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The Complete Guide to Classic Datsun Cars and Trucks

1958 Datsun 210 Model
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The Datsun 210 went into production in October 1957 and continued through until September 1958. In an odd marketing move the new 210 was released at the same time as the new Datsun 114 sedan. The 114 was the direct replacement for the previous Datsun 113, and the Datsun 210 entered the range as a higher specification version of the 114. 
 The body of the Datsun 210 is pretty much identical to the one used for the previous Datsun 113 model, the only major difference being a slightly altered grille support panel at the front of the car that allows the new grille to protrude forward slightly. The new grille design features three large horizontal bars, and a raised section at the top that incorporates a red DATSUN badge.  
 The other distinguishing feature of the Datsun 210 is that it has stainless steel side strips that start at the front of the car and finish about 4/5's of the way along the front door. The 113, and the new 114 had no side strips, and the later 211 had full length strips. 
 Side mounted badges in the car say DATSUN 1000. There is a round badge in the centre of the dashboard that says DATSUN 1000. 
When the Datsun 210 first went into production in October 1957 it used the same indicator/flasher system as the previous 113, which consisted of a double ended bullet shaped indicator assembly that sat on the top of the front guard/fender, as seen in the photo above. It had no indicators at the front of the car, or at the back, the rear of the car had only two stop lights. 
In response to feedback from the Americans, after trialing the car in the USA, the indicator system was changed in early 1958. The top mounted 'bullets' were removed and indicators were fitted to the front of the car, either side of the grille, and also at the back of the car just above the stop lights. 
 Mechanically the 210 was very similar to the previous Datsun 113, running the same chassis, steering and reverse Elliot I beam front suspension, but the big changes were made in the engine bay.  
  The 210 was the first Datsun to have a relatively modern engine. The old 860cc side valve D10 engine, which was little more than a mildly updated version of the pre-war Datsun engine, was replaced with the new 988cc over head valve Datsun C series engine. The new engine developed 37hp, a substantial jump up from the 25hp produced by the old side valve engine.  
 The fact that the new C series engine looked a lot like the Austin B series engine was no coincidence. In 1953 Nissan signed a licencing agreement with Austin, allowing Nissan to build and sell Austin A40s and A50s in Japan. Nissan based their next generation of engines on these Austin designs. 
The Datsun 210 became the first Datsun to be fitted with 12 volt electrical systems, all prewvious models had 6 volt systems.  
 Although it was based on the Austin engine, it wasn't a direct copy. In the late 1950s Nissan hired an American engineer by the name of Donald Stone to work on the C series engine, and he made several modifications to the Austin engine, improving oil seals and head designs, resulting in substantial performance and reliability gains over the Austin design. These early C series engines were known in Japan as the "Stone engine" in honour of their designer. 
   The Datsun 114, which continued to be built alongside the 210, continued to use the old D-10 side valve engine. 
 Like most small cars of the era, the Datsun 210 was a fairly basic little car. There were only a few options available, which were a heater, a clock, a radio, fog lights, white wall tyres, and a stainless steel strip that runs along the sills. Export cars all had the 5.13:1 ratio final drive, but the Japanese domestic market 5.57:1 differential was also available as an option. For countries with poor quality fuel a low compression engine, with a 7:1 compression ratio, was also available. 
 A heavy duty suspension with 7 leaf springs on each wheel, instead of the usual 5 at the front and 6 at the back, was also an option. The 210 was known in Japan at the time as the "Isha-no" car, or Doctor's car, as they were commonly used by local doctors, and were often seen being used for house calls. 

A Landmark Vehicle in Nissan's History 
The Datsun 210 is a landmark vehicle in Nissan's history, for two very different reasons. Firstly, it was the first Japanese car to enjoy any real success as an export. The 210 marked Nissan's first attempts to sell cars in substantial quantities outside of Asia. In 1957 Nissan exported 739 vehicles, in 1958 export sales jumped to 3232, most of which were 210s, including 1318 sold in the USA. 

But perhaps more significantly, the Datsun 210 had the honour of becoming the first Japanese car to have motorsport success in the international arena. In 1958 Nissan entered two Datsun 210s into the torturous Mobilgas Trial, an epic 16250 kilometre treck around Australia. Out of the 67 cars entered only 36 made it to the finish line. Two of those 36 cars to finish were the two Datsun 210s, with "Fuji-Go" the red car, coming first in it's class. This stunning result from an unknown car maker helped establish a reputation for reliability for the brand, even before the first cars went on sale in Australia in 1960. By 1963 more Datsuns were being sold in Australia than the United States.

 
A Japanese sales brochure for the Datsun 210.
 
An English language sales brochure for the 210.

1958 Datsun 210     
Specifications      
Length - 3880mm   
Width - 1466mm   
Height - 1500mm   
Wheelbase - 2220mm   
Weight - 895kg   
Top speed - JDM 95kph 
       - Export 120kph 

Transmission - Column change 4 speed


Engine Specifications 
OHV 4 Cylinder  
Model - C   
Capacity - 988cc   
Bore & Stroke 73x59mm   
Power - 37bhp@4600rpm   
Torque - 49ft/lb@2400rpm   
Compression - 7.5 : 1   
Carburettor - Hitachi Solex VA-26-6 26mm single throat down draught 

Final drive   
JDM - 5.57 : 1   
Export - 5.13 : 1

 

Model Variations
 
1958 1/2 Model Datsun 210  
 In early 1958 there was an update of the Datsun 210, which required changes to several panels on the car. As mentioned above, the location of the indicators was changed, with the removal of the 'bullet' shaped indicators from the top of the guards, and the instalation of front and rear indicators. These changes can be seen in this photo of a 210 Mark 2 car, or a 1958 1/2 model as it is sometimes called. 
 The other big change for this model is that the rear windscreen has been enlarged. The previous model had a rear screen that was 34 inches wide and 11 inches tall, on the mark 2 car the screen is 36 inches wide and 12 inches tall. 
 A change to the interior door trim also occured at the same time, with this version now having two toned vinyl door trims. 
 Rather mysteriously, the 1958 1/2 210 is quoted as weighing 30kg more than the original model.
Datsun W210  
 The Datsun W210 was the station wagon version of the Datsun 210 sedan. It was introduced at the same time as the sedan and features a two piece cargo door, with a framed glass section that opens upwards, and a lower section that folds downwards. 
 Mechanically it is the same as the sedan.
Datsun M210  
 The M210 is an ambulance / medical specialty vehicle based on the W210 wagon.
Datsun 220 Commercial Vehicles 
 A range of small commercial vehicles based on the Datsun 210 sedan were also produced at the same time. This range of vehicles, called the 220 series, included a pickup truck and a light van, as well as other variants. More information about these vehicles can be found in the Datsun 220 section.
Datsun 114  
 The Datsun 114 was a lower specification version of the 210. The 114 featured an 860cc side valve engine and was sold at a lower price than the 210. Information about this model can be found on the Datsun 114 page.
 

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