By on December 21, 2015

15 - 1981 Datsun Maxima in California junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

The 1980s were confusing times for figuring out badges on U.S.-market Japanese cars.

You had the Toyota Corolla Tercel (which wasn’t related to the Corolla). You had the ever-shifting miasma of various Mitsubishi-based Chryslers. You had the Nissan Stanza Wagon (which was a non-Stanza Prairie at home). And you had all the brand bewilderment of the Datsun-to-Nissan changeover of the early part of the decade (to be fair, Detroit was doing the same sort of badging sleight-of-hand, e.g., front- and rear-wheel-drive Cutlasses in the same showroom).

The Datsun 810 became the Nissan Maxima during the 1981-1984 period, but it didn’t happen like flipping a switch; here’s a Datsun 810 with “by Nissan” and Maxima badging that I spotted in a Northern California wrecking yard a few months ago.
12 - 1981 Datsun Maxima in California junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

It’s still a Datsun, but just barely.

33 - 1981 Datsun Maxima in California junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

Not even 100,000 miles on the odometer. Did it sit forgotten in a garage for decades?

27 - 1981 Datsun Maxima in California junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

The interior is in decent shape, so the car probably didn’t spend 34 years fading in the California sun.

07 - 1981 Datsun Maxima in California junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

The 810/Maxima was similar to its Z-car cousin under the skin, though it got the 2.4-liter six instead of the 2.8-liter engine that went in the ’81 280ZX.

03 - 1981 Datsun Maxima in California junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

Did I grab the Voice Warning System box, which used a tiny phonograph record? Damn right!

25 - 1981 Datsun Maxima in California junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

The presence of this car’s keys in the junkyard means that it didn’t get grabbed against the owner’s will, but was most likely a trade-in or insurance total.

This is the first car that speaks to you!

In Japan, this car was the Bluebird 910, and it had class.

It was much cooler as a Bluebird SSS Turbo.

In Australia, it was sold as a luxury car that could deal with bumpy dirt roads.

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37 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1981 Datsun 810 Maxima by Nissan...”


  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    It’s nice how you can very easily trace the design DNA all the way from the 1980 810 through the 1994 Maxima. After that, they lost it.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Also the Australian driver needs to chill out, he almost clipped that horse at the end.

  • avatar
    Joss

    That red, white & blue Datsun emblem reminds me of Pepsi. Maybe they no longer wanted to play 2nd place to Coke. And changed their name to beat Toyota…

    The car remimds me of a belated attempt at 164/264 Volvo.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    It was rumored that that little record had a track with some risqué content that wasn’t regularly a assessable by the warning system.

  • avatar

    If you play the little record backwards it says “eek wrong hole nismo.”

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    The era when underhood vacuum lines dominated…but you could still see the engine.

  • avatar
    VW16v

    When Nissan actually made great cars. Now they have feminized most of the lineup and all of Infiniti.

    • 0 avatar
      RideHeight

      Like an XKE wasn’t “feminized”?

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Only Nissan and Infiniti vehicles are feminized, and for the limp-wristed losers of society who are poor and fat.

        Excellent drivers have reliable VW vehicles which don’t ever lie about anything, are manly, and cause your testicles to grow to epic proportions as you talk about Corrados beating M3’s. No such thing as the Eos or New Beetle exist. TDI lies do not exist.

        • 0 avatar
          VW16v

          Eww, someone has their thong in a knot. What a rambling mess.
          Facts are this old Nissan Maxima was a great car. It wasn’t put through the ringer to appeal to a certain group. Mainly women as per Infiniti dealers have told me through the years. No 40k mile cvt transmission, no v6 engine that sounds like a cylinder is missing. This old Nissan, like many old Nissan’s where just great cars.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            Meh, good cars, but great? They blew head gaskets like clockwork, and they absolutely dissolved in the winter salt bath around here. Also not really that special to drive. I haven’t seen one of these on the road in 25 years. Meanwhile I see 30 yo German and Swedish cars regularly.

        • 0 avatar
          GermanReliabilityMyth

          I can verify this is an accurate statement in all respects.

