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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

1976 Datsun

1960 Datsun found only 17 buyers Canada-wide.
By the time the first 17 Datsuns were being registered in this country in 1960, imported automobiles accounted for an unprecedented 26.6 percent of all new car sales throughout the Dominion. Ford brought in its entire range of British products from Dagenham to bolster sagging domestic sales. GM fielded the venerable Vauxhall through Pontiac-Buick dealerships and the clever, badge-engineered Canada-only Envoy appeared  its Chev-Olds dealers. Chrysler Canada on the 'small-is-beautiful' train by offering the chic Simca, "imported from Paris." 

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Drivers from St. John's to Victoria were familiar with the many automotive offerings from Europe. For the most part, European cars were as common as the morning dew. After all, Canadians had made Volkswagen, Vauxhall and Envoy into Top Ten sellers. Still, few, if any, had ever seen a car from Japan.

1961 Datsun.
            After unsatisfying experiences with several independent distributors from 1961 through 1964, the corporation stepped in to handle sales and service. The Nissan Automobile Company (Canada) Limited was established in January 1965 with national headquarters located in Vancouver. Sales were modest; 910 Datsun passenger cars found their way to folks’ garages that model year.


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 Datsun used Vancouver as a backdrop.
Consumers appreciated the high quality of the value-loaded Datsun. Often, they laid eyes on their first Datsun at the neighbourhood Rambler dealer. Datsun was a perfect fit for dealers who sold Canada's compact king. The little cars from Japan fit seamlessly into the compact and even smaller traditional categories that American Motors had abandoned in its quest to match the Big Three automakers on a model-by-model basis.

In four short years, Datsun rocketed out of obscurity to take 14th spot in a field of 69 domestically sold nameplates. It held down fourth place in 1970 and 1971 before knocking out the full-sized Fords to claim the Number Three sales position in 1972.

            Datsun held a Top Ten spot in the hearts and driveways of Canadians until 1975 when it slipped from eighth to twelfth position. While gasoline-starved American consumers were scrambling to buy anything small and economical as after sanctions were imposed by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), buyers in oil-rich Canada drove right past Datsun’s 226 dealers, opting for domestic vehicles that dripped in chrome and were loaded with horsepower. In fact, sales of imports plummeted to 16 percent, the lowest sales figures in more than a decade.
The Datsun 710 was the company’s Canadian flagship. The four-door sedan (foreground) sold for $4,345 and the two-door sedan carried a sticker price of $4.195.

The  most expensive Datsun that money could buy in 1976 was the 280Z, available as a two-seater coupe or a 2+2 coupe. Both were powered by the 2573cc  engine.
            Datsun regrouped for the 1976 model year. The sensual 280-Z was back but it now cost $7,895 and for an extra grand one could buy an extra 24 centimetres (10 inches) of wheelbase and a back seat. Automatic transmission added $350 to the sports car’s price tag.
The Datsun 610 series was not sold in Canada.

            While our neighbours to the south could buy a trio of 2 500-millimetre (98.4-inch) wheelbased 610 models, the 245-milimetre (96.5-inch) wheelbased 710 was the largest Datsun sold in this country. Since it had been introduced to the world market in 1973 there was little new to say about the vehicle, so engineering and quality was emphasized. Squeak-free unibodies, deep strut front suspensions, power assisted brakes were all on the brag list. A two-door hardtop, two-door sedan, four-door sedan and a four-door station wagon made up the family. They ranged in price from $4,195 to $4,795.

Three C-notes on top of those prices saved one from shifting gears manually.

 The best selling Datsuns in 1976 were the B210 series. The two-door sedan listed for $3,670; the four-door sedan was priced at $3,770 and the Hatchback’s sticker price was $3,970.

            The B-210 was in its third year as the company’s bread-and-butter line. It consisted of a stripped, two-door Special sedan, a two-door sedan, a hatchback and a four-door sedan. The base Special was a steal at $3,295. The dressier two-door sedan listed for $3,695. Advertising proclaimed, “Driving them is pure joy.”  Targeted to young couples, young professionals and university students buying their first new car, the pint-sized B-210 offered many niceties  built into the base price that cost extra on other cars.
The Datsun F10 was new for 1976.

            The all-new F10 series debuted. Datsun’s first attempt at front wheel drive vehicle shared its 2100 cc engine with the B-210 but in the smallest Datsun, the mill was transversely mounted. The half-pint series rode on a  2390-millimetre ( 94-inch) wheelbase. It consisted of a two-door sedan, a two-door hatchback and a four-door station wagon, all surprisingly roomy. An automatic transmission was not available in the F10s.

            Finally, a two-door pickup with a 183-centimetre ( six-foot) bed listed for $3,995. The same hauler fitted with a 231-centimetre (seven-foot) bed sold for $4,195. An automatic tranny added $300 to the sticker price. The longer truck could be had with a Deluxe Cab at extra cost.

            It was a turbulent year for Canada, at best. As head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, opened the Olympic Summer Games in Montreal. Rene Levesque led the Parti Quebecois to power in Quebec. Pilots and air traffic controllers went on strike over the right to use French in the air. An angry mob of 5,000 farmers swarmed Parliament Hill and threw bottles of milk at Agriculture Minister, Eugene Whelan. MPs abolished the death penalty for all “civilian offenses.” Saskatchewan mulled over expropriating the potash industry. Joe Clark became leader of the Progressive Conservative Party. The T. Eaton Company published its last catalogue—the end of a national tradition begun in 1884.

            It was a turbulent year for Datsun too, as sales continued to slide. The final figure for 1975 had been 31,993 passenger car and truck sales, good enough for 12th place. When the last unit was counted, the 1976 model year tally was 28,676. Of that figure, 24,343 units were automobiles. There was a positive spin, Datsun still held 12th spot in the domestic sales pie. Brighter days were just around the corner; folks in the Vancouver head office had no way of knowing that Nissan sales would rebound sharply in 1977.
The 710 series and the trucks shared Datsun’s 1952cc, four-cylinder, in-line, overhead valve, high cam engine.


Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!

Copyright James C. Mays 2007
 All rights reserved.

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