SUCCESS IN SIMPLICITY
THESE SMALL JAPANESE CARS FROM THE ’70 SH AD THE RIGHT FORMULA FOR THE TIME, AND, AS DONNA ND ER SON RECALLS, NISSAN IN NEW ZEALAND WENT ONE BETTER THAN THERE ST OF THE WORLD
Cheap and cheerful they might have been, yet the Datsun 1200 and 120Y were landmark cars for the Japanese industry. And while now some poke fun at the somewhat odd-looking, over-styled 120Y sedan, those who were around when the little Datsuns were in their prime have more than a passing respect for their qualities.
Most drivers on our roads today were born in the ’60s and ’70s, so they probably find it baffling to understand the simplicity of mainstream cars produced half a century ago. However, today there are much-loved and restored examples of both the rear-wheeldriven 1200 and 120Y, but few remember that New Zealand boasted its own unique sports versions that earned their stripes in racing and rallying.
These two Datsuns, in both standard and uprated forms, were a significant force as Nissan powered ahead in markets like New Zealand and the UK. The previous B10 was a 1.0-litre notchback sedan launched in 1966, the year the ‘Sunny’ name was adopted for the Japanese market and later applied to other territories including our own. In 1969,
Nissan launched the B110 1200 sedan in New Zealand late in 1970 soon after its international debut, with local assembly at the Campbell Industries Thames plant, right alongside opposition Toyota Corollas. There were 1200 pickup utes, and vans or wagons in three- or five-door forms assembled at Waitara.
The 3820mm long 1200 had gained 75kg over the featherweight B10 but was still a trim 700kg, and its clean design, handsome profile, and lack of unnecessary frills attracted early appeal. Fed by a single downdraught Aisin carburettor, the pushrod overhead-valve four-cylinder 1171cc power unit gained extra capacity over the 988cc B10 with a longer stroke, and power rose from 46kw to 51kw at 6000rpm.
Totally conventional, with light circulatingball steering, drum brakes all round, and a solid rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, the standard 1200 was a lively and commendably quiet performer. Priced at $2752, the 1200 came as standard with effective reversing lights, two-speed wipers with electric washer, a clock, and a courtesy light that operated only on the driver’s door.
The Mikan orange 1200 sedan that I road
Above: Donn Anderson’s 1200 coupé on the Skippers Road bridge near Queenstown in 1972 Below: Press advertisement for the Datsun 1200 SSS in 1972