In part one, back in March, I covered the pillarless hardtops built by Nissan up until 1975, so here in part two, I’ll take a look at the other hardtop models produced from then, until around 1983 when the company ditched the Datsun brand name. There was a distinct change in the appearance of Nissan’s hardtops after 1976. Gone were the flowing, curvy lines and the miniaturised American muscle Car looks, to be replaced with more sober, squarer styles. Models still retained a slight American look to them to please the domestic market, but the styling of smaller models was now tempered to suit European tastes more…
The first example of this new look was the fifth generation of Bluebird, the 810 model, which arrived on the market in July 1976. The rounded lines of the previous models were replaced by a much more chiseled, angular look. As with the previous 610 model, the 810 only came as a hardtop in two door coupe form, but unlike the 610 the 810 featured improved rear three quarter visibility by the addition of an extra window in the rear pillar. Model variations were many from the basic 1600 GL hardtop, right up to the fuel injected SSS-E and 2000-G6 six cylinder models. As with the outgoing 610, these 2000-G6 models had a longer wheelbase,with a much longer front end to accommodate the six cylinder L series engine. In August 1978, the 810 line received a minor face-lift, which provided new tail lights and most notably, the twin round headlights were replaced by twin rectangular units on both four and six cylinder models. The later four cylinder model also received the new cross-flow NAPS-Z engine in place of the earlier L series.
1977 saw the release of the next generation of Laurel and Skyline, which as with the previous generation C110 and C130 models, shared the same underpinnings. The new C230 Laurel looked very different from the C130 and featured a much more sedate and luxurious image. As before, the C230 model came in both four door sedan and two door hardtop form, but a new model joined the range for the first time… a four door hardtop. To start with, most C230s came with either 2.0L or 2.8L six cylinder L series engines, but in a bewildering array of trim levels. Some also had independent rear suspension (IRS) in place of the more convention live axle used on lower spec models. There were also some lower spec models equipped with a 1.8L four cylinder, which in a large car like a C230 must have made for pretty dismal performance. The range received a face-lift in November 1978 which provided new tail light treatment and revised grilles with twin rectangular headlights in place of the early round headlights. Some of the last C230’s were also equipped with a four cylinder, 2.0L NAPZ engine.
The C210 Skyline shared its floorpan with the C230, and also the choice between IRS and a live axle. It did however differ in as much as there was also a choice between long and short wheelbases, on both saloon and coupe, although a hardtop body only came in two door coupe form. The previous two generations of Skyline had also come in two wheelbases to accommodate the four and six cylinder engines, a legacy from the S50 Skyline models in the 1960s. Although much of the under-structure was the same, the outside was considerably different. Where the old C110 Skyline had taken its inspiration in part from Detroit, the new car featured angular, almost European styling. Short and long wheelbase cars featured differing headlight and tail light treatments depending on trim level, with higher spec cars getting the cklassic twin round tail lights. L series engines varied from a 1.6L four cylinder through to the turbocharged 2.0L six, which was added to the range in 1980. This model, the 2000GT Turbo was Nissan’s first production turbocharged passenger car and was the highest performance version, sold place of the GT-R, which had not carried over from the previous C110 model. In 1979 the C210 range got a face-lift and lost the twin round headlights on all but the most basic models. The new look featured large single rectangular units and a slightly sloping front end. The rear end treatment also changed a little, although the twin round tail lights remained on long wheelbase, high spec cars. The basic styling and body-shells were unchanged by the face-lift.
It was another two years before Nissan launched new hardtop, but Nissan’s odd looking S10 Silvia was replaced in March 1979 by the S110 model. Unlike the S10, which had only been available in one body style, the S110 came in two… a coupe and a hatchback. The hatchback was a conventional body style with a liftback rear end, but the booted coupe was a hardtop, although only just! The small side windows behind the main door glass did wind down thus making it qualify for inclusion here. The S110 was sold as two models, the Gazelle and the Silvia, both of which were available in both body styles. Most were powered by Nissan’s new NAP-Z engines (or L18E in many export markets) but in 1982 the RS versions were launched. These had over 140hp provided by the new 2.0L 16 valve DOHC FJ20E engine, which was also introduced to the R30 Skyline range. The S110 also came with turbo power, but not the FJ20 as many think. The turbo models used the same 1.8L four cylinder Z18ET as the later 910 Bluebird SSS-S.
