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 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.
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.
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.