By on January 27, 2016

00 - 1978 Datsun 510 sedan in Colorado junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

The badging on US-market Datsuns and Nissans got very confusing thanks to the Datsun-to-Nissan changeover that stretched from 1981 through 1984. It resulted in vehicles with awkward names such as “Datsun 810 Maxima By Nissan” showing up in showrooms with all the Datsun logos about to be chiseled off the walls. There was an ever-shifting cast of Bluebirds and Cherrys and Violets and Sunnys sold with American-market designations ending in “-1o” that sometimes corresponded with their corporate identifiers and sometimes didn’t. And then there was the Stanza-based 510 that wasn’t related to its beloved Bluebird-based 1968-73 namesake.

Here is such a car, spotted in a Denver self-serve yard a few weeks ago.
01 - 1978 Datsun 510 sedan in Colorado junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

Japanese cars of this era rusted with great eagerness. The process was slower outside of the Rust Belt, but there was no stopping it.

03 - 1978 Datsun 510 sedan in Colorado junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

Remember these “SCIENTIFIC DIRT TEST” stickers from the middle 1980s? The sun has irradiated this one so thoroughly that I suspect the car spent several decades abandoned in a field with the trunk lid facing south.

08 - 1978 Datsun 510 sedan in Colorado junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

This car doesn’t have much worth pulling, though a few bits here and there might be grabbed by eager Datsun-parts shoppers.

In Japan, Stanzas were pitched by this blow-dried gaijin.

Meanwhile, Datsun sponsored a Neil Diamond Special in the United States.

In Mexico, the car’s Japanese origins were emphasized.

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38 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1978 Datsun 510 Sedan...”


  • avatar
    Joss

    Those were the days when a defogger & radio were Detroit add-ons. The Japs came in cheap and well-equipped like the Koreans today. But not very advanced. The Datsun brand needed a rebirth because of rust associated in consumers minds.

  • avatar

    Took my driving test in a 1978 or 79 version. It was easier to pass the parallel parking in this, over my parents 76 400 Grand Prix, even though the Datsun was manual.

    I recall thinking how much tighter the assembly was than the GP, although by comparison we all still thought the Datsun was a tinker toy. And a four cylinder ? Who would buy that ?

    • 0 avatar
      cbrworm

      It took a long time for us to overcome the idea that all of these Japanese cars were anything more than a novelty. Like little die cast toys.

      Then they became the world standard…for a while.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        They were never the world standard. They were just cheap and reasonably reliable.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          Then some of them got super pricey in the 90s, while offering things like AC and radios as options (quite different than when they first appeared).

          Hardly “the standard”, but they were great imitators.

      • 0 avatar
        Johnster

        You mean, like little tin toy cars.

        When I was a kid back in the 60s I had some really neat tin toy cars that were made in Japan and Hong Kong. A couple of them ran on batteries, but most of them had friction engines that made noise when you pushed them.

        Once, on one of the cars, I pryed open the little tabs connecting the body to the chassis and removed the body. On the inside of the car body was printed “Hamm’s Beer.” The car was made out of an old flattened American beer can!

        • 0 avatar
          Drzhivago138

          Hamm’s–now there’s a crap brand. My father said even his Schlitz-drinking buddies wouldn’t touch Hamm’s.

          • 0 avatar
            dolorean

            A couple years back I tried a Schlitz after they broadcasted they had gone back to the original Cold Filtered brew. That first whiff of Schlitz after popping the cap off gave me a wave of nostalgia for my Grandfather who loved him some Schlitz. First sip, not bad, second sip, hmmmmm, third sip, yeah nah, glad I bought a six pack. Almost as bad as Foster’s or gawd help me, Carlsberg :p

  • avatar
    frankev

    A friend of mine in college had one of these in coupe form in the early 90s. He lived on the North Side of Chicago and the car was popular among the local car thieves.

    First, they stole the radio, leaving a big gaping hole in the middle of the dash. Next, they stole both doors, after which he got a call from the local CPD district station, asking if he could come in. When he got there, the thieves were sitting on a bench, handcuffed to the doors, and the doors were handcuffed to a railing. Finally, they stole the whole car and the next time he saw it, it was completely stripped and sitting in an empty lot.

    After all that drama, he went out and bought a then new Geo Prizm sedan and the thieves left him/it alone.

    • 0 avatar
      mechaman

      Wow. I live in Chicago, and I never heard that! I do know that, once, someone punched out the rear fixed window on the rear door, and opened the car – they didn’t get anything, though! Wonder if your friend had an after market radio – the stocker wasn’t worth crap.

      • 0 avatar
        frankev

        mechaman: I think my friend indeed had an aftermarket radio. It probably wasn’t too fancy, perhaps a cut above a Kraco unit. (We were poor university students at the time.) I recall stereos with a pull-out chassis were popular in the early 90s, before the advent of the removable faceplate; another friend of mine liked to use the term “snatch-out” to describe them, but I don’t know if my Datsun-owning friend’s stereo had that feature.

