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…
CC Outtake: Datsun Fairlady(Sports) 2000 – Winter Is Coming., by Geraldo Solis