I’ve seen a few B210s during my junkyard travels since we had this ’75 hatchback and this ’78 coupe in this series back in 2012, but most of the time I don’t find them sufficiently interesting to photograph. A bewilderingly labeled 210 or 310 or B310 or whatever it was that Nissan called their American Sunny for several months in the late 1970s, sure, I’ll shoot that. I overlook these cars, I must admit, because I came of driving age in the early 1980s, when these cars (and early Colts, and Pintos, and Vegas) were the bottom-of-the-barrel misery boxes that young people bought for $150 and loathed driving— let’s call them the Ford Tempos and Chevy Berettas of the Late Malaise Era. This B210 looked so old, sitting in the snow among the Camrys and Volvo 940s at my local Denver yard last winter, that I decided to add it to this series. Enjoy.
Names for various flavors of the Nissan Sunny got very confusing during the 1970s and 1980s. Starting in the 1978 model year, the front-wheel-drive replacement for the B210— known as the B310 within Nissan— kept the “210” name in the United States (meanwhile, you could also buy “510s” that were actually A10 Violets), later evolving into the car that became the Sentra. These were cheap but reliable (for the time) misery boxes, competing with the likes of the Chrysler Omnirizon, and so very few of them escaped The Crusher when they started wearing out in the early 1990s. Here’s a rare example that I found in Southern California in January.
Back when I was coming of automotive age, in the early 1980s, most of my peers who got hand-me-down cars from relatives ended up with Vegas, Pintos, Colts, and Datsun 210s (for some reason, I don’t recall anyone at my high school getting a Civic, and very few got Corollas). Almost all the 210s are long gone these days, since there’s little interest in restoring them and you can get better fuel economy and reliability from a 1990s Tercel or Metro, but every so often I see one in a self-service wrecking yard. We saw this ’79 four-door in 2011, and today we’ll be looking at a ’79 two-door.
The California streets of my childhood were full of Datsuns like this one, and the B210 remained a common sight in (rust-free parts of) America until well into the 1990s. Then, without anybody really noticing, nearly all of them disappeared. Every so often, I’ll find one in a self-service junkyard; there was this slushbox-equipped ’74 last year, and now this mustard-yellow ’75 has drifted into range of The Crusher’s jaws.
Yesterday, we saw an once-ubiquitous 80s Japanese econobox that has nearly disappeared from the face of the earth; at the same Denver junkyard, I found a once-ubiquitous 70s Japanese econobox that also hasn’t been seen on the street for many years. The little fastback B210 was once everywhere.
The last time we looked at the Nissan Versa, in October of 2010, it was the cheapest car in America at under 10 grand. Unfortunately, the price for such a low sticker was dearer than its four-digit sticker. The lack of modern essentials like air conditioning, anti-lock brakes and automatic transmission were more than just a bummer, as adding them to the Versa made the car less than cheap. For the first redesign of Nissan’s smallest family hauler, the boffins in Japan decided to attack the sedan first for an update, an interesting decision as the sedan only accounts for a supposed 30-35% of all Versa sales on our shores. Surprised? I was, especially since hatchback sales in the US are finally on fire. Nissan graciously invited us to Seattle so we could get down and dirty with the Versa before it arrives on showroom floors in August.
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