The Bluebird Series
The 'Bird Takes Wing...

Datsun 310

The Bluebird line first took flight in August of 1959 with the P310 Bluebird. It didn't do so well, due to a rather obvious lack of style, or rather, too much British styling. There had been 110, 111, and 112 series cars, as well as a 210, but these were derived from the old thrift line.

The 310 also suffered from an Austin based engine design, pumping out a lackluster 48 horsepower from an OHV 1189cc E series engine with just a single barrel carb. An economy version was also available with a 37hp 988cc C1 engine that was derived from the earlier 210 car.
1959 310

Though it was designed for the Japanese market, the '59 310 was Nissan's first real attempt to launch a sedan in the horsepower hungry US. It also was a very small car, lacking in head and legroom, making it an impossible drive for most average and taller Americans.
1962 312

1963 312 that recently sold in the US

The Deluxe versions started with the DP code instead of just P, and included the DP311 released in October 1960 and the DP312 of August '61. this first generation of Bluebirds continued until they were replaced by the 410 in September 1963.

The 310-312 Scene

Datsun 410 convertibles created for victory parade after 1966 Safari Rally

1963 DP410

The 410 bluebird had style, with a body penned by the famed Italian design house Pininfarina, with "unit body" construction. The 410 initally came with the 1 liter C1 engine in the economy version, but was quickly upgraded to the E1 1189cc engine with a 2 barrel Nikki carb that produced 60 horsepower. The deluxe version was coded the DP410. You could get the US version 410 in 4 door for the low price of just $1616 4 door, or in a wagon for $1816.

411 wagon I spotted in Seattle

A Super Sport 410 was introduced in March of 64 with a J13 engine equippped with twin SU's that pushed the horsepower up to 77. this car was upgraded in February of '64.

Above images are C. of Carl Hockett. Wagon is another RL411 SSS. Love that silver car!

The 410 became the P411 in 1965 with not much change, other than a few exterior light and trim adjustments, the switch to the model J13 1299 cc engine with a two barrel carb, pumping out a 67 hp on the standard models.

1965 DR411 SSS

The fun really began in May of 1965 with the introduction of the first Bluebird Super Sport Sedan, the DR411 SSS. Powered by the 1600 roadsters R series 1595cc twin SU carbed engine, the 411SSS was rated to 160 km/h.

1966 DP411

January 1966 also saw Nissan's merger with Prince. Prince was a company with incredible engineering skill, but with very poor business and management practices. They had already come up with a couple stellar automobiles, including the original Skyline sedans and the r380 sports prototype(see race history). Princes engineers had taken an deep hard look at the Mercedes engines of the early 60's, and had come up with some nifty little SOHC engine designs of their own, most notably the L20 six cylinder that Nissan would use in the Cedric line. Princes engineers where also really good at putting together light strong body shells, something that would become invaluable with the development of the 510.

Suped 411SSS, with nitrous at N. Van show

1966 Saw the continuation the the 411 series, with both the Sport SS and Super Sport SSS versions being offered. The Bluebird SSS featured a twin SU 1595 cc R series engine pumping out 96 horses, front disc brakes, and an optional 3 speed Borg Warner automatic, plus tons of extra bits and pieces not found on the standard 411. You could pick one up at your local Nissan dealer for $1846. This was also the final year for the 411, thanks to the introduction of the groundbreaking 510 series Bluebird.

The 410-411 Scene

510 design 101

68 510 1300 model
There are many myths about the design of the 510, including one that Pininfarina designed the body. The 410/411 was Italian drawn, but not the 510, though some design cues are common between the cars. Another is that the 510 was just a restyled Prince car; this too is untrue.

The 510 body was actually designed in house by up and coming designer Teruo Uchino, a Nissan employee since 1963. Uchino developed his skills under the tutelage of Shiozo Sato, the man who designed the beautiful yet tragically under produced Toyota S600 sports car, and did the major work on the Datsun roadsters.

One of Teruo Uchino's original sketches, his signature is in the bottom right corner
Teruo Uchino was given the task of designing a total replacement for the 410 Bluebird, with the goal being to build a less Italian looking car, yet not an Austin looking model. Critics have called the design of the 510 a rip off of the BMW 1600, but if you look at the Nissan President of 1965 or a Toyota Crown, its not hard to figure out that Uchino's design inspirations were probably based a little closer to home. A larger car of the same era, the Nissan Laurel, shares a striking resemblance to the 510 as well.

