A little bit about me first....
The first Datsun I had any experience with was the '74 B210 that my Mom drove
home one day in 1977. She'd bought it from from a Vancouver Area dealer who is still in
business and shall remain nameless. The engine blew the same day or the day
after. The dealer forgot to put all the oil back in the engine after a pre-delivery oil change, so my mom took the car back and they put a factory rebuilt engine in it. After that it ran like a clock. My Mom and I drove everywhere in that Vermilion hatchback, long trips across the land, to the beach, to visit relatives. We did so much driving that my Mom actually wore out a clutch. She re and re'd it in the gravel driveway of our Surrey
The second Datsun I was aware of was the Datsun 510 of my father's future wife.
It was an early seventies model, off white, with a black racing stripe. This
was the first car I'd ever seen with a racing stripe. That car was wrecked
shortly after, but I guess the image stuck with me.
Around my 16th birthday in 1986, I was given a '73 Toyota Corolla. It was lemon yellow for
good reason; it liked to change lanes all by itself. I was then given a Datsun 620 truck
as a replacement, spraybombed forest green over red, which I never actually got
to drive(no license).
And then, at 18, I bought my first car.
When searching for a new car, I had lots of negative experience to draw from.
All my friends drove Chevy's, and that was enough for me not to. 6 miles to the
gallon and endless new engines made me long for a nice reliable gas efficient
import, like a B210 or 510. So I went looking for 510's, as b210's were scarce by
I found one on a car lot of dubious distinction on Kingsway in Vancouver. I
fell for every sales con in the book. "Someone else is interested so you'd
better buy it fast" "don't worry about fixing that , it'll be fine". It was a red '72 510 2 door, lowered, tinted windows, Cragar D slot mags, and a big black racing stripe from front to back. I drove it home,
constantly dropping the shortened shift knob on the floor, wincing at the
incredible exhaust noise the car made.
I got it in the carport, put a light in the engine bay, and read "nice
fire damage" written in the soot on the underside of the hood. The flat
black painted engine compartment was actually just the stock red one that was
badly charred. I soon discovered the brakes were gone, and the lowering job had
been done with a hacksaw to the coil springs. Even with these "problems" the car ran like a clock.
I kept that '72 for a few years, driving it fearlessly on regular journeys of
several hundred miles, never contemplating that a car that I had no idea how to
maintain might break down on me on some mountain pass. I had rebuilt the brakes, sort
of. They pulled pretty hard to the left, but that was better than the rivets
that were running on the rotors when I bought it.
I loved that car. It was so cool, not because it was fast or anything, but because everyone looked when it drove by... or covered their ears to drown out the Thrush Muffler. I learned the entire history of that car
just by driving around Vancouver. Previous owners would stop me and ask me
where I'd bought it, how it ran, and what plans I had for it. I would find out
later that this is a very common experience for other Datsun owners.
I sold it in 91 or 92 to a guy who's son worked at the local Datsun custom
shop, and as best as I can figure, it is now a race car. Thus ended my initial Datsun
I went around driving a nice mundane reliable Toyota over the next few years,
but my mind kept drifting back to the exhaust roar and squealing tires of that
head turning 510. I soon found another one, 68 4 door number 2015, which I still own.
My Datsun experience echoes the stories of a lot of enthusiasts I have
talked to. The Datsun community now exists on at least 4 continents, with
large clubs in places like Scandinavia, Japan, Australia, and the US. Internet
clubs alone boast thousands of members. Members themselves rarely own just one
car, many own several, some I've met own a dozen or more.
So what's the big deal with Datsuns?
I've had many a discussion on just this subject and this is the best I can come
up with. Datsuns are the ultimate underdogs. They're the Rodney Dangerfield of
cars; no matter what they do, they get no respect. They're reliable, durable,
well designed, and fun... everything you want in a car, but they get no real
praise for it.
Datsun's seemingly have no history, no real race victories, and no claim to
fame in the auto world. Even worse, they're a Japanese brand. Go buy a book on
import cars, there's a 50/50 chance that Japanese cars won't even be in it, or
just as likely, that they'll be relegated to some infinitesimal chapter at the
back of the book. To my knowledge, there is only one fairly comprehensive book on the
history of Japanese cars, and it's been out of print for 15 years.
Datsuns and Nissan's may get no respect, but they do deserve it. Datsun/Nissan
has a history, one that goes back over 90 years. Datsuns and Nissans have
plenty of racing victories, and not just in SCCA racing. Nissans have won at Le
Mans, at The Safari Rally, at Daytona. Datsuns and Nissans commercially have
many claims to fame, including a company president in the American Automobile
Hall of Fame, the distinction of knocking the Volkswagen beetle off the top of US import
sales, and having the best selling sports car of all time.
So that's why I spent endless hours at innumerable libraries and bookstores,
finding all the stories that no one really remembers, that got no real press in
the first place. I've done this in an effort give "the little cars that could" a little
of the bragging rights they deserve.
Now on with the tale...