This is a couple of months old, taken during our unusual snow storm this winter (we seem to be having more in recent years). I’d never noticed this little blue car down there before; maybe it stood out more in the white snow. You know what it is, don’t you? It’s car we’ve never covered properly here, despite its historical significance.
It’s a Datsun PL 410/411 wagon, Datsun’s first popular car sold in the US, and predecessor to the legendary 510. Built from 1963-1967, it developed a rep for being a bit sportier than average, thanks to its small size, light weight and perky 1595 cc four, in the higher trim levels. Well, one of these days, we’ll have to go and knock on their door and get some proper shots to go along with the sedan I shot some years back.
Nice find sedans this model are becoming collectable here they werent exactly popular new a lot of anti Japanese feeling was still about in the 60s so sales numbers were low, Ive seen the wagons in Aussie well one, an in depth would be great.
I thought this was one of CC’s guessing games so I spent 5 minutes working out what it only to scroll down a bit further to discover the answer was under the photo, lol
That’s quite some find, especially the wagon version – they were rare when new. That was the second generation Bluebird to be sold in Australia. Even earlier ones (late fifties) appeared in trials and rallies, but I don’t think they were available to the public. Bryce is right about anti-Japanese feeling, though some people got over it sooner than others – price, equipment levels and reliability compared to British and cheap European cars (Renault, Fiat, though not of course VW) had a lot to do with it. Quite collectible here, and it looks in good condition despite the snow piled over it. Worth saving.
I think the only 410 I ever saw in the metal was a dark red sedan in the parking lot on campus in the early 70s. On the other hand, the model that seemed most popular for students that had not been stuck with dad’s hand-me-down at that time was the Datsun 1200.
Speaking of snow, with the CC Motown meetup 4 weeks away, the forecast here tonight includes a frost and freeze warning. At least we seem to be past the 3, 3 day rains we had over the last two weeks.
I have always had a soft spot for those cars – to me they seem kinda like English cars with better electrics and fluid retention. The one I did get a crack at was a 410 or 411 sedan, for sale on a chain-link lockup lot out Lebanon Road in Nashville, next door to the one shop that would work on our Alfa Milano. It seemed in pretty good shape, nice body and interior, and the engine room was pretty clean too. The carb, an oddball-looking Hitachi, had a glass fuel reservoir, which was odd …
The woman in charge asked if I wanted to drive it, I said Of Course, and she handed me the key. A little fiddling got it running; a good bit of work with throttle and clutch got it moving. I had a small mile or so loop in mind and took off for the next intersection. Turned the corner, and the engine died. Would not re-start. There was a good wide gravel shoulder and the car was an easy push. Popped the bonnet, and saw that my glass was not even half full, but bone dry. Bouncing the rear bumper up and down made sloshing noises, so I was revisiting an old nemesis: crud in tank. I had no phone and no phone number, so I hiked the half-mile back to the lot and handed over the key to a very PO’d woman. She seemed to think that I had some obligation to bring the car back …
I do wish in a way that I could have continued the relationship and rescued that poor little car, but our Alfa was in the shop being prepared to carry us out to our new home in SoCal. Of course I was not about to tell HER that!
When I was researching my recent article on the ’77 200-SX, I read a book on the early history of Datsun in the US. One of the charts that stuck in my mind was a state-by-state breakdown of Datsun sales (from the late 60s, I think). Oregon was, I believe, in the top 3 in terms of total sales… I’m pretty sure on a per-capita basis, Oregon would have ranked #1.
Of course, when looking at the chart, I immediately thought of all of Paul’s early Datsun finds. Seeing the actual numbers wasn’t terribly surprising of course, but it’s always interesting to see the full story behind what we’ve long suspected.
Eric, can you pass on the title to that book?
Sure – the title was “Nissan/Datsun: A History of Nissan Motor Corporation in USA, 1960-1980” by John Bell Rae. It’s probably not an easy book to find, but a university near me happened to have a copy, so I checked it out from there.
The book gives great details about Nissan’s early forays into the US market. It doesn’t delve too much into the attributes of specific models, but for an overall history from a business perspective, this book is beyond comparison. Also, one of the most interesting parts of the book are some of the early chapters that deal with an overall history of the small-car market in the US, from the 1950s & 1960s.
It’s worthwhile to read/borrow a copy if you can find one.
Currently available on Abebooks.com for $13. Search for the author rather than the title.
I would post the link but CC is not mac compatible it would seem
In this chart you have, how many made it to Wisconsin? I grew up in the 70’s and don’t remember seeing any Japanese cars of this era, until I got the internet. Late 70’s ones were around, but rusted so fast they generally disappeared within 10 years…
I don’t have the book any longer since I returned it to the library. But I do recall that the upper Midwest was listed as having very low rates of market penetration both for Datsun and for imports as a whole.
The Pacific NW, conversely, was particularly friendly to Datsun because Datsun’s trucks became very popular there — not so much in other parts of the country.
I believe many Japanese cars had their best initial American sales in Hawaii and on the West Coast. 30 – 40 years ago, I still used to see these now and then.
The lady book-keeper where I worked in the early ’80s had one of these wagons in red.
By then, she was having trouble getting parts for it and sold it shortly after.
Happy Motoring, Mark
And after that they sort of skipped over to the Northeast. But *those* cars have mostly long since rusted out…
I recognized it right away … the color helped, as it seemed that 90% of that vintage Datsun sedans, wagons and pickups were that shade of blue. My memory tells me that there was much more variety in 1600 and 2000 roadster colors. A rare sighting nowadays.
I wanna say either a Datsun 410 wagon or a Datsun 510 wagon, late 60’s/early 70’s model
My brother-in-law had a 410 (Bluebird) wagon in the mid/late 70s and kept it on the road for 20 years or so before time caught up with it. (He also had a 1600 Roadster, a source of much joy and many roadside repairs.)
I’ll freely admit that I had no idea what it was. But Japanese cars prior to the early 70’s weren’t really seen in the southeast in the 80’s. Not sure if they just didn’t have a robust dealer network here or if they had all rusted away already. Other than the odd T40 Corona, there wasn’t really anything Japanese from the 60’s to be found.