By on August 17, 2012

We saw a 1975 Datsun B210 hatchback Junkyard Find a few weeks back, and this ’74 B210 hatch about a year ago. Today, we’ll look at a fairly solid example of the B210 coupe.
This is a car that was once as numerous on American streets as is any mainstream 21st-century econobox today, but the B210 was even more susceptible to rust than other Japanese cars of the era and it didn’t resist depreciation quite as well as its Corolla and Civic rivals.
For those of you too young to have experienced slushbox-equipped B210s in person, imagine that you’re driving a Chevy Aveo. In quicksand. Towing a trailer loaded with overflowing Porta-Potties. Uphill.
Still, if you were patient on freeway onramps and didn’t mind losing stoplight drag races to cement mixers, the B210 was a pleasant enough car to drive. The purchaser of this one sprang for the no-doubt-extremely-expensive factory AM/FM radio.
Once you’ve paid for the radio, however, why would you want frivolous gauges?
I can’t recall whether this style hubcap was a Honey Bee-only design or slapped on all B210s of the era.

The fuel-economy claims of Malaise Era manufacturers had to be taken with a grain of salt, but the real-world B210 did manage to get into the 40 MPG range on the highway.

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24 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1978 Datsun B210 Coupe...”

  • avatar

    This car, despite obvious shortcomings, was a major player in the market because it was cheap to own, reliable as hell, and nothing like the offerings from Detroit. These cars were everywhere.

  • avatar

    When I was a kid (I was 7 in ’78), I thought those hubcaps were the ugliest on the planet. 34 years later and I still think they put the “ug” in ugly.

    • 0 avatar
      Roberto Esponja

      Indeed they have got to be the ugliest hubcaps ever. I can’t picture anything that remotely comes close. And yet they kept them for years…

      • 0 avatar

        Datsun even had a special edition model called the ‘Honey Bee’ (called the SSS overseas I think) which came in a shade of pale yellow with graphics of a flying Honey-bee flowing from the front grill to the rear quarter panel and those cool hubcaps. Supposedly quite collectable.

  • avatar

    Puts me in mind of the same plain white 77 or 78 710 wagon my father picked up for us as we entered the world of driving.

    Referred to in a derogatory manner as the “egg mobile” for its sulfurous exhaust plume, it sported a blase-black interior, instant rustification processes (dad spray-painted the roof with a rattle-can, twice), and a manual tranny that really didn’t need the clutch once you were moving. Move the lever steadily enough and you could slide it into second, third, and fourth.

    It served its hooptie purpose and drove dad back to small Mazdas, which continue to be value cars whose only faults seem to be alternators that go every 3-4 years.

  • avatar

    I remember when these were everywhere back in the day. At some point between 1988-1990, someone near the tech college I went to had what was once a bright red 4 door sedan B210, but it’d faded to the point that it was pink, literally.

    Thankfully, living in Puget Sound Country, rust isn’t an issue so 20+ YO cars still on the road were/are still the norm, even back then.

  • avatar

    My Calculus teacher in high school had one of these in the late 90s that he’d owned since new. In about 1999, he traded up to a 1st gen Camry when he took the B210 in for an inspection and the tech started poking holes through the floor with a screwdriver. Rust prone indeed.

    Dig the radiation shadow from the Colorado plate on the rear.

  • avatar

    Two words describe the B-210. Bulletproof and Rust. They would run forever, not very quickly, but everyone I knew who owned one claimed it always started, never had electrical gremlins and were amazingly easy to work on; heady praise for a late 70’s car. However, like Mr. Owl attempting to see how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie-Pop, the world may never know how far these cars would have gone because the rust monster reared its ugly head early on. It would keep munching from the wheel openings up the quarter panels and through the floor pan, never seeing their 10th birthday before giving up the ghost.

  • avatar

    Ooooh, the bane of 1970s – 1980s car instrument panels: blank panels! Thank GOD these don’t exists anymore…

    The four door version of this car used to be popular as Taxis when I was a kid. I remember seeing one in a head-on collision against another car as a kid, my first real close up look at a wreck. There were blood on the steering wheel…

  • avatar

    My dad had an orange one when I was a kid. It had those hubcaps, which I liked at the time but now it’s more nostalgia than anything else.

    The main things I remember about the car were the leather shift boot (my dad’s was stick) and that he replaced the transmission one weekend in the garage (cost of replacement trans: $99 from a junkyard).

  • avatar

    My wife’s parents bought one of these circa ’75 on the east coast and drove it cross country when they moved back to LA. They were fine with it, mostly because they had no money or jobs (FIL had just been discharged from the air force) and it was all they could afford. From their reports, it handled the trip with a minimum of hassles. They sold it once they started drawing regular paychecks in Cali, and bought a rubber-nose TransAm…

  • avatar

    I remember those wheeltrims being described as ‘upturned pie dishes’

  • avatar

    “Slushbox” tranies, another aspect of the 70s best forgotten. A friend who owned a Vega and a (I believe) F-10 SW, described his as “Designed by the brightest of 5 year olds, and built with the finest of rubber bands.”

