As we all know, Nissan officially came to the US in 1960. But you’ve probably seen a small number of Datsuns built before then lurking around in barns and collections. Where did they come from? The answer is a man known as “Crazy Nobe.”
Nobushige Wakatsuki was a young man in his late 20s working for Marubeni Corp. of Los Angeles in 1955, importing Japanese goods ranging from textiles to transistor radios. When Wakatsuki saw Toyota enter the US market in 1957, he thought he might be able to sell Datsuns as well. He went to Nissan with the proposal and was promptly laughed out the door.
They called him crazy, and the nickname “Crazy Nobe” sort of stuck. But his madness didn’t end there. Wakatsuki went behind Nissan’s back, bought three cars and shipped them here. When Nissan asked why, he flat out lied, saying they were for personal use.
Wakatsuki succeeded in getting one company, Woolverton Motors of Glendale, California, to sign on. The dealer even published the ad shown above, calling the Bluebird “The Imported American Car.”
Both Nissan and Marubeni discovered the ruse eventually and were furious at him. Wakatsuki planned to sell 500 to 1000 cars in 1958, but only managed to move 83. For three years he toiled under a cloud of humiliation until Nissan finally decided to entier the market themselves and sent Yutaka “Mr. K” Katayama to oversee the operation. The rest is history. But when asked in 2008 about Nissan’s success now, Crazy Nobe just laughed and said, They probably still despise me!”
Wakatsuki-san passed away a couple of week ago on November 13, 2009. He was 81. If you own any of the Crazy Nobe Datsuns, let us know!