        Around 1996-97 or so, my wife and I had to replace a 1992 Plymouth Sundance that was totaled in a head-on collision. I bought a four-door, 4-spd., 1989 Hyundai Excel from my “snatch-out” friend and her husband to have some cheap wheels. (It was bought new by her sister who later sold it to them.) The Hyundai lacked A/C, but it had, of all things, a “snatch-out” Pioneer Super Tuner III driving two speakers, one in each front door. No one ever looked twice at that Hyundai and I always left the stereo in place up until I traded it in for a then new 1999 Hyundai Accent (sedan, 5-spd., A/C, rear spoiler and no other options).

        Here’s something weirder: later our family needed a little runabout commuter car and we wound up buying a used 2009 Hyundai Accent. Unfortunately, that car was rear-ended and totaled last summer. Given the foregoing, I now feel it’s my destiny to own a 2019 Hyundai Accent. Might that break some arcane Hyundai record? (No Hyundais in the house now, but we do have a 2011 Kia Sedona among our fleet.)

    • 0 avatar

      Ah, the “Benzi Box”. You didn’t install a DIN spec radio in anything parked in NYC anywhere without this.

      I even had a SAAB which had factory hooks to remove the radio and a SAAB bag in which to carry it around.

      During the height of “crack” in NYC you didn’t leave a radio/radar in your car.

      Funniest were the cars parked in NYC, with out of state plates (for insurance reasons), with hand written signs

      Do not break window
      No radio
      No money
      NYC Car

      a few went further

      doors unlocked

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    For 78, this seems pretty junky and outdated compared to the competition from Toyota or Honda. What gives? Did they not start bringing over decent stuff until they were fully under the Nissan brand?

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Thing to remember is that for a long time, Nissan was almost two companies: the former Prince operations who made all the fun stuff, and the more-conservative-than-Toyota (if you can believe that) old Nissan who made the really dull stuff like this car. The balance of power between the two would see-saw back and forth over the years, until the Renault buyout and Ghosn reorganization wiped out that structure.

    • 0 avatar
      jeoff

      Doesn’t look any less fancy or we’ll put together than my father’s 78 Corolla. After having his fill of Vegas, Pintos, and MustangII’s, he gave a used Corolla a shot–it was super-basic, felt tinny, but ran forever–it was all Toyota after that. The 1980 Corollas felt much more substantial.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    That color green was very popular on the several-generations-later Altima in the ’00s.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Yuck, I hated that misty green. That Altima in 02 was the sh-t, style wise. Very desirable to the high school students, as I clearly recall.

      http://dashboarddispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/481893_008_27011.jpg

      I will say, even those early ones from 02 have aged well, you can’t really tell they’re that old.

    • 0 avatar

      Judging from the unfaded patch on the back where the license plate was, this car was originally a darker shade of green before almost 40 years of sun took it’s toll.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Solid-appearing circa 1987 Maxima wagon on the 8th pic. Pity…

  • avatar
    CaptainObvious

    My father bought a 79 two-toned silver over gray. It also had a cloth interior. The first one he had after years of Fords with vinyl seats. It seemed pretty luxurious to us at the time. I learned to drive on that car. Automatic, manual steering and brakes. It did rust quickly. But he got at least 150000 miles out of it.

  • avatar
    TL

    Growing up, my next door neighbor’s mom had one of these. A red one with imitation wire wheels and a black interior. I remember being really impressed by the storage compartments under the back seat armrests.

  • avatar
    phaedrus528

    Lived in Guadalajara, MX during my high school years back in the 80’s. We had a Datsun 510 wagon(there called the 160J),identical to the blue one in this ad: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfu2xPUOIUs

    All I recall was that the car was much quicker than the VW Bus (Combi)I drove previously and that it had a CHOKE!

  • avatar
    AprilFools

    My first car was a Silver Datsun 810 Wagon, I6 RWD, manual 4 speed. I miss that car.

    Fast for its time, fun to drive,and I averaged over 20mpg. Great interior too.

    My Grandmother had a B210, and a 510. She also had a AMC eagle wagon too. She liked the weird cars.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    The first 510 neat Fiat clone, this (along with the US spec bumpers) looks more Lada.

    These were pretty well equipped for their day, but while you enjoyed the extra plush the floors underneath would slowly evaporate.

    20 years later Nissan-Renault would repeat this issue with their 2000-2006 line-up. Perhaps they were trying to pay tribute to their older models?

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    What is the paper sign on the windshield? I have seen them for insurance totals, but there is no way this car came from an insurance agency.

  • avatar
    mechaman

    My first car … not THIS one, but the same model. Loved that thing …

  • avatar
    dolorean

    Murilee mate, you got to find the unicorn ‘HoneyBee’ edition one of these days. My neighbor had one when I was a youngin back in the early ’80s. Really dug that honey yellow paint with the pin stripes and the Happy Bee floating on the back.

  • avatar
    romer

    These things were considered good cars in South Africa and Rhodesia in my younger days and did not rust because of dry climate. One model came out with a 5 speed manual box and independent rear suspension and was advertised as doing 100mph. They are still sought after today and are restored often.

  • avatar
    mrbowen724

    The car was driven at least into the late 90s. The Broncos sticker on the back has the ‘new’ logo, established in 1997.

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