History

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, like me, 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 few in colour. The book charts the history of Datsun from it’s very early beginnings and shows images of some of the foreign cars that influences it’s 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. Alongside the many photos are plenty of drawings and sketches of the early cars and their technical details. Of course the only downside of this like many CG publications is the lack of English text, however there is at least one page in this book in English which gives a brief history if the development of the early Datsun. Despite it being unreadable to most Westerners, this is still a very worthwhile addition to any die-hard Datsun enthusiasts library.

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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 it’s 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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The pillar-less 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 60’s and 70’s Detroit muscle with finely engineered and sometimes quite sophisticated running gear. Many are of interest simply because they were never marketed outside of Japan and those that were often had lower specifications and there was less choice of trim levels. Most Japanese manufacturers have produced a hardtop at some point from the diminutive Daihatsu Max to the full sized Toyota Crown, and Nissan are 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 their models.

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Back in January this year, the last Nissan 1400 Bakkie rolled off the production line at Rosslyn, South Africa and so ended 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 became 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 it’s saloon, wagon and coupe brethren whose production ceased in 1974.

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Over the years, Nissan has had several agreements and with other car manufacturers but one of the most important to the company’s development was their deal with Austin of England in the 1950’s. All Japanese motor manufacturers were looking towards British cars at that time as their designs were better suited to Japans 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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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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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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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.

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Most Datsun fans will be well aware of Nissan’s amazing historic car collection which is hidden away from public view in the old factory at Zama. As this collection is not open to the public it’s relatively unlikely any of us will get to see it first hand, although rumours abound of plans to build a museum at some point. Thankfully Nissan do have one way for enthusiasts to check our what’s within the Zama plant in the form of their Heritage Car Collection website. The site not only lists each car in the collection along with pertinent data relating to it, but there’s also probably the most comprehensive time-line of Nissan models available anywhere online. Look further and there is a wealth of historical articles to read too so if you have never checked it out before click the banner below and go take a look!

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“Datsun made Austin 7’s under licence”

I don’t know how many times I have heard this one but it’s certainly very common. I’ve read it in the media countless times and even heard it from Datsun enthusiasts on numerous occasions. It is however, quite untrue! So where could it have come from? Somewhere along the line, somebody got things mixed up and this myth has existed ever since. I have a couple of theories that may shed a little light on it.

First, a little background. The first DAT vehicles were designed by Hashimoto Masujiro around 1913-1914 but the first Datsun (or Datson as it was initially known) of 1931 was the work of Goto Takashi, who later became a managing director of Nissan. This was the Type 10 which was replaced by the Type 11 as a production model. The Type 14 which replaced it was a development of this original car. The Type 11 maybe did bear a passing resemblence to the Austin 7 but then so did most small cars of the period.

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