Jeffrey, I feel your pain. I had a used Datsun 510 for a short time. A friend of mine had a 240Z. They were fun cars and got better gas mileage than the 1970 Olds Delta 88 my father wanted to give me ("Just give me $25."). On the other hand I had different problems than you did, but there we lots of problems. They were also pretty fragile.
What really struck me was an article I saw a short while back in a newspaper talking about the return of the Datsun brand. Nissan owns Datsun. You will notice that no Datsuns are sold anymore. In this newspaper article they claim that Nissan dropped the Datsun brand to unify their brand image. That is bunk! They did it becuause of the quality problems the cars had, including a very bad problem with rust. The Z car had a special problem with rust on the frame where the differentiall was attached.
It seems that they are bringing back the Datsun brand for inexpensive cars to be sold in developing country markets. That is appropriate. I think they would have touble with it here.
The "Datsun" brand name has been gone off US markets for 25 years or so, right-? I remember when the "Z" cars (everyone's secret yearning) were the Datsun 240Z, the 280Z, and then suddenly the "Nissan" 300Z. My mind puts that roughly about 1985. But it's all a blurrrrr,,,,,
I travel a lot on business and had an overnight trip to Omaha back in the mid 80s. The rental counter said that they were short cars but did have a one if I knew how to drive stick. My first two cars were sticks ('65 Comet and '68 Javelyn) so I said sure. They gave me the keys and told me where it was parked and I found a silver 280Z waiting for me. Too bad it was only an overnight trip.
That was the first time I had a 5 speed transmission and loved it. I really did turn heads while driving through Omaha.
Eventually I had another 5 speed, a Saturn SL2. That I did have for 5 years before my son took it over. Really did like driving in snow with a stick. Of course now I livve in the deseert of AZ so that is only a bad memory.
You're right about the Datsun brand name, naperlou. There was good reason for putting that behind them. It's amazing how much vehicle reliability has improved in the last 30 years -- not only at Nissan, but for all automakers. Tales like these are a lot less frequent these days.
Charles, spot on observation that cars have gotten so much better over the last 30 years. We have three cars in our family now, and none of them hardly ever need anything but oil changes and tires. We have a total of 19 "car-years" of ownership between the three cars and have not been stranded or had major expensive failures in any of them.
These are the very reasons that my dad made sure my first car was American made. Not that there weren't problems at the time, but they weren't anything like this. Things have sure changed on both the US and import side. (Including the fact that the "imports" are made in the US).
naperlou, Thanks for your understanding of the Datsun Pain. If I were Nissan, I wouldn't use the Datsun name for anything, even low cost entry markets, for maybe another 50 years. The people who decided to do that never owned one like either of us did.
I had a new Mustang in the mid-eighties, which wasn't the best time for American car manufacturers. The car began to run oddly, stumbling and sometimes surging. Several times the car was sent in for warranty service, and I became suspicious of the trouble shooting process since so many electronic components were being replaced, yet the problem continued. This was in the early years of under the hood electronics and mechanics were frequently replacing anything with a cable harness in the hopes of finding the problem.
After bringing the car home with a drive that still had the same symptom I opened the hood to see what was being replaced and why. To my horror I found that a cable harness had been burned, but that the fire was not recent. The wire to the choke heater had burned and melted several wires together along with some plastic vacuum lines that were in the same bundle. The entire cable harness, a little more than 2 feet in length, was now a melted chunk of plastic. Despite that the vehicle was only a month old I performed the repairs myself because I was afraid that the mechanics would just twist new wires together and roll it all up with some electrical tape.
Not too surprisingly, now that the engine management system could receive the correct signals and control combustion again, the car began to run properly without any new components.
I spent the late 70s and 80s helping my father do freelance automotive work (in addition to his day job), and got a worm's-eye view of the utterly shameful products Detroit was putting out during that period (and I say that as a Detroit native). And the UAW and Big Three wonder why there's an entire generation out there that still equates "imports" with "quality." I remember my father buying his first-ever import because, after a year of shopping the dealerships, he couldn't find any American-made car in his price range that he was willing to trust. And this was a man who'd spent his life doing all his own car maintenance!
My first car was a 1984 Ford LTD station wagon (bought from my mother for $1). It was gently used and got good maintenance, but by 120,000 miles the engine was a complete writeoff. My father and I ended up spending months rebuilding it from the block up, but after that the body started falling apart. And don't even get me started on the fuel pump idiocy....
Of course, my sister (whose husband is a Ford employee) just last year had to get rid of their Ford Expedition well before it hit the 100,000 mile mark because it was a complete lemon (including blowing a spark plug right out of the head while they were towing their camper), and no amount of repairs ever got rid of all the problems. OTOH, we both now drive crew-cab F150s which (knock on wood) seem to be holding up nicely. But Ford always did seem to pay extra attention to protecting the F150 brand.
Yes, the Eighties were a bad time for Detroit. That same Mustang developed a "tick" after 30K. I lived with it until 70K. The cam shaft had a deep groove on one lobe and when I pulled it out I found that a piece of teflon tape from the nose had worked its way into the journal for that lobe, starving it for oil from day one. The car lived without major repairs for another 100K.
