Category Archives: Datsun

Chevette: cheapstakes survivor

 

Yes, there is a cheaper way to get around

Yes, there is at least one cheaper way to get around

GM built the Chevette from 1976 through 1987.  In terms of sales, it was one of the most successful, albeit rudimentary, cars ever offered for sale in the United States.  It was the corporation’s entry level hatchback,  a front engine, rear wheel drive low tech showcase that found millions of buyers around the world in numerous badge-engineered incarnations marketed as a models of Opel, Vauxhall, Isuzu, Pontiac as well as Chevrolet.  Almost three million units were sold in the U.S. over that eleven year model run but the percentage that have survived seems to be miniscule.

Muscle machine

Muscle machine

Cheapness was Chevette’s calling card.  You could buy a new one for under $3,000; used cars were its main competition and, as a result, Chevette was thought of as something quasi-disposable in its day.  We can’t remember the last time we saw one on a city street so the sight of a first or second year (there’s no discernible difference) example in very presentable shape stopped us in our tracks.  The car is simplicity itself and powered by a 1.4 four cylinder motor that developed just 53 horsepower in base form. But Chevette wasn’t about 0 – 60 times (for the record: a glacial 19.6 seconds), it was about, well, being cheap and that it certainly was.  It had rear drum breaks and the headliner was made of cardboard but really who cared?

Hatch? Natch?

Hatch? Natch?

We’ll tell you who cared: a woman of our acquaintance who graduated from high school in the late ’70s.  Her parents told her to go outside and see what was in the driveway and there it was: a new Chevette with a bow on it,  a  graduation gift.  She burst into tears; her parents thought they were the joyful kind but we know otherwise.  The car, even in its day, was anything but aspirational.

Shining Starlet

Shining Starlet

Chevette was GM’s answer to two problems:  addressing the shortcomings of its predecessor, Vega and to staunch the tide of Japanese imports.  Vega had a well deserved horrific reputation. They were prone to self-immolation when the aluminum and iron in its ill-conceived motor  expanded and contracted at different rates, making engine cooling to an oft-times theoretical matter.  Speaking of metal, Vega’s body, especially in proximity to road salt,  was prone to rust within just a few months of purchase.  Chevette was more corrosion resistant and its cast iron motor swelled and shrank at a uniform rate.

Starlet bright, Starlet light...

Starlet bright, Starlet light…

As far as the Japanese imports were concerned, Toyota and Datsun, before it transformed into Nissan, had been major players in the automotive “cheapstakes” for many years.  Their products vanquished Volkswagen, the previous low price leader, and with good reason.  They were economical to buy, to operate and they weren’t all that crappy.  Sightings of vintage Japanese entry level cars are, therefore, a somewhat less uncommon sight than surviving Chevettes.

Datsun 'nuff!

Datsun ’nuff!

We were pretty thrilled to happen upon a Toyota Starlet, probably an ’82, the other day that beat Chevette at its own game.  It, too, was rear wheel drive and powered by a small (1.3 liter) four but seemed to have been put together with more attention to detail.  Starlet was only sold in the U.S. market for three model years and, as a result has something of a cult following.

OK, B-210, see if we care!

OK, B-210, see if we care!

We found a pristine Datsun B-210, probably a ’78, the other day and were taken with its strange proportions.  It seems like a tiny blimp on little wheels but who are we to throw esthetic stones?  It got 50 mpg and this one is in great shape so let’s call it a real value proposition.

We're not lying, it's really an Isuzu

We’re not lying, it’s really an Isuzu

Lastly, we found a late ’80s Isuzu I-Mark, a woeful little hatchback that had previously shared much DNA with Chevette. Despite appearances, this one was a more modern car with front wheel drive and was sold with different badging as the Chevrolet Spectrum and, later, as the Geo Spectrum.  A rose by any other name, eh? Isuzu was GM’s Japanese chattel brand for a time and turned tail and fled the U.S. car market by 2006.  There’s not much remaining evidence of the brand’s presence in the market save those Joe Isuzu commercials you can find on Youtube.

Blue- ish

Blue- ish

Just as this post was going to bed we happened on another Chevette so maybe they’re more durable than we thought.  This was a later (’84?) four door model that fairly defines the phrase “basic transportation.”

Maybe it's not such a dog..

Maybe it’s not such a dog..

We looked far and wide for Chevettes for sale but drew a blank.  We did find a great commercial for Chevette from an Elmhurst, IL dealership.  The “Shee-cah-go” accents are worth clicking to hear.  You can get this pretty swell ’81 Toyota Starlet in nearby El Paso, IL for a mere $2400.  It has under 78,000 miles on it so there’s lots of life left in this little number!

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com OR through our Facebook page.

Note: While we strive for factual accuracy in our posts, we readily acknowledge that we we sometimes make inadvertent mistakes.  If you happen to catch one please don’t sit there and fume; let us know where we went wrong and we’ll do our best to correct things.

