CC Capsule: Datsun 312 Bluebird

Just a couple of days ago I was getting in my car when I happened to notice this little gem parked in a restaurant parking lot. At first glance I thought it was a Ford Anglia 100, but as I got closer it was quite obviously an early Datsun!

A 1959-1963 310/312 Bluebird to be less than exact. I do hope you can overlook the poor photo quality as I only had my phone camera available.  You can see that the owners have made a few (questionable) modifications, including amongst other things, rear wheel valances, wing mirror delete, and shaved door handles for that California Sano look. I did not get the chance to meet the owners but it appears to be a regular driver.

Back in the 1950’s Datsun took most of their styling cues from the British, as well as their engine design. The 310 was Datsun’s first foray into the US market. As you may know however it was not a big seller.  One reason may have been that the average sized American had to put it on more than get into it. Another one may be the measly 48 horses under the hood. And of course the biggest one most likely is that gas prices were still cheap back in those heady days of rocket shaped rides and be-finned American splendor.

By the time the first fuel crisis rolled around, Datsun had updated their styling (though still not stylish by any means) as well as their engine design. Suddenly those little Japanese “rice burners” were no joke. If desperation is the mother of invention then it’s also the father of opportunity, provided you have what the people are desperate for. In 1959 people were not desperate to fold themselves into a shrunken British-esque go cart. But by 1973 desperation effectively attired many Americans with the automotive consumer’s equivalent of “beer goggles”. And Datsun was the chubby lady at the end of the bar at last call.  Little 310/312’s like this one that seemed like such a poor idea back then now look positively visionary through the lens of retrospect.

He who laughs last, laughs longest!