By on June 27, 2013

07 - 1979 Datsun 210 Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBack when I was coming of automotive age, in the early 1980s, most of my peers who got hand-me-down cars from relatives ended up with Vegas, Pintos, Colts, and Datsun 210s (for some reason, I don’t recall anyone at my high school getting a Civic, and very few got Corollas). Almost all the 210s are long gone these days, since there’s little interest in restoring them and you can get better fuel economy and reliability from a 1990s Tercel or Metro, but every so often I see one in a self-service wrecking yard. We saw this ’79 four-door in 2011, and today we’ll be looking at a ’79 two-door.
02 - 1979 Datsun 210 Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYes, the 210 was very, very slow, thanks to its fuel-sipping 65-horsepower engine. But look— rear-wheel drive!
01 - 1979 Datsun 210 Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one is pretty grimy, but there’s no rust (I found this car in California) and it would have been easily restored… if anyone cared about late-70s 210s.


Nobody ever got 47 MPG out of a 210, unless it was downhill at 49 MPH, but they did sip gas by Malaise Era standards.

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44 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1979 Datsun 210...”


  • avatar
    JaySeis

    My Mom drove a B210 hatchback with a 5 speed. 65 hp was WAY more hp than any mid 60′s bug and I’d wind that sucker up to extract every ounce. Always got 37-40 mpg out of it. Sub 100 hp vehicles were so common 40 years ago. Now every wants 200 hp, 40 mpg +, NASCAR track safety, seat 5, 0-60 under 6, $20K, RWD, daily driver, performance coupes, etc, etc, etc. spoiled brats.

    • 0 avatar
      Summicron

      “Now every wants 200 hp, 40 mpg +, NASCAR track safety, seat 5, 0-60 under 6, $20K, RWD, daily driver, performance coupes, etc, etc, etc. spoiled brats.”

      But they’re pretty much getting what they want, albeit in cars uglier than anything a proctologist ever sees and admitting about as much light.

    • 0 avatar
      Synchromesh

      200hp in a modern car? Unless it’s something small and light like Lotus or Miata – no thanks. I want 300hp. And my car delivers.

  • avatar
    jim brewer

    A car like this cost maybe $5,000. They just killed Detroit which didn’t have anything remotely close in quality or price. I remember looking at one back in the day. The first thing the salesman did was pop the hood and show off all the nicely machined fittings under there compared to an American car. My head hit the ceiling so it was a non-starter for me. The Japanese had not quite made the full adjustment to the American market in those days.

    • 0 avatar
      Summicron

      Allow me to indulge in some stinky, unscientific *anecdotal* memories; these were chick cars for educated, frugal chicks. Probably of necessity, given the tiny interiors.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      I think your price is a little high. Depending on the few options available, the price was likely in the $3500-$4000 range.

    • 0 avatar

      Took my driver’s test in a friends’ parents. First Japanese car I ever drove….way better built than the tanks my parents drove. I knew the Japanese were onto something. Compared to a 73 Grand Prix this was a swiss watch. The trans shifted like a motocross bike. RWD was a bonus.

  • avatar
    Summicron

    It’s 1977 and every day in the parking lots at the U. of Iowa, Valiants, Vegas, Pintos, Gremlins are winking out of existence as more and more blue and yellow B210s wink in.

    It was then I realized that this cute little Japanese car thing was actually an invasion. Blue and yellow B210 2Dr hatchbacks…. for all the legend around Toyota and Honda, Datsun was the first to put the big divisions ashore. Or so it seemed back then.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Mitsubishi shipped hundreds of thousands of cars to the U.S. in the 1970s, but they were branded Dodge and Plymouth.

      • 0 avatar
        Summicron

        Yeah, you’re right. Wiki says 110,000 annually by 1982.

        Can only speak for where I was at the time and the Diamond-Star stuff was an occasional oddity compared to the in-your-face presence Datsun had built.

        I think campus cloistering of like-minded buyers made it locally more impressive than nation-wide, perhaps.

      • 0 avatar
        GoesLikeStink

        Yeah, my parents traded their 73 Satelite, Sebring with the 318, in for a new 79 Dodge Colt. We drove that car for more than 20 years. Not sure how many miles but well over a quarter million. Mom gave it to my brother in 2000 when she replaced it with a Sentra.

