From some distance across the parking lot, I thought maybe I was really going to score. That mellow-honey colored peanut of a car just screamed “B210 Honey Bee” to me, something that has eluded me thus far in my hunting. But as I wended my way between rows of silver CUVs and got closer to it, I realized it was just a plain old B210. Now that certainly shouldn’t be grounds for disappointment, as B’s all seem to have disappeared along with real honey bees, which are of dying off at staggering rates.
OK, so Honey Bees are suffering from the same issue as real bees; still, you’d think there was one left. No such luck. But given its honey color, we have to give this one an appropriate name: Bit•O•Honey.
In my candy-eating days of yore, this was one of my favorites. Chewy and sticky, but not to an extreme. And most of all, it was cheap; probably the cheapest sugar delivery system per ounce. Obviously the folks at Datsun USA headquarters ate a lot of the stuff, and were duly inspired.
The Datsun Honey Bee was a way of giving the cheapest stripper version in the line a bit of…buzz. Datsun’s take on the Chevette Scooter, except as the ad points out, it comes with a standard back seat. It arrived in 1975, one year after the the unsweetened regular B210, and presumably it was a way to keep its price low during a time of considerable inflation. Or stimulate sales after gas prices stabilized again.
It was a blatant repudiation of what the Japanese had pioneered and used to launch their conquest of the American market; well-equipped small cars. But the Honey Bee was a genuine American-style stripper, lacking all sorts of little amenities that the regular B210 had. Here’s a complete list of everything that was stripped out, from datsun1200.com:
- No Wheel covers (dogdish caps fitted)
- No “honeycomb” wheel covers
- No Spare tire cover
- No Trunk mat
- No Cigarette lighter (blind plug fitted)
- No Speedometer trip meter
- No Rear window defogger switch (blind plug fitted)
- 1976 Honey Bee has the defogger
- No Carpet (only Mat)
- California models included carpet
- No Arm rest (pull handle is fitted)
- No Door trim moulding
- No Rear side moulding
- No Rear seat ashtray
- No Wiper blade high-speed fin (uses basic type from 620 truck)
- No Door lamp switch for assistant side
- No Console box
- No Non-glare glass
- No Chrome moulding for windshield
- No Chrome moulding for rear window
- Blackwall tires now fitted (instead of whitewalls)
- Trunk finisher: hardboard instead of laminated
- Front seat is folding only, instead of reclining + forward-folding
- Interior Trim: Black or Beige only (Deluxe has Black, Blue or Brown)
- Floor trim: Black only (Black or Brown in California)
But for 1976, the stripe was made bigger.
And check this out: there were two variations of the actual Honey bee; this is the “racer bee”.
And this is the “flying bee”, or maybe “stoned bee” might be more accurate. Presumably Honey Bee owners had a choice depending on which one suited their personality. Which would you have gotten? And yes, that’s a non-Honey Bee B210 wheel cover, despite it having a honeycomb design.
This seems to be turning into a Honey Bee CC, even if we don’t have the real thing on our hands. OK; enough of that; let’s talk B210.
The B210 arrived at a fortuitous moment in history; in the fall of 1973, right as the first energy crisis kicked off. Which made it a very common sights on our streets. And they were still pretty common here a few years back, including a number of coupes.
I shot this one a few years back, and have never gotten around to writing it up. Like so many cars I’ve shot, it’s just itching to be released from its digital tomb. One of these days; maybe now.
It is the proverbial honey pot at the end of the rainbow.
My son Ed really wanted one of these back in the day; he ended up with a gen1 RWD Mazda 626. Close, but the Mazda was a much more substantial and comfortable ride, in relative terms. These were a bit on the primitive side. But that’s what a lot of young folks back then were quite content with.
I’ve got another B210 to share; hang on.
In the meantime, let’s get back to our current Bee, which may well be one of the last on the streets here, if not the last. Which is a depressing thought. So many interesting old cars are dying off, just like the bees.
The color of the vinyl is right, but that’s not an original seat; the shape is all wrong. Instead of the seat bottom flaring our at the front, it tapers in. Does anyone recognize it?
