Heavenly Hardtops – Part 2

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…

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Pre-war Pictorial

Finally, I have managed to score a copy of a book which I have been trying to find for some time. “Pictorial History of Pre-war Datsun” is another excellent publication from Car Graphic and despite having almost entirely Japanese text, is well worth hunting down if you have an interest in very early Datsuns. The book runs to about 125 pages and is jam packed with photos , mostly black and white, with a handful in colour. The book charts the history of Datsun from its very early beginnings and shows images of some of the foreign cars that influenced its designers, as well as rare pictures of the first prototype “Datson”. There’s also a section featuring many pictures of the Grand Prix winning DOHC powered NL-75 and NL-76 race cars from 1936….

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Datsun Sado

If you reside outside of Portugal, the chances are you will never have seen a Datsun Sado in the flesh. Indeed, the majority of Datsun enthusiasts have most likely never even heard of this curious little truck, which is hardly surprising due to its limited marketing and relatively low production. Portugal wasn’t the only country to get these trucks as they were also exported from Portugal to a small number of African nations too. Thailand also got their own version a few months earlier than Portugal, which was assembled by Siam Motors and badged as the Datsun 1200AX…

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Heavenly Hardtops : Part 1

The pillarless hardtop is one of the most popular body styles amongst fans of old Japanese cars, and for good reason. Most combine stylish lines inspired by 60s and 70s Detroit muscle with finely engineered and sometimes quite sophisticated running gear. Many are of interesting simply because they were never marketed outside of Japan, and those that were often had lower specifications with less choice of trim levels. Most Japanese manufacturers have produced a hardtop at some point from the diminutive Daihatsu Fellow Max to the full sized Toyota Crown, and Nissan is no exception. For more than twenty years preceding the demise of the Datsun brand name, Nissan produced both two and four door hardtops of many of its models…

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Goodbye Old Friend

Back in January this year, the last Nissan 1400 Bakkie rolled off the production line at Rosslyn, South Africa, so ending one of the longest production runs for any Nissan. The little pickup, based on the B110 model Datsun Sunny (Datsun 1200), was originally launched way back in 1971 as the model B120 and later the B122. The original specification was very similar to the Datsun Sunny, with the same 1171cc A series engine and four speed and the same basic suspension layout, but in a neat little monocoque pickup body. A long wheelbase version was added to the range (GB122) and late changes such as a larger A14 engine and a 5 speed were introduced. In South Africa the trucks were on sale right from the start, but local content laws meant that gradually a larger and larger percentage of each vehicle had to be locally manufactured. Initially known as the Datsun 1200 Bakkie the pickup outlived its saloon, wagon and coupe brethren, whose production ceased in 1974…

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Austin by Nissan

Over the years, Nissan has had several manufacturing agreements with other car companies, but one of the most important to the company’s development was its deal with Austin of England in the 1950s. All Japanese motor manufacturers were looking towards British cars at that time, as the designs were better suited to Japan’s narrow roads and post war lack of materials and fuel than American cars. Several other companies eventually had tie-ups with European manufacturers, most notably Hino who assembled Renault 4CV’s and Isuzu who built the Hillman Minx. The Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), who had been formed in 1949, had placed severe restrictions on overseas imports and on foreign investment to help rebuild Japan’s manufacturing after the war. These limitations meant that for foreign manufacturers, the only way to get their cars into the Japanese market was to have some kind of tie-up with a Japanese manufacturer…

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Datsun Production

Nissan’s earliest manufacturing base was little more than a wooden shack with only a handful of cars made each year but their growth was phenomenal and by the mid 80’s Nissan had huge manufacturing bases all around the world with production in the millions. Below you can take a look at some of the various models built over the years in various stages on the assembly line from the very beginnings though until the end of the Datsun era around 1982.

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1975 Nissan AD-1

Many Nissan enthusiasts regard it as a tragic loss that the Mid-4 concept of the late 1980’s never reached production, despite extensive development and some very favourable reviews in the media. However, the Mid-4 wasn’t Nissan’s only still born mid engined sports car. A decade earlier, in 1975, the Nissan AD-1 had gone on public display for the first time but despite getting positive feedback, it never reached production. The AD-1 was a neatly styled and economic little two seater coupe with a mid mounted transverse engine, a recipe which would be repeated with Toyota’s MR2… but not until until some nine years later…

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An American Engineer in Japan

That American engineer being one William R. Gorham, a man who was hugely influential in the development of Nissan Motor Company in it’s early days and well as helping many other Japanese companies such as Hitachi and Canon to become the successes they are today. His extraordinary life makes a fascinating subject, one which you can now read about for yourself in his biography, translated from it’s original Japanese by his son Don Cyril Gorham. This book is a comprehensive and extremely interesting read and a must for anyone interested in the history of Nissan and Japanese industry. The book contains not only a good deal of information about Nissan and Gorhams work there but also his work with Tobata Imono, Toa denki, Hitachi and Fuji Motors as well as his own Gorham Engineering Company (GECO). It follows his life from his childhood In America, through his life in Japan in the early years of the 20th century and during the war to his short illness and untimely death at the age of 61.

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BRE on the web

Brock Racing Enterprises or BRE as they are more commonly know to Datsun fans have now commandeered their own little corner of the internet with the launch of their own website. Peter and Gayle Brock felt it was time to get their fantastic archive of photo’s and history, online for enthusiasts to enjoy for the first time. The BRE name will be well known to Datsun fans from their tremendous success in SCCA races and the 2.5 Trans Am in the States with the Datsun Roadsters, 510 and 240Z. Not only does the site cover this fascinating period but also their adventures in baja racing too. A fascinating read for Datsun fans! Check it out.