Nissan Laurel/ Datsun 1800 (C30)
This was the first Nissan that from the start was a Datsun in the export (except for the low-volume 1965 Nissan Silvia, originally meant to be a Datsun in Japan, and with limited regular exports only to Australia). Though manufactured in the former Prince factory with a 1815cc Prince engine, the Laurel was a Nissan design, originally intended to be called ‘Bluebird Laurel’ as a senior car model in the Bluebird series. Nissan would create its 1.8 (1770cc) engine only in 1970. The trailing arm rear suspension that was designed for the Laurel (using some of Prince’s DeDion axle technology) found its way unexpectedly to the Bluebird a half year before. Its wheelbase was a substantial 20 cm longer, and other than what was the case with the Skyline S50, where the extra room was for the 6-cylinder engine, at the Laurel it mainly benefited the interior. The 2.0-litre that became available in Japan in mid-1970, together with Nissan’s first 2-door hardtop, also was a 4-cylinder Prince-based engine. This outstanding hardtop adopted 14 inch wheels, followed by the sedans two months later. Though somewhat wider than the 1968/69 Skyline GT C10, which used the same semi-trailing arm rear suspension, the rear tread of the Laurel was 2 cm less (but 2 cm wider than that of the Bluebird 510).
The Laurel was aimed as a personal car, to which Toyota didn’t yet have an answer. The Corona Mark II, released about a half year after the Laurel, and intended as the successor to the Corona, still had a rigid rear axle with leaf springs through 1971, even for its hardtop (and offered wagons and even pick-ups). Laurel and Mark II had about the same dimensions, but the wheelbase of the Mark II was eleven cm shorter. Set side by side with the Mark II sedans/hardtops, one out of six was a Laurel initially, but this would rise to one out of three by mid-1970, when Laurel hardtops became available, then constituting four out of ten Laurels. From here on this generation Laurel 1.8/2.0 would outsell the upper Mark II (1.9) models in Japan.
Nissan Laurel/ Datsun 200L (C130)
The second generation arrived in April 1972, three months after the new Mark II with both featuring a similar-looking “blown up” coke-bottle shape, suggesting much car for the money. The Laurel sedan now received a rigid rear axle with leaf springs, but the hardtop (less refined, but more swinging than the previous model) kept the independent suspension. The Mark II sedans/hardtops had all changed to a live rear axle with coils and a lateral track rod. In Japan, a Laurel 6-cylinder 2-liter became available from the start, but in the export it came instead of the 4-cylinder by 1975. The Laurel now took further distance from the Mark II (also available with a 6-cylinder) in all dimensions, and relative sales remained one Laurel for every two Mark II.
In Japan, the basic Laurel (1.8 DX) sedan was now somewhat less expensive than the Bluebird-U 1.8 DX sedan with its independent rear suspension, so the Laurel really wasn’t a top level Bluebird. One third of the Laurels were hardtops in the first year, but this declined to one fifth in later years (half as high as at the Mark II). The Laurel DX was about 2% more expensive than the Mark II DX (1.7). When the Mark II 1.7 became a 1.8 in August 1973, the Laurel was the cheapest, but this changed again when Toyota entered a standard model at the end of 1974. In the course of 1974, the Laurel sales went closer to those of the Mark II.
Over half of the sedans had the 6-cylinder 2-liter engine, while 30% had the 1.8 and 20% the 4-cylinder 2-liter. At the hardtop these figures were about 60%, 20% and 15% respectively.
Nissan Laurel/ Datsun 200L/240L (C230)
For the next generation, the hip up styling was tempered, but not lifted, just as with the Mark II, and both arrived around the turn of the year 1977. The Laurel had a clear wedge shape, and it surely looked better than its key competitor which sold better. The chassis dimensions were the same as for the previous generation, but the solid rear axle now was sprung by coils in the sedans and 4-cylinder hardtops, for the first time at a Nissan. The Mark II (now called Cressida in the export) grew closer to the Laurel. Following the Cedric/Gloria, the 2-door hardtop shell was given two extra doors to create a 4-door hardtop, and this body style became available in the export by 1979 as a first for a Japanese car.