Here’s the seats in the coupe; quite different. This steering wheel is a lot better too. And it has a stick; the sedan is saddled with an automatic; not exactly a happy combination with either the 1.3 or 1.4 L A-Series pushrod four.
These engines were already classics at the time. The Nissan A Series engine dates back to 1967, and although new and with an alloy head, it pays tribute tothe BMC A Series engine, which Nissan had licensed. But the Nissan A series was substantially different, and had an alloy head with much better porting. They were tough, reliable, frugal, and very amenable to hopping up.
This is how they often ended up looking like. These bees had a sting, and were very active and succesful on the SCCA racing circuits.
Somewhat curiously, our featured car is missing its back seat, and has become a plywood-sided cargo area, here put to good use transporting an antique bugle. No, there’s nothing odd about this, it is Eugene, after all.
It’s very common to poke fun at these cars. And easy. They’re often derided as the ultimate cheap, tinny, automotive shit box. But in contemporary reviews and comparisons, it was generally considered to be the equal of its direct competitors, such as the Corolla and the Colt and such. It actually came in #4 in a nine-car R&T comparison test that we posted her, just ahead of the Corolla.
Its harsh and skittish rear axle was the biggest complaint, but that applied to pretty much all of the old-school RWD small cars from Japan. In order to have enough carrying capacity, the leaf springs had to be pretty stiff, given that this B210 weighs in right at one ton (2,000lbs). 0-60 in that test happened in 17.3 seconds; 68 or 70hp does have its limitations. I wouldn’t be surprised if the automatic extended that closer to 20 seconds.
This post started as an Outtake, but it just doesn’t want to quit, a bit like the B210, which were known to be mechanically very robust, even if their bodies weren’t in the face of calcium chloride. So I’m going to pull out my favorite B210 in my files, another one I’ve been sitting on for some time. In the case of this green four-door, I was hoping to eventually catch up with the owner, because I’ve seen him driving it around town for quite a few years. He’s a good-sized man, in his 50s, perhaps, and I’ve even seen him driving around this part of town with two big teenage boys in it.
Given the fantastic condition of the interior, he probably doesn’t drive his kids on a daily basis.
But I’ve seen it around town in a number of places, and it took me a while before I caught up with it to shoot it.
Is this the best preserved B210 sedan in the land?
I would love to know its history. Did an aunt or uncle buy it during the energy crisis, and then shortly afterwards have a medical crisis? And the B210 sat for several decades until its fate was resolved?
Maybe one of these days I’ll finally catch up with him.
I should point out that the four door sedan was the wallflower of the B210 family. Folks went for the coupe, if they could swing it, or the el-cheapo two door, if they couldn’t. Looking at how far the front seat intrudes into the rear door area, it was not really a good choice. The front door was too small, and the rear seat was only worthy for kids or nimble young adults, so why bother? And it looked a bit pinched; the B210 was a bit eccentric enough looking as it was, along with the other Nissans of this illustrious design era.
By that I’m particularly thinking of the 200SX (Silvia S10), which was based on the B210. Of course I could be thinking about the 601 or 710, or most of all the F10.
If you think the B210 is a bit..alien looking, feast your eyes on the F10, its FWD compatriot. This was Datsun’s stylistic dark night of the soul. And they almost didn’t survive it.
Yes, the B210 looks downright conventional compared to the f10. And two door works better than that four door, especially after the rear seat has been eliminated altogether.
Now if only one of Eugene’s bee swarm rescuers drove a Honey bee, or at least a B210. Which reminds me: when we needed a huge old bee colony moved out of our garage wall in Los Gatos, the guy that came and relocated them drove a VW T2 bus with a Corvair engine. With twin glass packs, it really buzzed.
I will be sad to see the last of these B210s. They provided cheap wheels back in the day, and I have vivid memories of what they felt like to drive or ride in: minimalist motoring, unlike anything since. But it’s nice to refresh the memories one more time, thanks to this Bit•O•Honey.