Although the 510 was intended to be a completely different car than the 410, One of the few things that Teruo Uchino did take from the 410 was the side crease, or the "supersonic line" as it was dubbed at Nissan Design. The rest of the car was supposed to be as inoffensive as possible, while being enough of a new to take on the competition in the States. Uchino then basically balanced the rest of his design ideas around this line, bringing a flowing yet conservative style to the rest of the car. The 510 has nothing that sticks out, and despite its often "Boxy" description, it has very few truly straight lines on it, especially when compared to later Hl510 and the sedans of the late 70's and the 80's. The end result was a body design that was never meant to thrill, but was pleasing and, more importantly, not offensive.

The goal from the beginning was to make the 510 the first Japanese car that would be widely accepted in the US, though it was not really purpose designed for that market. Teruo Uchino and the rest of the Nissan team were constantly getting calls from Nissan USA president Yutaka Katayama, affectionately called "Mr. K".

Mr. K wanted a car that Americans could really get excited about, not another economy car that lacked any flare or performance. Mr.K wasn't just a businessman either, Yutaka Katayama knew a thing or two about building cars, including racecars. He built several advanced prototypes of his own, some of which still amaze and inspire today. And it was Katayama who took a Nissan team to Australia in '58 to compete in the 10,000 mile Red-Ex rally, one of the most difficult races in the world. His team of Datsuns won it, giving Nissan its first international racing victory.

Mr. K saw what Americans wanted in a car, and spent many long phone calls to Japan trying to convince designers to build his visions. He was very impressed with the BMW 1600, and decided that that car should be the benchmark of the next Datsun sedan. Mr. K was seen as a bit of an outsider in the Nissan framework, being a Japanese Christian and a bit of a radical thinker, and being one of the few people in Nissan that understood how Americans did business. He saw what was needed for success in America, but couldn't stand trying to wade through the huge bureaucracy of Nissan. He needed a car with modern styling, but more importantly, with enough power for American roads. What he needed was an entry level sporty sedan with a 1.6 liter engine.

Mike Yarn's wagon, one of several stellar 510's he owns

To get his 1600 engine and European style car built, he had a meeting with high ranking Nissan Exec amd former MITI man Keiichi Matsumura and convinced him that this was the way to go. Matsumura basically said 'okay, you write a memo to that effect, sign my name to it, and we'll get this project under way'. On April 8th, 1966 Katayama sent the memo.

The rather long passionate memo caused quite an uproar among other more conservative execs', mostly because they could tell it was actually from Katayama, not Matsumura. Matsumura stood his ground backed Katayama up, saying it was as much his idea as Katayamas. Thus the basis for the 510's L series engine went to the design team.

Prototype 510 being tested in disguise

While the styling goal of the 510 was to be relatively tame, the engineering targets became another matter altogether. With Katayama's pushing, the 510 was to be the model that once and for all killed the American conception of the Datsun as a slow British car copy. Some of the engineering know-how for this upgrade would come from a recent acquisition of Nissans', The Prince Motorcar Company.

stock 510 engine- Art Hughes car

The first Nissan engine similar in size to the L16 engine found in the 510 came out in mid 1967 in the 2000 roadster. This 2 liter powerplant, the U20, was designed by the new combined engineering team at Nissan, put a Prince Mercedes based head on a modified and stroked Austin based roadster 1600 block and came up with a SOHC twin SU engine capable of 150 horsepower. Prince engineers already had the L20 6 cylinder engine designed before the merger, and I'm sure that engine had major influence on the L16 found in the 510. I've heard some speculation that Prince had a licence agreement with Mercedes, hence some of the resemblance with that company's engines.

The 510 was given a 1.6 liter L series engine, a design not far from the U20, with a 1.3 liter L13 version in some markets. The L16 was rated at 97 horsepower, but most agree that that number was probably a bit optimistic.

While the engine itself may have been a Prince-Nissan hybrid, the rest of the 510's handling and layout was actually dreamed up by the original engineers at Nissan.

Kazumi Yotsumoto, Nissans head of design, was the man responsible for what made the 510 a truly fabulous car to drive. His goal was to make the 510 a car that was an extension of the person who was driving it.

Under his direction, the Nissan design team came up with a light unibody platform that supported a fully independent suspension, and a rock solid drive train. The end result was a very well balanced car with handling that put it in a very different league than competitors in its price range.

But the real miracle of the 510 is not its style, its performance, or its handling. None of this was new or exceptional technology. What set the 510 apart from the competition was its price: about a dollar a pound in the US.

No more melted down beer cans- it's a Datsun/2!

