The Datsun Story: Dust Clouds and Glory Days!



Datsun is an iconic Japanese brand, which played an instrumental role in reshaping the world’s automotive industry. Datsun is a name deeply ingrained in automotive history and stands as an emblem of innovation, resilience, and pioneering spirit within the global automotive industry.

Originating from Japan, the Datsun brand holds a legacy that spans over a century, marked by its evolution, contributions to the automotive landscape, and its enduring impact on car enthusiasts and drivers worldwide.

The roots of Datsun trace back to the early 20th century when the Kwaishinsha Motor Car Works was established in 1911 in Tokyo, Japan. Later renamed DAT Motorcar Co., the company eventually adopted the name “Datsun” in the 1930s, derived from the initials of its three investors: Den, Aoyama, and Takeuchi.

Under the Datsun name, the company commenced its journey toward automotive excellence, producing small, economical vehicles that aimed to cater to the growing demand for affordable transportation in Japan.

History of Datsun

Datsun originated in Japan and later made its mark in the American market, as well as Europe, before undergoing a rebranding process. Its history also includes the production of notable models such as the Datsun 11 Phaeton in 1932 and the Datsun (Fairlady) 1500-2000 Roadster in 1962.

Despite Nissan officially killing off the brand, there are future plans for the brand and its legacy remains strong in motorsport.

The History of Datsun

The photo showcases a vintage Datsun car parked on a historic street.
The photo showcases a vintage Datsun car parked on a historic street.

Datsun has a rich history. The company got its start in 1914. It was set up by Kwaishinsha Motorcar Works. Their first car was named DAT, after the founders’ family names. The brand then began making cars in Japan in 1931.

In 1958, it blended with Jitsuyo Automobile Co. This started the new Datsun brand we know today. From this point on until 1986, all of their vehicles came out under the Datsun name alone.

Datsun in the American Market

The brand first came to America in 1958. Its cars were sold in California at the start. The brand grew and started making cars in Mexico in 1966. They made a special car model, the Nismo 350Z, just for North America.

More than 1,600 of these cars were made by Nissan. But then things changed in 1984. Nissan was Datsun’s main company, and they wanted only one name worldwide. So, all the brand’s cars became Nissan from that year on.

The brand also has something very special – the Z car range! It started as the Datsun 240Z back in 1970 but is now known as the Nissan Z series.

The story didn’t end there, though! Even before coming to America, the brand was sending its cars across oceans! Way back in the thirties, it sent off its first export load to Asia and South America! Fun fact: do you know how many units went out with that first shipment? A total of just forty-four!

Datsun in Europe

A vintage Datsun car drives through the picturesque European countryside.
A vintage Datsun car drives through the picturesque European countryside.

Datsun made its way to Europe in the 1960s. The late ’60s marked the entry of this car brand into the European market. It was a time when Datsun began to spread out and attract more buyers.

People loved their cars for how well they drove.

The 1980s brought new models to Europe. In 1983, the Datsun Micra hit the roads and became popular quickly. Soon after, another model called Datsun Prairie also arrived under the Nissan Datsun name. Both these cars boosted the brand’s fame in Europe.

However, things changed in 1984 as Nissan chose to use its parent brand name on all cars instead of “Datsun”. They felt it would help them better connect with customers worldwide. The last few years have seen many ups and downs for this car maker, but it has left a lasting mark on us all.


A close-up of a rebranded logo next to its old version.
A close-up of a rebranded logo next to its old version.

In 1983, a big change took place. The brand chose to shine as Nissan. They did this to show that Nissan was the boss brand. It made their image strong all over the world. The rebranding plan helped give a new look to the company’s identity and strength.

But they did not change everything completely. They kept some parts of the old logo and name in the mix, too! This process wasn’t just about making changes for fun; it was done with purpose and thought.

Datsun Truck

A vintage Datsun truck parked in a sunlit countryside field surrounded by vibrant flowers.
A vintage Datsun truck parked in a sunlit countryside field surrounded by vibrant flowers.

