I can’t think of the last time I saw a 1200 ute that wasn’t painted in electric yellow, lime green or bright red, sporting shiny new wheels. In fact, I can’t think of a Datsun that has a more devoted following among Australian enthusiasts. The 1600 sedan (510 to Americans) is a rare sighting, as are Z-Cars. Any other Datsuns I spot typically are still on their first owners and bereft of any modifications or enhancements. The 1200 ute, however, is a common sighting and they all look a lot like this one I spotted in St. Lucia.
These featherweight utes (weighing around 1600 pounds) were first introduced in Australia in 1971 and continued to be sold up until 1985; they were sold even later in South Africa, and were also popular in New Zealand. Small utes like this tended to amass a loyal group of followers, another example being the Subaru Brumby (BRAT) which was sold well into the 1990s in Australia. North America missed out on the 1200 Ute entirely due to the Chicken Tax but it’s hard to imagine these selling successfully in the US. They were called “1200” because of their tiny 1.2 four-cylinder engine, producing just 70 hp and 70 ft-lbs. Many 1200 utes today have had that engine extensively modified or yanked out in favor of a more powerful mill. The extra dose of power, paired with a low curb weight and rear-wheel-drive, means these can be a riot to drive. That kind of enthusiast appeal results in so many of them being well-maintained, painted lime green and given shiny new wheels. Oh, did you think people actually used these to haul stuff?