The Datsun 180B was also marketed as the Datsun and Nissan Bluebird in other markets, and it is one of the oldest and longest-running names used by the Japanese carmaker. This series led to the development of the Fairlady Z and 280ZX models, which in turn led to the Maxima and the Auster, Stanza, and Violet line of cars. The Datsun 180B in particular was part of the 810 Series, and it was introduced in the middle of 1972 with engines carried over from the previous 610 Series. The styling, however, was very different from the 610 with a small influence of Coke bottle styling.
The car was only available as a four-door sedan and a two-door hardtop coupe, called the 180B SSS. A five-door station wagon was also offered later on. The car was sold under various monikers, including the 160B, 180B, 200B, and 810.
The car was introduced as a replacement for the Datsun 1600, and it was quite similar to concept as well. However, for the most part, the Datsun 180B was a completely different car with the only similarity being the shared 1770cc engine and independent rear suspension. All models, including the SSS hardtop coupe, were launched together. The four-door sedan was assembled locally, while the SSS coupe was fully imported. Two years after its launch, the Datsun 180B got a facelift with a new grille, revised taillights, and front wraparound indicators. The next year in 1975, the car got horizontal bars on the front grille.
All the models got the same tried and tested 1.8L engine under their bonnet and independent rear suspension, which made the car stand out among most of its competitors. From the outside, there was little to distinguish the Datsun 180B GX from other models, except for minor changes like the presence of optional metallic paintwork.
The Datsun 180B got a 1.8L engine that delivered around 72kW of power, while the 180B SSS got a twin-carburetted version of the same engine that boosted its power output to 82kW. The car had a recorded top speed of 162km/h and went from standstill to 96km/h in around 13.6 seconds. The fuel economy was tested at 10.2L/100km. A 4-speed manual transmission was available until 1975, when a 5-speed gearbox was also introduced with the SSS coupe. Despite the performance of the coupe, the top performer in the 180B Series was the Datsun 180B GX. Like the SSS coupe, it was fully imported and shared the 5-speed gearbox and other features with the coupe as well. The GX also came with a number of standard equipment, even more so that what was the norm at the time.
The Datsun 180B performed better with the 4-speed or 5-speed manual shift than with the automatic transmission, which dulled the car’s senses to some extent. Most models had decent handling and road stability, but the GX had less of both, with a more aggressive engine. Even its steering felt a little numb and vague, especially when steering straight.
The seating of the Datsun 180B was cloth and the driver’s seat had a manual height adjustment option, allowing for better under-thigh support and a more comfortable driving position. In fact, even the tallest drivers could easily adjust themselves into a comfortable driving position. The shape of the seats themselves is quite good with enough lateral support for the driver and passengers. The cloth upholstery was designed to be warm in winter and cool in summer, offering an advantage over the vinyl upholstery that used more commonly at the time and for most of the 1970s.
Instrumentation on the dash of the Datsun 180B includes temperature and fuel gages, electric clock, speedometer, and odometer. The glove box could be locked and the fascia had 4 air vents that allowed for good air ventilation in the cabin. The centre outlets worked with the heater and the outer outlets beside the dash blew fresh cool air. The rear also had one window heater that could be controlled with a small tumbler switch on the right side of the steering column. There was generous amount of faux wood trim around the cabin, including the floor console that housed the gearshift. The handbrake is oddly located under the dash and is a pull-out type brake. This seems strange considering that every car today has it on the central floor console, but this was a common design element for Datsun cars for quite some time.
Traditionally, the Datsun 180B always competed with the Toyota Corona, right from the first generation of the Bluebird Series. In fact, the Bluebird was conceived as a competitor for the Corona. With the performance of the 180B and its luxury interior though, the Datsun was a class above the Corona despite its lack of handling and steering responsiveness.