  • avatar

    This takes me back to my last few years of high school in the late 90′s. I had totaled my first car, and while I tried to scrape together some cash to afford another 80′s Nissan 300ZX, I caught rides with friends. One friend drove a B210 hatchback. It was tired and worn looking inside and out. The 510′s were already somewhat popular as restoration projects, and I always thought the B210 shared just a smidge of the 510′s soul and character. My friend felt otherwise and seemed to find it a bit odd that I continued to ask him for a lift after I had discovered all the gory details of his ride.

  • avatar
    skor

    My sister had a 79 hatchback with auto trans and AC. When you switched on the AC it was like someone kicked the car in the groin. With the AC on, the car would not go up steep hills. My friend had a Pinto with a the 2.3 and four speed. That Pinto was like a rocket sled compared to the 210.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Of _course_ Pinto’s came with AC ~ I hated working on them so equipped , luckily not many buyers ponied up the extra Lolly for it .

    I well remember the Datsun B-210 , they sold like hot cakes and yes , back in the 1970′s Datsun led the Japanese Invasion , Toyota’s RT43′s Et Al. with the anemic and fragile 3RB engines & two speed “Toyoglide” slush boxes , weren’t up to snuff by a long shot .

    I went to Hawaii with my then wife and we rented one of these in a ghastly pink color , it only had an AM radio and as mentioned , as long as you kept the revs in the sweet spot and rowed the four speed tranny furiously , it went o.K. .

    I’m 6′ tall (back then i was 6’1″) and had not much head room but didn’t rub with my head either .

    Last week I saw a passable ” Honey – Bee ” special edition one of these in the Myrtle P-A-P yard in better shape than this .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      Summicron

      Heh… yeah, I know, just none I ever sat in had A/C. Truth told, I thought my buddy’s new ’79 Pinto was a pretty sweet car with the 4-speed.

    • 0 avatar
      Fastbak390

      A rats nest of vacuum lines and an evaporator that is almost impossible to extract from under the dash… What’s not to like? (removal of the dash also requires removal of the windshield)

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    My brother bought a 1980 British Racing Green 2 door Datsun 2 door with a 5 speed new which my parents later bought from him. Not a lot of power but it got over 40 mpgs and the engine was very solid. Very low maintenance and very reliable. I wish they made something like it today.

  • avatar
    Slave2anMG

    Is it a 5 speed? I want it to go into my MG Midget…it’s a popular swap. Heck, even the Datsun 4 speed is a better box than the standard MG box…

    • 0 avatar
      michaelcoyote

      I did it on my Sprite and I’ve been pretty happy with it, but finding all the parts (2+ months to find a clutch fork) was seriously agonizing. If I did it again, I’d look pretty long and hard at the T9 conversion. Moss does a complete (if spendy) kit.

      Also remember that not all 210 transmissions fit. You need to make sure it’s the right kind.

      • 0 avatar
        SoCalMikester

        Reminds me of why I sold my 75 MG I owned from 1999-2001. It ran great, even after I found all the stuff to make it CA smog legal again. Actually, it ran better with the air pump and a catalyst.

        I just knew something was going to break eventually that I didnt have the time to find cheaply. So sadly, I sold it and got pretty much all the money back Id put into it. But for those 2 years, it was a damn fun car. No Lucas jokes, either. It was more reliable than the 81 VW cabrio i had from 1991 to 1998.

        So yeah, a 24 year old British car was more fun and reliable than a 10 year old VW. Go figure.

  • avatar
    zaxxon25

    My first hand-me-down car was a 1980 Datsun 210 … the tan/yellow exterior was more muted than this vehicle’s color. 5 speed, MS, MB, AM radio etc etc, dad spared no expense when purchasing this vehicle. That being said it was dead reliable and pulled low to mid 40 MPG consistently. Upgraded the sound system and it provided worry-free travel until it was handed down first to my sister then my aunt who got caught in a financial jam. It was still ticking when she moved 5 years ago, sold it locally.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    Back in the barn behind my house there is a number of trunk lids and other body panels for these cars. One day I asked the guy I got the house from what was the deal with all of the Datsun 210 parts out there.

    First, he forgot they were even back there. But apparently back in the day, like late 70′s, they’d buy them wrecked for cheap, rebuild them, and make some decent money off of the cars. He said they were really easy and dirt cheap to fix.

