The 810 had pretty iffy styling. Not just the typical mid-70s Nissan weirdness, which actually was toned down by this time. It was its proportions, with a long nose to make room for the inline six grafted on to a sedan body (Nissan Bluebird) clearly designed for a shorter four cylinder front end. In that way it rather emulated the old American cars of yore, with their extended front ends for their straight eights. And the front end styling was just a pastiche of American car leftovers from a few years back. GM’s new ’77 B-Bodies made this look mighty obsolete from day one.
But under the skin, it was the best Datsun sedan yet, including the original 510, which might sound like heresy. But the 510 in stock form was a bit…immature. The 810 was a 510 all grown up.
I remember this Road Test. The base price was kind of rich for 1977—after all, Japanese cars were supposed to be great bargains then, NOT just good value. The exterior styling…. The lack of a 5th gear. Almost 19 seconds for a quarter mile
But, I thought then the interior was terrific–at least the front. Great dashboard!
The 510 looked nice enough to me, the 240Z looked great, even with big 280Z bumpers. This car deserved better styling, and five gears. That would have made it good. THe 2800CC engine on top of these enhancements would have made it great, IMO.
The base price was high, but most Japanese cars that didn’t have low prices had high standard equipment. Car and Driver tested a Pontiac Astre in February, 1977. As tested prices was $5,263, for a Vega with an Iron Duke that could cover the quarter mile in 20.1 seconds while reaching 66.5 mph. Fuel consumption was the same as the Datsun’s, which would have been an infinitely more satisfying car for a 10% higher sales price. The fantasy of Japanese cars rusting faster than GM ones certainly didn’t apply to the Astre.
Another car in the same issue was an AMC Hornet AMX. $5,439 for a car that hit 91 mph at redline in top gear, went 15 miles on a gallon of gas, and could cover the quarter mile in 18.3 seconds with a trap speed of 71.0 mph. The nearly two grand in options included a V8 for $164 and an automatic for $301. Detroit base prices were all but meaningless because nothing was standard.
The January, 1977 Car and Driver provides two other contemporary benchmarks. They were comparing a traditional full sized car to the downsized GM sedans, and they used a 400 ci Ford LTD Landau along with a 301 ci Pontiac Catalina. The as-tested price of the Ford was $8,505. The Pontiac was a relatively low $6,896. The 14.5-15.5 MPG Ford could cover the quarter mile in 18.6 seconds at 73.1 MPH. The 16.5-18.5 MPG Pontiac took 19.9 seconds to cover the quarter with a trap speed of 70.4 MPH.
1/77 was also when CandD tested the $9,907 Lancia Beta HPE. The fiat hatch took 19.1 seconds to hit 69.8 MPH in the quarter and used gasoline at a rate between 18.5 and 21.5 MPG. The Datsun may not seem like a hotrod, but 1977 was a very bad time to be street racing in a new car.
Whilst we in Australia missed out on the 6 cylinder version of the 810 (we had the make do with the 2 litre 4 cylinder 200B, of which only the early ones had an independent rear end), all the best ingredients of this 810 were offered to us in the form of the 240K, and with better styling and 5 speeds.
As the Australian motoring press dubbed the Datsun 200B, a (previous generation) Datsun180B with 20 more mistakes.
The acceleration graph does not seem to match the figures posted..
Some day, Paul, I will submit my COAL about my dad’s 1978 810 sedan (it’s a matter of finding my pictures) and my hand in why it was in the family for 24 years (my dad bought it new in the fall of 1977). Back then, Japanese cars were distinctly … Japanese before they became so ubiquitous. It was a durable car and it tolerated his lack of attention to routine maintenance, and I was given (loaned) it when I was in a professional abyss after he had designated it for assignment around the time I moved back home to Atlanta. I didn’t think of it as a good around town car but I still think of it as the best highway car I ever had because that inline six could haul ass on the interstate. It had the 4 speed manual, and maybe a 5th gear would have improved its range (I could get only 220 miles on a tank of regular back in 2000). I still think it had the best dashboard of any car I drove, a gauge for everything. I gave it back to him in the Spring, 2001 because even though it didn’t blow any smoke, it took all the king’s horses, men and money to get it to pass the annual emissions test (maybe the catalytic converter was toast by then), otherwise I would have likely held it longer. I haven’t seen an 810 in the metal since. Dad’s 810 had some patina, but absolutely no rust. Part of me still misses that car, but I’d look at it to remind me of my time in purgatory, and how fortunate I am 20 years later.
By the time this car came out in 1977, the Volvo 164 was history, which perhaps explains why Road & Track didn’t mention it. But I still recall R&T’s original road test of the 164, which was similarly full of praise … a stretched-nose, straight-six variation of an already good car, seemed like a recipe for an even better car, back then. And of course, Toyota did it also a year later than the 810, with the Supra.
