By on March 16, 2010

Despite being pretty rare nowadays, I can’t quite summon the inspiration to pound out a proper CC for this 1978 Datsun 310GX (Cherry/Pulsar). Seeing as it appeared three years after the first Golf, the general resemblance is not coincidental, especially the front grill, a virtual  dead ringer. It has some historical significance, since it marked the light at the end of Nissan’s tunnel of bizarre styling. This 310 replaced the F-10, which we titled as “The Ugliest Car Ever?” Although this hatchback looked fairly conventional, the coupe still had vestiges of F-10 ness in its rear quarters.

It’s not visible in these shots, but this car came out in the middle of the great re-naming, a multi-year project to change the Datsun brand to Nissan. For a number of years, the cars all had “Datsun by Nissan” badges on them. Given the difficulty of the undertaking, it went off reasonably well, although it coincided with one of Nissan’s troubled periods.

These cars were also badged as Nissan Pulsars in some countries, and as the Datsun Cherry, mainly in Europe. Nissan was having an identity crisis in these days. My father in-law had one of these exact cars in the same color, the first time I met him. I can still see him behind the wheel of it. That was in 1978, so he must have had a first year version. Exciting stuff, eh? I told you this car wasn’t exactly inspiring. Nuff said.

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26 Comments on “Curbside Classic Outtake: Nissan’s Datsun Rabbit/Golf Imitation...”

  • avatar

    Seems like efficient space utilization to me, but as the title points out, derivative.

    I do remember the Datsun/Nissan identity crisis. First I ever head of the brand was a neighbor who had an old Datsun pickup I remember the giant DATSUN on the maroon tailgate. Thought that the “Kingcab” decal was so cool. Back in the late 80s/early 90s used to laugh my ass off at Nissan calling their pickups “hardbody.”

  • avatar

    If im not completely mistaken, these cars were called Datsun / Nissan Cherry around here, used to be pretty common up until some ten or fifteen years ago.

  • avatar

    a better view on coupe Rr section…yes, it was a bit weird.

  • avatar

    I had one of those in college, a 1979…couldn’t kill it with a stick. went through like 3 or 4 starters, so by the end, you had to push-start it. The outside door handles broke, so you had to crawl in through the hatch to get into the car. But, it ran and ran and ran. Finally sold it to some guy for 50 bucks as I was selling it to the junkyard (still running, of course)…ah, good times.

  • avatar

    Not related to the car per se, but for some reason these were most commonly driven by the same people who drive old mercedes diesels. The sort of people you go to if you want russian cigarettes, cheap vodka or fake Levi’s.

    It’s been ages since i last saw one of these, not so long since i saw a W123 but they too are rotting away and are much less common than what seems only a few years ago.

    Keep the CCs coming!

  • avatar

    My old man had one of these briefly between his ancient Datsun pickup and his first year Fiero. (That last car reminded me that I’ve been hoping you might do a Fiero CC, Paul. Unless you already have and I just missed it.) Anyhow, back to the CC at hand. All I remember of that Datsun was that it was gold and it was ugly. Quite a contrast to the nifty first gen Accord that it shared driveway space with. Oh, and it was able to accomodate me, my brother, my father, and our Christmas tree – with the hatch open and exhaust backwash and chilly upstate NY air pouring in.

  • avatar

    Those US spec bumpers look hilariously massive on the car.

    Anyway, I remember the Cherry pretty well. It was the best selling car in early ’80s, and they were everywhere, most of them metallic light blue. It was a pretty good looking design (without those bumpers, at least), but the interior was cramped, the engine noisy and the suspension was also pretty bad.

    Still, it was a pretty good cheap car, although you could get a RWD Corolla for the same price.

  • avatar

    Something I have always wanted to know:

    Why did Datsun change their name to Nissan?

    I had fond feelings for Datsun, I think a lot of people did.

    So why the change?

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      Nissan was the corporate name, and the cars were sold under both names. It was simply a decision to consolidate into one world-wide name /brand. In the big picture/long term/shrinking globe  point of view, it made sense. And they pulled it off reasonably well, although many folks, like you, still have feelings for Datsun. Just don’t ask anyone under the age of thirty.

  • avatar

    My brother in law, who is about 12 years older than me, had one of these back in 1980 or so, and the car was so simple that it defied breakage of any kind.

    To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if these were air cooled, but I think they were water cooled, nonetheless.

  • avatar

    My wife had one of these when we met back in 1987 – she had bought it used as her first car, and she loved it. The hatch made it practical, and the manual trans made it reasonably zippy. It handled well on the curvy back roads of Northern Delaware, and it was reliable for years.

