Last week, I asked you to say one nice thing about four Toyotas that never got much love from either consumers or enthusiasts or both. There was a twist: that one nice thing couldn’t be, “Oh, well it was a reliable car” or “They were well-built!”. That rule remains in place for this week’s edition of “Say One Nice Thing”. This week: Datsuns and Nissans that you must defend no matter how hideous, slow, rust-prone or dynamically dire they may be.
Here is a 1975 Datsun 200SX, showcasing Datsun’s unique and bold design language of the 1970s.
Oh wait, wrong photo. Here is the first-generation Datsun 200SX, looking only slightly less bizarre than the car Homer Simpson designed in The Simpsons. With its live rear axle, the 200SX was not as fun to drive as the sorely missed 510 and it certainly cost more than a similarly-sized domestic coupe. But it offered a relatively sporty driving experience, good fuel economy, and distinctive looks, perfect for those buyers who wanted a small import coupe.
The Datsun B210 was a simple car for its time. Unlike other new subcompacts arriving on the market, including Datsun’s own F10, the B210 retained the traditional rear-wheel-drive layout with a live rear axle. It is challenging being asked to praise the B210 without mentioning its reliability and quality, the two attributes that helped make it so popular. The interior was nothing special, performance was slow from an old engine design and handling was mediocre. But, in its defense, many subcompacts of the time had similar handicaps and the B210 boasted great fuel economy, a serious concern for the era. This was also one of the Datsuns, globally, that helped introduce a new generation of buyers to the brand. For a subcompact in the 1970s, you could have done worse.
One person’s “hideous” is another person’s “kinda adorable”. Personally, I don’t find the F-10 all that offensive to look at. And if you do fall squarely in the “hideous” camp, the F-10’s predecessor…
…was even more hideous. Yikes.
The quirky styling was a bit puzzling because it made the F-10 look so much like the rest of the Datsun line-up, with which it differed so significantly in mechanical layout. The F-10, known as the Datsun Cherry elsewhere, was Datsun’s first front-wheel-drive model. It was priced above the B210 but was only a couple of inches shorter in length albeit with a longer wheelbase and better fuel economy. It initially launched in 1974 in other markets but arrived belatedly for the 1977 model year in the United States, although never sold exceptionally well. Its successor featured much safer styling.
Finally, let’s jump forward a few decades. In the intervening years, Nissan (née Datsun) had cleaned up their design language and produced some very attractive designs like the 1989 Maxima and 1990 Sentra. Then, they fell off the wagon with this, the automotive equivalent of a recovering alcoholic’s nasty bender. Initially previewed in concept form, the Murano CrossCabriolet was the answer to a question nobody was asking. The relatively handsome Murano was chopped and modified to become this grotesque, high-riding, open-top crossover with poor handling, a hefty 4500 pound curb weight and a whopping $45k price tag. While nobody was clamoring for a crossover convertible and the CrossCabriolet lasted just one generation due to slow sales, Nissan deserves kudos for this incredibly poor business decision. Why? Well, because nobody had the guts and poor sense to build something like this and help make the automotive market’s variety just a little richer. As for the car’s merits itself, well… it sat four people in comfort. So there’s that, at least.
I have no doubt that I have presented Curbsiders with a serious challenge today. Go ahead, try and think of one nice thing about each of these cars, but just don’t mention their reliability or build quality. I eagerly await your responses.