The first wave of Datsuns arrived in the UK during 1968, with the entire model line up consisting of just four models, the 510 Bluebird, B10 Sunny and 130 Cedric… with the C30 Laurel arriving shortly after. These models all sold in tiny numbers, so you would naturally expect these early Datsuns to be the ones to have disappeared entirely. Yet this is not so. Though extremely rare, I know of at least one example of each of these. The same applies to the next generation of each model, even though the range expanded to include a variety of body styles such as coupes and estates. Later models have sometimes not fared so well…
Curiously, it seems to be a number of late 70s models that have gone entirely, even though they date from a period when UK Datsun sales figures were massive. More than a decade ago, I pondered the rarity of 3 door T11 Stanzas, and to date, only one has come to light. That was spotted in 2012 by Sam Osbon on Flickr, but it seems that particular car didn’t last long after, with records showing it having not been taxed or tested since 2013. Perhaps they’ve all gone now? Here’s a look at a few of the other models that seemed to have become extinct in the UK…
Datsun 100A FII Panel Van
I have seen precisely one example of this unicorn and that was 25 years ago. It was a red one, like the one featured on the brochure above, which looked quite decent, yet had seemingly been abandoned in an overgrown front garden. Naturally, I left a note enquiring about it, but disappointingly nothing came of it. A few weeks later it simply disappeared, never to be seen again… presumably scrapped.
The F10 panel van was Datsun UK’s first foray into the small commercial market alongside the 120Y van, and although only available in a single specification, they could be purchased in a choice of six colours at just shy of £1950 including tax. Cheaper than any other version of the F10. A look at the sales data shows that Datsun UK sold 8578 of these little vans between December 1976 and November 1979. Can there really be none left at all?
Datsun Sunny Panel Van
The 100A FII was replaced by a two door panel van version of the subsequent N10 Cherry in 1979, although it’s unclear if this was ever actually sold in the UK at all. What we definitely did get though, was the Sunny Van. As previously mentioned, this started with a two door panel van version of the Datsun 120Y (B210) in 1976, which was superseded by the B310 Sunny van in 1978. At least one example of the 120Y van still exists today, but much like the F10, the last time I saw a UK market B310 van was more than 20 years ago.
Launched in March 1978, the B310 van was a size up from the F10, which made it a little more useful, yet at the time it was only £100 more, at £2297 including tax. As with the F10, there was a choice of half a dozen colours but only one specification… 1171cc with a 4 speed manual. The B310 van was facelifted in February 1979 with a new square headlight front end and six new body colours to choose from. Thanks to the short sales period and in-marque competition from the F10 van, the pre-facelift B310 vans were never common, with just 1889 finding buyers. The “New Sunny”, as it was dubbed, was quite a success and went on to add another 8811 to the sales tally.
Although the original UK market B310 vans may have all gone, there is at least one example in the UK. The orange pre-facelift one pictured above was imported from Malta a few years ago.
Datsun Cherry Saloon
You may be thinking that the Datsun Cherry four door saloon, complete with traditional boot lid, gave way to the modern hatchback with the introduction of the N10 model in May 1978… but you would be wrong. Initially, Nissan inexplicably chose to make a non-hatchback four door version of the N10, to sell alongside the three door hatch. Unlike the later N12 four door saloon, this didn’t adopt the familiar “three box” saloon profile. Instead, it looked just like the hatchback at first glance… which, it has to be said, seems rather pointless. While the boot lid extended down to the rear bumper, this didn’t really make up for the lack of a proper tailgate, so luggage capacity and loading ease were compromised. The saloon was not only lacking in the practicality department either. Unlike the three door, which could be had with a choice of an economical 1.0L, or a more sprightly 1.2L engine, the poor old saloon had to make do with the just the 1.0L, making it just a little bit too leisurely for many drivers. Moreover, for this you had to stump up and extra £300 over the £2765 price of the basic three door hatchback. Even the higher GL spec three door was cheaper!
The saloon was quickly rendered obsolete in September 1979, when the new five door hatchback was introduced. With N10 sales not starting until the end of March 1979, it’s fair to say that it is unlikely many saloons found enthusiastic buyers. Sadly, Datsun UK’s old records don’t differentiate between hatchback and saloon, so it’s nearly impossible to say exactly how many (or few) made it onto UK roads.
I have only ever seen two saloons in real life and they were both slowly decaying in Finnish scrapyards. I have seen a photo of a UK one taken in 2004, but that car seems to have disappeared after 2007. Is there still an N10 saloon out there?
There are plenty of other models that could well be extinct now. Commercial vehicles always disappear fast to due the natural attrition from which all working vehicles suffer. Along with the smaller vans I have already mentioned, the Datsun E20 and C120 Vanette, as well as F20 Cabstar, are perfect examples of lost models. The obscure, Spanish built Nissan Ebro Trade being another.
Also, certain variations of otherwise popular passenger models seem to have faded away. When was the last time you saw a U11 Bluebird ZX Turbo or a late, facelifted A10 Violet Coupé? How about an F10 Cherry 120A FII Semi Automatic saloon? If anyone in the UK has an example of any of these models, get in touch! It’d be nice to discover that one or two still exist!