By on March 15, 2012

Wait a minute— this Malaise Era heap, with its solid rear axle and AMC Hornet-esque lines, this car can’t be a 510! That’s what I thought when I spotted this car at a Northern California self-service yard last month, having forgotten that Nissan’s American marketers slapped 510 badges on the 710/Violet/Stanza/200B for the ’78 and ’79 model years. This is the first time I’ve seen one of these things in at least 20 years.
This car was no doubt a perfectly serviceable commuter, with its L20 engine and nicer-than-the-Chevette interior, but it’s no more a 510 than the ’91 Olds Calais Quad 4 was a 442.
This factory FM radio was probably a $300 option when new. Yes, the old days sucked in many ways.

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31 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1978 Datsun 510 Sedan...”

  • avatar

    That’s pretty awful.
    Datsun just fell off the radar on my screen during this time, not that they were top of mind since the hideous B210, S10 and F10s. Compared to them, this car looked attractive.

    The original 510 is a masterpiece. This is definately not. What we see here is a completely uninspired design, plastic everything, and only the mildest attempt at styling. With the hideous vehicles they produced at this time, perhaps Datsun/Nissan was attempting to reign in the Japanese Goth Stylings that dominated their line during the 1970s.

    I sure it was a “good” car, probably got “eh” gas mileage, typical of Nissan engines of this era, and kept the Datsun dealers from abandoning hope and remaining with the company.

    But lord, what a pathetic plastic heap this was. How did they survive selling such pathetic vehicles? There is a reason Honda overtook Datsun/Nissan during this time.

    Exhibit J – junky 510 knock off…

    • 0 avatar

      Holy shit- a junkyard find car that vanilladude doesn’t have a story about owning six of at some point.

      • 0 avatar

        LOL….I’ve noticed that there are people that either owned or knew somebody that owned damn near every type of car that appears on the site. And if they didn’t own one or know someone that owned one then they rented one for the weekend.

  • avatar

    Still waiting to see an F10, one of the 5 or so ugliest wheeled vehicles ever made, at least in my opinion.

    But Murilee, you posted a photo of the clock, did you grab it on your way out?

  • avatar

    Yeah, this 510 was a pale shadow of the 1968-vintage landmark earlier car. Very bland and inoffensive, but it looked less silly than the dumpling 710 that came before. If any second-gen 510 could be called interesting, it would be the five-door hatchback introduced around 1980.

  • avatar

    I believe this car made it to 1981 in the U.S when it was replaced by the Stanza. There was a facelift that featured rectangular headlights and the addition of a five door hatchback. I think the five door may have replaced the 3 door hatchback coupe in the U.S. market. When this “510” was first marketed there were two and four door sedans, a wagon, and a hatchback coupe.

  • avatar

    My parents had a ’78 wagon with fake wood paneling and a 5spd manual. I rather liked it but not particular sporty car. You never see these around – they seemed to disappear pretty quick. Not sure if they had a weakness or just no one cared to keep them on the road.

  • avatar

    This wasn’t a bad looking car and it WAS in the spirit styling wise to the earlier 510.

    Don’t have much experience with Datsuns of this era sadly other than riding in a former co-worker’s sickly yellow 76 210 hatchback, of which I think had been repainted and thus was not its original color I don’t think – and that WAS in 1984.

    My thoughts mirror the above comment, did you grab the clock?

  • avatar

    I LOVE those old stereos with those big plastic buttons for the station presets. And this one gives you THREE FM presets! You’ve made the big time, son!

  • avatar

    Another Nissan with the “Floor Temp” light – what a sign of the times.

    This car is pretty well stripped, which tells me there were enough others on the road to consume its parts after many years.

  • avatar
    Joe McKinney

    It is wonderful how far car audio has come since the Malaise Era. I remember back in the early 1980’s going to electronic stores to look at all of the high-end car sound systems by companies like Alpine and JVC. Today many base model cars come standard with nice AM-FM radios with CD players and MP3 jacks.

  • avatar

    I had an 80 or 81 Four door hatchback. Nice car that got 25mpg easy. New England salt turned it into dust by 1988.

  • avatar

    Funny thing about the 510 – it has such a huge following and rightly so. But it’s sister car the 610, with the same suspension, a similar L series engine, and raced side by side with the 510 by Brock, is completely forgotten and entirely gone from the roads. What gives?

  • avatar

    I had an 80 or 81 Four door hatchback. Nice car that got 25mpg easy. New England salt turned it into dust by 1988. It was a five speed manual with a weird shift pattern. First was down and to the left while reverse was where first normally was. It led to a lot of confusion when I first got it.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    I guess after Toyota brought out its various SR-5 editions with a 5-speed manual other manufacturers had to respond. Always wondered why certain GM small cars-Buick Skyhawk and the Sunbird I think-and certain Datsun models came out with that ridiculous upside down transmission with first to the left and down.Various friends had Datsun 200-SXs, F10, and a turd-brown B210 hatch,and a Skyhawk all equipped with such a shift pattern. The Datsun one was also rubbery and difficult to get used to , if you normally drove a car with a normal shift pattern.The car magazines/consumer magazines of the era complained about them too. I wondered if these were somehow easier to engineer than a 5-speed with first to the left and up but can’t imagine why this would be true.As far as the malaise era 510 I don’t recall anyone I knew ever owning one but I did think the styling, albeit ugly, wasn’t as bad as most other Datsuns of this period but remember the car magazines complaining about how it fell so short of the performance of the “real” 510 of a few years before.

    • 0 avatar

      I was always told the five speed trans with 1st gear off to the side was considered a “racing” transmission. I think the idea was to have the gear you used the least on-road out of the way of the other gears.

      I don’t really know if that’s true, but after driving modern 5 speeds, with 1st gear in the main quadrant it’s not such a bad idea, IMO.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        The idea was that 2-3 were a straight forward-back motion in the center of the shift pattern for spirited driving. 1 was for starting and 4 was for cruising, so they were off to the sides.

  • avatar

    Wow, so much hate!

    This car, this year, this color, but in station wagon version, was my father’s car when I learned to drive.

    For the times, it had reasonable power to weight ratio. I borrowed it from father with certain frequency and immaturely used to leave behind pretty much everyone in the twisties going up the mountains.

    It served my family very well. Thanks for finding it.

  • avatar

    Makes one pine for the Datsun Bluebird…

  • avatar

    107 HP was damn respectable out of a 4-banger in 1978. That light amount of cancer tells me it was living the sweet life in the Northern California lowlands.

  • avatar

    Does anyone know why this 510 was so much less ambitious than the one it replaced? I never got the impression that the first 510 went unrecognized as a cut-price BMW. Datsun threw their enthusiast customers away in favor of a building low quality Corolla knock-offs.

    • 0 avatar

      First of all, sorry for the double post above, a little iphone problem surfaced. It is amazing how in the 1970s Nissan/Datsun went from offering cars like the original 510 and the 240z as well as the 1200 which were good, well-styled cars to the strange, japanese sci-fi cars like the F-10, the B-210 and the Pulsar. The late ’70s early ’80s cars like the 510 and the 210 were half a step back to their roots, but nowhere near as good.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        Thing to remember is that internally, Nissan was two companies: the boring Nissan that built unremarkable Austin clones in the ’50s, and the Prince organization that built the Skylines and Glorias. How sporty or pedestrian Nissan was depended on which side had more influence at the time.

  • avatar

    Wow, that’s worse than ‘Mustang II’. Did factory FMs REALLY cost $300 in 1978? Wow.

    • 0 avatar

      I couldn’t tell you what it cost for this car. I do know that in the mid-late 70’s a premium factory am/fm with quadrasonic 8 track cost around $350.00 in ford products, and was probably in the same price range as similar GM and Chrysler units. Ford had the best factory sound systems in those days.

  • avatar

    A passed down Datsun 710 I think it was.

    My memory is not what it used to be.

    Idiot drunk driver rear-ended me.

    Modesto, California.

    Typical what was known in the central valley as an “Okie.”

    Some of my friends were “Okies” and I was from that general class of folks but our clan was based in rural Nebraska… definitely different from the similar folks to the south.

    We had differing cultural backgrounds, though.

    Similar in ways but far different in others.

    No “biggie” but an interesting aspect of sub-cultures within a larger general USA culture.

    Anyway, the impact resulted in a resounding thud and the impact was forceful and nearly disabled the drunk’s larger Pontiac full-size car… maybe it was a Grand Prix but I do not remember.

    The Pontiac: Radiator coolant flowing freely. Grille smashed and rather extensive damage.

    I was amazed at the minimal though present damage to the Datsun.

    Of course, the drunk had no insurance and was driving his friends’ car who was in the Army in Germany who also did not have insurance on the car.

    I verified all that and talked to the Army guys’ father who gave me contact info etc. where I wrote overseas, etc.

    For various reasons I just accepted the loss to the car’s value.

    It drove fine and the impact did not greatly affect the looks but was obvious.

    No trouble selling it a year or so later with, perhaps, a $500 loss in value but that BIG Pontiac likely require $2,000 to $3,000 in repair costs.

    Maybe that Datsun just happened to be hit in an especially structurally “strong” area.

    It was a peppy car and rode well, was quiet, shifted the 5-speed with ease.

    Decent gas mileage even when driven ‘sportingly’.

    High 20s mpg if I recall.

    Sure was an ugly strangely-styled thing, though.

    Oh, comfortable seats.

    But, ugly.

    And it could take a lick and keep on tickin’.

    Oh, am guessing it might have been a 1975 model year.

    “Your comment is awaiting moderation.”


    • 0 avatar

      A big pontiac would have crushed that datsun like an accordion before it was damaged enough to harm the radiator, especially if it was one of the old models with the big wraparound bumper.

  • avatar

    It’s an original “Altima”!

    And yeah, FM radios were luxury items in the ‘good old days’. But then, FM stations were way better than now!

  • avatar

    Actually it wasn’t a bad car [beyond the biodegradable body]. My 1988 hatch [Canadian spec] model made 110hp at 6000 rpm out of the L20 SOHC engine.

    * I put 260,000 km on it before retiring it
    * 5 speed was only offered in the 3 door hatch, and it was a grand-prix pattern with 1 down left; 2 door, 4 door, and 4 door wagons had 4 speed manuals (or 3 speed auto)
    * Power/weight was pretty good, as it had zero options (not even power steering)

  • avatar

    What junk yard is this in? I need parts!

  • avatar

    (Australia) I had a tan coloured one of these. Drove it through my university years and for a total of 9 years all up. Went brilliantly before eventually rusting out under me.

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