By on January 2, 2010

old-school los gatos Datsun 810

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.

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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.

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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.

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12 Comments on “Curbside Classic CA Vacation – Highly Un-Los Gatos Edition: 1977 Datsun 810...”

  • avatar

    Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen one of these! My aunt and uncle in Virginia had one of these, in brown. I think it was one of the first Japanese cars I had ever ridden in. We went to the Wise County Fair (where Coal Miner’s Daughter was filmed) in it, and even though I was seven at the time, I thought it was kind of interesting.
    Okay, now it’s my turn for some requests, Japanese Style. Can you find an ’85-’88 Maxima, and I really want to see an ’89-’92 Toyota Cressida. I got to drive one a few times as a teenager (my mom’s boss’s car) and I was blown away by it.

  • avatar

    A rear-drive sedan with a Z-derived motor and platform…this is basically the late 70s version of the Infiniti G37. Wow.

  • avatar

    Wish I still had my Datsun 510 — poor man’s 2002.

  • avatar

    My sister and bro-in-law bought one of these new, with a 4-speed stick (I guess a 5-speed wasn’t offered then). It was a blast to drive, hardly boring, though handling was  leeeetle squishy.
    The last-gen Cressida could be had with a 5-speed. Coupled with the Supra six, that car was one of the ultimate sleepers. Toyota probably sold oh five of these so equipped…

  • avatar

    Wow, my girlfriends dad speaks lovingly of having one of these but it didn’t keep him a Nissan man.

  • avatar

    Datsun 810 Commercial:

    The Datsun commercials in the late 70s and early 80s have to be among the best of all time.  Everything came together perfectly: the voice, the horns, the tune, the dialogue, the slogan, the car footage.  Just perfect.

    Extra points for finding the family car of my youth: 1982 Cressida.

  • avatar

    We had a 1978 model with a 4 speed from 1979 to 1994. It started out as our “good” car and devolved over the years to winter beater. According to a Road & Track test, it still had some get up and go at a time when that attribute had mostly gotten up and gone.
    Mine handled decently because I upgraded it with heavier anti-roll bars and shocks, alloy wheels and better tires. It handled well enough for me to swerve around the back end of an old fart who turned left in front of me. (Judging by the expression on his face, the right rear passenger probably needed a change of underwear.) Top speed was 115 mph, determined at 2 am on a lightly traveled state highway.
    The car was quite reliable. Over its life the only two significant repairs were a blown head gasket and a set of injectors. Its biggest failing was rust which became noticeable after only three years. By the time it went to the crusher, the wheel wells were 2 inches larger than stock.

  • avatar

    I have very fond memories of the 810, my first car, a tan sedan bought from a little old lady in 1986. Automatic transmission and crank-operated sunroof, no a/c in the hot Florida sun, and an accelerator pedal that seemed to stop halfway so that my parents thought it was a mild-mannered car. But if you pressed it all the way down, the 240Z engine would roar and that car would take off, at least in lower gears. Handling was much better than US sedans at the time with independent suspension, very nice in the twisties, with good steering feel. It was a poor man’s 320i at that point, and going from it to my dad’s 78 Skylark was like day and night.

  • avatar
    Glenn Hughson

    Hello from Kenya. I am in the process of finalizing a purchase of just such a car. Or at least I think it is. The owner is referring to it as a 160B but after checking out forums and such it would seem that that translates into an 810 for those of us from North America. (I am from Canada)

    Can you confirm that? The car in question is on my avatar.

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