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Nissan Bluebird

P510 1600 (Mk3 Bluebird)

1 Jan 1968

A worldwide success from the moment it debuted at the 1967 Tokyo motor show, the pretty 510-series Datsun 1600 was a radical departure from the P410, and arguably Japan’s first mass-market classic.

The design – sold as a four-door sedan and (from early ’71) an attractive wagon in Australia but also available in two-door format elsewhere – was allegedly a rejected 1968 Fiat 124 proposal by Pininfarina.

Datsun also looked to Europe – BMW particularly – for its drivetrain inspiration, resulting in the 1600’s all-new 71kW 1.6-litre overhead cam four-cylinder engine, independent rear suspension and front-wheel disc brakes.

These were sensational for an inexpensive small car at the time and sales soared accordingly. Nissan switched local assembly of the 1600 to the VW plant in Victoria.

In April ’69 clap-hand wipers gave way to parallel-pattern ones, the tail-lights increased in size and the grille was revised. In early ’70 another facelift saw a new grille, larger front indicators and an all-new plastic dashboard featuring a circular rather than strip-style speedometer.

A Borg Warner three-speed automatic option also became available, along with a well-equipped GL variant in both sedan and new wagon variations.

Perhaps prematurely, the 1600 was replaced by the larger, heavier but more fussily styled 180B in October ’72, but the car continued in the limelight as a successful rally machine.

Production overseas finally ceased in 1974.

Sadly, the 180B lost the youthful aura of its predecessor, prompting Datsun to attempt a misguided resurrection of the model, as the Stanza, from 1978 to 1982.

Not only did it share nothing with the P510 1600, it was lumbered with more weight, an inferior engine, quality control issues and a (non-independent) live axle rear suspension.

Critics mauled it while few buyers were fooled.

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