Through the years, Nissan’s product planning has typically been as scattershot as Holden’s was. The Japanese model’s historical past is plagued by nameplates that lasted solely a single era, from the Almera to the Serena.
Likewise, even long-running Nissan mannequin strains have featured short-lived variants – witness the Navara and Pathfinder 550 fashions with their 170kW/550Nm turbo-diesel V6s, or the R30 Skyline, the one Skyline to supply a hatchback physique fashion.
Nissan is presently within the midst of revitalising its lineup, launching new Qashqai, X-Path and Pathfinder SUVs plus a new Z this 12 months. Subsequently, we thought we’d have a look again on the model’s vibrant historical past in Australia, together with autos from earlier than the Nissan identify was even getting used right here.
The Datsun 200B was a “180B with 20 extra errors”, or so the outdated saying goes. And but, the 200B usually offered higher than the 180B and remained one among Australia’s well-liked mid-sizers.
The 200B’s success in Australia stands in distinction with its gross sales efficiency in Japan, the place it was a business failure. That explains why the 810-series Bluebird, because it was recognized there, was solely in manufacturing there for simply over three years.
Although it was out there with an extended nostril and a straight-six engine in markets like Japan and the US, the 200B was launched late in 1977 with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder producing 70kW and 152Nm and mated with both a four-speed handbook or three-speed computerized.
Initially, the 200B vary was imported from Japan and, unusually for this phase in Australia however like its 180B predecessor, it was fitted in sedan and coupe variants with an unbiased rear suspension; the wagon had a dwell rear axle with leaf springs. However regardless of the presence of IRS, the times of the dynamic 1600 (aka 510) have been a fuzzy reminiscence at this level.
Up to date evaluations discovered the 200B totally underwhelming, from its noisy engine to its obscure recirculating ball steering (widespread amongst Japanese mid-sizers), and its detached dealing with.
Styling was nonetheless usually heavy-handed Nineteen Seventies Datsun. Although the 180B’s bulges and coke-bottle contours have been toned down, it seemed a bit flabby, notably towards the likes of the crisper Sigma and Ford TE Cortina.
The SSS coupe was no nice magnificence, both, that includes an uncommon roof line with a separate rear window. It was slightly paying homage to the 1974-76 Ford Gran Torino coupe – this was a time when the Japanese manufacturers have been very a lot impressed by the American automakers, at the same time as American designs traded their good-looking strains from the Sixties for pretentious grilles, opera home windows and padded vinyl roofs.
The lone two-door upgraded from a four-speed to a five-speed handbook, with a three-speed computerized nonetheless non-compulsory; the five-speed was criticised for confusingly having reverse the place first gear can be in most vehicles. Outputs have been unchanged, although there have been distinctive wheels and extra comfort gadgets.
Whereas 200B gross sales have been up over the favored 180B, your complete phase had been buoyed by a big shift – notably by fleet operators – in the direction of mid-sized vehicles within the wake of the primary oil disaster. And the 200B couldn’t benefit from the exalted standing of Australia’s hottest mid-sizer, with that honour bestowed upon the Chrysler (later Mitsubishi) Sigma, launched in 1977. By 1980, the Sigma had a 28 per cent share of the phase and the 200B was behind at 16 per cent.
In 1978, as a part of a shift to native manufacturing, all sedan fashions switched to a locally-built Borg-Warner dwell rear axle with coil springs to achieve an 85 per cent native content material goal; the wagons and the imported SSS coupe caught with their current rear suspension set-ups.
Whereas switching from IRS to a dwell rear axle appears like a retrograde step, up to date evaluations discovered the 200B to be improved from the change, doubtless because it concerned extra in depth native engineering.
The SSS coupe proved to be short-lived, discontinued throughout 1979. A 12 months earlier, a sporty-looking SX sedan was launched. This was developed regionally, not at Datsun’s Japanese HQ, and featured a novel entrance finish with a racy air dam, plus alloy wheels, pinstripes, and lurid striped fabric upholstery, although it lacked the SSS’s five-speed handbook. It additionally featured stiffer springs than the remainder of the sedan vary, delivering a firmer experience.
The SX’s new entrance finish presaged a 1980 facelift the place your complete 200B vary ditched its buck-toothed entrance fascia and acquired a raft of enhancements, together with revised suspension, decreased noise and vibration, a brand new variable-ratio steering field, and new seats. The 200B had by now arguably turn out to be the automobile it ought to have been all alongside.
