worse than a jike. But in Arizona and Calif, no one bought anything axcept a Corolla or a B210 for one simple reason; they were reliable… they lasted… and they were reliable… and they lasted.
    That clutch repair still makes me laugh everytime I think about it. It was a 3 hour start to finish repair…alone… I still remember putting the transmission on my stomach to lift it back into place. Damned good car!


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