 

 

 

Datsun enough for now?

The fairest of them all?

The fairest of them all?

Somehow, we missed out on the 80th anniversary of the founding of  Jidosha-Seizo Co., Ltd., on the day after Christmas in 1933.  The company, later known as Nissan, commenced to build Datsun cars and trucks, shortly thereafter, including this stellar 1969 2000 Roadster which did everything that an MG-B of the time did except break down regularly. These Datsun roadsters, which bore the Fairlady name in the home market, deemed not macho enough for American sports car enthusiasts , helped add glow to the brand whose bread and butter vehicles were less glamorous small cars and compact trucks.

From the land of the rising (Dat) sun

From the land of the rising (Dat)sun

Datsun pickups, such as this one that has been decorated with a symbol that might be associated with imperialist interventionism, were the leading edge in the small truck revolution that began in the 60s.  We doubt that the legions of pool men, pizza delivery guys and gardeners who flocked to Datsun’s rugged and appropriately-sized offerings, had any designs on Manchuria or The Philippines.

Cute widdle white wagon

Cute widdle white wagon

Datsun’s 510 line — badged Bluebird in Japan — built the brand’s reputation for quality and value.  We found a splendid 1970 white wagon that illustrates the classic appeal of the car’s tasteful design.  These were terrific rally cars and known as “the poor man’s BMW,” a reference to some engineering similarities with BMW’s 1600/2002.  The 510 was Datsun’s “big” car, the smaller offering being the 210 and 1200, known as the Sunny outside North America. We like this 1971 1200 Coupe, riding on some gnarly aftermarket wheels and tires, finished in sunburned orange with vanilla highlights like a Creamsicle® ice cream pop, a.k.a. “50/50 bar.”  The “Datsun” script on the rear fender is “classique” to our eyes.

Too much sun for Sunny?

Too much sun for Sunny?

The Datsun name was abandoned and all products from the mid-1980s onward were sold as Nissans.  Now in its 80th year, Nissan has seen fit to relaunch the Datsun brand with a focus on basic products marketed in developing countries.  Do we qualify?

The corporate image folks at Nissan offer this 3 minute  video history of what’s happened since December 26, 1933. Domo arigato!

Here’s a much better than fair Fairlady that you can make your own for the right price.

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com  OR through our Facebook page.

 

 

Big buzz from The Dodge Boys

Anaphylactic shocker

Anaphylactic shocker

It’s not common that a mid-60s muscle car is found in “as is” condition; most have been restored or customized to a fare-thee-well. This ’69 Dodge Super Bee seems untouched for the most part.  Based on the mid-size Coronet, the Super Bee was the Dodge boys’ version of Plymouth’s Road Runner but their cartoon mascot was generated in-house, rather than sourced from a TV cartoon character.  It was an era when big motors were stuffed into light weight bodies as was the case with Pontiac’s GTO.  You could order one of these with the famous 426 cubic inch hemi V8 which offered 425 horsepower of tire shredding thrills.

Bee-ware!

Hive driver!

By the early ’70s, in the wake skyrocketing insurance and fuel costs, muscle cars were no longer in vogue and the original Super Bee became a victim of automotive colony collapse. But everything old is new again so Dodge recently re-introduced the Super Bee character on its current high performance iteration of the Charger.

Subtle it ain't

Subtle it ain’t

Yeah, this one’s got a hemi V8 but a four-door muscle car? Really?

Stingless bee

Stingless bee

We’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that apian imagery was also used to market a car that could be perceived as the very opposite of Dodge’s brawny stingers, both then and now.  The Datsun B210 Honey Bee was introduced as a low price leader in 1975 but a muscle car it most certainly ain’t.  80 horsepower from a 1.4 liter (85 cubic inches) motor doesn’t equal blistering acceleration but performance, clearly, wasn’t a priority. The car weighed a mere 2100 pounds, approximately half that of the current Super Bee, and Datsun claimed  41 mpg on the highway. We think that’s pretty sweet.

As noted, the original Super Bee was a variant of the Dodge Coronet so here’s a period commercial that appropriates Burt Bacharach’s “Do You Know The Way To San Jose” as the backing track for the “Dodge Is Turning Up The Fever Now” theme.  Yeah, baby!

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com  OR through our Facebook page.

Colony collapse survivor

 

Honey Bee-210

Honey Bee-210

Screen Shot 2013-09-07 at 10.31.12 PM

At one time this was one of, if not the cheapest car you could buy.  A bottom of the line Datsun B-210 dressed up like a bumble bee signaled to the world, “Hey, this is all I can afford and I’m willing to accept this nutty paint scheme to save money.”  It got 41 mpg so maybe worth the potential ridicule. This ’76(?) example sports Japanese home market style fender mirrors and maglite type wheels.  Ouch! It stings!

Specs here

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting please send it to us:    info (at) feralcars (dot)com                                                                                                                   Include your name, location of the car and some thoughts about the vehicle and we’ll look into getting it posted