Although it was short-lived in Japan, the 200B lingered on right here till 1981 when the brand new Bluebird was lastly launched, round two years after it appeared on its house market. There’d be no coupe like in Japan, though the ostensibly sporty TR-X variant can be a successor to the 200B SX.
Earlier than the Nissan Pulsar was constructed regionally and have become one among Australia’s best-selling small vehicles, there was the short-lived, imported Datsun Pulsar. It’s maybe most noteworthy for its uncommon coupe variant, offered for just one 12 months.
The late Nineteen Seventies and early Eighties was a transition interval for Datsun’s small automotive vary. The 120Y might have been unusual-looking and dynamically so-so and but it was well-liked. What would assume its mantle?
First got here the Stanza sedan in 1978, a locally-built model of a automobile recognized in Japan because the Violet and which dusted off the vaunted Datsun 510 nameplate in some markets. It slotted slightly below the 200B, with which it shared numerous parts, and sat above the imported Sunny sedan, coupe and wagon, launched in 1979 and the next-generation model of the 120Y. Lastly, the imported Pulsar hatchback arrived in 1980, two years after its Japanese launch.
It acquired off to a gradual begin, however Nissan noticed which approach the market was heading. It had supplied a small, front-wheel drive hatchback for the reason that 1970 Cherry, however had by no means offered these fruity Nissans right here.
It had additionally endured with rear-wheel drive for the bigger 1200/120Y/Sunny however the extra space-efficient front-wheel drive format had been quickly proliferating by way of this phase, and the B310 era of Sunny can be the final with rear-wheel drive.
Manufacturing of the B310 Sunny led to 1981, with the B11 Sunny/Sentra switching to front-wheel drive. Likewise, the bigger Stanza would swap to front-wheel drive in 1981 and the Bluebird in 1983, however neither can be offered right here. Nissan Australia endured with its rear-wheel drive Bluebird, however established the Pulsar as its entry-level front-wheel drive mannequin.
The 1980 N10 era was primarily an imported stopgap mannequin till the N12 hatchback and sedan would enter native manufacturing in 1983, and went up towards new front-wheel drive fashions just like the Ford Laser, Mazda 323 and Mitsubishi Colt. Datsun even referred to it as “the forerunner of a brand new breed of automotive designed for complete vitality effectivity” in its promoting.
The Pulsar had a base value greater than that of the Sunny, Stanza and even the 200B (the latter by $100), but it surely did have an honest checklist of normal package for a small automotive in 1980 with tinted home windows, fabric upholstery and distant gasoline door and hatch releases.
It used a dated pushrod 59.6kW/112Nm 1.4-litre four-cylinder from the Sunny wagon when many rivals have been utilizing overhead-cam engines. Nevertheless, it was mated solely with a five-speed handbook transmission when some rivals have been nonetheless utilizing four-speeds. Additionally noteworthy was the Pulsar’s use of four-wheel unbiased suspension.
The packaging advantages of front-wheel drive didn’t appear to translate to the long-nosed Pulsar, as Datsun had reportedly designed it so it might be reengineered for rear-wheel drive if vital. This by no means got here to be. Critics on the time famous back-seat lodging have been none too stately, whereas dynamically the Pulsar was thought-about merely common.
Styling would get crisper with the N12, however even the N10 represented a shift away from the bizarre, natural design language of Nineteen Seventies Datsuns. Extra fussy was the coupe physique fashion, launched for 1982 as a part of a “reboot” for the Pulsar line and that includes a big rear window and a wraparound C-pillar therapy.
Surprisingly for a automobile on the finish of its lifecycle, the rebooted Pulsar acquired revised suspension and steering and two new overhead-cam four-cylinder engines: a 1.3-litre with 44kW and 96Nm, mated with a four-speed handbook, and a 51.4kW/115Nm 1.5-litre with both a five-speed handbook or three-speed computerized.
There have been now base, TL and TS trims, with the brand new coupe supplied solely within the highest stage of trim. A 3-door hatch physique fashion additionally joined the vary.
