The Datsun marque was first created by the DAT Motorcar Company in 1931. Initially, the brand was spelled as ‘Datson.’ However, 3 years later when Nissan Motors took over the company, the name was changed to Datsun as the last syllable was not auspicious and meant ‘loss’ in Japanese. The new last syllable, ‘sun,’ however, did not present any such problems, and it was chosen as an ode to the sun presented in the national flag.
When compared to most other European automakers, the Japanese companies were fairly young. Nevertheless, Datsun grew to become one of the largest brands in the world by the 1970s, despite being just 4 decades old. The 1934 acquisition of the company was a result of the company going public a year before. By 1935, the company had a production line similar to that of Ford and was exporting models here and to the UK.
During these years, Nissan and its Datsun brand seemed to be marching toward growth and progress; however, World War II stopped this advance. By 1938, the company’s factories were only churning out army trucks. When Japan surrendered in 1945, Nissan was in ruins, as were the other Japanese companies. During the post-war period, Nissan was making trucks for the Allies, and by 1947, the production scale was almost normal, with the company making Somerset- and Austin Devon-resembling models. In the second half of the 1950s, two favourable events saw Nissan making a name for itself on the world stage: the company developed its own unique vehicle designs and Japan was left alone by the Allied forces.
Within no time, the Datsun 120y utes and 110 saloons were introduced in the country. Over time, the 110 series evolved and became quite popular by 1976. Around the same time, 510s — a different series offered by the same company — also became quite popular. In a short span of 3 years, production standards were high enough for the brand to enter the United States, and Nissan did not waste time establishing a sales network. By 1959, the Datsun 310 was introduced and, with it, the popular Bluebird nameplate.
In the following years, the Datsun 2000 performance-enhanced models were also introduced, which in turn triggered their own line of successors. The number of exports and production facilities increased exponentially over the years. By 1961, Nissan became the top automobile exporter from Japan and continued to move ahead, thanks largely to its unmatched production capabilities, which allowed it to introduce new models consistently.
While Nissan is still one of the biggest Japanese carmakers, it phased out the Datsun brand in the mid-1980s — in March of 1986 to be precise. However, Datsun and its models remained popular in many countries, including here.
The Datsun 510 was popular with automotive enthusiasts for almost 4 decades. Apart from the market here, collectors of Datsun 510 are present in the United States and New Zealand as well. One of the biggest reasons for the popularity of the 510 and all other Datsun cars in general is that their parts, including major ones like the suspension system, transmission, and engine, are mostly interchangeable.
The 510, in particular, came about just a short while after the Mark 2 Ford Cortina, with which it shared the same wheelbase and size, and even a bit of its shape. However, the Datsun model differed from Ford in its power train. There was a 1300cc and 1600cc overhead camshaft engine available, along with an independent rear suspension setup.
One of the most important models for the Datsun marque, and for Nissan as well, was the 240Z. Despite the presence of the 510, some were still doubtful whether Nissan could successfully develop a brand new car and sell it. That was when the 240Z sports car was introduced. Marketed directly for Americans, the car also became an instant hit here and in other parts of the world.
Within a short time, the car became the biggest-selling sports car in the world, thanks to its advanced and sensible design. Instead of the 510’s 4-cylinder engines, the 240Z used a 6-cylinder engine; however, it used the same materials used in 510 series. It also got the independent suspension system with McPherson struts in front and strut suspensions at the rear.
Over time, but before the Datsun’s unfortunate phase-out, the 510s were turned into more mundane, but equally loved, vehicles like the 1000 and the larger 1200. Many of them used advanced elements in their construction, like the independent system setup.
The Datsun 240Z was, in many ways, the peak of this marque’s line-up over the years; however, it surprisingly could not compete with the likes of the Jaguar E-Type and other European exotics. Maybe this was because it was initially designed to compete with classic British sports cars like the TR6 and MGB. The car’s sleek and aerodynamic design and lift-up tailgate, and the contour lines that were inspired by the Ferrari and Mercedes E-Type, were an instant hit. In fact, sales of several traditional European sports cars slipped as a result of the 240Z. It was also a hit in direct competitions, winning 2 outright victories at the 1971 and 1973 East African Safari rallies. The original phased out in 1973, but it is still in demand in the used car market.