Curbside Classic: 1977 Datsun F-10 – It Got An F In Beauty School

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 (First Posted October 3, 2013)  The driver of this Datsun F-10 bought it new in 1977, and she’s still in love with her beautiful baby. Which raises the question: is ugliness in the eye of the beholder?

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There has to be some truth to that, because some folk’s idea of ugly cars is so totally off base. A while back  Business Week recently carried a list of ten ugliest cars ever, and it included (get your meds ready): the gen1 Corvair(!), one of the most influential, revered and copied designs ever in the history of modern automobiles! They also listed the Vega, which was actually quite cute and well done design wise, despite its other flaws. Just goes to show there’s no accounting for taste.

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It’s amazing how quickly a car company can fall off the pedestal. The Datsun 510 was hailed (still is) as a landmark in clean, timeless design, from a country that at the time was still finding its way stylistically. But only two years after the 510 arrived, Datsun was already going down a very different path stylistically.

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It started with the 1970 Cherry, the predecessor to this F-10. You can see two things going on in Nissan’s first FWD car, and one of the first from Japan. Its back half accurately predicts the very successful 240 Z but the front half is already going down the ugly road towards the F-10.

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The Coupe version of the first Cherry then adds a very high and bulbous rear end, and now the ingredients are largely in place.

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But what really makes the F-10 bad are the front and rear end details: the front looks like the designers went home one night, and the janitors cobbled something up out of junk and by beating on it with an ugly stick. It’s about as bad as a front end gets on a car, no doubt. Our featured coupe has non-original or different black trim around its headlights, perhaps in an attempt to put on a bit of make-up.


Here’s a wagon (not my pic) of the un-adulterated F-10 front end. Nothing like making the headlights look even more google-eyed.

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And lacking any other inspiration, the designers decided to mirror the front on the back end, with over-sized tail lights and a general lack of design acumen. I don’t know what Nissan was feeding its designers at the time, but the F-10 wasn’t the only recipient of its effects. The B210 was the RWD counterpart to the F-10, and it’s details are only slightly less ugly, but its proportions aren’t quite as bad. We’ve got some nice ones coming in a CC soon.

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That dashboard has lots 70’s Nissan design school stuff going on here. There’s something decidedly Mopar-ish about all of this; at least more so than GM or Ford influence.

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As much as I like greenhouses with visibility, and can hold up the Audi 80/Fox/VW Passat/Dasher as an example of clean timeless 1970′s design, I also recognize that high belt lines and gun-slit windows seem to be here to stay, and the benefits of aerodynamic kamm-back tails are indisputable.  So as I sat looking at these pictures last night, I realized that from a side profile, the F-10 really is really rather contemporary, and a prophet of things to come.


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