By on June 14, 2012

Yesterday, I shared a Toyota Corona ad from the February 1969 issue of Playboy. I like the Corona for personal reasons, but if the Time Machine took me back to ’69 and I didn’t have a lot to spend (or even if I did have a lot to spend), the Datsun 510 would be one of my top choices. Wouldn’t you know, there’s an ad for the 510 in the very same issue!
In response to the question from a commenter on the Corona post, Miss February 1969 was Lorrie Menconi (NSFW link here), and it’s possible that she drove a Datsun 510 herself.
For reasons I don’t understand, this car is called the “Datsun /2” in the ad, and it has those godawful non-slip bathtub flowers stuck on its rear quarter. Anyone who knows the story behind the /2 name, please fill us in. 96 horsepower and 25 MPG doesn’t look so great today, but those were decent numbers for a small car in 1969. And look: flow-thru fresh air and a stir-easy 4-speed!

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

27 Comments on “The 1969 Datsun 510: GR-R-R-ROOVY!...”

  • avatar

    “Datsun /2″ = 2 door model

    • 0 avatar

      I bought a 1971 510 sedan for $75 when I started grad school in 1984, drove it for three years, then sold it for $400. It was my “poor man’s 2002.” Wish I still had it. Also wish Nissan, Toyota or any other Japanese company would make an equivalent car these days — four door sedan, RWD and manual transmission under $20k new. Sadly, those good old days are long gone.

      • 0 avatar

        Speaking of a “poor man’s 2002”, a friend of mine had a ’70 2 door 510 that he stripped all the badges off and fit a sort-of 2002 grille on it. He put a bunch of Beemer badges on it inside and out, and convinced a girl he was dating that it WAS a 2002. Girls were easier to fool back then.

  • avatar

    Stir-easy. Because that’s what I like to do with gears; stir them.

    • 0 avatar

      I thought “stir-easy” might have been far-out 60’s slang for “easy to use” but nothing came up when I Googled the term.

      I’m always amazed at how dated the slang and sentence construction seems in these older car ads; it is like reading Shakespeare in some instances.

  • avatar

    $2k in 1969 is about $13k in 2012 dollars. In 2012, for ~$12k Nissan will sell you a Versa sedan, 1.6L 5-speed manual, making 109hp, and rated for 27 city/36 highway MPG. Or, for 3x the money, a Z car with more than 3x the power, but rated 18/26. In 1969 I bet people expected flying cars by 2012, but the Versa and Z are the real product of 43 years of progress.

  • avatar

    I can’t help you on the /2 designation. The cars were marketed in the States as the Datsun 510 and in Canada as the Datsun 1600.

    Glad Murrilee has a special place in his heart for the Corona. My dad drove a ’69 Corona 4dr while I drove a ’70 510 4dr, and I was never interested in swapping cars. The 510 sedans came with OHC 1600 motors and four wheel independent suspension, purposely designed as a less expensive BMW 1600 ( with optional BRE suspension and powertrain updates, you could think of them as less expensive BMW 2002’s).

    The Corona seemed like a smaller Chevy Nova from the 1960’s, OHV 1900 motor, solid rear axle and leaf rear springs.The one thing I liked better about my dads Corona was that the material for seat upholstery was extremely high quality cloth-backed vinyl, and felt almost like leather. I felt the Corona steering and manual shifter were both too vague for my taste. My 510 was much more fun to drive.

    You have to remember that in 1969, VW was way ahead in sales, and Toyota and Datsun were like Chevy and Ford – always competing with each other, and Honda, if you forget the motorcycle-like 600 model,didn’t get competitive until the 1973 Civic and 1976 Accord. My guess is that the Corona arrived first, Datsun was blindsided by it, and decided that to compete, they would need to go at least one step better. To me, they did, but I can see Murrilee’s side, to a point.

    Usually, he and I are on the same page, if not on the same paragraph.

  • avatar

    Make mine a 1969 Chevelle SS 396 or a Camaro RS, instead.

    • 0 avatar

      Not for $2k (even in 1969 dollars) you won’t.

      But you could still get the iconic Roadrunner in strippo form (drum brakes, 4-speed coupe) for only a third more at $2896 in 1969. Even better would be the Fairlane Cobra for just a little more (but with the more potent 428 CobraJet engine).

      If you could wait a year, the just-as-fast-but-smaller 1970 Dart Swinger or Duster 340 went for around $2500.

      • 0 avatar

        Were there really any $2,500 340s? The difference between import and domestic pricing was that nothing was standard on the domestics. Base prices were extremely low, but it wasn’t just engines that moved the cars and brakes that stopped them that were optional. Fancy features like two speed fans, windshield washers, and carpets were listed as options too. Our 1971 Plymouth Scamp with a 225/6, automatic, A/C, vinyl bench seats, carpets, remote mirror on driver’s door, turn signal indicators on the hood, windshield washer, power steering, drum brakes, wheel covers, vinyl hardtop…I can’t think of anything else that could have been optional, although the upholstery was much nicer than that seen in most Dusters and sedans, had an MSRP over $3,000. Supposedly that was Road Runner 383 money, but I doubt such cars were built.

      • 0 avatar

        My bad. The 1970 Dart Swinger 340 was advertised for $2808.