For 1981, Nissan projected 22,000 gross sales throughout the Stanza and Sunny strains, plus 6000 of the Pulsar. However in 1982, Datsun offered simply 14,662 autos throughout the Stanza and Pulsar strains, which additionally included leftover Sunny inventory. In distinction, Toyota offered 22,916 Corollas and Ford offered 40,069 Lasers, although within the Pulsar’s defence it was restricted by import quotas.
The N10 Pulsar had, nonetheless, helped introduce the idea of a small, front-wheel drive Nissan to Australian patrons and established the Pulsar nameplate. Its N12 successor would show rather more well-liked.
A 12 months after the Pulsar was redesigned, a brand new variant joined the vary but it surely’s now an nearly fully forgotten footnote.
Although no wagon was out there within the Pulsar vary, September 1983 introduced a Pulsar Van to interchange the defunct Datsun Sunny Van. It was claimed to be the primary front-wheel drive half-tonne van offered in Australia, and boasted a payload of 540kg whereas weighing simply 840kg. Owing to its load-lugging pretensions, the rear suspension featured a beam axle and leaf springs.
It wasn’t precisely a Pulsar. As an alternative, this was a rebadged AD Van, derived from the B11 Sunny/Sentra offered in markets like Japan, which was in flip mechanically associated to the Pulsar offered right here.
It was out there in only one variant, which featured headlining all through the automobile, in addition to carpeted flooring and fabric upholstery. Energy got here from a 44kW/100Nm 1.3-litre four-cylinder engine, mated to a four-speed handbook transmission.
On the time, there have been a handful of small, car-based vans in the marketplace. These included the Mazda 323, Holden Gemini, and Toyota Corolla, all of which have been rear-wheel drive. Nissan’s promotional materials touted it as having the most important load space in its class, 11 per cent bigger than that of the Mazda 323 and with 25 per cent greater payload.
Nissan evidently wasn’t in a position to promote the advantages of the Pulsar Van to a large viewers, because it lasted simply two years on the native market.
Nissan shocked many with its unconventional, boxy Prairie in 1983, and it clearly was too far outdoors the mainstream to reach Australia.
Launched in Japan in 1982 and arriving right here the next 12 months, it was rapidly adopted by the conceptually related Mitsubishi Nimbus in 1984. Each featured three rows of seats, in addition to four-cylinder engines. Each of those fashions shared mechanicals with vehicles of their model’s line-ups, as a substitute of being based mostly on supply vans, although Mitsubishi (Starwagon) and Nissan (Nomad, Urvan) would additionally provide such autos in Australia.
Mitsubishi had really been first with a design examine (the 1979 Tremendous House Wagon idea) however Nissan beat it to market. However whereas the extra conventional-looking Nimbus would go on to outlive one other three generations in Australia, the Prairie would clock out in 1985.
Whether or not you known as them individuals movers, MPVs or minivans, this format was in its infancy within the early Eighties. Renault and Chrysler had each staked a declare to inventing the trendy individuals mover – the previous with the 1984 Renault Espace, the latter with the 1984 Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager, none of which have been offered right here – however Mitsubishi and Nissan had beat them to market with their smaller fashions.
In addition to, they have been all late to the sport for those who rely the Fiat 600 Multipla or the even earlier Stout Scarab as the primary individuals mover…
The Prairie’s design appeared to pay homage to the 1979 Lancia Megagamma idea by Italdesign, although it was much more boxy and upright. There have been twin rear sliding doorways, in contrast to the Nimbus and Espace, and unusually there was no B-pillar. Nissan claimed it ensured rigidity by strengthening the construction across the facet openings and utilizing thicker metal.
Below its unorthodox pores and skin, it shared a lot with Nissan’s world small vehicles just like the Pulsar and Sentra/Sunny. It rode an extended 2510mm wheelbase than the Pulsar, however regardless of seating seven it was solely 130mm longer than a Pulsar sedan. The place it was most completely different dimensionally was in top, with its boxy, tallboy styling making it round 200mm taller than a comparable sedan.
The one engine supplied right here was a naturally-aspirated 1.5-litre four-cylinder, shared with the Pulsar, which produced 51kW of energy and 115Nm of torque. That engine was mated solely with a five-speed handbook transmission.
Why Nissan selected to solely provide this powertrain right here is unclear. Not solely have been there bigger, extra highly effective 1.8-litre and a pair of.0-litre engines supplied in different markets, the Prairie may be geared up with an computerized transmission abroad and even four-wheel drive.
