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.
A couple of years ago the local Nissan dealer sponsored a meet of the local Z club on the dealership grounds (what better way to draw in the marks on a Saturday?) and a guy showed up with a first year JDM 240Z, er, Fairlady. Yep, that’s how it was badged. I remember reading where Nissan was ready to bring its sports models into the US badged as a Fairlady until some American staffer sat them down and explained what that moniker would do to US sales.
Obviously a big cultural difference going on here.
Re “Fairlady,” my friend always joked that the Datsun’s styling was “gay” (I think he meant “overly friendly“ or “cute”). But there’s no question it’s in the MGB mode, complete with Pininfarina rear-fender treatment.
Here’s one possibility about the cultural difference:
There’s a legend about Mr. K himself (and a team of others) personally stripping the Fairlady badges off the first shipment while the cars sat on Long Beach docks awaiting dispatch.
Great story. And that evokes memories: back around ’67, my folks picked up their red Beetle down at the Port of Long Beach, along w/ those elliptical plates. I still have Tonka’s version of it stashed on my garage shelf.
It later suffered a dash electrical fire & they replaced it, but it wasn’t totaled.
Interesting it’s RHD as I don’t recall having ever seen one in the metal in the UK or abroad it looks a bit like a Triumph at the front.The first Japanese car I recall seeing was a Honda 600 in the mid 70s.
Lovely ‘Lady…but what the hell is that shrink-wrapped geodesic stuff in the background? A hive for giant cyborg disco bees?
There’s all sorts of weird stuff at this architectural salvage place,
As with lists of cars owned/driven, this again highlights the regional auto-diversity in the US at the time. While not exactly common, these roadsters wouldn’t warrant a second glance when I was in high school in the early 70’s in California. Well, maybe a quick glance to see if it was a “hot” 2000 or just an everyday 1600. These were also the first Japanese cars to be frequently seen modded, usually 8 spoke Minilite-type wheels and a loud exhaust.
WOW..I never heard of these cars before..Thank you for posting.
The shoulder line is very MGB.
But its amazing that Japan actually built some stylish cars..
I grew ou on a diet of Bluebirds, corollas, Sunnys and Carinas..
From the 1970’s and 1980’s.
And I have never owned a Jap Car because of them.
My history is Fiat Seicento 1.0 Litre.
Bmw 318 E30
Fiat Punto Mark 1
Renault clio 1.6 Auto.
And a BMW 316 Coupe E36.
All European brands..
MY favourite out of those smiles per mile were the Fiats.
Currently don’t drive ,As I can’t justify it due to low miles driven.
But I would love a Fiat Punto Grande..Or the Mark 2 Punto in yellow Sporting or HGT!!!
Or the Fiat 500..Or even an Alfa.
Interesing one this; the first time I saw one was at Stanley Park, Blackpool last year. Created hardly any interest at all possibly because of MGB similarity. Actually the hood does look like it was ‘borrowed’ from a B.
Never been to the Stanley Park show but I went to the Totally Transport show at Blackpool’s Solaris centre a few times.There were quite a few unusual cars,E body Cuda with a column shift must be pretty rare in the USA never mind the UK.
It still has a Japanese registration plate Ive see a few of these in OZ and there are some in NZ though we did not get these cars new anti Japanese sentiments were still very strong here into the 70s we fought them for several years in the 40s there was a war,
THeir cars fell to pieces shortly after delivery too so nar it took quite a while and an apology and compensation to customers for using JDM grade panels and paint in our market before Japanese cars became mainstream.
Did you guys not have huge rust holes in under warranty cars because we did.
There was a brief push from industry lobby group the Retail Motor Traders association to have Japanese cars banned from import here on safety grounds our 6 monthly roadworthyness inspection system WOF (warrant of fitness) was failing 6 month old cars for rust on visual inspections.
My dad was a member of that lobby group as he was company secretary of a two store GM outfit that just happened to sell small Vauxhalls I had heard about the safety cover story. 1965 saw the release of the HD Holden here the only GM car that could out rust a Vauxhall Velox those were failing at 12 months.
Yeah never mind they dont break look at that rust thru boy. so we continued to get MGs, Triumphs, Austins efforts at sports car and not these and its eay to see why, But Toyota appologised mailed out the cash the others followed and now we are drowning in JDM cars but not these and its a shame great find but given the location I doubt it was lost someone loves that car.
I have always had a fondness for these. I once worked with a guy who had owned one in the early 70s, and remembered it fondly. They were certainly not common in the midwestern US.