By Stuart Grant with Douglas Abbot behind the camera
Some big things happened in 1969. The Beatles performed at their last public appearance on the roof of Apple Records, Concorde conducted its first test flight in France, the Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet debuted, more than 350 000 partygoers attended Woodstock, and then there was that small matter of a man landing on the moon… On the local motoring front there were a few notable announcements, but in hindsight one of the most influential of these was the April announcement of the Datsun 510 series – what we all came to know as the Datsun 1600.
Before getting into this somewhat personal SSS story, let’s take a brief stroll through the sporting saloon’s history. Following WWII, Datsun (Nissan) teamed up with British car maker Austin and collaborated to produce the Datsun Bluebird L210. A small, entry-level car, it went head to head with the Volkswagen Beetle but clearly didn’t sell as well. In order to increase sales and target a more international (read: American) market, Datsun designers churned out a new, larger and more contemporary-styled P310 version in 1959. In this guise, Bluebird sales improved, but the car was still seen as a little too British by the American market. When the agreement between the Japanese outfit and Austin ended in 1960, it left Datsun/Nissan president Yutaka Katayama, who believed empathically in his designers’ abilities, a clean slate on which to design a fresh Bluebird with the American desires in mind. With Pininfarina lending a hand, the 410 series launched in September 1963 and the Bluebird, following Italian trends, started finding real favour across the pond. It still didn’t tick the must-have-at-any-cost box, though.