Old­est in SA: 1932 Dat­sun Type 11

Prob­a­bly the only one of its kind lo­cally, we drive South Africa’s old­est-run­ning Dat­sun

Car (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - BY: Wil­helm Lut­je­harms Wil­helm­l_­car­mag PHO­TOS: Peet Mocke Petridish_­mooks

THIS 1932 Dat­sun is not only the old­est one in South Africa, but also one of the first cars pro­duced in Ja­pan un­der the Dat­sun badge. Although the com­pany’s his­tory traces back to 1914, Dat­sun was of­fi­cially reg­is­tered as “Dat­son” only in the early 1930s (the name means “son of DAT”) and the name changed to the cur­rent one shortly there­after. And that means the ve­hi­cle fea­tured here was built in the sec­ond year of Dat­sun’s ex­is­tence.

At the time, the Ja­panese Gov­ern­ment al­lowed cars with en­gine ca­pac­i­ties of no more than 500 cm3 to be driven without a driver’s li­cence and this Type 11 (of which 150 were sold) and its Type 10 pre­de­ces­sor fell in this cat­e­gory. In 1933, the Ja­panese au­thor­i­ties re­vised the rules and hiked the ca­pac­ity to 750 cm3, lead­ing to Dat­sun de­vel­op­ing a 748 cm3 en­gine and fit­ting it to the Type 12.

This spe­cific Type 11 is owned by Nis­san South Africa and, for years, was safely housed at the brand’s head of­fice in Pre­to­ria un­til cur­rent cus­to­dian Freek de Kock, a re­spected Dat­sun and Nis­san col­lec­tor from Bothav­ille (see our fea­ture on his in­cred­i­ble line-up of ve­hi­cles in the March 2016 is­sue), took it un­der his care. Nis­san SA im­ported the ve­hi­cle in the 1970s and what fol­lowed was a full restora­tion by its parts and ac­ces­sories depart­ment. Freek’s been metic­u­lous in his main­te­nance of the Type 11, fix­ing it up to make it drive­able again af­ter it was parked for decades and he also re­placed the cloth roof. The Dat­sun even still fea­tures an orig­i­nal Pre­to­ria num­ber­plate.

The Type 11 is ex­tremely com­pact but doesn’t look like many kei cars, its de­sign­ers hav­ing achieved a great sense of style with the ex­te­rior de­sign thanks to the sim­i­larly sculpted fend­ers and side steps as the ones we as­so­ciate with some of the most ex­quis­ite au­to­mo­biles of this era. That’s coun­tered some­what by this car­toon­ish yel­low body colour, in­clud­ing wheels painted in the same hue, and the ex­tremely nar­row tyres and their odd size (4.00 – 16 inch).

Be­fore hop­ping into the petite cabin, I peek un­der the car and spot rear-mounted leaf springs with a solid axle and a small dif­fer­en­tial, while the front fea­tures up­side­down leaf springs.

The car’s di­men­sions are even more ev­i­dent when you open the tiny door (hinged at the rear) and take your po­si­tion be­hind the triple-spoke steer­ing wheel. Only a small adult would fit next to me in the pas­sen­ger seat and that’s with my el­bow ex­tended over the win­dowsill. There’s a sin­gle win­dow wiper on the driver’s side and the bare min­i­mum in terms of di­als and con­trols; en­gine coolant tem­per­a­ture, bat­tery volt­age and the speedome­ter are all that’s dis­played. A neat touch is the metal Dat­sun-badged foot ped­als and the el­e­gant curved back­rests of the front pews. The front seats tilt for­ward to al­low pas­sen­gers into those small rear quar­ters.

You start the 0,5-litre en­gine by press­ing a but­ton sited on the floor and it’s best to re­mind your­self the brake and throt­tle ped­als are switched round from their place­ment in mod­ern cars (for­tu­nately the lat­ter is elon­gated, mak­ing it eas­ier to dis­tin­guish be­tween the two).

On the move, there’s no ques­tion about the en­gine’s pint-sized ca­pac­ity but, thanks to feath­er­weight body mass cou­pled with some pa­tience from the driver, ac­cel­er­a­tion is leisurely but steady as the car bobs across the road. Cruis­ing at a gen­tle 30 km/h makes for a plea­sur­able, although de­cid­edly pre­War, drive and the roof can be low­ered (with the help of pas­sen­gers) while on the move. The tall, kinked gear­lever (with a wooden knob) af­fords a me­chan­i­cal shift ac­tion (first is left and down).

There’s an in­her­ent charm to the ba­sic na­ture of the Type 11. While it may not get the juices flow­ing like many clas­sics of the era, the role it played in es­tab­lish­ing Dat­sun as a mod­ern-day maker of sim­ple, re­li­able fare makes it a heavy­weight in the vin­tage­car mar­ket.

You start the petite en­gine by press­ing a but­ton on the floor and it is best to re­mind your­self the brake and throt­tle ped­als are switched round

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.