The Nimbus might have been round $1000 costlier than the Prairie at first, but it surely supplied the choice of an computerized transmission and was extra highly effective (70kW/140Nm), if round 70kg heavier at 1065kg.
The Mitsubishi was additionally 195mm longer, higher proportioned and subsequently simpler on the eyes, even when it did lack the Prairie’s sliding doorways and absent B-pillar in favour of conventionally-hinged rear doorways.
The Prairie completed its run early in Australia, with the facelifted 1985 mannequin not making the journey right here. And sadly, the second-generation mannequin, which featured extra aesthetically pleasing styling within the vein of the Renault Espace, was by no means supplied right here. It was withdrawn from the US market, the place it was offered because the Axxess, after a single mannequin 12 months, and proved to be the final broadly exported Prairie era.
This Gazelle wasn’t mauled to loss of life by a lion on the African savannah, but it surely was annihilated by the Toyota Celica on the Australian new automotive market.
Nissan Australia was asleep on the swap when it determined to lastly carry the Silvia to Australia, a sporty rear-wheel drive coupe which by its third era – known as the S12 – was additionally offered in Japan below the Gazelle nameplate. The shapely notchback and hatchback have been launched right here in 1984, with the form of crisp, angular styling so very a lot in vogue.
Whereas there have been loads of new automotive patrons who merely needed the sporty seems of a coupe however didn’t essentially care what was beneath, the Gazelle was imported right here missing even the choice of the turbocharged four-cylinder engine out there in Japan and the US. A V6 mannequin was later supplied within the US but it surely additionally didn’t make the journey.
That left a fuel-injected, naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, producing 78kW of energy and 160Nm of torque and mated with both a five-speed handbook or four-speed overdrive computerized. This was the identical CA20E engine later used within the Collection III Bluebird replace and its Pintara alternative, so it was nothing inspiring.
Australian-spec Gazelles got here solely with a dwell rear axle, too, regardless of the supply of unbiased rear suspension in different markets.
Let’s not neglect, nonetheless, that the up to date rear-wheel drive Toyota Celica was hardly probably the most dynamic coupe itself. That may change late in 1985 with the launch of the fourth-generation Celica, the primary with front-wheel drive. The brand new Celica was broadly considered being vastly superior to its predecessor dynamically and was a right away hit.
The Gazelle, in the meantime, was criticised for its tender suspension tune, unrefined engine, twitchy dealing with and lifeless steering. It wasn’t even considered being on the identical stage dynamically because the carbureted, 1981-vintage third-generation Celica.
For some motive, Nissan positioned the Gazelle notchback because the extra premium of the 2 physique kinds. It got here normal with energy home windows, antenna and mirrors, alloy wheels, two further audio system (for a complete of six) and cruise management. It additionally supplied extra choices, together with an influence sunroof (handbook solely within the hatch) and energy steering.
Why Nissan selected to do that is unclear, particularly when you think about the Toyota Celica was extra well-liked as a hatchback than a notchback.
For 1986, the local-spec Gazelle acquired a sequence of mechanical revisions. Chief amongst these was the belated introduction of unbiased rear suspension, with semi-trailing arms, coil springs and an anti-roll bar. Rear disc brakes have been additionally made normal, whereas gear ratios have been revised for faster acceleration and a brand new exhaust system was put in.
Not that acceleration acquired all that faster, as we continued to overlook out on extra highly effective engine choices supplied abroad. No less than you may lastly get energy steering within the hatchback, and dealing with had been improved. It was pricier than earlier than, however had a decrease base value than the Celica.
The notchback was axed after 1986, leaving a single hatchback variant to soldier on till the road was axed in 1988. Nissan by no means formally offered its S13 Silvia/180SX successor right here, and but they’re plentiful and extremely wanted. The Gazelle, in distinction, has disappeared into obscurity.
Within the subsequent instalment, we’ll take a look at 5 extra Nissans you could have forgotten about.
Being a prime 10 checklist, we’ll all the time have to go away some autos on the chopping room ground. Listed below are just some honourable mentions:
- Stanza SSS
- Pulsar ET Turbo
- Pulsar SSS Vector Viscous
- Pulsar SSS sedan
- Juke Nismo