Datsun 180B, a classic from the world of the Bluebird family

A scene for Japanese classics has long been established in Europe and is developing dynamically. Old Datsuns, Mazdas and Toyotas are in demand, which is not surprising. The models from the 70s and early 80s in particular attract attention with their American-inspired design.

This seems exotic today as it did back then and an example of this fashion is the Bluebird family from Datsun/Nissan. Datsun itself is a traditional car brand from Nippon. It was founded in 1931, but its roots go back to 1914. Three years after its founding, it was taken over and continued by Nissan.

Datsun 180B (1977)
Datsun 180B (1977) – small format road cruiser

Datsun started in Germany in 1973

In Europe, Nissan started under the Datsun label, gradually changed its name from the mid-1970s onwards, and from 1984 the Datsun name disappeared from the European car markets.

If you think of Datsun/Nissan, you can't ignore the name Bluebird. The first car sold outside of Japan was a member of the Bluebird family; in Germany the Nissan Bluebird was a major player in the mid-range car for a long time in the 90s. It started with the Bluebird family earlier, with the Datsun 160 and 180. The Datsun middle class started under this name in Germany from 1973, and in the USA the models also bore the name of the blue bird.

How do we sell cars to the Germans? Datsun advertising 1977.
How do we sell cars to the Germans? Datsun advertising 1977.

Lots of features and reliability

The secret of the Japanese success? There was a particularly large amount of factory equipment for low prices, additional charges were rare and when they were, the list was limited to a few items. In the beginning, the European models only differed from the vehicles offered in the USA in details. The design was clearly American, and so was the driving experience. Datsun built small-format road cruisers.

The chassis were not adapted to the speeds of German highways, but without being primitive. The Datsun 180 (PL810) already had a rear independent suspension, while its market competitors (not only) in the price-sensitive segment relied on the inexpensive rigid axle. So the 180 rocked through the world comfortably and casually and without exposing itself to suspicion of sporting ambitions.

The big trump card, however, was reliability. The Japanese philosophy of changing a lot of the design but little of the technology with each of the rapid model changes paid off. What was visually perceived as new was, from a technical point of view, only a gentle improvement on the previous model.

The Datsun 180 (Bluebird) family
The Datsun 180 (Bluebird) family

Datsun 180B – coupe, station wagon and sedan

In 1977, Datsun Germany promoted the 180B model family, which is much better known as the Datsun/Nissan Bluebird. There was a very American-looking sedan, a station wagon and a coupe and thus the three classic body versions par excellence.

The next model change came quickly, less than 3 years later. The Japanese rhythm drove the leisurely German providers to despair; the following generation looked much more European, modern, but also less distinctive. The learning curve for Datsun and other brands from the Land of the Rising Sun was impressively steep and it took the Germans some time to counter effectively.

The early Datsun models are almost extinct in Germany. Their downfall was their reliability, which led to neglect by the second or third owner. The Datsun had the lack of corrosion protection in common with other vehicles of this era, the image that was still missing at the time and the impact of the rapid model changes took a toll.

A 180B sedan, a coupe or a station wagon is now a Japanese sensation at every classic car meeting. Bluebird sedans from the 90s can still be found sporadically, but they are matter-of-fact, emotionless vehicles compared to the chrome-heavy splendor of the early years.

8 thoughts on "Datsun 180B, a classic from the world of the Bluebird family"

  • Actualmente soy el orgulloso propietario de a Datsun 180B 1978 Bluebird, aún con sus años es bolido en la carretera, muchos se admiran por sus inusuales characteristics y llamativos details similares to los clásicos norte americanos en síntesis una obra de arte mecánica.

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  • OMG, Datsun...

    Memories are awakened there. Parents of a classmate (primary school) were almost fantastic persuaders. So much so that her little son became active in missionary work. He gave me brochures and actually made me show them to my father and try to convince him to buy Datsun. I was a missionary. My father remained disinterested in Swedish motoring.

    I find it funny how advertising worked back then. Today such persuasive people are called multipliers. They didn't see a penny for their commitment. No, all the missionary zeal was purely for self-assurance. The Japanese were still relatively exotic and anyone who dared to buy one became downright needy...

    Whether your own decision was good and right also depended on whether others followed suit and built up a large sales and service network and secured the supply of spare parts for their own car. And of course, it's always flattering for your ego to set a trend instead of following one.

    The missionary zeal of the early buyers of Japanese imports is legendary today and I can attest to it (time-wise).

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    • Did I mention that my second car was a Datsun?

      I have now also tracked down a historical advertisement for it. The Datsun story continues 😉

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      • Incredible. No, I had no idea. Is there a brand that you don’t have personal experience with?

        But be that as it may, the more experience you have, the more it is worth that you have chosen a Saab blog. It could have turned out differently 😉

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        • What can I say? Grew up with a car-loving grandfather, friends and relatives in the car industry. Working as an external employee for almost all major German brands right up to the board level for more than two decades is what makes a difference. But yes, there are brands that have never interested me.

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          • I've been working on one for 3 years now. SW 1977 810

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  • There was also a Datsun in my family. I have no idea what model it was, but my parents also raved about it for years.

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  • I was still too small for it, but my father always raved about his “first Japanese”. It was a Datsun 100A. So great and so reliable and so much features…
    Yes, Datsun was probably exotic and yet sought after back then.

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