In 1979 the new Cedric and Gloria range arrived, bringing with it a new four door hardtop. The two door hardtop which featured in the lineup with the previous two generations was dropped. The four door 430 hardtop featured sharp angular styling and a rakish profile compared to the normal saloon. Power came from the venerable 2.0L or 2.8L six cylinder L series engines, but new to the luxury hardtop lineup was a diesel. The Cedric and Gloria variants are not easy to distinguish from each other as the differences are small changes in trim and detail. The 430 range was the last of the Cedrics and Glorias to be exported under the Datsun brand and was replaced by the V6 powered Y30 model in 1983.
1979 also saw the launch of the next generation of Bluebird to replace the 810. The 910 appeared on the market in November of that year. Like the Cedric and Gloria range, it had moved toward a sharp edged, boxy look. As with the outgoing 810 model, the 910 was available as a two door hardtop, but in 1982, it was to be joined by a new four door hardtop. As with most of the Nissan range by the late 1970s, there were a huge number of different variants and trim levels, although most had more or less the same outward appearance. The long and short wheelbase variants of the 810 series Bluebird no longer existed with the 910, except in America where a 2.4L six cylinder G910 was sold as a Nissan Maxima. Top of the range were the SSS models of which the SSS-S turbo was king. This featured the 140bhp Z18ET fuel injected turbo 1.8 SOHC.
The fourth generation of Nissan Laurel hit showrooms in 1980, identified as the C31 model. There were no longer any two door hardtops in the lineup, but the four door hardtop continued, with styling quite similar to that of the 910 Bluebird. As before power came from a variety of six cylinder L series engines, as well as a diesel, although some very basic spec models were cursed with a small four cylinder 1.8L. Most desirable of the C31 range was most likely the Laurel Medalist Turbo hardtop, which used the same fuel injected 2.0L turbocharged straight six as the C210 Skyline 2000GT.
The launch of a new Laurel usually precedes the launch of a new Skyline, as traditionally they shared floorpans. In August 1981 the R30 Skyline two door hardtop superseded the C210, and brought with it some new four cylinder high performance versions. The majority of R30s were equipped with the aging L20A six cylinder 2.0L L-series, in both normally aspirated and turbo form, but the big news came in October 1981 when the 16 valve DOHC Skyline 2000RS arrived. This featured the new FJ20E four cylinder engine which was later turbocharged to 200hp, to create what was at the time one of the fastest production cars in Japan, the Skyline 2000 RS-Turbo. The range received a face-lift late in 1983 which introduced what was to become known as the ‘Iron mask’ R30 Skyline, so named due to the way the bonnet now sloped down between the headlights, where previously there had been a grille. The iron mask version remained in production until the launch of the R31 series in 1985.
The last hardtop variant to be launched during the Datsun era was the U11 Bluebird, which heralded a move to front wheel drive for Nissan’s smaller cars. The Bluebird two door hardtop was discontinued after the 910 and the U11 featured only saloon, four door hardtop and estate variants. The hardtop came with transversely mounted CA series OHC engines in 1.8L and 2.0L form and later in DOHC and turbo variants. The SSS badge lent some kind of sporting pretensions to the new car on some model,s and although FWD, the turbo models were lively performers. Late in the U11 model’s production run, a six cylinder variant was added, often badged as a Bluebird Maxima. This featured the new VG30E engine which was a compact V6 mounted transversely. This came in both 2.0L and 3.0L versions. The V6 powered cars stepped up the luxury image of high spec bluebirds, providing the same level of opulence as a Laurel, but in a smaller package.
Nissan continued to build some hardtops after the end of the Datsun era, but only on its larger models such as the Cedric and Gloria and only in four door form. Most of the company’s four door hardtops never saw export, as most wouldn’t have met other countries crash testing requirements. Thankfully many export markets did get many of Nissan’s older two door hardtops, which seem to be rising in popularity at long last!