December 7, 2009
Datsun B210: Helping establish a Japanese foothold in North America
Written by andrew
It's not too often we choose to cover Japanese cars here on RWP - but a recent trip to California made me remember just how much the Asian Invasion of the 1970s helped define the current automotive landscape and it made me nostalgic for the era of the rear-wheel-drive economy car.
Datsun's B210 series, launched in the United States in 1973, was a fuel-efficient line of pint-sized coupes, sedans and wagons. The predecessor to today's rather lackluster Sentra, the B210 was an instant success the minute gas prices skyrocketed and it lives on today with a small but loyal following. A BMW 2002 it ain't, but it also cost a fraction of that default German cult car.
Powered by either a 1.3-liter or 1.4-liter four-banger, the B210 was no hot rod. Although not nearly as emissions-strangled as a V8, the four-cylinder was never rated at more than 85 horsepower. A five-speed manual came towards the end of the B210's era, but rather than offering performance benefits, its gear spacing optimized fuel efficiency. Amazingly, the EPA rated the B210 at 50 mpg with the five-speed shifter - a number achieved today (using modern calculations) only in hybrids.
It wasn't a hot handler like the 510, but contemporary media often favorably compared the B210 to the Ford Mustang II.
The B210 is extinct in most parts of North America, but thanks to California's steel body-friendly climate and a population inclined to buy imports (a friend of mine argues that Californians hate Detroit), they're not gone entirely. This one, spotted in an L.A.-area junkyard, will be crushed soon.