By on February 8, 2019

A fourth-generation Nissan 200SX surfaced previously in an edition of Buy/Drive/Burn, where its squared-off good looks went up against two other Japanese coupes from 1986. Today, we step back two generations and have a look at an 200SX from the Seventies.

Maybe you can figure out if Datsun achieved what it was aiming for with this design.

The lineage of the 200SX started with a coupe known as Silvia, which was beautifully shaped, largely hand-built, and largely sold within the confines of the Japanese domestic market (less than 60 escaped to other countries.) Sales were an issue, as the original Silvia was about twice as expensive as the closest model in Datsun’s lineup. Between 1965 and 1968, just 554 coupes were produced. Datsun was filled with regret.

Management decided to head a different route with their next Silvia model — a mass-production route. The next car to wear a Silvia badge began production in 1975. It was sportier than the old model, less luxurious, and critically, cheaper.

Datsun selected its new S platform to underpin the second-generation Silvia. The S was a development of the platform found beneath the Sunny, which Americans knew as the B-210. The aim was to give the Silvia some Skyline-adjacent styling, while at the same time steering less traditionally minded customers away from competition at Mazda and Toyota.

Buyers in the Japanese market received the 1.8-liter inline-four engine from the Datsun 610. American models received the requisite large bumpers required by legislation, some 200SX badges in place of the Silvia ones, and a larger 2.0-liter engine from the Japanese market Skyline. Offered in all markets was a three-speed automatic and a five-speed manual.

It turned out a unique looking coupe with fastback styling was not what buyers wanted at the time. North America and other markets alike turned away from the 200SX and its rear leaf springs, instead choosing the Toyota Celica on offer next door.

The second-generation 200SX lasted only through 1979, when it was replaced by a much squarer and more brougham 200SX for 1980. Today’s silver beauty is for sale right now. It asks $6,900 with 125,000 miles and an automatic transmission.

[Images: seller]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

70 Comments on “Rare Rides: A Very Malaise Datsun 200SX From 1977...”


  • avatar
    jatz

    I was there for the Asian Invasion in the ’70s but I can’t recall ever seeing one of these. You don’t forget this kind of ugly, like an evil runt of a Rambler Marlin.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    I like the car, but it’s just not right with an automatic. Probably why this one survived and wasn’t driven to hell.

    Yeah, its kinda ugly, but I’ll take it over the square-upon-square generation that replaced it.

  • avatar
    Duaney

    Here again, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I think it looks fantastic.

    • 0 avatar
      statikboy

      Mostly agreed… only two things I would change. The massive bumpers are rather unfortunate; the JDM bumpers looks much more sleek:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nissan_Silvia#S10

      The other would be to push the wheels outward as far as mechanically feasible.

      • 0 avatar
        LectroByte

        Compared to the 1977 Celica, probably its intended competitor, they are pretty hideous. Those bumpers are unfortunate for sure, by 1977 most everyone else had figured out how to make them look somewhat decent.

        • 0 avatar
          snakebit

          Completely agree. Even a ’77 Celica ST is much more beautiful. Usually I can accept how the carmaker complies with bumper requirements, but these looked like a one-model-bumper- fits-all solution. I almost think they were fitted by a previous owner.

        • 0 avatar
          Featherston

          +1 to Corey for describing the bumpers as “required by legislation” and not as required by safety legislation. They were a consumer protection measure, which doesn’t stop 90% of scribes from calling them a safety requirement.

          And +1 to you, Lectrobyte, for pointing out that by the late Malaise and early post-Malaise, designers generally had figured out how to incorporate 5-mph bumpers into the overall design.

          Obviously 5-mph bumpers aren’t coming back. They add a lot of weight, and I would guess they’re at odds with crumple zone design. That said, it’d be nice to see functional rub strips reintroduced. I park carefully, you probably park carefully, but we can’t control the meaningful % of the population who still park by touch (cameras and sensors notwithstanding). Of course, manufacturers and body shops would be firmly against this.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Oh yes, I remember these. It’s a genuine time warp car – it’s got the typical-for-the-time dealer installed riveted bodyside molding that was put on zillions of domestic and imported cars then. The base is an aluminum extrusion that’s cut to length, it has a vinyl strip (also an extrusion) that slides in, and the end caps (with holes for rivets) are slipped on, holes are drilled through the body and the pieces are pop riveted in place.

    The vinyl strips hold up pretty well in a mild climate like Portland, but here in Texas, they were usually sunburned and discolored after a few years, especially the lighter colors.

