Nissan Motor Corporation has just announced the restoration of a piece of their history. Nissan built only 100 units of the two-seater coupe, which featured four-wheel independent suspension and front double wishbones back in 1965, making it rarer than a Kenmeri GT-R. Oh, did we mention it was built specifically for children to drive? It was called the Datsun Baby, and if you were a kid in 1965, that would pretty much make it the coolest car ever built.
There was just one caveat: aspiring Tetsu Ikuzawas who wanted a turn behind the wheel of a Datsun Baby had to go to Kodomo no Kuni, an amusement park in Yokohama. What did you expect? Even Nissan isn’t crazy enough to unleash a bunch of sugar-tweaked rugrats on public roads.
However, once you were at the park, you could sit in, drive, or climb all over a real working car to your heart’s content. A bumper car-like skirt surrounded the lower edges of the car and speed was limited to 30 kph (18 mph) in case Junior decided to go all Death Race 2000, but unlike the Autopia ride at Disneyland, the cars weren’t limited by a rail to follow a certain path.
Amazingly, these two-seater runabouts had a four-wheel independent suspension with front double wishbones! Power came from a 200cc motor, but keep in mind that plenty of actual cars on the road at the time had engines only slightly larger at 360cc. Transmissions were automatic, supplied by Okamura Corporation, the firm that built Japan’s first torque converter, and the steering wheel had a spring-actuated self-turning feature.
Nissan donated 100 Datsun Babys to the park in order to teach children about traffic safety, so they could be safer as future drivers and as pedestrians. Based on the Cony Guppy, built by Aichi Machine Industry Company, a Nissan parts supplier. About 300,000 kids drove the cars and they remained in use until 1973.
After the ride’s closure, the #100 car was displayed in the park. There, it sat for four decades, but (and you knew this was coming) nobody puts Baby in a corner! A team of volunteer Nissan employees calling themselves the Nissan Restoration Club took it upon themselves to bring it back to life. The project was undertaken to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Kodomo no Kuni and it took the team, which was founded in 2006 and only has time to restore about one or two cars per year, about nine months to finish.
The Datsun Baby is now being shown at Nissan Gallery Yokohama along with a photo exhibit, and will be on display for one month starting this week.
Images courtesy of Nissan.