The Datsun truck is a big part of car history. After the war, the Japanese needed help to grow. The Datsun truck gave them that help. It was not just for work but also for moving around town and trips far away.

The 320 model became very famous. There was also the 120, a small but sturdy pick-up truck.

They even made one with more space inside! This was called the King Cab Pickup (620). Now, people can move a lot of things and be comfy too! But it’s not only about size. The engines in these trucks are good as well. For example, the 2225 had an engine with 722cc power and could carry up to 500 kg load.


A futuristic car speeding through a well-lit city street at night.
A futuristic car speeding through a well-lit city street at night.

In 2012, Nissan lit up car news. They planned to bring the brand back. The relaunch would happen in Indonesia, India, and Russia. For over 30 years, the brand was gone. But now, it was making a strong comeback.

The return took place in 2013 for India. A new low-price car was launched under the brand’s name. This move showed that Nissan believed in growth for this brand again.

Notable Models

A collection of vintage Datsun cars parked in a retro-inspired garage.
collection of vintage Datsun cars parked in a retro-inspired garage.

Some notable models include the Datsun 11 Phaeton from 1932, the Datsun Fairlady Sports 1000 (SPL213) from 1960, and the Datsun Patrol MK II (60), also from 1960. Other noteworthy models include the Datsun (Fairlady) 1500-2000 Roadster from 1962, the Datsun Silvia 1600 Coupe from 1965, and the Datsun (Bluebird) 510,1300-1600 from 1968.

These classic Japanese cars showcase the innovation and design of the brand throughout its production history.

The 11 Phaeton – 1932

An antique Datsun 11 Phaeton parked in a vintage garage.
An antique 11 Phaeton is parked in a vintage garage.

The 11 Phaeton was born in 1932. It was the first car that the brand built for people to use every day. During its short time, only about 150 cars were made and sold. Under its hood, it had a small engine of 495 cc.

Yet, this tiny power plant could make up to 10 HP! Later on, people began calling this model the Datsun 91. This car holds a special place as one of the early marks left by the brand in the world of cars.

The Fairlady Sports 1000 (SPL213) – 1960

A vintage Datsun Fairlady Sports 1000 parked in a scenic countryside.
A vintage Fairlady Sports 1000 parked in a scenic countryside.

The Fairlady Sports 1000 (SPL213) was an early model of the Fairlady sports car series introduced in 1960. It had a unique right-hand drive configuration and was powered by a relatively weak engine that produced only 34 horsepower.

Despite this, it attracted significant attention in Japan upon its release. Although it may have seemed like an odd beginning for a sports car, it played a crucial role in establishing the brand’s reputation in the sports car market. It is worth noting that the car in Japan was also known as the Fairlady 1000.

The Patrol MK II (60) – 1960

A vintage Datsun Patrol parked in front of a rugged mountain landscape.
A vintage Datsun Patrol parked in front of a rugged mountain landscape.

The Patrol MK II (60) was an iconic SUV produced by Nissan in 1960. It was a four-wheel drive, off-road vehicle that quickly became popular among car enthusiasts and adventurers.

With its vintage design and classic allure, the Patrol MK II (60) captured the hearts of many. It was known for its durability and excellent performance both on and off the road.

Alongside other notable models, the Patrol MK II (60) contributed to the success and reputation of the brand in the automotive industry. Being part of Nissan’s lineup in the 1960s, this SUV cemented its place as a timeless classic in automobile history.

The (Fairlady) 1500-2000 Roadster – 1962

A Datsun Fairlady 1500-2000 Roadster parked on a coastal road at sunset.
A Fairlady 1500-2000 Roadster parked on a coastal road at sunset.

Released in 1962, the Fairlady 1500-2000 Roadster was a classic and stylish sports car. It was part of the Datsun Sports series and served as a predecessor to the famous Z-car.

With its retro design and two-seater configuration, it quickly became popular among car enthusiasts. Resembling an Oriental MGB, this roadster had a small engine but still offered impressive performance.

Many consider it one of the best Datsuns of all time. Overall, the Fairlady 1500-2000 Roadster holds a special place in automotive history as the final iteration of the brand’s iconic roadster line.