  • avatar
    HiFlite999

    The ex had a new one of these, but 4-door, AC and 5-speed. With AC on, gear #5 was out of play. With the pedal just shy of all the way down, it would do about 75 mph, but get a solid 40 mpg in the process.

    At 2000 lb and with no aero, any passing truck would blow it 2 feet sideways.

    The ride was much cheaper than the girl who came with it ….

  • avatar
    lon888

    When I bought my first car I had to choose between a new ’77 210 Hatchback or a used ’73 240Z (I choose the Z). I remember the 210′s as being rock solid reliable but slow, slow, slow. At the time they were far superior to a Pinto, Vega, Beetle, Rabbit or even Corolla.

  • avatar
    Southern Perspective

    Ah yes, this was my new car that year, but mine was a very pleasant medium blue.

    This sedan has a higher roof than the hatchback in the commercial. Indeed, as some have mentioned, the headroom was shy in the hatchback, but not bad in the sedan.

    Mine didn’t have A/C.

  • avatar
    SixDucks

    Good, fast, cheap. Pick any two. A restyled B210 without the beehive wheelcovers, very reliable and very slow. I remember lots of these things, and they were a common sight in rust free S. Cal. for a good 10 years. Seems most were either this particular shade of baby puke beige or a washed out light metallic green. The dealers would often dress them up a bit with a tape stripe kit.

    Cast iron pushrod Nissan 4′s were the stuff of legend, few engines would take as much abuse or neglect. Very easy to service and repair, though the Hitachi carbs. on the later version could be a little fidgety. So slow the bugs would hit the back window……..

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    The engine from these was quite popular in forklifts and generators. A company I worked for back in the 80′s had one in a propane powered forklift and it was quite reliable.

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      Reminds me of how industrial machinery powered by the Slant Six or Ford 300 inline is fairly common.

      I think you can still find airport tugs with 300 power…

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Go figure ~

    I get home to – day and am working on the Klaxon on my CT90K2 when I hear a car pull up blocking my driveway , I peer out the fence and Lo ~ there’s a 5 window B-210 Coupe just like the one in that advert here ! .

    It’s clean as a whistle , re sprayed light charcoal over the original yellow I can see when they open the door , it even had the original hub caps on it and was running like a swiss watch ~ no smoke , no shake ,nothing .

    I watched & listened as it pulled away and turned the corner , thinking about this thread .

    When these were new , young adults bought them , not college students ~ married families on a tight budget , professionals just starting out , sales men and so on .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      I had the same feeling when I went to the local Rite-Aid drugstore and lo and behold, there was a Fairmont Futura in that pale blue color Ford threw on EVERYTHING.

      And it was in perfect condition!

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    I had one of these back in college. My best memory of it is when some little bastards opened the door and poured engine oil all over the interior. They ran when I came out. I remember chasing them for about 10 minutes, fully planning on pouring the oil down their throats when I caught them. Had to sit on carboard until I ultimately junked it.

  • avatar
    joeydimes

    My parents had one of these in the Central Valley of CA in 1980 – tan exterior, vinyl interior, and no A/C. I spent many a 100 degree day suffering in the back seat of this thing – rolling down the front windows did little to relieve the suffering and the “styling” of the car meant I was already hunched down as low as I could to avoid being seen in the thing.

    Then to make matters worse they got ANOTHER one. Nothing but bad memories seeing this thing.

    At least our VW Dasher Diesel (yes – we had one) had air :).

  • avatar
    Garak

    Where I lived, these were quite popular in their day, and along with the Corolla, considered a more luxurious alternative to the bestselling Lada, Datsun Cherry and Fiat 127. Most were sold with the 52 hp 1.2 liter engine giving the car 0-100 km/h times around 20 seconds – perfectly acceptable for a middle-class car in the day.

  • avatar
    dgb100

    One of my HS buds had a 73 or 74 Honda Civic with a two-speed clutchless manual transmission. You had 1 -2 -N -R. It was awful but awesome. It was the very opposite of a muscle car. We could literally out run the car for a block or so.

  • avatar
    gholovacs

    Does anybody know where this 79 Datsun 210 2dr is in California? Need a rear panel glass, looks like it is good in the pic.
    Thanks


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