“Experts across the world concluded it had to be a copy of the BMW. It wasn’t… As long as it could be dismissed as a copy, the global car industry didn’t have to face the real threat the Datsun 1600 represented,” declares presenter Joe Kenwright in his latest Shannons Club TV intro. The latest look into Australia’s classic car market turns its attention to the giant-killing Datsun 1600 (or Datsun 510 as we Yanks know it).
The Datsun 1600 arrived in Australia just as Volkswagen ended local production of the Beetle. The 1600 became such a hit that before long, Nissan had taken over the former VW plant and started building 510s there.
As it did globally, the 510 also saw motorsports successes Down Under in both rallying and road racing (at the Ampol Round Australia Trial and Mt Panorama Bathurst). Says co-presenter Mark Oastler, “In Australia there has been no other car as consistently successful at grassroots level.” As he points out, it even won the 1982 Australian Rally Championships, a decade after it had been discontinued.
It’s a rousing affirmation of the 510’s technical prowess. Kenwright further confirms that the overhead cam L16 was head of Mercedes’ engine designs at the time, and that the suspension and styling were as advanced or better than BMW’s. It was something casual observers and media refused to believe at the time — and in many cases still do.
Shannons’ market analysis reveal that original and Australian-produced examples carry a premium in price over JDM ones. That’s part of the unique perspective from Oz, but regardless video is well worth watching and one of the best assessments of the Datsun 510’s place in automotive history.
Source: Shannons Insurance