      • 0 avatar
        Ostrich67

        Look at an XKE. It’s a dildo on wheels.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      If the Q70 is supposed to appeal to women, then they are doing it wrong.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    So was the 280ZX also a Datsun/Nissan?

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Yep.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        I wonder if the 1983 model was the Nissan 280ZX.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Per Wiki:

          “In 1983 for model year 1984, the last year of the first generation Maxima, North American Datsuns began carrying the “Nissan” badge as well. Only 1984 model year Nissans have both “Nissan” and “Datsun” badges on the back of the car, although earlier models had a “Datsun” badge with a tiny “by Nissan” section underneath.”

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            Probably not then, the 280ZX stopped after model year 1983.

            I bet first year 300ZXs are Datsuns though.

          • 0 avatar
            FuzzyPlushroom

            Also per Wiki:

            “The Z31 chassis designation was first introduced in 1983 as a 1984 Nissan/Datsun 300ZX (the hatch lid had both a Datsun and a Nissan badge) in the U.S. market.”

            Ten seconds of Google Image Search didn’t find an example, but I’m sure there’s a photo out there.

          • 0 avatar
            dolorean

            My MY86 300ZX 2+2 had a Datsun badge inside the car on the door sills if I remember right. And the key still said DATSUN.

  • avatar

    I had one.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Around the same time you could get a Toyota Celica Supra too! The Supra was the “special” Celica before the two models split to become different cars. One went FWD (and AWD Rallying) and the other stayed RWD and turboed up to become a monster.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    If anything amazes me about these old Nissans its their unrivaled rust resistance compared to other Japan automakers.

    Didnt Paul Newman have one of these? I believe he managed to get a ton of miles out of it, though there are no pictures with him and the car.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Paul Newman was the 510, I believe.

      He also had a 960 wagon with a supercharged 5.0 under the hood.
      http://www.carbuildindex.com/16218/for-sale-paul-newmans-95-volvo-960-wagon-with-supercharged-5-0-v8/

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Unrivaled rust resistance?? I guess they might have been better than Subarus and Toyotas at that point, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say they were rust resistant. Certainly the cheap Datsun/Nissans like 210s, 310s, Sentras and such rotted out with alacrity. The Z cars were world champion rust buckets, as were the 510s, which is too bad, as they were some of my favorite Japanese cars ever. The “Japanese 2002” rusted out even faster than the original BMW, and THAT was truly an accomplishment.

      The only two Japanese cars I have ever owned were an ’82 Subaru and an ’81 310GX (complete with “racing H” 5spd and red velour). Neither made it to their 8th birthday in Maine. The Subaru was running fine to the end, the Datsun was in a race between rust and a failing head gasket. The rust won.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        By “unrivaled” I meant to say they sucked the least going into the 80s. Their 510s were a joke at fighting rust.

        Here in the Midwest their 96-or do Maxima seems to rust often. The older Maximas almost non existent either from rust or just little desirability.

        If you want REAL rust get a Protege, it took Mazda decades to understand why rust is bad.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    There was a diesel version that was available here in the states in the early 80’s but it was dropped most likely due to post-Olds diesel bad rep.

    A company I worked for back in the 80’s had one of these as a company car as well as a 87 fully loaded Cimarron. Whenever I drove the Maxima it seemed a bit tight for my 6’2″ frame, since it had roughly the same interior dimensions as a Sentra and the Tron-like dash was a bit much but it handled well. I actually found the fully equipped Cimarron to be a lively ride since it had the optional F-41 suspension and 2.8MPI but still unworthy of the Cadillac wreath.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    I have a Cressida, must get an 810/Maxima (RWD) and a Mazda 929 for the Hat-Trick.

  • avatar
    robc123

    I had an ’82. it was great, little rust, totally reliable, kept it for a very long time because it just wouldn’t die. Loved the talking car bit too- your door is ajar…
    and its small compared to the ’95. I think the successor is the 1-series.

  • avatar
    dolorean

    “This is the first car that speaks to you!”

    Yawr Dawr is AH-jar. Yawr Dawr is AH-jar.

    To which, the wit he says, NO IT’S NOT, IT’S A DOOR!

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