BACK ROADS: 1965 Datsun Baby

Datsun Baby

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.

Datsun Baby 1965

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.

Datsun Baby 02

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.

Datsun Baby 03

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.

Datsun Baby 04

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.

Datsun Baby 01

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.

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15 Responses to BACK ROADS: 1965 Datsun Baby

  1. Randy said:

    Now THAT’S a cute car, and I never call them that.

    Possibly the perfect commuter car.

    When they gonna build them for us? Sometime after the IDx?

    🙂

  2. cesariojpn said:

    So what happened to the other 99? Surely there has to be one or two still floating about.

  3. Dallas D. said:

    Wow, that IS cute, and I don’t call cars cute, either. It’s adorable. I see a little 911/959 in the front end. Training for young drivers is a great idea. What do we have now? Gran Turismo, which isn’t bad, but there’s nothing like physical feedback.

  4. John M said:

    Automatic? How are they going to work on their heel-and-toe shifting? After watching a Seibu Keisatsu episode that featured this technique, my daughter actually jumped in my Z and tried it. I hope she doesn’t try the other things she saw on the show.

    • Randy said:

      Google: 9 year old steals car

      You MIGHT want to lock the keys up and put a kill switch on the car.

      “9-Year-Old Suspect and His Buddy, 4, Steal Another Car …” is one of the stories.

      Now about that push-button start, starting the car with the I-phone, etc… Anybody wanna praise unrestrained technology a little more?

      Sleep well, dude!

  5. wantyerknobbies said:

    Ghosns can sleep at night knowing it was volunteer hours that didn’t cost the shareholders their pretty pennies

  6. Nakazoto said:

    Sounds like the Camatte at Megaweb in Tokyo!
    http://www.megaweb.gr.jp/area/ride_studio/

    • Randy said:

      Thanks for the link – nice to look around!

      The styling on those would look good on a “city-car” class of cars, and the silver one could even be upsized to “real car” size…

  7. royshakosuka said:

    I think when Autopia first opened they did not have the center guide rail or bumpers originally. I believe they made changes due to high damage of the fiberglass bodies.

  8. Dave Yuan said:

    How I would’ve loved this place and these cars as a kid!! Autopia was always a bit of a disappointment to me at Disneyland, along w/ the submarine ride. Both looked so great but always left me wanting more.

    I love this little car. Kinda reminds me of a junior Mazda R360. The technical stuff is crazy for an amusement park ride.

  9. Ramón Mora said:

    If I would know about this back in 1965, when I was 7 years old, I would drove completely crazy !!! 🙂

  10. Daniel Leon said:

    My baby daughter was watching in youtube some videos featuring a Datsun Baby-looking-UFO named TUTITU that pooped things to form toys and stuff, it was pretty cool lol.

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