The Nissan or Datsun Bluebird is arguably the brand’s most internationally recognized name for a sedan as it has been offered in various styles at different points of time in Asia, Europe, Australia and the United States. First introduced by Nissan Motor Company in 1957, it is one of Nissan’s longest running nameplates and every Bluebird produced has also had a taxi variant available in Japan, as have base-level Cedric models, and Toyota Crowns. The Bluebird name has been used with the Nissan brand as well as the Datsun (“son of Dat”) brand throughout the eras.
The Bluebird name’s exact emergence is the subject of some debate. Whilst it is accepted that it came into mainstream use in 1959, some records show its use as early as 1957 on the company’s 210 series line. The engine is based on an Austin design, which was understandable as Nissan had been locally assembling the Austin Cambridge under license.
The 310/311/312 series entered in 1959 with the Bluebird nameplate, and sold through special Nissan Bluebird stores across Japan. It was an all-new car powered by a 1.0L or 1.2L engine and a three-speed manual that gained full synchromesh functionality from 1961. The 1.0L engine put out up to 45bhp while the larger 1.2L put out up to 60bhp which was sufficient enough for this small car. The car was available as a four-door sedan or five-door station wagon. A Deluxe version was also marketed, as was a “Fancy Deluxe” version that was targeted at female drivers. Highlights of this special variant included a vanity mirror, high heel shoe holder under the dash, musical turn-signal relay, automatic clutch, bigger mirrors and curtains. This variant of Bluebird was the first one to be exported to Europe in significant numbers, following Finland fully opening its boundaries to automobile imports. While it was not quick, the rugged Japanese build was suited to the Finnish roads of the time and it surpassed SAAB and Triumph in registrations. 1963 saw the next generation enter the market in keeping with Japan’s rapid model cycles of around four years at the time, and was styled by Pininfarina.
The car here is a 1960 P310 Deluxe model that is in the care of collector Rhamzi Ahamed. Rhamzi purchased the car from a friend three years ago. The car was in original condition and had fared quite well, however the engine was not running due to a blown head gasket. Rhamzi persisted with his friend who had the idea to keep it for a future restoration, and finally acquired the car. He attended to some corrosion and gave the car a full mechanical overhaul including drivetrain, brakes, suspension, steering, electrics and locks. It is a very easy car to drive he says, with the column shifter and being one of the early all-synchro gearboxes, it is a cinch. It also has a Lucas-type horn and Japanese voltage regulator.
Rhamzi says that finding the head gasket for the 1,200cc engine was a task. After hunting high and low he happened to take the old gasket to Sumana Motors where the owner took one look at it and said it looked identical to that of a Morris Oxford. A new Morris Oxford gasket was brought out and lo and behold, a perfect fit! There are quite a few mechanical parts that are straight exchange with those from contemporary British cars it seems.
Seeing this car in the flesh, particularly at a Classic Car display alongside larger European and American metal, it strikes you just how small it is, rolling on its 13-inch rims with 155-section rubber. However, once the doors are opened you can see how five adults can actually fit inside without much complaint. The original Datsun transistor radio is present, a feature that one contemporary magazine review of the day singled out for its strong and clear sound. The still legible original VIN plate reveals that the 1,189cc engine is rated to put out 48bhp at 4,800rpm and the wheelbase is a mere 2,280mm. Rhamzi’s car also proudly wears a “JAF” Japan Automobile Federation badge to show its JDM heritage.
DATSUN BLUEBIRD P310 – SPECS
FROM NISSAN HERITAGE COLLECTION
Seating Capacity 5 persons
Curb Weight 870kg
Top Speed 120km/h
Power Output 48bhp @ 4,800rpm
Torque Output 82Nm @ 2,400rpm
Front Suspension Coil
Rear Suspension Semi Elliptic Leaf
Brakes Drums all round