    It finally wore out all at once in 1992, with around 140,000 miles on the odometer. It didn’t stop working, but the engine was well down on power. The mechanic who looked at it, an old friend of her parents, said that it basically needed everything mechanical renewed if it was to keep going. My wife decided it was time to step up to a new car, so she traded it in on a new Mazda Protege (a great car, but a story for another time). She still misses the Pulsar, though.

  • avatar

    Did they come with different wheels f/r, or is this an “I needed tires and the wheels came with it” thing?

    Also, I really like how the angle of the first picture makes it look like it broke down on the street and was unable to get to the curb.

  • avatar

    My Uncle bought a Datsun 310GX in 1986. It was his first car. Car had AC, a sunroof and 5speed too. There was no problem with the Car. But now Original parts of the car are very hard find.
    By the way personally I don’t like that datsun. I prefer used cars by Honda only.

  • avatar

    “Seeing as it appeared three years after the first Golf, the general resemblance is not coincidental, especially the front grill, a virtual dead ringer.”

    What you mean it rips the styling from the MK1 Golf who’s styling was ripped from the Honda Civic which in turn ripped off a lot of Roy Haynes cues…and so ad infinitum?

  • avatar

    Funny you don’t mention the engine though, because that is in truth the only part of the car that was really a (much improved it has to be said) copy of someone else design.

  • avatar

    Ah nostalgia! My childhood was spent being ferried around in the back of my folks’ Datsun Cherry estates (wagons) the last of which was of this vintage. For a time we shared the house with another family who were carted around in a white Coupe of the type linked and I think around half my friends’ parents at the time had these hatchbacks… all 3 doors in blue in my memory.

    Dad still reminisces fondly about driving their first Cherry estate (an unlovely blue F-10 variant like this. He reckons touring holidays round the Scottish highlands in that was like having a mini only with a more family friendly body (looking at it now I’m staggered there was room for five of us plus a fortnight’s luggage!) – I think it marks the beginning of his life long love affair with plucky little cars.

    His memories of driving that later Cherry are far less rosy – while it was certainly less ugly than its forbears it seemed like Datsun took a capable neat little car and simply inflated it for a couple of generations without refining any of the dynamics for the bigger shell. Wallowy, slow and hard to stop are the key points he remembers. The back was comfy though, and I thought it was positively cavernous until they replaced it with a Volvo 245 and we discovered what a big car was actually like.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Back in the late 80s/early 90s used to laugh my ass off at Nissan calling their pickups “hardbody.”

    I for one loved my ’88 Hardbody – it took a beating for 275k and then I sold it for $2000. Don’t hate on the Hardbodies.

    This Datsun/Nissan Pulsar thing is perfectly indistinguishable from the background in nearly every environment. To me it just doesn’t have the simple style of a Golf, Civic or even Corolla.

    • 0 avatar

      It was the NAME Amigo that made me laugh. I know they were perfectly capable trucks, I was a “FourWheel&Offroad subscriber at the time and the magazine loved those little trucks as a budget off roading option. The local Nissan dealer (Lima, OH) even ran an add which had Earl Pitts talking about how he used to think “A hardbody was something you got by cruising Faurot Park on a Friday night.” Even the dealer could make fun of the nomenclature.

  • avatar

    32 years later, and they still don’t have the domain.

  • avatar
    Amendment X

    Yes, it’s ugly. Yes, it’s underpowered. Yes, it’s awkwardly-proportioned.

    But it’s simplicity on wheels. And for that, I applaud Nissan/Datsun. I wish there were cars on the market today that were this efficient in terms of space utilization.

  • avatar

    When I was 19 and living in Dallas, my parents bought one of these brand new– but it was in NEW JERSEY. I don’t recall why, but I guess it was a heck of a deal. They paid for me to fly there and drive it home.

    I did. It was black. It had no AC. It had no radio. I was alone. You can imagine how boring and hot that drive was. About five miles from home in Dallas I got pulled over by a cop. I was more than ready to be home and had not done anything wrong, so I was annoyed. He pulled me over because the paper temporary tag had blown off. I showed him what papers I had in the car and quite rudely dismissed his misplaced diligence about the missing tag, more than insinuating that he was wasting his time and mine. While my point was correct, it is fair to say that I erred in its delivery. My approach employed something less than the preferred demeanor for a long-haired 19 year old punk like me to take with the Dallas Police at that time in our nation’s history. I was promptly thrown up against the car and almost handcuffed. I grudgingly but quickly apologized. I got a ticket. I went to court full of righteous anger, ready for MY day in court. The judge asked me if the car had plates. Yes, your honor. Dismissed.

    My mom drove that car for about 15 years, and all of us kids drove it when visiting her from college or elsewhere during that span, and I don’t believe anything ever went wrong with it during its 200k+ life. Everyone still remembers it fondly, even though it was only ever what it was– not much, but certainly enough.

  • avatar

    I am looking for my old 1978 Blue Datsun 310gx. Last seen in Miami.

    Pics here:

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