Datsun differences - Morley's World 453

By: Dave Morley

Presented by

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Some you'd keep, others, not so much

Let’s get a few things straight right from the green flag: I like old Datsuns. Yes, I’m a bit of a Toyota fan-boy when it comes to elderly J-tin, and there’s a soft spot in my black old heart for elderly Mitsubishis, too. Old school Mazda rotaries with ports like manholes? Gimme gimme. Point being, there’d be room at the Melbourne Bloke Centre any time for a Datto 1600, a 1200 ute or, even better, a 240Z. I’d even consider a 180B (but it’d have to be a SSS) and maybe even a Stanza, ‘cos I like the box-it-came-in look (although I’d chop it up and mod it within the first few minutes).

But I can tell you that there are a few old Datsuns that have no hope of getting through the B and D at the MBC. The 200B would be one of those. My old man, in an act of lunacy that has had me shaking my head for four decades now, once traded a 253-cube HQ manual on a 200B. Why? Who the hell knows? Okay, so dear old Dad was never what you’d call a car guy. But he wasn’t a real estate genius either, yet I don’t remember him selling our double-fronted brick-and-tile to move us into a dog kennel.

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180B SSS is on Morley’s ‘okay’ list

Of course, the other Datsun that has even less chance of ever darkening the MBC’s oil-stained doorstep is the dreaded 120Y. Now, I know these things have recently become some kind of urban-dwelling-hipster talisman, but I don’t care. The 120Y has always been, and will forever be, a nasty, flimsy, ill-conceived, cynical pile of poo. What’s that? You own one and love it? Good for you. You might even be a decent human being. But your car sucks the bag.

| 2020 Market Review: Datsun 120Y/180B/200B/280C-300C

I recently had the misfortune to spend some time throwing spanners at a 120Y. Long story…best you don’t ask, but it involved Torrens, so figure it out. Torrens remains one of those revisionist historians who is prepared to give the 120Y another chance at not making people puke. He is wrong on this, but I digress.

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Mazda RX4 Coupe rotary was better

The first thing I noticed when taking a long, hard, critical look at the Dattto’s under-dungers was just how spindly it was. The bolts in the rear spring shackles were about the same grade and size as I’d specify for hanging a picture on a wall. And the more you looked, the worse it got. The front lower control arms are skimpier than a Kalgoorlie barmaid, and the whole front end looks like it came off Barbie’s Jeep. The rear bumper is attached by two (count ‘em) 12mm nuts. No kidding!

| 2020 Market Review: Datsun Bluebird/1200/1600/240K

Inside, the interior plastics had done the typical 70s-Japanese thing of disintegrating. The dash looked like a dry lake bed and the rest of the plastic trim had either melted or turned to the dusty, crumbly consistency of a dead moth’s wing. But look a bit closer and it was possible to see exactly where Datsun had pulled a few more precious Yen out of the bastard thing. Not only was the vinyl on the door cards the cheapest, nastiest stuff available, the actual Masonite backing boards were thinner than a supermodel’s breakfast order.

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But, for me, the real killer punch was the carpet. In fact, the loosely-woven crapola that passed for carpet looked and felt more like hessian. And, yes, I know that this carpet was nearly 50 years old and had been sun-raped for most of that time, but still. And besides, I happen to know that even when brand-new, the carpet in a 120Y was hardly worthy of the name. How do I know? Because my grandad bought a 120Y brand-new in 1974. Yep, Christmas dinner at Chez Morley was no place for a tappet-head when I was growing up. No wonder I became a motoring journo…probably as a means of attempting to understand my family’s obsession with mediocrity.

Anyway, Grandad’s 120Y was, from the moment he bought it, a complete waste of driveway real estate. Crappy carpet, and all. Here was a car so bereft of performance that walking was faster, so devoid of charisma that walking was a comparative cultural experience. In fact, here was a car that made walking the natural choice. Not only did it fall apart in every imaginable way, it also rusted in real time. It was burnt orange. Should’ve just been burnt.

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The thing I don’t get is why you’d pay the same money for a 120 WHY that you would for any number of worthier rides. But this wouldn’t be the first time that reality has been subverted by the rose-tinted mists of nostalgia. I mean, right now, the mullet is making a comeback as a sartorial statement. The Mullet, ferchrissakes!

The fact that Torrens – or anybody else – still has time for these horrors makes me think that some people just have no skill at holding a grudge. Me? I’m more than happy to neither forgive nor forget when it comes to the Datsun 120Y.

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I know we’ve talked about weird engines in the past, and in particular the cult of the two-stroke diesel. Within that discussion, we’ve touched on the GM, Screaming Jimmy, family of engines, as well as the rather less common Commer Knocker. So imagine my surprise a little while ago when, as I staggered around a recently-acquired mate’s workshop, I spotted the engine in these pics dumped on the shop floor.

My new mate Pete figured he’d give me a little pop quiz and test my car-guy credentials. So what’s that thing, he asked pointing at the Knocker. Commer Knocker, says I, and I reckon you could have floored him with a feather. Turns out not too many visitors to his place have any idea what the big old lump of cast iron is. But thanks to this magazine and you lot, I was able to make him smile.

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The engine itself was one Old Mate salvaged from a pile of scrap that was due to be cubed at the local scrappy’s. Pete figured out what it was and knew that it was just too weird and too cool for that to happen. So he dragged it home and there it has sat ever since. He doesn’t know what he’s going to do with it, nor does he care. It’s a Commer Knocker and, therefore, it deserves somewhere to see out its time on earth.

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Commer Knocker-the holy grail

Speaking of which, it’s useful life as an engine appears to be long gone. It’s seized up and one of the con-rods and rockers from the crankshaft assembly is missing, presumed dead. I’d love to hear it running, but to be honest, just seeing one in the flesh is pretty cool, too.

 

From Unique Cars #453, May 2021

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