510's started rolling of the production line in late August 1967, the first having the serial number 510000011 stamped on the firewall behind the engine. Numbers 1 through 10 were probably test cars.

68 Bluebird SSS Coupe

The 4 door appeared first, with a wagon version, then a 2 door sedan version. 1300, 1600 and 1600 SSS models were available from the start. A 2 door SSS Coupe version was added to the line up in November 1968. The SSS models came with Twin SU carbs and a different cam, creating 109hp instead of the standard 96 hp.

Art Hughes award winning stock 4 door..this car is about as perfect as they get

When the first 510 rolled off the ship in California, Mr K was ecstatic. He declared that "this was exactly what he needed". Mr. K made everybody drive the car, from his top execs all the way down to the secretary's at Nissan USA. He finally had a car he could sell to Americans.

At the time of the 510's introduction, the US industry was in the middle of its muscle car era, with many legendary nameplates hitting their peaks or coming into production in 67, i.e. Mustang, Camaro, Corvette, etc. Mr. K knew this market was a hard place to get noticed. As a result, he did his best to "Americanize" all the Datsuns that showed up on his territory. One of the first things he did was dump all Bluebird and Fairlady references from Datsun marketing, and from the cars themselves, to make the cars sound a little less wimpy. The 510 would be no different.

1970 1400GL

510's were initially marketed as the 510(in Canada and Australia as the Datsun 1600) and were available in 4 door and wagon to start, with 2 doors marketed as the "Datsun/2" making it to the US late in '68. All came standard with Bias ply 5.60-13 whitewall tires, an L16 engine, a 4 speed standard transmission- automatic was an option, vinyl floor mats, and opening rear windows. You could drive one away for just $1996 for the 4 door, or $2196 for the wagon.

Katayama's marketing vision included a 510 commercial that became a bit of controversy and a legend at the same time. The commercial was of a woman driving a 510 along a twisty California coast road, the 510 hugging the Big Sur corners through rain soaked roads. There were no words, just Vivaldi's music, then just a Datsun logo at the end. Critics at Nissan asked, "how can you sell a car on without telling people about it?" Katayama "pictures" quieted them, the Baroque Commercial as it became known, turned it's "thousand word" picture into 40,000 510 sales in the first year.

Robert Link, Nissan USA's senior vice president declared that the 510 "marked the end of all the ridiculous talk that Japanese cars were made out of melted down beer cans." His words would ring true at the end of the century, when a panel of auto enthusiasts selected by Road and Track would call the boxy little 510 "one of the hundred most important cars of the 20th Century", high accolades if you consider the number of different cars produced, and some of the names left off that list.

New owners soon discovered that their peppy little car could annoy the heck out of MG and BMW owners... and as a result, inspired the odd one to try the 510 out on the track.

One of those to give the 510, and the roadster, a shot on the track was Bob Bondurant and his fledgling race driving school. Bondurant approached Datsun after being turned down by other manufacturers. Mr. K agreed to give Bondurant a 510 and a pair of roadsters. I turned out to be a wise move. Bondurant started out his new students in the 510, then moved them up to the 1600 and 2000 roadsters as they got better. The 510 took the abuse very well compared to the Porsches that followed when Bondurant and Datsun parted ways for a couple years, the Porsches all developed serious structural cracks in the body.

The 510 for '69 was an upgraded beast. It underwent all sorts of minor engineering and equipment changes through 68-69... making the 68 a nightmare to find parts for. Changes I've come across so far include: tie rods, control arms, hood, all the lights, grille, wipers, seats, door hardware and mechanisms, park brake, pillar vents, brass drive gears... and a few more things I've forgotten. There are even a few items that changed from early to late 68, like the grille, and the hood(different support pattern). Michael Spreadbury offers the best year by year breakdown of 510 model changes in his article on the Dimequarterly tech page.
Road and Track noted that the 510 "is wooing the non-enthusiast American buyers out of the domestic showrooms."

Nissan set up its competition department in '69, and unofficial "factory supported" race teams were set up to run the roadster, the new 240Z, and the 510. Brock Racing Enterprises in the West, and Bob Sharp Racing on the East Coast. This lead to several Datsun publications showing owners how to modify and upgrade their cars with Nissan Competition and other aftermarket parts. BRE went on to take the SCCA Trans Am 2.5 title in both '71 and 72 in a 510. Bob Sharp started winning with Datsuns as early as '68. Famous 510 pilots include Sharp, Nascar's Bobby Allison , Trans Am Champion John Morton, Jack Scoville, Porsche driver Peter Gregg, Mike Downs, Bob Sharp, Walt Maas, and actor Paul Newman, who learned to race at Bondurants school, and started his early racing career in a 510.

