Unique Cars - - CONTENTS -

Take a look at a Datsun 1600 to­day and you could be for­given for walk­ing straight by, as­sum­ing the fairly plain-look­ing sedan had noth­ing to crow about. There’s none of the ‘look at me’ styling cues such as brash colours, spoil­ers or big pipes. Nope, just a hum­ble sedan. Or not.

The thing is, this car had an enor­mous im­pact not just on the lo­cal mar­ket when it emerged in 1968 but also on the world of motorsport. The medium car seg­ment and its dom­i­nance by Brit-sourced mod­els was al­tered for­ever by a ground-break­ing de­sign from Nis­san.

The Datsun 1600 was a four-door sedan with bucket seats where most had a bench and through-flow ven­ti­la­tion like the mar­ket-lead­ing Cortina. In place of over­head valves, the Datsun came with a grunty sin­gle over­head-camshaft en­gine de­liv­er­ing 71.5kW. Front disc front brakes and in­de­pen­dent rear sus­pen­sion, as fit­ted to up­mar­ket Brit mod­els like the Tri­umph 2000, were stan­dard equip­ment.

Early 1600s had dis­tinc­tive ‘clap hands’ wind­screen wipers (the wiper piv­ots were to­wards the edges of the wind­screen, not in the cen­tre) and a tall fi­nal-drive ra­tio. Ac­cel­er­a­tion was or­di­nary but those Dat­suns when revved past 6000rpm on long a down­hill run – such as Con­rod Straight on Bathurst’s Mt Panorama – eas­ily hit speeds above 100mph (161km/h).

With a straight-line ad­van­tage over its Class B ri­vals, slick han­dling and ex­cep­tional re­li­a­bil­ity, Datsun scored a string of Bathurst 500 class wins un­til be­ing forced to com­pete in a new cat­e­gory against Es­cort Twin Cams and Mazda’s RX-2 ro­tary.

Dirt rally roads al­lowed the light but strong 1600 to write it­self into the an­nals of mo­tor-sport. Only the ar­rival of Holden’s po­tent XU-1 To­rana stopped it win­ning at Aus­tralian Rally Cham­pi­onship level, but in State events and at Club level the story was dif­fer­ent.

Also help­ing build the leg­end was a dogged per­for­mance in the 1970 Am­pol Trial that saw a lone 1600SSS fin­ish level on points lost with a fac­tory-backed Citroen and ahead of the more fan­cied Holden Monaro and Fal­con GT teams.

Not bad for a mid-sized four-cylin­der fam­ily sedan, and it helps to ex­plain while they’re still so much in de­mand.

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