By on October 7, 2012

The Datsun 810 became the Nissan Maxima a couple of years into the 1980s, and you rarely see the 810 nameplate these days. Every once in a while, however, an 810 shows up in The Crusher’s waiting room. Here’s a ’78 wagon I found in California last month.
The 810 shared quite a few components with the 280Z, including the six-cylinder L engine. By 1978, the Z cars had 2.8 liter L28s, but the 810 got the 2.4 liter L24 out of the older 240Z.
The 810 wagon, with its need to carry heavy loads, didn’t get the independent rear suspension of the Z and the 810 coupes and sedans.
While modern-day drivers would consider this car intolerably cramped, it was sold as a fairly luxurious and high-tech machine back in the late 1970s.
Look at this engineer-designed array of warning lights!
The original purchaser of this Datsun opted for the three-speed automatic transmission. With 125 horsepower out of the L24, this car wouldn’t have been quite as slow as most slushboxed-up Japanese cars of the era.
A Ford Windsor V8 is a pretty easy swap into the engine compartment of a 280Z, which means the same swap should work in an 810 wagon. What a fine parts-hauling setup that would make!

This ad is for the sedan, but still gives a good idea of the “yacht-grade” luxury Nissan was after with the 810.

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29 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1978 Datsun 810 Wagon...”

  • avatar

    These were pretty expensive when new , faster than you’d think even with the venerable made under license Borg Warner M-35 slushbox tranny .

    We used to look for these with the stadrd 5 speed manual box , yank it and bolt it into Datsun ” Lil’ Hustler ” L620 pickup trucks , vastly improving thier drivability .


  • avatar

    Look at that rat-nest of a mess underhood. Just starting high school when these were being made, that ad made me laugh. Keep these finds coming. My uncles told me that I had missed a great time during the musclecar era. Well, to today’s younger drivers I add: You missed a horrible period in automotive history during the Malaise Era. This Datsun would be considered one of the better cars in terms of economy, assembly, and reliability. That alone should make the case of how good cars have become. I can’t help but wonder if the pendulum is starting to swing back the other way. Not because of upcoming mileage requirements as I think those will reverse the ridiculous bloat of today’s machines. But as cars become filled with electronic nannies like event data recorders I just wonder if driving for the fun of it is going to disappear. Kind of like the days of audio when listening to music on superb equipment was a pastime. Nobody I know takes pride in audio anymore, other than bragging about the number of downloads they have. I don’t even consider the sound quality of most downloads to be audio…I really hope the same does not happen to driving fun….

    • 0 avatar

      That’s why I rarely do the download thing, except on rare occasions, and even there, I will process it to widen the compression as best as possible.

      I still have lots of vinyl, CD’s etc and yes, they get played so I care about audio.

      Though I DO compress my files for a USB drive for the car, I use MP3, 320bps compression to keep things sounds as close to full CD as possible. Even in the car, I can discern a difference from full CD-A and 320 mp3, though it’s not as obvious as one might think.

    • 0 avatar

      Hmmm, never thought about it but you are quite right. I spent months building a nice surround sound system with the best components I could afford. Then I spent a few weeks setting it up perfectly for the room, tweaking the crossovers to match the speakers, “making” wire (prepping ethernet cable – it makes great speaker wire on the cheap), adjusting the delay…

      And nobody gives a rat’s ass. I try to “show” them the difference but to them sound is sound is sound. In fact most complain that my system is hard to hear – they aren’t used to having the separate channels with clear distinctions between highs-lows-midrange, they are accustomed to the wall of noise that comes out of cheap speakers.

      I’m even particular about my headphones. I use Sennheiser HD600s at home and Klipsch earbuds on the go – both I hand-selected for the best quality and balance that I could afford. Everyone I know just uses the garbage that came with their iWhatever.

      Ahh if we could go back to the good old days… Whenever those were.

      • 0 avatar

        I had a nice (not great, just nice) stereo system when I was a teenager in the 1970s, and a Walkman for on the go. Just some thoughts:

        1. You really had to be listening hard to tell the difference. Yes, the days of just sitting quietly in a darkened room focusing just on the music seem to be a thing of the past. To many distractions now, not to external, but in my mind as well. And when just casually listening; the difference is just not that great; I enjoyed sitting on my swing outside with my Walkman as being shut up in my room listening to the stereo.