Times have changed, my son put 300K on his Focus, and I had 230K on my Explorer before retiring it. In the Eighties Detroit just didn't seem to understand how important quality was and also how important to business a good "starter" vehicle is. People bought lack luster American vehicles and then turned to imports that put great efforts into their small vehicles. One of my favorites was an early Ninties Mitsubishi that had outstanding engineering. The cheap little car even had roller rockers.
I had a Datsun 510 sedan and station wagon, 1200, and a "68" 2000 Fair lady (roadster)...
Never had any significant electrical problems with any of them..
510 sedan.. at night, flipped it on a mountain road (car coming other direction with "high beams on", causing me to take the curve too wide. (no , it didn't hurt)
2000 Fair lady... The Judge made me sell it (I was young and loved speed).. Have you ever gotten 18 "points" in one week? I grin every time I think about that car.
1200 (square back , not hatchback) .... lot of miles.. but fell asleep while driving - totaled it... (yes , it hurt)
510 wagon.. stayed in the family for over 20 years! Abused it with truly scary "off roading" expeditions, (ever spend an afternoon "jumping" your car several feet in the air?) The only electrical problem: fractured alternator mount (belt slipping under load).. Yes , I did have to do some maintenance, but it still holds the title of " the cheapest cost of ownership of any car I have ever owned" ($0.04 / mile for purchase of car, gas, oil, maintenance, insurance -everything included).. gave to youngest brother for his first car...
There are always the possibility of getting a lemon.
My bad wiring story finds me, my spouse and her 1200 suddenly slowing to a crawl in Ludington, Michigan. Opening the hood (in a sandstorm, of course) I found the plastic-sheathed accelerator cable had melted. The battery ground cable had gotten disconnected (I postulated that somebody in Detroit the previous day had tried to steal the battery), and the only ground connection to the engine was through the accelerator cable sheath. The heat from the current had finally melted it.
I was able to crank up the idle so we could drive at 25 MPH to the nearest dealer, who was 75 miles away across Lake Michigan, in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Fortunately, that was 5 miles of driving, and the rest sailing on the ferry.
My father in law, who fought "the Japs" in the war, was continually dissing the 1200. He claimed the engine block was made from melted down B-25's. Perhaps true, because the piston rings lasted 40,000 miles. And the rear brake cylinders split one day when I stood on the brakes to avoid a Buick running a stop sign.
Despite being Ziebarted, the car was a rolling chemistry demonstration of NaCl+H20+Fe => FeO2. I pop-riveted sheet metal over the holes, and gooped it up with roof patching compound.
Certainly NOT my first vehicle, but in Oct 1969 I picked up a 1970 MUSTANG MACH I in mdium blue metallic w/ 351 Cleveland, close-ratio 4-speed, HURST Shifter, "posi" rear & AM-FM radio, . No other amenities. At the time I needed to quench my desire for "go fast"! At any rate, since this was an early build vehicle, many of the underpinnings were from the '69 MUSTANG, save the obvious changed body panels. And, one of those items was the speedometer cable. While the dash layout was different from 1969 to 1970 models, the cables must have been an afterthought since the cable on my vehicle was too short, and constantly became disconnected. Several trips to the dealer did not rectify the problem. They finally resorted to having an independent speedometer repair facility custom fabricate a new cable, since ALL the FORD part numbers were incorrect.
Needing more reliable & more economical transportation, I traded it in 1972 for a DATSUN 510 Station Wagon. In over 100K miles, NEVER did anything to it except change oil, normal maintenance, etc. Sold it in 1976 to a friend's father-n-law, who drove it for several more years. The ONE big complaint was that the body panels rusted out, BUT mechanically & electrically, it was PERFECT. And, one minor complaint, when traveling in cold winter climate, with the defroster running full speed, the heated air was insufficient to keep the windshield free of ice/snow/freezing rain build-up. Several of those trips had to be interrupted to physically remove the build-up from the glass.
When that vehicle was gone, I purchased a 1976 TOYOTA CELICA hatchback (looked like a 1960s Mustang). All these vehicles were garage-kept. In only a few years, the bulbous gasket sealing the hatchback became loose & floppy. Inspecting the cause, it was immediately evident that it was improperly designed. The turned-up lip of body sheetmetal had completely rusted away, giving no support structure for the gasket.
Traded that vehicle in for a 1980 DATSUN 200SX, a sporty job, which was very comfortable, great on gas, and trouble-free. Sold it to the neighbor's son, a college student at the time for a FORD BRONCO II.
We've had the two DATSUN vehicles in our family, and I can honestly reflect that of all the vehicles that we've owned in the past 60 years, those two DATSUNs provided very reliable transportation in all conditions. Can't say that about that CELICA, since there were several other mechanical problems. I would say that TOYOTA has made GIANT leaps of quality since then, since our last three CAMRYs have been an absolute joy to own, and virtually maintenance-free, except for preventive care.
vandamme, I am sorry you and your spouse had electrical problems with your 1200 as I did. Your story struck a chord with me. When I was very young, my dad bought a 58 Plymouth and we went on a real driving summer vacation a week or so after he bought it, to Michigan from our home in Chicago. Dad's Plymouth blew a head gasket, in of all places, Ludington! Spent the whole vacation in Ludington.
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