Debunking the most common old wives’ tales
1 IT’S JAPAN’S FIRST UKBUILT CAR DESIGN
Er, no. That accolade goes to the Honda Ballade, although we will collectively recall it as the Triumph Acclaim. The first of those rolled off a UK production line in 1981, five years before the first Bluebird left Nissan’s Sunderland plant. The Acclaim was a Honda built under licence by British Leyland. The few changes allowed in the change from Honda to Triumph included slightly bigger seats and some suspension tweaks. It qualified as a British car because 70 per cent of it, by value, was locally-sourced, even though the engine and gearbox came from Japan.
2 IT KICK-STARTED UK MANUFACTURING
Nissan’s long-time importer, Octav Botnar, was instrumental in persuading Nissan to set up shop in Britain, which it did in 1986. Yet it was mainly an assembly operation for the first few months. Actual manufacturing really began in stages as body panel pressing, plastic-moulding and engine machining activities were cautiously added to the operation. It wasn’t until 1990 that entire cars were made in Sunderland. Fittingly – and somewhat ironically – that car was the new Primera, which replaced the old Bluebird.
3 BLUEBIRD EQUALLED MEDIOCRITY
It may have 1980s retro charm today, but the Bluebird never did much for the pulse of the car enthusiast. The only freakily interesting one was the Executive, which mixed a silly bodykit with Connolly leather upholstery. However, customers found it robust and easy to drive, with decent handling and power steering in all but the most basic models. Little wonder that older ones served as minicabs for what seemed like years. It was only ever a Bluebird in the UK – it was called the Auster in Japan.
A bit dull back then, but kind of cool – and extremely rare – today.