        2. All of that stereophonic wonder became useless once I left my bedroom. External noises drowned out the lows; and it is hard to get a good, crisp bass response on the road. I was listening to classical music in the car the other day, and had to turn it up to hear the lows, then down again when the highs kicked in.

        3. The thing about the “iWhatever” is that you just compacted all that stereo equipment and an entire cabinet of records and tapes into something that fits in your pocket, and is also your phone, your notepad, your weather station, you Bible (at least in my case); and anything else you want to stuff on it. Frankly having my entire music collection with me at all times is a reasonable comprise over the sound quality; and radios and other accessories that bypass the DACs in the iPhone/iPad can do a better conversion.

        4. Most of the audiophile scene was seen as snobery then, and it still does today.

    • 0 avatar

      FWIW ;

      Those hoses were mostly Govt. mandated , the under license BOSCH CIS fuel injection system was simple and robust as well as fool proof and economical whist delivering very good power indeed from the small engine .

      As far as sounds , after replacing the crappy original speakers , most of those old tech AM/FM ” two knob ” radios actualy provided pretty darn good sound , if not the top volume required by to – day’s drivers who feel the need to bother everyone else with their crappy taste in ‘ music ‘ .

      I’m still using my old original equipment Becker Electronic radios and they sound far better than the $3,000 high end CD playing stereos my son puts in almost every car he owns .


  • avatar

    Being that I was in Jr High when these were new, I’m very sure I saw these on the road, and may still see one on very rare occasions, even now, since rust isn’t known around where I live.

    That being said, the body on this one looks mostly good, the grill and right headlight bezel are missing, but straight. The paint looks decent too. Can’t tell if it ever got resprayed at some point, though it looks to be the original color.

    The front seats do look rather worn out though, so perhaps it has a lot of miles on it?

    I know in the commercial, they made a big thing about it having an AM/FM radio, by the late 70’s, many cars came with them. My Dad’s 76 Honda Accord had an AM/FM radio, standard, as did my ’83 DX Civic hatchback, though both were monaural. A buddy of mine had an 80 DX hatchback, but his had the factory AM/FM STEREO version of the same radio in it, though by the time he got that one, it had seen better days, rusty and with dents, including a nasty ouch behind the right, rear wheel, where the body got caught on something, and crunched up the lower rear rocker panel, and end of the rear bumper.

    It died a dramatic death when the car lost 5th gear, then 4th gear while driving it home on the freeway, I was following in my Civic at the time, this being 1996/97 time frame.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    These competed with the Toyota Corona Mark II which was their upmarket car, later to become the Cressida. Though in the late 60’s we did get a U.S version of the Crown both 4 dr and wagon.

    A Junkyard find 610 and 710 would be swell.

  • avatar

    These pics reminded me that it seems like every junkyard find is missing its oil filler cap – is there a funky “Murilee’s Museum of Oil Filler Caps” being created? Just wondering.

    • 0 avatar

      Cap is off because they have to drain the fluids when the car arrives at the yard.

      • 0 avatar

        and then the Oil Filler Cap Fairies whisk them away, never to be seen again !

      • 0 avatar

        Since when did you need to remove the cap to drain the oil? They aint doing a full tilt LOF when they condemn them to death. Now that’s kind of weird…in car talk. “What would you like for your last meal prisoner 810?”
        ” I think a nice Castrol 5W30 and Fram filter for desert followed by a can of STP. A drop of Seafoam would be nice since it was my birthday last month.”

        Well at least they don’t destroy the engine oil pan draining the motor. Not like they do with tranny pans and rear axle covers. To the un-initiated most if not all of the self service yards use an air powered probe that can poke a hole in what ever it is aimed at. Some of the redneck yards just use an air chisel to cut a hole. You’re screwed if your looking to replace a trans pan on a 34YO Datsun.

        I think sometimes they just throw the caps away out of spite. I don’t know. Maybe that’s some code that the motor doesn’t run. Or maybe to indicate that the oil has been drained. I notice the same thing about dipsticks.

  • avatar

    The sedan in the ad above side profile reminds me of the then British Leyland Austin Marina. Though undoubtably the Datsun was more reliable… With the 810’s smallish six and 3-speed I bet highway drone was a given. All Standard was a take on the domestics lengthy option list.

    • 0 avatar

      It was a Morris Marina originally, just rebadged as an Austin in North America. The 810 was in many ways a similar car, the Datsun Bluebird on which it was based was marketed as a Ford Cortina-fighter, which was also the car that BL benchmarked when developing the Marina.

