Yesterday, I shared a Toyota Corona ad from the February 1969 issue of Playboy. I like the Corona for personal reasons, but if the Time Machine took me back to ’69 and I didn’t have a lot to spend (or even if I did have a lot to spend), the Datsun 510 would be one of my top choices. Wouldn’t you know, there’s an ad for the 510 in the very same issue!
Did any of the Afghani Mujahideen drive Datsun pickups to battle after the Soviets invaded? Probably, but the Toyota Hilux got all the press. For the same reason today, Malaise Era Toyota pickups tend to be kept alive, while their Datsun, Mazda (via Ford), and Isuzu (via Chevy) counterparts get crushed when they finally suffer some problem that costs more than $200 to fix. I’ve been seeing a steady stream of these Datsuns in junkyard for 20 years now, and here’s the latest one.
When, some seven weeks ago, the Nikkei had the rumor that Nissan would revive its Datsun brand for low cost cars, targeted at emerging markets, official sources at Nissan – not surprisingly – had no comment.
One not so charitable source at Nissan conceded that “this time, the Nikkei is less on crack than sometimes.” Another more diplomatic source said: ”I guess you can expect a press release soon.”
That press release arrived today.
Wait a minute— this Malaise Era heap, with its solid rear axle and AMC Hornet-esque lines, this car can’t be a 510! That’s what I thought when I spotted this car at a Northern California self-service yard last month, having forgotten that Nissan’s American marketers slapped 510 badges on the 710/Violet/Stanza/200B for the ’78 and ’79 model years. This is the first time I’ve seen one of these things in at least 20 years.
We have been keeping one eye on the Nissan/Renault plans for low cost cars for a while. All indications have been that the alliance is working on a car that could sell in the neighborhood of $5,000 and still make a profit. The secret of doing this is spreading the development effort over as many units as possible.
Today, The Nikkei [sub] writes that Nissan will resurrect its Datsun brand in order to sell low-priced cars in emerging markets. According what the Nikkei “learned” without naming sources, the cars will initially be built and sold in India, Indonesia and Russia. Allegedly, Nissan hopes to “achieve annual sales of 300,000 Datsuns a year soon.”
Just about the time Datsuns were getting Nissan badging, the suits at Nissan HQ decided that they needed a cheap sporty car to compete with the likes of the Honda CRX and (cringe) Ford EXP in the American marketplace. A little cutting and pasting on the Sentra and voila! Pulsar!
The Corolla and the Civic get all the attention when we think about the Japanese subcompacts that put the fear into Detroit during the final years of the Malaise Era, but we mustn’t forget Nissan’s replacement for the rear-drive Datsun 210: the Sentra. You don’t see many early Sentras in junkyards these days; they haven’t been a common sight in The Crusher’s waiting room for a decade or so. Here’s one that I spotted in California earlier this month.
and came home with a trophy? This story has a sequel.
In 1958, two Datsuns, named “Fujii” and “Sakura” entered the Mobilgas Trial, 10,000 miles all around Australia. Surprisingly, “Fuji” won its class title. “Sakura” finished fourth.
Half a century later, the cars were found in a warehouse in Japan.
It was known as “The World’s Cruelest Rally:” The Mobilgas Trial, 10,000 miles all around Australia. In 1958, there were two entries, regarded as a joke by the burly Aussies: A pair of tiny Datsun 210s, named “Fuji” and “Sakura”.
The suicidal idea was had by marketing manager Yutaka Katayama. Aged 102 years, he is still alive to tell the story:
We saw this junked ’78 Corolla a while back, and there was this ’81 Mazda GLC and this ’80 Civic, but no discussion of Middle Malaise Era Japanese Econoboxes can be complete without mention of Nissan’s third-gen Sunny aka 210 aka 120Y aka B210. Here’s a nice example I found in a Denver self-serve yard a week or so back.
You’ve got to love a car named the Sports, if only because it reminds us of the pre-focus-group era. I’m on vacation in Door County, Wisconsin at the moment, which means I’m surrounded by endless Packers paraphernalia, startling quantities of Buicks driven by folks 50 years younger than the normal Buick demographic, cheese curds, and this beautiful street-parked vintage Datsun.