    • 0 avatar
      psychoboy

      “You know what this car really needs? Classy accent rubstrips. Not that black rubber tape-mount stuff, it bends up and tears off too easily. We need metal…affixed by something more than tape. We need to drill holes in the paint and stuff rivets in them. No point in giving dirty water a place to hang out for years on end without also exposing some raw sheet metal to it. And, the best part? We can charge customers triple what they’d pay for some pinstriping!”

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    I’m more interested in the 510 sedan parked next to it in Picture 9.

  • avatar
    Hayden535

    Malaise is a noun.

    • 0 avatar
      jatz

      So is Baroque (a flawed pearl) and there’s nothing objectionable in using it as an adjective. Ditto for Deco.

      • 0 avatar
        Hayden535

        I did a quick Google search and couldn’t find anything substantiating your claim about it being acceptable to use malaise as an adjective. Do you have any source/support for the claim?

        I’m asking out of genuine curiosity, not to troll or start an argument. I’m a high school English teacher and I use the word on my vocabulary lists every year and I’ve never seen it flexed into adjective usage. Thanks in advance.

        • 0 avatar
          psychoboy

          It’s a noun adjunct. Just as you’d find the phrase “Malaise Era”.

          As used in the headline, I’d suggest that the “Era” is implied.

        • 0 avatar
          -Nate

          ” I’m a high school English teacher”

          THANK YOU SIR ! .

          -Nate

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Well, if we’re going to put our bonafides on display, I have a degree in journalism, and I can tell you that headlines typically aren’t grammatically perfect. Take this one about the assassination of JFK, for example:

          https://bklyner.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/NY-Times-11-23-63-2-585×453.jpg

          It probably should have read “Kennedy *was* killed by *a* sniper as he *rode* in *a* car in Dallas; Johnson *was* sworn in on *a* plane.” But the information has to fit within a set space, so the writer put it in shorthand, and took some liberties with the tense.

    • 0 avatar
      psychoboy

      So…in the phrase “Malaise Era”…which word is the adjective…or more accurately, which word is the noun adjunct?

  • avatar
    A Scientist

    My mom had this EXACT same car when I was a little kid, right down to the silver paint and white stripe (although IIRC hers was a manual). Even as a ~4 year old child, I couldn’t fathom how anyone could make or buy a vehicle so ugly :) But hey, it was “good on gas”….

  • avatar
    MeJ

    This car is too quirky not to love. The seats look quite comfortable.
    That B pillar would render shoulder checks useless, and check out those big bumpers! And everyone knows a white racing stripe is only going to help you go faster!
    Super-cool.

  • avatar
    Pantherlove

    I feel like I see the rear end of this in a lot of modern cars.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    I kinda like it; like a mutant Saab 900.

  • avatar
    cbrworm

    I knew someone who had one of these and loved it. I thought it was unique and didn’t dislike it. I recall it feeling sporty – though looking at it now, it seems unlikely.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I assume this was half the price of the 280z or 280zx?

  • avatar
    Dario Sycco

    OMG! I totally don’t remember that hideousness. That rear bumper hanging over that ugly rear end’s lights, ouch, BARF!

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    The front 3/4 view makes it look like an AMC Gremlin built under license.

  • avatar
    spookiness

    I do remember these and thinking they were ugly ducklings at the time. Only remember silver color as shown, usually with wild bodyside striping. The subsequent Brougham-y coupes were way more popular.

  • avatar
    scott25

    Certainly my favourite Datsun product, but I doubt the number of survivors extends far beyond single digits

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    This and the F-10, deeply ugly cars. Like Nissan sent their designers to America for a fact-finding mission and they landed in Studio-54 on free cocaine night.

  • avatar
    Garak

    Ditch the bizarro-bumpers and gross grille, and the original car looks pretty neat in a 1970s way. That has to be one of the worst US-bumper-regulation botch jobs.

  • avatar
    lon888

    I was a big-time Datsun guy back in the 70’s and early 80’s due to my first car was a used ’73 240-Z. I remember vividly seeing these at the dealers when new, but I forgot how hideous the 5-mph bumpers looked. Damn insurance companies and NHTSA.

  • avatar
    formula m

    Looks like Buick got some inspiration from this rear end and tail light design for their 1992 Skylark tail light, except the Buick’s lens comes to a point on the wrap around

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I used to see a fair numbers of these when they were new. The buyers were probably Datsun fans who were trading in their early 70’s 510 or just wanted something above the B-210 or bizarro F-10.
    The rear sail panel C pillar and wheel arch look very Zagato inspired though who knows if that was their intent.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    I spent two months of the summer of 1977 helping transform one of these into a race car, for the IMSA RS class. Today’s equivalent would be what’s now known as the Michelin Pilot Challenge. Back then, things weren’t quite so sophisticated as now, our competition included AMC Gremlins and Mazda RX-3s.

