By on July 14, 2014

10 - 1978 Datsun 210 - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNames for various flavors of the Nissan Sunny got very confusing during the 1970s and 1980s. Starting in the 1978 model year, the front-wheel-drive replacement for the B210— known as the B310 within Nissan— kept the “210” name in the United States (meanwhile, you could also buy “510s” that were actually A10 Violets), later evolving into the car that became the Sentra. These were cheap but reliable (for the time) misery boxes, competing with the likes of the Chrysler Omnirizon, and so very few of them escaped The Crusher when they started wearing out in the early 1990s. Here’s a rare example that I found in Southern California in January.
13 - 1978 Datsun 210 - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Datsun name had just a few years to go at this point.
07 - 1978 Datsun 210 - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI can’t tell the A12 engine from the A14 at a glance; either way, this thing delivers well under 75 horsepower.
06 - 1978 Datsun 210 - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinPretty typical late-70s econobox interior. At least this car has a manual transmission.

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43 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1979 Datsun 210...”

  • avatar

    This is a “310” which replaced the “f10” in the American market. It was known as the cherry elsewhere. The 210 was a rear driver that replaced the “b210” elsewhere known as the sunny.

  • avatar

    In stunningly good condition.

  • avatar

    Yep – that’s a 310.

  • avatar

    My old man drove the sedan version of one of these (or maybe it was an ’80) between a ‘?? AMC Pacer and ’81 Volvo 240.

    As Murilee alludes to above, he always said he could never get that thing above 50 going downhill…which would have been an eventual date with death on his commute on Boston’s Southeastern X-way had he not dumped it after a short 8 months.

    I think it was that same color blue as the one above, too.

    • 0 avatar

      Probably a good thing he couldn’t get it over 50. My parents bought one of these just after we arrived in Canada. It met its ignominious end when my dad managed to slam it into the back of an early 80’s C10 pickup in the middle of rush-hour on a major bridge. Its little one pot brakes and bicycle tires were probably unsafe for anything over 30mph. My family had a lot of crap cans growing up, but I gotta say this is the only car I have no good memories of.

  • avatar

    Dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind…

  • avatar

    “The Pleaser”

  • avatar

    I think it’s a 310 also. Love those gauges, especially the off-set 85 mph speedo!

  • avatar

    Jeez, even my ’87 Nova had 75 horsepower. Or maybe 90. Not sure if the Nova version of the 4A-C was tuned differently from the Corolla version.

    And that car was frightening enough! Though it could actually maintain highway speeds, as long as you liked feeling like your car was shaking itself to pieces.

  • avatar

    Yep, one of the last few cars to get the D.

  • avatar

    I remember seeing these Datsun Cherries everywhere when I was little, they fought with Corollas and Ladas of the #1 sales spot. After 35 years, the design is still impressively clean and attractive, especially the facelifted ones with square headlights.

    Mechanically they were crap, of course. The one-liter pushrod engine was especially horrid: it was loud, gutless, and wore out extremely quickly.

  • avatar

    Not sure where it fits within the Datsun family, but I had a ’79 Datsun 210 (no B) sedan. Absolute stripper version, with the stickshift (not sure if 4 or 5 speed) coming up out of the floor (no console). It was very underpowered. Long uphill stretches on highways were pretty dangerous in that car.

    • 0 avatar

      I had an ’80 210 as a first car (hey, it was BROWN), rather than echo your accurate review I’ll stay positive and say it consistently got 40+ mpg. Manual 5 speed. The car above is definitely a 310, we would have sacrificed multiple chickens to cruise around in that level of luxury.

      • 0 avatar

        “we would have sacrificed multiple chickens to cruise around in that level of luxury.” — Line of the day award winner!

        But you try and tell the young people today that… and they won’t believe ya’.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I always liked the clean looks of these. The nose/grill resembles a cross between a Pinto and a Chevette.

    And I like the targeting computer on the left side of the instrument panel. That is a targeting computer, right?

  • avatar

    Question to those who lived through this era: Were people at all concerned about the near 100% chance of death on crash while driving something like this Datsun (or X-car or K-car etc)?

    • 0 avatar

      Many were. But you didn’t have a lot of choices. If you were middle class, you could afford a new compact every 5 years, at which point it was essentially toast. Since cars didn’t last very long, you didn’t have the choice of buying a used large car that would be safer.

      Maybe an older Volvo, but back in the day, safety wasn’t at the top of every car buyers list, really, and information on safety was less available. Life entails risk; do you eat hamburgers?

      • 0 avatar

        I would have to agree with VoGo – safety wasn’t a priority. In the early 80’s my first car was a 74 Ford Gran Torino – the shoulder belts were missing – and only after it became a law in NJ (I think?) that seatbelts were required did I start using the lap belt.

      • 0 avatar

        Yep, my dad’s version of this was the VW Beetle. No heat, no air, no safety features, all in the name of minimizing fuel cost and still having more than two wheels.

        Your best hope was to hit something else tiny, else be lost in the spray of tin powder resulting from hitting a seventies pickup.

        My best friend’s sister drove a seventies Newport Chrysler. It was nicknamed the “Honda-killer” as it was forever swinging way wide in corners and destroying parked Civics or stop signs. His dad just pulled the dents out with a slide hammer and left the bullet-holes in the bodywork.

      • 0 avatar

        Not really anymore, but do consume a good deal of fish and chicken. I agree life entails risk, I was curious what acceptable risk was 35 years ago or thereabouts.

