The Bluebird Series
The 'Bird Takes Wing...
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
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.
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
Datsun 410 convertibles created for victory parade after 1966 Safari Rally
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.
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
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
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 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
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
roadster. This 2 liter powerplant, the U20, was designed by the new combined
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.