    How did it drive? I have no idea, one of the race car’s owners bought one new off of the showroom floor and immediately disassembled it.

    They ultimately had some good success with it, it was top 10 material in most of its races in a field of 30+. I wasn’t with them by then, I had to return to school, but that car still holds a place in my heart.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      https://dsportmag.com/the-cars/paul-newmans-datsun-200sx-racecar-returns-tarmac/

      I’ve liked these as racing cars ever since I saw Bob Sharp’s in the atrium of the Atlanta Omni in 1977 or 1978.

  • avatar
    dusterdude

    I’d say its somewhat ugly, but I’d give it lots of points for some cool lines for a car from the 70’s — so actually it looks pretty good to me !… It’s definitely not Pacer or Aztec ugly..

  • avatar
    ThomasSchiffer

    The exterior is nothing special, but the interior has a sort of futuristic spaceship vibe to it.

  • avatar
    MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

    As a kid the people across the street bought a new one of the early 80s 200SX, the squared off 2 door sedan. I thought it was the coolest looking car ever. This particular style I have only seen maybe 3 of my whole life.

  • avatar

    Looks like that GM commuter concept with the built-in grocery cart.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    I was 11 when these arrived. I immediately identified them as being the ugliest cars on the road—a mean feat given all the Pacers and early Valiants still on the road at the time. The passage of time has not softened my view.

  • avatar
    Tandoor

    Now that brings back some memories. My very first car was a ‘79. This was early 90s, my dad couldn’t let it go and I ended up with it. Ran perfect, but rusted away from the inside. The engine literally fell out. You could break up the chassis where the mounts used to be by hand.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Just came for the Love fest. New car = nitpick everything…But post what is likely a car more miserable to drive than most posters can imagine (I have…it is as miserable as it looks) and let the Love flow. What an utter pile. Being slightly more reliable than the other cars in the low point of reliability history doesn’t make it any less of a pile. The white speck on the top of chicken$#!+ Is still chicken$#!+. At least I could use that as fertilizer.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      Do you think you found a love fest? Where is this flowing love you came to protest? Do you ever let reality inform your world view?

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Nostalgia tends to blind you to reality.

      I took my daughter to Gateway Classic Cars here in Denver last weekend, and showed her my high school dream car: a ’81 Trans-Am (complete with the silver leather seats), which was sitting next to a ’78 Corvette. Lust at 100th sight. And then I remembered: fool, your Audi would absolutely MURDER both of these cars on a track. Hell, I could have probably taken them in my old Jetta. And we all know how bad the build quality was. I dated a girl in college who had a Corvette of that vintage, and the passenger door actually fell off of it when she turned left one day. They weren’t all that. But they were sexy.

      So, yeah, I get why people turn nostalgic about the hideous junkpile in this story. The past does have a certain charm, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

  • avatar
    hifi

    I remember these. Compared to the domestic cars, this thing felt like the future. Even though they were seriously ugly, there was a purposefulness to them. It simply highlighted the vile cheapness of the baroque appliqués and sloppy details of the domestics. Once the 2nd generation 200sx arrived, it was game over for the domestics.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Game over? That must be why there are no RWD American sports coupes today.

      This car was based on a crappy little economy car, just like the Mustang II it competed with. Rear leaf springs? Yes, this was certainly the future of ox carts. None of them are outstanding cars in any measurable sense.

  • avatar
    Ol Shel

    The JDM version allows us to see the designer’s vision:

    https://www.carthrottle.com/post/counting-backwards-from-13-the-forgotten-forefathers-of-nissan-s-s-chassis/

  • avatar
    vehic1

    Compared with other two-door imported coupes of that year – Celica, Accord coupe, Scirocco, etc. – it was the homeliest/least sporty appearance (esp. front end).

  • avatar
    geo

    I remember driving by one of these when I was a kid and my dad telling me “that looks very Japanese”.

    I like it, especially the interior design and dash. There is actually a center armrest, which seems like an added luxury. These seem like they would be fun to own and drive.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    “Nostalgia tends to blind you to reality. ”

    What ? no ~ I was there and ,

    Oh yeah, that’s right, I conveniently forget, never mind .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    JimC2

    Whoa… that redline!

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • airfidget: Two points. Safety/regulation. Convenience/reality. A fuel tank is something like 10-20 gallons of gas. If...
  • blackEldo: Technically not a coupe, but there WAS a three-door version of the Saab 9-3, just not the final...
  • dwford: Who wants to regularly sit at some public charging station twiddling your thumbs? A genius move would be to...
  • mcs: “40 minutes at Target is the best reason yet not to own an EV.” EVs are just like anything else in...
  • slow_poke: Right. Agreed. If you own a home assume the cost of a charger in your EV purchase price. Otherwise wait...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber