Junkyard Find: 1983 Datsun 200SX Coupe

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

Nissan sold two generations of Silvias badged as Datsun 200SXs in the United States from the 1976 through 1983 model years, then sold the subsequent Silvia generation here as the Nissan 200SX until 1989. Today's Junkyard Find, found in a yard just south of Denver, is a nicely preserved example of the final year of the S110 Silvia, as well as of the Datsun name.

This car sure looks a lot like the 1978-1983 Mitsubishi Galant Lambda hardtop, sold in North America as the Dodge Challenger and Plymouth Sapporo.

In 1983, this car's MSRP was $7,999, or about $24,812 in 2023 dollars. The 1983 Plymouth Sapporo was $8,323 ($25,817 today), as was its essentially identical 1983 Dodge Challenger twin.

Lee Iacocca was still selling the Dodge Mirada and Chrysler Cordoba for 1983, so there was some meaningful Detroit competition for the 200SX in the razor-blade-medallion-tangled-in-chest-hair rear-wheel-drive personal luxury coupe field. The Mirada cost $9,011 and the Cordoba $9,580, or about $27,951 and $29,716, respectively, in today's money. By the way, that silver car in the background is one of the very last Studebakers ever made; I'll be writing about it soon.

1983 was the last year for those two cars, as well as for the rakish Ford Fairmont Futura coupe and its Mercury-badged sibling, the Zephyr Z-7. The MSRPs for those cars were $6,666 and $6,442, respectively ($20,677 and $19,982 after inflation). Meanwhile, the S12 Silvia would ditch the disco-ized 1970s look for 1984.

The original buyer of this car paid $8,244 for it in San Luis Obispo, California, which we know because the original Monroney sticker was still in the car when I found it. Look at all that great standard equipment!

The owner's manual was present as well.

The badges are gone from this car, but it would have been badged as a "Datsun 200SX by Nissan."

Nissan began phasing out the Datsun name in North America early in the 1980s, with the full switch to Nissan branding happening for the 1984 model year. The Sentra, which first went on sale here as a 1982 model, was sold as a Nissan from the start (though the Datsun name got some shout-outs in the early Sentra's advertising).

Under the hood, the '83 200SX got a 2.2-liter SOHC straight-four rated at 102 horsepower and 129 pound-feet.

This engine was known as the Z22, so its valve cover was entitled to a bit of Z-Car-referencing labeling.

The base transmission was a five-speed manual, which this car has. The optional three-speed automatic cost 350 bucks (around 1,086 bucks today).

This car has air conditioning, a $640 option ($1,985 in 2023 dollars), but it isn't listed on the Monroney. Perhaps Nissan HQ let the dealership throw it in for free, just to make room for the '84s.

Full gauges were standard equipment in this car.

The velcro on the clock face suggests that the original Jeco unit died and the owner stuck a battery-powered digital clock on top.

The final mileage total was just past 200,000 miles, an impressive feat for a car of its era. Not many Nissans have made my honor roll of junkyard vehicles with better than 300,000 miles. In fact, just three have done so: a 1986 200SX, a 1987 Maxima and a 1994 Maxima.

There's some not-so-serious rust and graffiti tagging, but the body is mostly solid and the interior looks decent. This car could have been fixed up without too much trouble, but the S110 200SX doesn't seem to have much of an enthusiast following in these parts.

This commercial captures the desperation to own an S110 200SX that some Datsun shoppers felt.

The hatchback version gave you the drive of your life.

Who dares duel with this Datsun?

Fasten your seat belts for the driving experience of your life! Every bold line says open me up and watch my move.

1983 was the last model year for both the S110 200SX and the S130 280ZX, so dealers were eager to clear out their remaining 1970s throwbacks by that time.

As was nearly always the case at the time, the JDM commercials boasted more macho narrators and better screeching-tire sounds.

Make sure you get the Exciting Turbo (sorry, only available in Japan).

[Images: The Author]

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Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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3 of 20 comments
  • Taylor Harper Taylor Harper on May 20, 2023

    Thank you for info! I was able to save the tail lights and license plate lights from this vehicle - all are remarkably well-preserved and unmolested over the years. Someone will no doubt be needing replacements!

  • Wil Donaldson Wil Donaldson on Oct 16, 2023

    I had a 1981 200SX hatchback in high school. I loved it, was a blast to drive with the 5-speed. It had a lot of equipment, including power windows but no air conditioning. I preferred the look of the coupe, but this is what I found in my price range. I really miss that car and would love to find one in good shape for sale now, but these are pretty hard to come by.

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