        However, the 1970 Duster 340 went for an unbelievably low $2547 (and that’s with standard front disc brakes). Possible explanations for the price difference between the two very similiar cars is the roll-down quarter windows of the hardtop Swinger (the Duster coupe had flip-outs) and the Swinger might have came with a 4-speed manual while the basic Duster 340 made due with a three. The Swinger surely had more up-market appointments, too (hood scoops, etc) since $250 in 1970 dollars was a pretty good chunk of change. I would imagine once a Duster had comparable equipment, the two cars were much closer in price.

        Still, for that kind of bargain-basement price, it’s easy to see why so many Duster 340s were sold, and why the cheap little hotrod cannibalized so many of the more expensive (but more profitable) bigger Mopar musclecars of the same period.

    • 0 avatar

      When on Okinawa in 1972, I priced a new 1972 Nova coupe. 6 cyl, stick, F41 suspension, can’t recall what else, but if I bought it over there, it would have cost me around $1800 and change.

      I didn’t buy it for I had a nice 1964 Chevy at my home base and I only had a year and a half left to serve and worried I wouldn’t be able to make the payments.

  • avatar

    …and while I’m thinking about it, if I catch ANYONE driving a 510 with stick-on flowers, racing stripes, and a vinyl roof, well… I’d better not, that’s all.

    • 0 avatar

      I remember seeing those flowers and matching smiley faces on Darts and Dusters of that era. I’d always assumed they were added by the owners at some point. But given the numbers, I guess they were part of some appearance package.

  • avatar

    My first car. Still have fond memories driving my green 4-door with a used L18 SSS with twin SUs in it.
    It was a perfect car for me in many respects. It was the eary 80’s. I was still in school. It was cheap. Parts were readily available in the junk yards. Our family had 4 different 510s during that time. With a month’s work at a minimum wage, I can save up enough cash to by one off of the Recycler (Craigslist in print form in So. Cal). Too bad the FT-86 doesn’t come in sedan.

  • avatar

    Groovy is right. And it only cost $11,146 new in current dollars.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    The “poor man’s BMW 2002” with about the same hp, the same displacement and an independent rear suspension, just like the BMW. A favorite cheap racer for a decade or more and more reliable than the German product, if less elegant in appearance. Common to all of these 4-cylinder cars was the absence of a flexible coupling between the exhaust manifold and/or between the exhaust pipe and the tailpipe. The result was an exhaust that boomed mercilessly at 3,000 rpm which was usually highway cruising speed (~60 mph). Other than that, a good car for its time and far better than the Corona.

  • avatar

    The only domestic that could match it in price, that I could find, was AMC. Base Ramblers were $1995, or wait until April ’70 and pick up a Gremlin. No back seat, but lots of odd looks from the neighbors.
    I couldn’t find exact prices for the Ford Falcon, but given their collapsing sales numbers, most dealers would probably throw a couple of fistfuls off cash at anyone willing to take one.

  • avatar

    RWD cost more to produce. U need a long propeller shaft, a separate housing for the dif.
    Whereas a FWD has a transaxle integral with axle, all joint together in 1 piece so mounting rendered easier, except need to throw in 4 CV joints.
    Many have mastered the torque steer.
    Does the equal length CV shaft solve the issue? As another shaft extended out from the engine then angulate to the wheel.
    Cheaper design has unequal length 1/2 shaft.

    In those days there are lot less incentive to buy a 4 banger since a stripped down Duster 340 has so much oomph. Sitting on a stop light one doesn’t get left behind too much, whereas a 4 banger is not even going to be in the also ran club. Gas were 30 ish cents a gal, who would think the price of gas will end up like this today?

    RWD and manual transmission under $20k new. Sadly, those good old days are long gone

  • avatar

    I agree, /2 just meant the two-door version.

    I bought a new ’71 four-door as a second car. It was bulletproof and great fun to drive.

    Couple of odd things. The carb did not have an automatic air preheater, but had a manual diverter valve to switch between cool air and preheated air from exhaust manifold heat. Leave it in the “heat” position, and it would ping like a bastard. Leave it in the “cold air” position and it would ice the carburetor in a heartbeat. Cool, damp weather was a coin toss as to the correct position. Also, this was the last four-wheel vehicle I owned that had a manual choke. I frequently discovered I had driven all the way to work with the choke half-on.

    This car was not for the Rust Belt. In addition to the carb icing issues, the rear brakes would rust solid about half way through the winter and would need to be disassembled to free them up. No amount of never-sieze or new parts seemed to prevent this.

    Serious rust issues began to affect it structurally after only four years, and it was traded for a ’75 Nova.

  • avatar

    Good NSFW link. Strange seeing such a sweet-looking girl in a Playboy magazine. One could have fantasized about having a girlfriend like that. Now, readers must fantasize about supporting some stripper’s coke habit.

  • avatar

    What memories. In 1978 I bought a rough 510 and got a modified motor from a guy that raced a 510 at Mosport. My buddy and I drove that thing from Toronto to LA in 3 days. I drove it home solo in another 3 days! I couldn’t believe I made it there and back without any problems.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Jeff S: Good read please keep us posted further about your trip in the Ford.
  • DanDotDan: I’m not a fan of crossovers, but they do everything that most people need them to do. Whether...
  • Art Vandelay: I’d say that’s Sammy before he joined Van Halen. I like Sammy Hagar. I like Van Halen. But...
  • Mike Beranek: One of the joys of my life was when my teenager got into Rush. Totally surprising, and through no...
  • Mike Beranek: I’m just surprised that a 58 yo puts himself in the Boomer range. Only 4 years older than me, but...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber