The most well preserved Datsun 720 pickup, ever

07_Nissan Datsun 720

A couple of months ago Nissan threw a key party at an old ivy-covered mansion in the woods crammed full of taxidermied animals. But even better than some Eyes Wide Shut-type masquerade, they let attendees grab the keys to anything in their product lineup, including several items from the Heritage Collection.

25_Nissan Datsun Fairlady Roadster

The mansion, as it turns out, features prominently in the TV show Nashville. It’s located in Belle Meade, a supremely wealthy area named after a 5,300 acre plantation that once stood just outside the country music capital.

03-20140709_092229_Nissan Heritage Collection USA

Everything was fair game, from Sentras to Armadas, and Nissan even imported a Qashqai and Micra for the festivities. While most lined up to drive one of the R35 GT-Rs, we headed straight for the classics. All four of these cars are from Nissan USA’s heritage collection.

05_Nissan Datsun 72014_Nissan Datsun 720

We were drawn inexplicably, right off the bat, to the 1983 Nissan 720 pickup. It was, quite simply, the cleanest and newest 720 we had ever seen. Resplendent in off-white with a very 80s blue interior, it still smelled of new vinyl as we climbed inside.

06_Nissan Datsun 720

It hailed from the era when Nissan was still undergoing its name change in the US, so a large red “NISSAN” was stamped across the bed, but underneath it still sported a “DATSUN” decal to remind those who had grown accustomed to the name in the preceding 23 years.

10_Nissan Datsun 720

As the other classics — a 320 pickup, 240Z and 1600 roadster — paired off with partners, we asked for the keys to the 720. “That’s the only one you’re not allowed to drive,” a Nissan spokesperson said.

Turns out, this humble truck was oldest Nissan built in North America, Job One at the nearby Smyrna, Tennessee plant. The odometer, resting behind plastic clearer than the ding of a crystal bell, read just 361 miles.

The massive Smyrna plant was established June 16, 1983 and has produced over 10 million Nissans over the years. Everything from the Altima to the Infiniti QX 60 is built there, at a rate of about 640,000 cars a year.

09_Nissan Datsun 720

This was quite the contrast to Mazda USA’s attitude about the oldest Miatas in North America. The original Chicago Auto Show cars — the fourteenth and fifteenth Miatas ever built — were recently hammered on by journalists, on the Miata’s birthday no less.

79_Nissan 370Z Z34 NISMO

Nissan had no qualms about letting people loose on the 240Z, however. The silver ‘Lady was in fact one of the cars from the 1996 Vintage Z program, when Nissan restored a bunch of 1970-71 240Zs and sold them as out of dealerships. This particular example, the only 240Z in Nissan USA’s collection, is number 12 of 37.

While the slot mag wheels aren’t strictly stock, they were a popular dealer option in the 70s, so it makes sense to see them on a car you could have walked into a Nissan dealer to buy 18 years ago.

It’s actually a little alarming that this is the sole 240Z in Nissan’s stable. Apparently, they had more but those were sold off when the company high-tailed it out of SoCal in 2006. If we were Nissan, we’d find a primo New Sight Orange or 112 Yellow example with stock wheels to go along with the silver one. That one would sit right next to the Job One 720, off limits to dummies like us.

37_Datsun Fairlady Roadster Nissan 370Z

Similarly, we were a bit surprised that the only Datsun roadster in the collection was a high-windshield 1970 1600. Again, if we were emperors of Nissan we’d find a 1967½ low-windshield 2000 for the collection.

It felt appropriate to pair it with a 370Z droptop for a mini photo shoot. The wine leather of the Z34 matched nicely with the roadster’s red vinyl — a couple of Fair ‘Ladies.

Hidden behind the mansion we found a Z31 300ZX in fantastic shape, and it wasn’t even part of the Heritage Collection. Instead, it belongs to Calen Cussimanio, a product planner at Nissan USA. It has just under 140,000 miles and is absolutely gorgeous. It’s reassuring whenever we learn that individuals making the decisions about what’s coming down the pike are enthusiasts themselves.

We’ll have a more in-depth session with the 320 in an upcoming article. We’re not terribly worried about the preservation of 240Zs and roadsters, as there are plenty of enthusiasts who can do a better job than Nissan of looking after clean examples. Trucks, on the other hand, are typically well-used workhorses, but now we can sleep easy knowing that there’s at least one 720 being preserved with dignity.

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23 Responses to The most well preserved Datsun 720 pickup, ever

  1. Kylezone says:

    my 720 isn’t very original. it has a 521 on top of it…

  2. Nigel says:

    A 720, 620 and a B110 pickup are always in my minds “Granturismo” garage.

  3. E-AT_me says:

    This one looks like a long bed version as well!!

    • Yoda says:

      It’s the “old man truck” – well-optioned regular cab longbed. All that’s missing is an old school woodgrain-patterned aluminum cap with bubble windows.

  4. Raven says:

    I got to see that 720 at the Lane Motor Museum back in April, pictures do not do it justice.

  5. Brad D. says:

    I recently spent some serious time staring at this very truck at the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville Tennessee while on a family trip. Apparently the entire Nissan Heritage Collection is stored there, and a couple weeks back this truck was one of the first things you see when walking in. Parked behind it was a first gen Sentra and a first gen Altima.