It’s still hideous, and the successor 810 with the squared off, cleaner lines was a much better looking car. The price wasn’t bad for 1977, but I don’t recall too many of these. People who wanted a nicer car bought american and people who wanted a cheap economical car bought b210s and corollas.
I guess that is why they say styling is subjective, because I love how it looks. Its handsome and understated. I especially like the coupe that came later. Maybe I’m crazy, but I’d take an 810 coupe over a Z car anyday.
However, when Nissan went to using a square ruler to style its cars, they lost all of their personality, in my eyes. I much prefer the 70s Datsuns to anything 1980 . I don’t dislike all boxy cars, just most of Nissans. Their large car didnt hit my radar again until 1995.
A co-worker had one of these that he bought lightly used in a moment of exuberance and quickly realized he needed a cheaper, more economical car. I actually liked the looks of these cars, and again, the dashboard had a lot to do with it. Being in the market for a newer car, I asked if I could take it for a test drive.
The one he had was a 2 door with an automatic transmission which, along with the…generous size of the car, made the driving experience somewhat non-Japanese feeling.
From a complete stop, the engine pulled the car up to 60 a bit like a freight train, definitely not a speedster. And it was my impression that the front seats were so firm that you sat ON them, and not in them. The automatic transmission shifted almost imperceptibly so that the whole experience of acceleration was about what you imagined you would feel in a high end, German or British sedan.
Dman raises an interesting point, a comparison test of a Volvo 164 and the 810 would have been interesting. Of the 2 though, the Datsun/Nissan would have nailed it if for no other reason than it was available as a 2 door and a wagon, neither of which Volvo offered.
My dad had a ’67, ’70 and ’73 Continental. When the ’73 began rusting in ’77 and gas had crept up to – gasp – 69 cents, he gave up on American, went to the Datsun dealer in downtown Y-town and bought a new ’77 810 for $5500. Dark brown, cream vinyl interior, automatic but no A/C or P/S. Two years later when when I was 15-1/2 my turn came to learn to drive. He had the car parked facing the street so I wouldn’t have to back it out. I drove 90 minutes up to the Cleveland airport to pick up my older brother coming home from college for Easter. Did fine after a shaky first 10 seconds and made it all the way except for the last 10 feet when I had to parallel park at the terminal. My dad said don’t worry, just put it in reverse and ease my foot off brake. He steered from the passenger seat and the car slipped right into place. No prob for a guy who used to drive truck.
Later that year the car got totaled during a snowstorm when he was driving but thankfully he didn’t get hurt. Insurance money in hand he went down to the same dealer and bought a like-new ’77 810 sedan and this would be the car that I would rack up many miles on. Dark green with familiar cream vinyl only this time with A/C and P/S. I loved that car! Washing it was a joy because when done it looked like a million bucks, a baby M-B. Good proportions, good styling, a gem of an engine (240Z SOHC Six F.I.), 4-wheel independent suspension and wonderful handling. Like moving from Miller High Life to craft beer there would be no turning back, I was forever hooked on serious automotive machinery.
Soon after he bought the green 810 he bought – you guessed it – our third ’77 810, a caramel brown wagon for my mom with same cream interior, auto, A/C and P/S. She loved it because with 6 kids the weekly grocery run was a major deal and the wagon swallowed a dozen bags right up and were easy to unload.
Thanks for the article, Paul. Lots of great memories!
Darn, the memory is going.. we had a ’66, ’69 and then the ’73 Lincoln. I didn’t realize it at the time but my dad was in his own way, a car guy. I remember seeing a brochure in our den on the book shelf of a ’73 450SE/SEL. Under it were brochures of the ’73 Conti and ’73 Cadillacs. Clearly the M-B was on his list but my guess is he thought it was too expensive. He probably also considered Volvo in ’77 but being a businessman he was always looking for a good deal and I remember him saying he was happy with the deal he got on that first 810. The dealer wanted more but my dad put $5500 cash on his desk and that was the end of that.
My first car in 1986 when I got my license was a 1977 Datsun 810 four door. Tan exterior and interior. My grandpa and uncle had their body shop in downtown seattle and they painted it gloss black (door jams and everything) and we redid the vinyl interior black to match and it looked AWESOME. lowered it a few inches simply by heating the coils with a torch. Then we ordered a set of four Enkie aluminum rims with 2″+ deep dish and 15″ 50 series low profile radials. it looked GOOD! People unaware asked if it was a Jaguar series. Loved it. Thank you Uncle Byron! Learned to drive in it and was my first car.