  • avatar

    A co-worker had one. He had worked as a contract worker for the American Samoan government. When his contract was up, it was worth his while to ship the thing back to Connecticut.

    He kept the A.S. plate on the front of the car. That was the coolest thing about the car. I remember the paint being horribly oxidized when it was only 5-6 years old.

    He dumped it for a beater 1st generation Nissan Stanza 5 speed. When he would stick it in 5th, he wrapped the gear lever with a bungy cord to keep it from popping out of gear.

  • avatar

    For such amazingly bulletproof cars, it’s a shame they all seem to have disappeared on the East coast by the end of the 1980s. A combination of poor rust protection and the lack of sentimental attachment to cheap Japanese cars, no one bothered fixing them when something major finally broke. A shame, these days you have no problem running into older folks who remember them nostalgically, they were such a revelation on the marketplace in the 1970s only to get used up and thrown away when they got old.

  • avatar

    First car I drove regularly. It was dad’s, when I just learned to drive, a manual in dark green. Junky interior and the starter switch was a bit iffy, but the motor was as anyone could ask for.

    It seems slow compared to cars today, but all cars were slower then. It was no racer, but it didn’t stand out as any slower than any other economy car of the time.

  • avatar

    My family’s ’81 210 wagon (silver with a blue pinstripe)never gave us any trouble until that fateful day at the video store in 1988 when the engine blew up without warning.

    To this day my father blames cheapo Getty gas.

    How odd though…the car was a VA/TN/MA winter survivor and didn’t have one speck of rust.

  • avatar

    1977. This was my dad’s new car that year, only in the 4-door sedan version, and named 120-Y.

    Same color, different bumpers (non-US version).

    He got a yellow one from the dealership that he returned two days later because it was the exact shade of yellow as taxicabs and he was being hailed down every couple of blocks. So he got the white one.

  • avatar

    Hey, I had one of these, a 77 B210 hatchback. It was indestructible, and believe me, we tried. All of the metal not used on the body must have gone into the drive train.

    We finally retired it when moving out of state because it wouldn’t pass the smog test. I actually drove it to the junk yard for the salvage value, and when the guy came out with a fork lift and I had to explain that he could just drive it around back.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    A company I worked for in the 80’s had a forklift with the same motor as the B-210 but it ran on propane. It was quite reliable. Apparently this motor was used in other industrial and farm applications hence it’s agricultural nature in the B-210.

    As far as the hubcaps go maybe they were trying to copy the Saab “Soccer ball” rims or the Pontiac Honeycomb rims.

  • avatar

    My dad had one of these back in the 80’s. Well, the sedan, not the coupe. It was chartreuse with a perished brown vinyl roof. It doesn’t get more 70’s than that. In NZ we had a SSS version with twin carbs and alloy wheels (possibly a 5-speed too) that was quite well regarded back in the day. A car I’d love to add to my collection one day, I suspect that the gods of iron oxide will make that particular desire difficult! I have’t seen a 120Y on the road for a very long time.

  • avatar

    Wow, this brings back memories. I never owned one, nor did anybody I know, but I remember seeing them a lot when I was a little kid (I was 4 years old when this car was new). Here in Wisconsin, rust took them all out in a big hurry. By the late 1980s they were pretty much all gone. It’s probably been well over 25 years since I last saw one. Keep in mind that I saw American cars of the same vintage on a regular basis well into the 1990s.

    And I also think those wheel covers are among the fugliest of all time. They’re one of the things I remember most about these cars. Even most of today’s cheap plastic $20 a set aftermarket wheel covers look better.

  • avatar

    Wow ; lots of kids here , I was an Indie. Mechanic when these came out , they sold like hot cakes and ran forever in Sunny So. Cal. , land of no rust .

    Those hubcaps are not the worst , the same vintage Datsun 710’s had full sized disco dolly hubcaps that were *so* awful , I just _had_ to put a set on my ’79 Datsun 620 Pickup truck , I still have one perfect one hanging in my back porch .

    The JATCO M-35 slushbox tranny used in these is also bulletproof , it’s a licnsed copy of the Borg Warner tranny developed in 1949 for Ford .

    I scrounged one from a ’79 B-210 for my Metropolitan Nash FHC as my injuries preculde me from operating a clutch anymore . a good , firm shifting solid tranny that’s extremely hard to break .

    Too bad this clean little Coupe was scrapped ~ it’d prolly make a good if boring daily driver .

    That Clarion radio was a very good unit in it’s day and prolly still works fine .


  • avatar

    Most vehicles in the 1970’s were rust buckets waiting to happen. The Japanese vehicles even through the 1980’s were less than stellar in staying together. Engines ran well (save for Honduh blown head gaskets), but the bodies and the interiors were subpar. What had great panel fit initially was not impressive after five years.

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