What you’re seeing here is half of my current embarrassment of riches. By which I mean that I caught two ‘60s Fairlady roadsters relatively recently, and this is one of them. I was extremely lucky in that they were both different enough to warrant two separate posts. This one, though beautiful and of the desirable later 2-litre variety, was relatively more difficult to capture in photos, so it’s getting the short straw (and post).
I’m going to try and keep my powder dry on this post, then – the full model history will be better served by the next Fairlady. But it’s not like we haven’t seen these before on CC, so if you want to reacquaint yourself with the history of the Datsun Sports bloodline, Paul’s article on the 1600 is but a click away.
This is also not the first 2-litre Fairlady we’ve had the pleasure of seeing: last year, there was a very instructive COAL featuring a pair of these beauties. If you want to know what owning and driving one might feel like (in US-spec, but that’s close enough), do have a read.
Launched in early 1967, the Fairlady 2000 was the final iteration of the Datsun roadster that was born in 1962 with a smaller engine, but already a very sweet-looking body. For a while, said looks were really the car’s greatest asset, but with the 1600 (in 1965) and especially the 2-litre, the “Sports” part of the breed started to become far more prominent.
The 1982cc “U20” 4-cyl. was a jewel of an engine: OHC, twin Solex carbs, as melodious as an Alfa and as powerful as anything BMW had in store. Furthermore, it was mated, for the first time in a Japanese car, to a 5-speed gearbox made with Porsche’s input.
In standard JDM spec, the Fairlady 2000 packed 145hp and could reach 205kph, making it the second fastest Japanese production car of its time – right after the Toyota 2000GT, which was beyond the reach of anyone but a tiny elite. Only 337 of those precious Yamaha-designed supercars we sold from 1967 to 1970, whereas Nissan made about 6500 units of their fire-breathing 2-litre roadster in the same timeframe.
Many in the English-speaking world compare this to the MGB, and there is a certain kinship. Our Editor made a case for the PininFarina-penned Fiat 1200/1500 (Tipo 118G), which timeline-wise is a more compelling hypothesis, as it predates the Datsun by a couple of years, but is a bit less of a convincing lookalike.
I personally think Nissan captured the zeitgeist and did not outright crib any particular design. There’s certainly no mistaking that slightly blunt front end, nor that gloriously ornate rump, for anything but a Datsun roadster. The middle bit does look very MGB-like, but both cars came to be at about the same time, so that shape must have been in the air. That was especially true before Nissan reworked the windscreen for MY 1968, making it a taller and switching the wipers to a parallel system – not a very attractive change.
The incredible amount of punch this little convertible packed was soon noticed by racing enthusiasts both at home and abroad. While the Fairlady 2000 won the GT class in successive editions of the Japanese Grand Prix for three consecutive years in 1967, 1968 and 1969, LHD versions were being tried out on the track in American and European events. This was one of the first serious Japanese competitors on that front – a sign of things to come.
The Fairlady 2000 was a glorious opening salvo, alongside the Toyota 2000GT, the Mazda Cosmo, the Honda S800 and the Prince Skyline S50, signaling the arrival of Japanese carmakers at all levels of the sports car arena (except, for the time being, the high displacement crowd: Jaguars, Ferraris and Corvettes were not yet on the menu, but everything else pretty much was). The next generation, in the shape of the 6-cyl. Fairlady Z, took things to another level of both performance and comfort, but nothing really replaced the Fairlady roadster. To be continued…
Curbside Classic: 1967 Datsun Sports 1600 (SPL311) – My Fairlady’s MGB, by PN
COAL #6: 1969 and 1970 Datsun 2000 Roadsters – Pint Sized Pocket Rockets, by Ed Hardey
CC Outtake: Datsun Fairlady(Sports) 2000 – Winter Is Coming., by Geraldo Solis
CC Capsule: 1965 Datsun Fairlady – A Real Lady Tells No Stories On Herself, by Jim Grey
I need to point out that my CC on the Datsun Sports had a fatal flaw, and I have just corrected. It was not in any way a copy of the MGB, as its development precedes that car. It’s design is credited primarily to Hidehiro Iizuka. Early sketches of his design go back to 1958.
Here’s an article that goes into more detail.
Thank you for the name of the designer! I looked around half-heartedly, but only the Fairlady Z seems to find grace to the Interweb’s eyes.
Same at CC, unfortunately: this Fairlady doesn’t seem to inspire much love around here. Shame really, because it’s a fine looker and an even finer performer. Certainly more than any ’60s Triumph, IMO.
Tatra, I agree with you that this car has a look all its own. I had never paid that close attention to them in articles or books I had read, but looking again at your pictures, I love the flavor of this Fairlady.
I also like that it looks like it’s smiling.
I can imagine zooming through the streets of Tokyo in this and loving it. (That is, if I could get used to the RHD.)
These are fantastic, and sadly highly underrated if not outright unknown to many. Nissan certainly had it going on, it baffles me that the Z did so much to put them on the map but this car is ignored. Like the 410/411 sedan vs Alfa Giulia, I’d also happily own one of these and consider them sort of a Japanese Alfa Spider.
Say, I never knew that Ovid’s tale was originally called “Pygm, A Lion”, but you Shaw Lerner and Lowe something Audrey day at CC.
Afraid that I’m one of the Wouldn’t It Be Lovely (If they Changed it A Bit) crowd, though I can’t land on exactly why that is. Perhaps it’s a bit like The Street Where You Live, you know, a bit boring after a while, but somehow it falls short, and after all these years, I’ve (Not) Grown Accustomed To Her Face.
Perhaps too it would all alter if I’d ever driven one, but with ’60’s roof leaks and all the Rain In Spain, that’s not bloody likely, I’m going by taxi.
What a sweetie ! .
I wish I’da bought Datsun 1600 or 2000 when they were just cheap used cars but pretty much every one needed a clutch and the engine and tranny has to come out to do clutch works so that was that….
Yesterday a nice red Datsun 1600 (?) Roadster survivor zipped past me in traffic, it was red with black bonnet and boot, a black circle in the doors with “70” in it .
I wish .