Nissan Laurel/ Datsun Laurel (C31)
This next generation saw the width widened to Cedric/Gloria level, with the wheelbase retained. There were now also sedans with the independent rear suspension. At the autumn 1982 facelift, the export models became Nissans, and all general export models, not for Europe, received a hood ornament (incl. the base model), as well as the Medalist and later Grand Extra models for Japan. Laurel now sold only half as much as Mark II, and about a quarter when the Toyota Chaser and Cresta siblings are taken into account. In the last years, three out of ten Laurel/Mark II was a Laurel, and only two incl. the Toyota siblings.
Nissan Cherry/ Datsun 100A/120A (E10)
Next to the Cedric, another Nissan model with strong resemblance to an Austin, was the Cherry, which front-wheel-drive layout was an obvious copy of (Sir Alec) Issigonis’ Seven, later known as Mini. Prince had started the development of this fwd model before the merge with Nissan. The Cherry was sold in Japan by dealers that earlier handled the Cony 360 micro van/truck, built by Aichi Machine Industry, which had started a business tie-up with Nissan in 1965.
Nissan Cherry F-II/ Datsun 100A/120A F-II (F10)
The second generation was no longer available in Japan with the 1-litre engine.
Nissan Pulsar/ Datsun 100A/120A/130A/140A/150A/Cherry (N10)
The Europe-oriented Pulsar started as a 4-door fastback without rear hatch, and was deleted in Japan a half year after the release of the 5-door hatchback in September 1979, but in the general export the 4-door remained available. The facelift to rectangular headlights occurred in Japan in May 1980, and the switch to the ohc engine in March 1981, while in the export these changes took place in September 1980 and 1981 respectively, but North America had a 1.5 ohv engine for the 1981 model year.
Nissan Violet/ Datsun 140J/160J (710)
In 1973 the Violet squeezed in, after the Bluebird-U had outgrown the 510, and also to compete with the Toyota Carina from late 1970. A rigid rear axle with leaf springs was common, except for the SSS model with the semi-trailing coil suspension, which was not available in North America. South Africa used this independent treatment for all its models. In some European sales brochures, the leaves at the rear axle of the sedans were simply disregarded (the wagon wasn’t sold here).
The sloping roof line of the sedan had to be altered because of poor visibility, diminishing the counterbalancing effect of the upward running crease, but in the USA and Canada this continued in the 2-door sedan. Ten years before, Nissan had to shake up the downward running double crease in the (Pininfarina-designed) 410 Bluebird sedan, also the year before its successor came. The 710 Violet taxi continued until 1978 to benefit some more customers who praised the better rear compartment visibility, though by 1976 the larger Bluebird 810 had arrived to fulfill Nissan’s Japanese taxi duties. In the last sales months of the 710 series in spring 1977, one out of every six was a taxi.
Nissan Violet/ Datsun 140J/160J (A10)
Nissan finally had developed a 4-link rear axle with coil springs, so gone were both the semi-trailing arm independent as well as the rigid axle with leaf springs, though retained for the wagon. Curiously, the wheelbase and length were reduced with 5 cm, but safety bumpers would add 18 cm to the length of the domestic sedan after a year. The 2-door sedan kept being offered only in North America (incl. Mexico). A 5-door hatchback that arrived for the 1980 model year had a lowered roof, and would replace both the 4-door sedan and the 3-door coupe in USA/Canada, suggesting that 4-door sedan buyers would opt for the roomier (6-cylinder) 810.
In typical Japanese manner the sister car Auster, sold by the ‘Cherry’ dealer outlet to replace the Violet (deleting the base model), officially bore the name ‘Nissan Violet Auster’ at its introduction, to show its roots, though it was marketed as ‘Nissan Auster’. The ‘V’ emblem in the grille center (different from that of the Violet) became an ‘A’ in 1978. The upper-market Stanza was sold next to the Sunny in the latter’s store, while the Violet was sold next to the Bluebird, as before. The Stanza had a lower placed side strip, adopted by the Violet and Auster in 1979. Violet sold twice as much as Auster, while Stanzas took about a third of the total three models. By early 1978, one Violet/Auster coupe sold for every two sedans, two times better as the hardtop did at the previous generation.
13 August, 2018