  • avatar

    240Z had a 2400 cc / 2.4 liter engine.

    280Z had a 2800 cc / 2.8 liter engine

    I wonder what the 260Z had propelling it?

  • avatar

    “The metric system is the tool of the devil! My car gets 40 rods to the hogshead and that’s the way I likes it.”

  • avatar
    Ron B.

    Just when i thought i had seen all the variations on a theme from Datsun/Nissan up pops a six cylinder 120Y wagon!!.
    Ford V8??? are you kidding? why go back to the stoneage when a RB34 twin turbo is a drop in !!!.Oh man America must have been the only market for these wagons because I am damn sure they would have been sold here in OZ if they were available to us. We only got a 4 cylinder with an Austin derived 1200 cc engine.In Australia and Japan , Today the sedans ,Skylines, are an expensive cult car with most having some version of the later RB engine bolted in .
    Ford V8 Puhhh!.

    • 0 avatar

      You are mixing up the 120Y/Sunny/310 with this car, which is a bigger car that was badged as the Maxima/Bluebird/810 and was produced only with an I6 engine.

    • 0 avatar

      I dislike V – configuration engines , 6 or 8 cylinder , all of them .

      Nevertheless , I routinely Rally with some Datsun 510 guys who mostly run Ford V-8’s , a couple of Mazda RX7 implants and by far , the Ford V-8 powered 510’s and Roadsters handily outrun the Rotary and / or turbocharged ones .

      I just watch their taillight dwindle into the distance as I plod along in my old FHC , throttle pinned all day long .

      I’da thought they offered the larger Station Wagons World Wide , maybe not because they were so dang expen$ive ? .


  • avatar

    Reminds me of my ’82 Corolla Wagon. :( Sorry, but one simply can’t replace the utility, reliability and sustainability in these late 70’s / early 80’s Asian wagons.

  • avatar

    My mom had a ’78 with a 4 speed manual–that thing could really fly when you revved it!

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    A friend had one , a ’77 810 sedan with a stick shift , which as I recall was a 4-speed , not a 5-speed for that year .I don’t remember the engine being quite the rat’s nest of tubing , etc. as this one – maybe because it was delivered here in Houston and the pictured one had more stringent California pollution gear . First he wanted a new 1978 model but wound up getting a used ’77 with maybe 10 or 12k miles on it .Actually the ’77 had better interior= the ’78s had an awful herringbone cloth . I remember some enthusiast mags of the era comparing the inline six with Jaguar’s , another I recall calling it a ” Japanese Maverick ” . The ads of the era made much of the fuel injection , a bit of a novelty then ” family car room with Z-car vroom ” as I recall. The friend travelled a lot on business and several times let me drive it for a few days if I’d take him to the airport . For that time , it was quick , and I thought the inline six sounded sweet , at least compared to the economy cars I was driving then . A bit of a handful in the wet and I remember throwing it into a figure eight skid – the friend being out of town – while not driving all that fast or furiously in the rain . Good times ! Eventually the friend drove it into high water in one of our famous Houston floods and after the water went over the dash it was totalled out . Even when new these were relatively rare and I haven’t seen an 810 in many years , dead or alive .

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    Was looking the 810 up in my copy of Flammang ‘s Catalog of Imported Cars and it brought up the third 810 model I had totally forgotten , a coupe model, very rarely seen new and , though no photo was there I remember as being quite ugly . And the prices are interesting too- the P.O.E. price rising ( for a sedan ) from $ 5099 in 1977 to $ 8129 in 1979 ! Almost a 60% price rise in three model years ! Along with 15% or more interest rates for a new car loan . Ah, the good old malaise era days . Everybody rightly or wrongly blamed poor old uninspiring inept Jimmy Carter for the rampant inflation back then . At least we were all getting cost-of-living raises .

    • 0 avatar

      Wouldn’t the correct term for the malaise era economy be “Stagflation” rather than inflation. Gotta love an economy so bad we had to invent new words to describe how bad it actually was.

  • avatar

    I need those taillights! Where is this car located?

  • avatar

    We’ve have a 1977 Datsun 810 for sale with a little over 89,400 original miles that runs solid. You can see it here:

    I’ve owned a 240Z and 280Z that had solid horsepower. The 810 Coupe that we have can more than keep up with those cars. We would love to see someone that really appreciates this car provide it a good home. The following link goes to a 38 picture slideshow of the ’77 Datsun 810:

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