The Silvia 1600 Coupe – 1965

A vintage Datsun Silvia 1600 Coupe parked on a coastal road.

The Silvia 1600 Coupe was a stylish and luxurious car produced from 1965 to 1968. It had a design similar to Italian cars like the Lancia Fulvia and Alfa Romeo Giulia GT. Built on the Roadster platform, it was unique and eye-catching.

The Silvia 1600 Coupe featured a powerful 1,595cc R engine that delivered an impressive 90PS of power. Despite being called Silvia, it also went by names like Sports Coupe, GT Coupe, and 1600 Coupe. A total of only 554 units were ever produced, making it a rare gem in automotive history.

The Bluebird 510, 1300-1600 – 1968

The Bluebird 510, also known as the 1600 outside of the U.S. and Canada, was a compact sedan sold from 1968 to 1973. It had a more powerful engine and improved suspension compared to previous models.

The 510 became popular among car enthusiasts for its sporty design and performance capabilities. In fact, the 1600 SSS version of the 510 even won the prestigious East African Safari Rally in 1970. This iconic model is considered one of the top ten Datsuns of all time.

The Present and the Future of the Brand

A vintage Datsun car parked in a bustling urban setting.Nissan has officially discontinued the brand, but they have future plans for it. Find out more about this iconic Japanese automobile manufacturer‘s journey and its notable models.

Nissan Killing the Brand

Nissan has made the decision to end the production of the brand. This is actually the second time that Nissan has discontinued the brand. The move to kill off the brand is part of a bigger plan by Nissan to cut costs by $2.8 billion.

They previously discontinued the brand in 1981 but then brought it back in 2012 with a focus on targeting emerging markets. However, now they have decided to discontinue it once again.

It’s sad news for fans of the brand, but this is all part of a strategic decision by Nissan to reduce its budget and focus on other areas.

The Future Plans for the Brand

Nissan has announced their future plans for the brand. They are planning to introduce new models and expand the brand’s presence. However, these future models will be rebranded as Nissan cars instead of being called Datsuns.

The company had also been exploring new markets, with a focus on expanding into Africa. Despite these plans, there is still uncertainty surrounding the future of the brand following Nissan’s decision to end production.

The Brand in Motorsport

A vintage Datsun sports car races on a well-lit racetrack.
A vintage Datsun sports car races on a well-lit racetrack.

The brand’s involvement in racing has been a key part of its brand history and evolution. From the success of their early Fairlady Sports 1000 to their domination in rally racing, Datsun has left a lasting legacy in motorsport.

The Brands Racing

The brand has had a significant involvement in racing throughout its history. In the 1970s, Datsun cars were popular among racers due to their affordability and reliability. They quickly dominated professional racing during that time.

One notable example is the Datsun 510, which revolutionized sedan racing in America. The roots of the Datsun 240Z can be traced back to its origins in racing, with the establishment of the Prince Motoring Club in 1964.

Additionally, Datsun North America provided two 2000 roadsters for Brock, an executive who raced them. The Datsun Sports series of roadsters from the 1960s also served as a predecessor to the Z-car in the Fairlady line.

The brandhas had many successes and achievements in the world of motorsport. Here are some notable ones:

  • NISMO experienced significant success and growth in the 1990s.
  • The 280ZX was named the 1979 Import Car of the Year.
  • The brand collaborated with racing legends Peter Brock and John Morton.
  • The brand’s vehicles in the 1970s were popular for their affordability, accessibility, and reliability.
  • The Datsun 510 played a crucial role in revolutionizing sedan racing in America.
  • 12 Datsuns competed in the 1972 Runoffs.

Datsun, a Japanese automobile brand owned by Nissan, has a rich history and has made significant contributions to the automotive industry. From its origins in 1931 to its rebranding and eventual discontinuation in the 1980s, the brand produced a range of classic car models that were exported worldwide. Although no longer in production, the brand remains an important part of automotive history and continues to be cherished by car enthusiasts around the world.

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