The Bluebird was branded in Japan as a Datsun until 1979/80 at the release of the 910 series, the Sunny until 1980/81, a year before it changed to front-wheel-drive, and the Fairlady until 1969/70, when it was replaced by the Fairlady Z. The specs sheet hereunder, handles the post-war Japanese Datsuns and successors (including the hand-built Silvia, announced at the September 1964 Tokyo Motor Show for Japan as Datsun Coupe 1500, but eventually sold as Nissan Silvia at its introduction in April 1965, presumably because of its elevated price).
Whereas the mid- to late-fifties commercial derivatives simply were based on the sedan with its separate chassis (a stretched utility was added in 1958), the early-sixties 320 series commercial derivatives all were on the longer chassis with torsion bar front suspension, after the sedan/wagon, now called ‘Bluebird’, had switched to a semi-monocoque body with coils in front. With a weight of over 1,000 kg, the 320 commercial line (including a 2-door wagon) used 14 inch wheels, and kept the 4-speed transmission, while the Bluebird 310 series passenger cars had only 3 forward speeds and 13 inch wheels. In a country like South Africa, the pickup (‘Mossie maar man’) would soon become the best selling in the utility field.
A similar chassis layout was used for the next 520 series in 1965, 8 cm wider than the 410 Bluebird, with a long-wheel-base pick-up model added later in the year, while in Taiwan, a 4-door double cab pick-up and a 4-door wagon were created by Yue Loong. Again, in 1966, 1967 and 1970, this 1-ton pick-up was the best selling utility in South Africa, thereafter beaten by the Toyota Hi-Lux.
This series was replaced in 1972 by the 620 (single and 2- and 4-door double cab) pickup. Yue Loong again created a 4-door wagon, as well as a 3-door wagon with side benches, and its own 4-door double cab pick-up.
An independent front suspension with coil springs, was initiated in the 1959/60 310 Bluebird sedan still with the rigid leaf suspension at the rear, and continued in the 1963/64 410 series, which now had a full monocoque body, slightly narrower than its predecessor, and would remain Japan’s best selling car until 1965, when Toyota’s lustier Corona (incl. utilities) had arrived, 5 cm wider than the Bluebird. Lifting the sloping rear end of the Bluebird sedan in spring 1966 didn’t help, also as Toyota had added a hardtop, and even a hatchback to its line. Nissan would make its 1965 pick-up and wagon/van derivatives 8 cm wider than the 410 passenger car line, and denominate it the 520 series, rather than 420, and without the decreasing character line of the Bluebird wagon.
Then for 1967/68 came the illustrious 510 Bluebird with struts in front and a rear semi-trailing coil suspension, but the wagon kept the rigid leaf rear suspension, that was originally intended for the sedans as well and used in countries like Mexico and Taiwan, and for the taxi in Japan by 1971/72, to be succeeded by the 1973 Nissan Violet (710). The 510 series was called as such in the USA and 1300/1400/1600 in the export, and would continue for a year next to the 610 series. In Japan from September 1970, a year before the arrival of the Bluebird-U, the L18 1770cc engine was introduced in the SSS for a year.
The 1971/72 Bluebird-U (export 160B/180B) 610 series retained the semi-trailing arms at the rear, except for the wagon. In the United Kingdom, ‘Bluebird’ was added to the number/letter designations.
The 1976/77 Bluebird (810 series) reverted to the rigid leaf rear suspension for the Japanese domestic and general export markets, except for the SSS and 6-cylinder models, and then after a year changed to Nissan’s first live axle with coils, earlier in 1977 introduced in the Laurel. In Europe and Australia the semi-trailing independent rear suspension was retained, and in some markets like Australia and Sweden replaced by the live axle as well by 1977/78 for the sedan models. By 1979, the ‘Bluebird’ name was generally adopted in Europe. The Datsun 810 cars for North America (6-cylinder) kept the semi-trailing arms. In all cases however, the wagons had the rigid leaf rear suspension.
The next generation 1979/80 910 series Bluebird arrived as a Nissan in Japan, but was elsewhere still a Datsun until 1983/84. By 1982, the ‘Bluebird’ name was adopted generally in the export worldwide. From 1982, wagons for Japan (but not the business-oriented ‘van’), Europe and USA/Canada adopted the 4-link coil rear suspension. Six-cylinder models were now reserved for North America.
The 1966 Sunny had a transverse leaf wishbone front suspension, and a rigid leaf rear suspension. The larger 1970 (110 series) models changed to front struts, retained by the 1973 (210) models. The 310 series 1977/78 models received a live axle at the rear with coils, except for the wagon. In 1979 arrived a wagon with lowered roof on the rear coil suspension. This generation became a Nissan in Japan for 1980/1981.
In South Africa in 1977, the (110 series) Datsun 1200 ½-ton pick-up (bakkie in Afrikaans), then sold as ‘Datsun 120Y’ was the best selling utility (often used as a private car), after the (210 series) 120Y/140Y car range had been the best seller there the previous year. Toyota entered the Publica-based 1200 pick-up (also known as Corolla pick-up) in late 1977, for some years. By 1980 Nissan fitted the 1.4-litre engine and renamed it the ‘Datsun 1400’. During most of the 1980s it held the 3rd place in the commercial vehicle field, far outselling its front-wheel-drive competitors Ford/Mazda and Volkswagen (Golf). In October 1985, after a production run of 125,000 units, Nissan raised the cab with 3 cm, and the rear window moved backward with 55 mm, while power front disc brakes were fitted. Then, in March 1988, a 5-speed gearbox became available. Production would end here in 2007, while in Japan, where the above amenities (incl. the 1.4-liter engine) weren’t included, it had stopped 9 years earlier for the export.
With thanks to South African CAR magazine
Far East Auto Literature, 2018
updated: 20 July 2018