As I grew up in the Midwest in the 1970s, there was a great common bias here toward American cars. I wrote that deliberately: a bias toward American cars, not a bias against cars from any other place. (That bias against did grow in some quarters, and by the 1980s it was in full swing, as the number of Japanese cars began to explode.) Because of that bias, during my 1970s kidhood the most exotic car in my neighborhood was a Starsky and Hutch Torino. And it’s a shame, really, because so many interesting cars were being built across the industrialized world, cars I had no idea existed. I’ve been playing catchup for a couple decades now.
And so when I came upon this Datsun Fairlady, I knew what I was looking at even though I’d never seen one in person before – a Japanese roadster in the British idiom, and the predecessor to the great 240Z. I also knew that I was looking at a car built for the Japanese market, given its right-hand-drive configuration and Fairlady name. Cars bound for the States would have been badged 1600 or 2000 instead, and of course would have had the driving controls on the left. I’m sort of guessing at this car’s year. I think it’s an SP311 Fairlady, which first went into production in 1965.
As you can see, this one is pristine – definitely not someone’s daily driver. (It may not be a driver at all, given that the license plate expired in 1999.) I found it in a courtyard of sorts at the architectural-salvage store where I found the Siam Di Tella Argenta I shared here last week, which should explain this little car’s unusual surroundings.
Its glove box bears the signature of a Y. Katayama – Yutaka Katayama, the Nissan executive who in the 1950s championed building a racing and performance program to bring worldwide name recognition to Nissan automobiles, and in the 1960s championed Nissan building cars specifically for the North American market.
This car sat placidly amidst the detritus of civilization’s trappings, confident enough in itself it felt no need to explain or tell its stories. It’s too bad; I would have loved to hear them.
Fortunately, Paul Niedermeyer wrote the Fairlady/1600/2000 story a couple years ago and it’s a great read; check it out here.
And if it looks like I’m stretching this out just to show more photos of this delightful little car, well, I am. I had a hard time leaving out any of my photos – this car looks great from every angle.