    Nissan had a good sampling of its collection on display at the Imports at Carlisle event this year as well. This 240z was there, the white 1600 roadster was present along with an earlier Fairlady roadster in two tone red and white, possibly the worlds cleanest 210 and a pretty sweet little 510. Interestingly enough they also had an employee Z car on display as well but a Z32 TT with some period wheels and Stillen parts. Great to see a manufacturer so proud if its heritage and I don’t mind one bit that they keep them all on the east coast!

    • Censport says:

      The 720, Sentra, and Altima are all part of our “Made in U.S.A.” exhibit which is running until January. All three were built in Tennessee, and are also the first examples from their respective production lines (hence the “Job One” status). They have always been owned by Nissan.

      Hope you enjoyed your visit! I’m not sure what we’ll have in that corner in January, but you can expect a few more of Nissan’s heritage collection to be on display.

      • Brad D. says:

        Thanks, I had a great time! My only disappointment was that you cant have everything out all the time as I live in Boston and certainly can’t make it there every weekend! I enjoyed it more than even the Peterson Museum to be honest with you as the eclectic mix of cars suits my taste. I am an NSU owner and thought I was alone in my car preference some times! Was very happy to see the Caldwell Autodynamics Can Am car as well, I work about a half mile from the old Autodynamics shop.

  6. Reds89 says:

    Thanks for the shout-out on my red Z31. It now has 16″ turbo wheels, new struts and new Bridgestone Potenza’s on it since the event. This is probably the only time I’ll see the words “mansion” and “Z31 300ZX” in the same sentence.
    Also, I’m at 140k miles 🙂

    • Ben Hsu says:

      Thanks Calen, the mileage has been noted. Thanks also for taking the time to show us your Z31. I know you were busy that day but I was excited to see a Z from that era owned by a Nissan employee!

  7. RainMeister says:

    I’m not surprised by the incomplete and less than interesting selection of cars in Nissan’s so-called “Heritage” collection, as it basically consists of remnant from what they previously held in storage at their Carson HQ. The current French controlled American management wouldn’t know or understand the company’s rich U.S. history if it landed on their head.

    Consider their absence as sponsor or exhibitor for the upcoming Japanese Classic Car Show in Long Beach. Or the fact that they have just one historic race car, the BRE 510, in their collection notwithstanding the innumerable championships Nissan/Datsun have racked up in the U.S. And the absence of a proper museum like the one Toyota maintains in California.

    My family has ties to corporate Nissan from the early 1970’s, and I grew up riding in and driving their products, so it is sad to see what has become of the company and the products they currently peddle.

    This is why it warms my heart to see that, notwithstanding corporate Nissan’s attitude, that there are fans and collectors who will keep the torch alive for future generations to appreciate Nissan and Datsun cars from the past.

    • Censport says:

      I hear Saab had a nice museum.

      • RainMeister says:

        You’re right. But they at least understood the true meaning of “Heritage” until GM took over and bastardized the brand into oblivion with rebranded Opel and Subaru models.

        What fate awaits Nissan with rebranded Renaults and engines supplied by Mercedes? Will Infiniti survive the confusing renaming of its product lineup (my current G35 coupe will be my last Nissan)? How will they compete with the Germans and Italians whose success lies in part from celebrating and appealing to their heritage?

        • Censport says:

          No argument there, Nissan’s new models confuse me too. (Isn’t the Versa made from the Megane platform? Then where is the R26 version? Having driven the Renault hot hatch, I would think a hot Versa would sell better than a Murano convertible.)

          But on the subject of building a new museum, wouldn’t it make more sense to have an existing museum store and display your collection for a tiny fraction of the construction costs? When times are lean, it’s best to focus on what keeps the company afloat. Something Saab didn’t do, which brought about their purchase by GM.

          • RainMeister says:

            From what I understand, the Nissan-owned cars on loan to the Lane Motor Museum are temporary. Why not make it a permanent display with a Nissan sponsored wing?

            It’s this half-hearted, feigned attempt at appealing to historic fans and enthusiasts (the idea of a CVT equipped IDx or an automatic-equipped NISMO Z are other examples) is what grates me. Either do it right, or don’t do it at all. When a much smaller company like Mazda can get it right with fun to drive cars and fan promotion, why can’t Nissan?

    • dan says:

      Im the owner of art hughes old blue 510, which is as close to stock as you can get (besides a aftermarket alternator) and nissan has approached before on wanting the car in the museum, and just like art, its a hell no. I would be scared to let my car sit in any museum, especially nissans as it is to date. I love showing her off, and taking her to shows to get the attention she deserves, instead of sitting in a dark dang hole only to come out for a photo op here and there. Nissan really needs to get back to what made them popular, instead of this crap that all looks the same 🙁 I will never let my stock 510 become a museum car no matter how many people have TOLD me i should make it one. Not what the original owner wanted, and not what i want.

      • dan says:

        Also as rain said, nissan is doing it all wrong. Take JCCS, nissan has had a chance to become a sponsor, bring out some old cars, yet mazda and them do it and look how much spotlight they get. They have forgotten WHERE THEY CAME FROM. Makes me sad.

  8. JHMAB2 says:

    I’m not the biggest Nissan fan, but I can appreciate these beauties!

    More proof that JNCs are on the rise it seems!

  9. SOCARBOY says:

    I had one of the last 720 North American built trucks for many years. I used to abuse it, work it to death and it would just keep going…God I miss that truck!

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