1970 saw a restyling of the Bluebird, including a new round gauge dashboard, seats with headrests, and more. the new kids on the block were the N510 with a 1.4 liter L series, and a nasty new Super Sport model, the KH510 1800 Coupe featuring the new L18 engine. the 1800SSS Coupe didn't last long before being phased out in favor of the New 610 Series SSS.

1971 1600 SSS

The 70 US version 510 retailed for $1935 for a 2 door, $2035 for a 4 door, and $2265 for a wagon. Sales really picked up in late '69, propelling the 510 into very respectable numbers in the US, an upward trend that would continue through 71 and 72. The 510 took off as a racecar this year, taking victory after victory on race tracks and rally courses.

The 510 series went through little change for 1971 or 72, with minor cosmetic and engineering upgrades. Datsun did introduce a new car to America that year, the LB110 or Datsun 1200, which sold very well.

510 wagon in front of Nissan USA

An overlap in Series production occurred when the 610 series started coming off the line in August '71 and the 510 didn't stop production until November 1972.

1973 was the final sales year for the 510. Both the 4 door and wagon were dropped, leaving just the 2 door to carry on. It was replaced that year in the US by the rather ugly 610. In its final year the 510 still managed to sell 30,688 units, bringing the total number of 510's sold to over 400,000 worldwide. The 510 series is in hindsight, one of Nissan's most loved cars, a feeling they tried to get back with the late 70's A10 Violet that was dubbed the 510 for the US. Unfortunately the magic wasn't there in that car. Sure, there are a lot of prettier cars in the Nissan stable, and a lot more in Japanese auto history, but the 510 holds a special place in the scheme of things. The 510 was supposed to be an unassuming looking car that delivered a little more than it appeared it should. It ended up delivering about 400,000 sales around the world, knocking the VW Beetle from the top spot for a year or two, two SCCA Trans Am championships, an East African Safari championship and class win, plus thousands of national and international rally and racing wins(they're still happening to this day- ask SCCA G prod champ Jeff Winter). Though often snubbed and overlooked by auto enthusiasts, racing historians, and even by other Nissan collectors, the 510 has proven itself as one of the greatest Giant Killers in automobile history.

The 510 Scene

Now on with the story...

1971 1800 SSS

The 610 Bluebird Series began in August 1971 with the standard 1.6 liter 610, the deluxe 1800 610 and the P610 1800 SSS Coupe with those good old SU's. The cars generated 105 hp for the standard L18, and 110 with SU's.

73 2000 GT-X

The 610 Series continued on with minor upgrades until August 1973 when the 2000 GT and GT-X models were added. available in Sedan and Coupe with the 6 cylinder L20 engine, they came with 2 barrel carb GT and 115 horses , or twin Su's and 125 horses.
1976 1600GL-L

By 1975 you could get a whopping 16 different versions of the Bluebird in Sedan or Hardtop, with Deluxe, GL, SSS, GT and GT-X packages available. A 1800 GL station wagon was even on the menu. choose a 1.6, 1.8, or 2 liter engine, add carbs or SU's to create a long list of HP possiblities.

78 2000 G6 EF(erg811)

The Bluebird Series evolved again in July 1976 with the new 810 designation. Choices included the 810, P810 and G810 lines. Your choices swelled to 25 models with L16, L18, z18et, L20, and L20b engines on the menu. 1600 Deluxe, 1600 GL, 1600 GL-L, 1800 Deluxe, Z18et turbo SSS, 1800 SSS, 1800 GL-E, 1800 SSS-E, 1800 SSS-ES, 2000 G6, 2000 G6L, 2000 G6E, and you guessed it the 2000 G6EL... all available in sedan and hardtop.

1979 1800
The 910 Series arrived in November/December 1979 and continued on past the end of the Datsun brand. Upper end Bluebirds would become the Maxima series in the US. Nissan continued to go a little model crazy for a while introducing a diesel engine to the 1981 910 series Bluebirds among other things.

1980 SSS-se EP910 model
What had started as one lone new car with the 1959 310, grew into a model line containing up to 25 variations by the late 70's. The Bluebird line is the backbone of Nissan, and is the car that continues to woo buyers. Nissan's "Lucky Bluebird" continues to this day in the Maxima line, becoming the longest lasting series in Nissan History. A new rear wheel drive Maxima Sport sedan has been launched very recently to much enthusiast acclaim... lets hope Nissan keeps learning from the past.

Contact Me