      • 0 avatar

        Could you please expand a little.

        1. Why weren’t people more concerned with safety back then? What was the mentality back then, what was in priority?

        2. Did middle class really, mostly, could afford a compact, and not mid-size/full-size?

        3. What were the few primary causes of cars not lasting long back then? Which parts were not able to go the distance?

        Thank You

    • 0 avatar

      I was t-boned in my 83 Sentra hatch (which looked very similar to the 310 above) by a fast moving Volvo 740 and walked away relatively unscathed. Perhaps it was luck, but the bottom of the 740’s bumper caught the frame rail of Sentra and neatly tossed me towards the passenger seat.

    • 0 avatar
      Joe K

      Not really as the SUV hadn’t been invented yet, and they did pass the crash test of the day. I had a 310 and loved it. It was the only car I ever owned where you did not have to take out or apart the driveline to replace the clutch.

    • 0 avatar
      Joe McKinney

      These late Malaise Era cars were safer than you might expect. Not as safe a today’s cars, but much safer than cars from previous decades.

      My father was t-boned while driving his 1984 Aries sedan. The mid-sized Pontiac that hit him was going 55+ mph before hitting the brakes, then striking Dad’s car dead center on the driver’s side. Dad got pretty beat up. He spent several days in the hospital, but made a full recovery.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re rather seriously overstating the risk. Way back in the 60’s, when we used to ride around in the rear facing seat of my mom’s Country Squire, approximately 1 in every 4000 Americans died in a car crash. Now it’s something like 1 in every 7500. Most accidents are minor, and even the more serious ones are mostly survivable.

      Wear your seatbelt, don’t drive drunk, and avoid the areas and times of day when people who do drive drunk are out and inebriated, odds are you’ll die from cancer or heart disease or some other natural cause.

    • 0 avatar

      I had an ’87 LeBaron Sedan in the late 90’s – if anything, it seemed more substantial than the average 90’s subcompact.

      I don’t have any cool crash stories from it, although I did once get tagged by a mid-90’s Chrysler LHS. I was making a right and stopped for someone in a crosswalk, and they scraped their quarter panel on the corner of my bumper. I got a couple scratches, they got a broken headlight and a large cut in their quarter panel – although that was probably more due to the angle of the crash than any super-durability of 80’s chrome-plated plastic.

  • avatar

    My grandfather was t-boned on the driver’s side by a garbage truck while driving his Reliant 4 door – he was thrown across the seat to the passenger side and luckily only suffered a few broken ribs. It was the end of the Reliant and also his driving.

  • avatar

    My sister had a 1980 210, auto trans and AC. When you turned on the AC it was like someone kicked the car in the groin. When a approaching a steep hill, you had a choice: Turn off the AC, or use a less steep alternate route.

  • avatar
    jim brewer

    A buddy bought a 310 like that. Definitely an improvement over the bottom of the barrel 210. He was the most responsible of our group and it was the first “grown up” car any of us bought. He drove it about ten years and tried to give it to a young relative who had turned 16, who turned up her nose at it. That was the first I had heard of a kid refusing a free set of wheels. Very common now for various reasons.

    I remember being impressed by the particularly plush carpeting and overall clean looks of the car. It had Polyglycoat, you know. He was quite proud of the car, but I found out later that the female he was wooing, later his wife, thought it was a complete tin can.

    As Joe McKinney points out, the cars were not unsafe for their era. The idea of systematically building for safety was still a fairly new idea and they were viewed as an improvement over cars from just a few years before. Having a spiffy, high mileage, reasonably spunky car with reasonable amenities (AC, nice carpet, am/fm radio) The engine may not have been big, but the car only weighed maybe 2000 pounds, and the 55 mph speed limit was firmly in place. If you could accelerate briskly to 65 mph and get a ticket, you perceived yourself as having plenty of pep.

  • avatar

    My brother-in-law’s brother had an interesting version of this car. It was all red, including its steel wheels. It had rubber flares on the front wheel wells only and a “CANADA” sticker on the front bumper right smack in the middle. I used to call it the “tomato can.”

    They were well-equipped like the first-gen Honda Accord, which I’m sure was viewed as its main competition. Too bad they were outclassed big time. I remember it being reliable enough, but tinny and exceedingly dull.

  • avatar

    Anyone who turns down a free car , deserves to ride The Ghetto Bus until they contact reality again .

    This car may be a crap can but it’s far too clean to have been summarily scrapped .


  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Got one of these new in 1980. I believe that in Canada the 210 stripper version was called the ‘Sunny’. Advertised as the lowest priced car for at least a few months.

    Ours had 2 options, an auto transmission (yuck) and an AM radio that never worked properly.

    The floors were rubber.

    It hummed, buzzed and struggled with a full load. But it never let us down, and I put one heck of a lot of miles on it in the 3 years that we kept it. And believe me the amount of maintenance that it received was minimal.

  • avatar

    I had a used 81 Datsun 310 4-door with a 4 speed manual from 1987-1991. Horsepower was all of 68. I sold my 1965 Plymouth Barracuda (with a Slant 6) in order to purchase the Datsun. With its plush velour seats and A/C, I thought it was quite an upgrade. People in the back seat would always ask me to open my door to let them out. I had to remind them that they had their own door. Guess it looked so sporty; the rear doors were overlooked by passengers. I don’t recall safety being a concern, especially stepping up from 1965. Of course, we still had freedom of choice back then. Now we just have regulation and monitoring.

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