Datsun 2000 Sports/Fairlady Review

By: John Bowe

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Datsun 2000 Sports/Fairlady Datsun 2000 Sports/Fairlady Datsun 2000 Sports/Fairlady
Datsun 2000 Sports/Fairlady Datsun 2000 Sports/Fairlady Datsun 2000 Sports/Fairlady
Datsun 2000 Sports/Fairlady Datsun 2000 Sports/Fairlady Datsun 2000 Sports/Fairlady
Datsun 2000 Sports/Fairlady Datsun 2000 Sports/Fairlady Datsun 2000 Sports/Fairlady
Datsun 2000 Sports/Fairlady Datsun 2000 Sports/Fairlady Datsun 2000 Sports/Fairlady

Past Blast: Datsun 2000. Join John Bowe in the car that started Nissan's run down the sports car road.

Datsun 2000 Sports/Fairlady Review
Datsun 2000 Sports/Fairlady

 

Datsun 2000 Sports/Fairlady

I've mentioned that I grew up in an MG family before: my dad was very MG (and slightly Healey!). So when the Datsun Fairlady came out, it was regarded as a bit of a girl's car. But you have to keep in mind this was at the height of the British Empire and a lot of people born in Australia considered themselves to be British Subjects, old chap (truly!) and things from Japan were treated with some level of disdain.

The Fairlady name was soon dropped as the Japanese learned that effeminate names didn't suit sporting cars in export markets. Of course, the Datsun 2000 Sports was a far better thing. It had the larger 2.0-litre engine (the original Fairlady was a 1500, later upped to 1600) and twin carbs. Those carbs were interesting; they were Japanese Mikunis, made under licence to Solex, and are a very good carby! I had a mate, Mick Arnold, who owned one of these 20-odd years ago but I never got to drive it, only ride in it. Thanks, Mick!

This model was launched around 1968 and there's not many of them around. At one stage, a lot of them were shipped back to Japan (from Australia and the US, where they were also sold) so that makes them even rarer on our roads. So all up, I was interested to drive this car.

What could you buy around 1970? The MGB was a bit soft by the late-1960s (it was an eight-year-old design and our roads were filling up with fast Holdens and Fords) and there was the exotic Alfa Spider 1750. So, when you look at it in that context, this Datsun was quite significant.

It was the time when the Japanese car industry was starting to design and build cars for international tastes. It had some cred. If you know about these things, you'll realise it was replaced by the 240Z.

This thing had a claimed 150hp (112kW) in 1970 but it was measured with the SAE scale and they were slightly happy horses! Lift the bonnet and the engine looks like others from the era, with a cast-alloy rocker cover like a Datsun 1600, but it was a special engine, not just a hotted-up family car donk.

Those Mikunis are 44mm, which is quite large, and they've got big 37mm chokes, which means it's more top-endy than torquey, and of course, a drive confirms that. The gearbox is a five-speed, with Porsche-designed synchromesh. Porsche revolutionised synchro technology and Datsun bought it, as did other companies. The result is a beautiful 'box.

When you start this thing up you realise just how awesome classic multi-carb engines really are. It sounds fantastic because it has something most modern cars have lost - induction noise. Modern cars are just so refined and quiet and with a few exceptions, like atmo BMW M-cars, you simply don't get induction noise. I guess that's because not everyone likes the noise, but I do and it's simply fantastic!

This is a very well-sorted car. When short-shifted, it shuffles along easily at low revs but the engine is what you'd call flexible rather than torquey - there's not a lot happening down low. It doesn't fart and carry on, though, which is a sign that everything's well-tuned, sometimes difficult with older multi-throat carby systems.

Pile on the speed, however, and it just loves revs! Loves it! When you start rowing it along with the gear lever, it really makes some pace. I was spinning this thing to six-five, six-seven and it was still happily chiming along so, for its time, it was a really good country drive car. It has quite
a tall diff, too.

Out of respect to the owner, I didn't go any further but I reckon this thing would fly past 7000 and be really happy doing it because Datsun ensured it had good hardware like a forged steel crank. In typical Japanese fashion - something we still see today - it is over-engineered.

This car is very much as it was when new, but there are changes from standard, which enhance the original aspects, so it's best to think of it as an improved original; a 'restification' rather than a modified car.

Out the back there's a live rear axle and on this car there's a single-leaf kit to replace the laminated spring pack. It also carries those beaut Minilite-look mags that everyone seems to fit to classic cars. That makes perfect sense as you can buy better tyres for them. The original had 14 x 4.5-inch rims and you simply can't get a good tyre for those. This one has 15s so there's a wider range of decent radials.

It has recirculating-ball steering rather than a rack and it steers well, but this is the one area where an MGB is nicer; the Datsun doesn't have that delightful tactility of the MGB's rack-and-pinion system.

Like just about every car without a roof there's a hint of scuttle shake, but the front disc brakes have good pedal feel and the driving position is excellent. And it has headrests, which I think were a new feature of the 1970 model. Roof down, it was a great drive. Bottom line, this car is a whole lot of fun. I expected it to be a 5/10 but it's an eight! It far exceeded my expectations.

Here's something you probably didn't know. Datsun Australia used to have a factory racing team. I remember seeing a champion driver of the era, Doug Whiteford (he won the Australian Grand Prix several times in the '50s) race a works Datsun 2000 Sports. That was before the awesome Turbo Bluebirds of the '80s, the later Skylines, and the Godzilla.

It's a shame Nissan is not really known for its racing, but that's more a fault of PR and marketing than teams and drivers. But now that Nissan has joined the V8 Supercars, it's good to look back on its past racing heritage.

 

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