Road & Track Vintage Review: 1974 Datsun 710 – “A Cheap Imitation Of The 510 At A Much Higher Price”

(first posted 2/11/2018. commentary added 2/8/2024)

Nissan entered the seventies with a terrific reputation, thanks to the class-beating 510. Now Nissan seemed intent to mess it all up some, and not just with a model numbering system that made no sense. The new 710 was intended to essentially replace the 510, but it was dumbed down and cheapened, resulting in just another very average car in its class. It lost its IRS, the body felt tinnier and it was noisier inside. The engine was rougher and noiser, and had lots of driveability issues. R&T summed it up: “a cheap imitation at a much higher price”.

The 510 had undoubtedly been somewhat expensive to build. The 610, which arrived in 1973 and was bequeathed the 510’s IRS, was a larger and more upscale car, but it was carefully designed to reduce production costs. The 710 was heavily based on the 610, sharing a shortened floor pan. front suspension, brakes and other elements, but with a leaf spring rear axle and other cost cutting. Obviously its model designation no longer fit in the established hierarchy; why weren’t the 610’s and 710’s names reversed?  Ah; Nissan in the seventies, where many strange things occurred.

That’s not to say the 710 couldn’t be fun to drive; it was, once the engine warmed up and behaved. The 710 handled well enough so that the IRS was actually rarely missed. But the package just didn’t exude that something special, the secret sauce that made the 510 a cult classic almost from day 1.  Oh well…