Datsun needed a vehicle to break
into the lucrative North American sports car market,
until then dominated by British sports cars.
answer was the 'Fairlady' (here in Australia, the car was also known as the Datsun 1500 Sports). The side profile obviously
having similarities to the MGB of the time.
The first model sold in Australia was the Fairlady 1500 Sports SP310, which was released in October 1962. The Fairlady's 1488ci engine was fitted with a single side draught Hitachi "SU" style carburetor and developed 75 horsepower @ 5000 rpm.
There were rather small 13 inch wheels, drum brakes on all four wheels and a 4 speed floor change gearbox without synchro on 1st, it was certainly a car for the enthusiast only, despite Datsun usually opting to have women stand next to the car in their publicity shots.
Unique to the Fairlady 1500 Sports was the seating configuration, the early models featuring the fitment of a small sideways facing 3rd seat, mounted directly behind the driver's seat, and with the battery located under the seat. It was a good idea, but not well suited to the tall Aussie motorist, and many owners found they needed to remove the seat to allow better leg room up front.
The interior featured a painted dash with 4 large round gauges. Outside there were chrome protection strips running the length of the car, external boot lid hinges, a large handle on the boot, a smaller air intake on the bonnet, a one piece 'Datsun' bonnet badge and a grille with 5 chrome horizontal bars and 9 vertical bars.
The fabric section of the soft top came off the bows and was stored in the boot, while the chrome plated bows stowed away inside the back of the cabin. Using older style chassis development including seperate ladder frame and beam
rear axle, the Fairlady 1500 Sports did not offer rack-and-pinion steering, instead using a traditional
The Fairlady underwent many mechanical revisions during its life, the first coming in June 1963. Almost identical to the first model, the major mechanical revision was the fitment of twin Hitachi SU carburetors. The engineers also changed the camshaft, cylinder head and extractor design allowing the Fairlady Sports to develop a more healthy 85 bhp @ 5600 rpm. The DC generator was replaced by an AC unit, it now being mounted on the same side as the distributor.
The 3rd revision to the Fairlady 1500 Sports, in August 1964, was most noteable for the decision to do away with the 3rd "dicky" seat arrangement, making the car now a traditional 2 seater. In fact, the interior was the major point of change for this release, the mechanicals being carried over. The dash was now painted in a silver color (contrasting against the color of the rest of the car), and featured 2 large and 5 small round gauges. Removing the 3rd seat arrangement allowed the designers to change the soft-top design for the better, it now folding down behind the front seats.
In May 1965 Datsun released the 1600 Sports SP311. With the majority of Fairlady purchasers being men, Datsun took the decision to market the car in Australia as simply the "Datsun 1600 Sports", although in Japan the "Fairlady" moniker stayed. The 1600 Sports was now fitted with the Datsun "R" Series engine, displacing 1595cc, and fitted with the twin Hitachi SU carby's developed 96 bhp @ 6000 rpm.
There were many technical innovations introduced with the 1600 Sports, such as front disc brakes and a new 4 speed gearbox which had synchro on first. Bigger wheels were fitted to, however to accomote these Datsun were forced to make the wheel arches larger, thereby requiring the chrome protector strip to no longer run the length of the car, but stop just rearward of the front wheel arch.
A model change that lasted only 7 short months came in March 1967. The model update included a number of minor changes, most noteably the use of an alloy cylinder head, and a crankshaft with 5 main bearings (previous engines had 3). To improve the performance of the rear drum brakes, the engineers used an alloy finned design with cast iron inserts.
Datsun also fitted a tandem brake master cylinder, a common safety feature being adopted by the majority of manufacturers at the time. The dash was again modified, the 5 small gauges being replaced by a more simple 3 gauge configuration, 2 of which were combination. Sun visors were fitted, and headrests were available as an option.
The Very Collectable Datsun 2000 Sports
DATSUN 2000 SPORTS SR311
Released at the same time as the revised 1600 (March 1967
), the new Datsun 2000 was fitted with an overhead cam 1982cc "U20" series engine, with twin dual throat Solex carburetors, developing 150 bhp @ 6000 rpm, it in turn being mated to slick 5 speed gearbox.
The 2000 offered lightning acceleration, the SS quarter mile being covered in a blistering 16.3 seconds, and the car capable of maintaining 124 mph cruising speeds!
Many Datsun aficionados refer to the next iteration, released in October 1967, as the "High Screen". Given that the 2000 Sports was being manufactured primarily as an export car to the USA, it was only natural that Datsun would listen carefully to feedback from their US distributors. And the good oil had it that the windscreen was too low, allowing the taller driver to be buffeted by the wind.
You could argue that the "Wind In Your Hair" feeling was what the Datsun Sports was all about, but not if it meant buyers would look elsewhere. As a consequence, the windscreen height was raised by 2 inches and, unlike the previous models where the windscreen frame was fitted to the body of the car, the new model had the windscreen integrated into the body design, giving a little more strength and rigidity.
In November 1968
Datsun again revised the 2000 Sports, the big news being the fitment of a recirculation ball type steering box, which provided the driver a much better "feel of the road". To allow for the new steering set-up, the designers made a small modification to the front suspension cross member of the chassis and a change in the radiator design.
The interior was much the same as the 1600, but that was no bad thing. In fact the Datsun was bristling with standard kit. There were fully contoured bucket seats, 3-point seat belts, deep pile carpet, the controls and gauges were recessed into an anti-glare instrument panel, the instrumentation even including a brake-malfunctioning warning lamp. There was a 3 speed heater-demister, windscreen washers and glamorous looking vertical push button radio.
You also got a tonneay cover, reversing lights, fog lamps and a collapsible steering column. There were also some brilliant design touches made by the Datsun engineers, such as the centre console being fitted with a map light and cigarette lighter, and a fuse box located in the illuminated glove compartment (which was great provided it wasn't the fuse for the glove compartment that needed changing late at night).
Many commentators loved the car, and rightly so. During a test of the Datsun 2000 Sports in 1969, a reviewer stated "...and quite apart from these fittings, the Datsun 2000 Sports has unequalled road holding, renowned the world over. No car sits down quite so firmly around the corners. The ride is smooth but firm. Steering is precise. The car feels light - but solid. High performance and luxury - a new experience the 124 mph mover".
The final iteration was released in July 1969
, however despite the Datsun Sports providing a rewarding drive over the years, the lack of handling compared to its newer rivals saw sales start to slide. Given the number of revisions that had occured since 1965, Datsun knew they needed an all new design to be able to compete.
Enter the 240Z
and the title of 'World's best selling sports car'.