240Z Cousin: 1978 Datsun 810 Wagon

Scotty GilbertsonBy Scotty Gilbertson

Brown was sure a popular color in the 1970s, why was that? This brown 1978 Datsun 810 Wagon is as brown as brown can be. I’m surprised that the wheels aren’t brown. It can be found on Craigslist with an asking price of $4,500 and it’s in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The 1970s were also the era of the awkward, gaudy, gawky, huge bumpers. That’s unfortunate, but sometimes non-US-spec bumpers can be located in other countries and bolted on for a much nicer, slimmer look.

The Nissan/Datsun Bluebird 810 was known as the Datsun 810 in North America and they were sold from 1977 to 1981, with the 1981 cars being based on the 910. Confusing. The 810 would be one of the last rear-wheel-drive cars from Datsun, at least for the North American market. If the hood looks a little out of scale, it’s because they redesigned it to fit a 6-cylinder engine (think 240Z) in there for us Yanks. This car is in almost mint condition, it can not have been located in Minnesota since it was new unless it was never, ever, ever, ever driven in the winter.

I always automatically assume when something isn’t shown in an ad where the photos are free, that something is wrong. So, in this case, I’m assuming that the front seats are torn and/or in otherwise poor condition. Otherwise, why not show a free photo of them? I could be wrong and they could be in the similar great condition like the rest of the car appears to be in. The transmission choice is the biggest reason why I probably won’t be going for this car: yes, it’s an automatic. I love these unusual, even brown, vintage Japanese wagons and to find one in this fantastic condition is really something. But, I’d want to shift it for myself. This isn’t going to be a cross-country road trip car for anyone, it’s going to be an unusual, fun, around-town-grocery-getter and it’ll draw stares like nobody’s business. For that, I guess an automatic transmission would be ok. Most of these cars have rusted almost beyond recognition after almost four decades so it’s always great to see any vehicle this old in this fantastic, preserved condition: Japanese, American, European, whatever.

The seller says that this car is in “super mint cond. Everything original from the year. No wear and tear. Garage kept.” It sure looks perfect to me, even in the engine compartment. And, there’s that 240Z-like 2.4L inline-six with around 125+ hp. I’m not sure if you could squeal the tires with this car but it sure beats the heck out of 100 hp or less like a lot of these small Japanese cars had. This is still a 2,900-pound car so it has some “luxury” and they were relatively solid and quiet. The Datsun 810 competed with the Toyota Cressida and it was the predecessor to the Datsun/Nissan Maxima, in 1982. Have any of you owned a late-70s Japanese wagon? How about one with a 240Z-based engine like a Datsun 810?

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Comments

  1. Gunner

    I do have a soft spot for these vintage Datsun’s. I have owned two. A good looking 78 200SX that I met my first wife in, and a 80 310 GX that my oldest daughter learned how to drive in. Both were standards. This wagon is very cool, even with the earth tones. As stated, it is unfortunately an automatic. Rare car, in a rare condition. Certainly good enough to strike up a conversation!

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  2. joeinthousandoaks

    I want it.

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  3. gerry

    Had a maxima style Blue Bird square wagon probably a mid eighties one with a stick and a diesel probably 300k km on it when it rusted out. were on an island here so it happens. the 810 model ones like this are rare the sedans currently are fetching anywhere from $15k-$20K here in Japan would almost make it worthwhile to reverse import it if I had the cash handy

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  4. Jerry Long

    Had a 1980 Datsun 210SL. Great car. Drove it 160,000 miles by which time rust had claimed the body and the sun its interior.

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  5. Steve

    Prime LS/ T56 swap candidate

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    • audifan

      Please don’t even think about this. Not with a car in original condition as this one.

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      • Jason

        I so agree. If it’s working fine as it is, don’t change a damn thing. 🙂

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  6. The Chucker

    This exact year and model was my first car in high school, circa 1984. A hand-me-down from my father, who was not a “car guy”. Mine was silver.

    I put a Pioneer AM/FM/cassette with an EQ/booster under the dash along with 6×9 speakers in the back-fitting them into old 24 pack cardboard Budweiser boxes. I recall it had a toggle switch at the end-travel of the accelerator that triggered a downshift….I used that. A lot.

    Good times with good friends in that car!

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  7. Jim Mc

    Scotty – I hipped you to this exact same car months ago in the comments section of this posting:
    http://barnfinds.com/4000-w-5-speed-ac-1980-datsun-510-hatchback/
    Wish I could get this wagon, I think it’s an awesome ride.

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    • Scotty Gilbertson Scotty Staff

      Jim Mc, I spaced that out, sorry about that. You have great taste, sir.

      I just looked at the car 20 minutes ago, it’s not quite as mint as it looks in the photos, but not bad. The muffler / exhaust is in bad shape so it’s about as loud as it can be and there doesn’t seem to be any “pep” at all, almost to the point that it seems like the emergency brake is on or something, which I thought was strange given that great 6-cylinder engine. After driving the Datsun 810 wagon I got back into my 4-cylinder, 20-year old Outback and it felt like a Ferrari, first time that’s ever happened.

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  8. Andrew

    You can only spot them today on old tv series of “CHiPS” or “Emergency!”
    I love these too, the roof rails, etc. This would surely make a great daily driver.

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  9. Rex Kahrs

    Why is it that cars always look better in the pictures, but I never do?

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  10. Rustytech

    Rex. I feel your pain. Unfortunately it don’t get no better as we age. I wonder if it would have helped if someone put us under a cover in a climate controlled garage for 40 years?

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  11. Jason

    Lovely looking car. I remember seeing these Datsun 810s when I was a boy. I thought they were better looking than the 810/Maxima that came after this.

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  12. Allen

    I had a ’78 810 4-speed sedan, and at the same time an ’80 210 5-speed sedan. The 210 was a delightful little car full of surprises. I bought the 810 as a replacement for my ’73 Volvo 264, expecting a modicum of comfort as well as touring capability equivalent toe the Volvo. By design the 810 was a horrible comparison. It revved insanely even at modest highway speeds, it felt cheap and lightweight, yet it was marvelously unimpressive in the economy department. Add to that, on frequent occasion it was a notoriously hard starter. Numerous trips to the Datsun service department totally failed to address the problem. Out of more than 100 cars I’ve owned, many fall into an indistinguishable back-water. A very few really stand out in my memory: good and bad. The Datsun 810 stands out among the worst three cars I have ever owned.

    This is just a bad old car that has miraculously escaped the ravages of time and use. It has no collector value that I can see. In fact, I can think of about 50 other cheap old cars that would promise fun and reliability – totally missing from a late ’70s Datsun 810.

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    • karu

      The auto tranny did not have lock up or an overdrive gear.

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    • karu

      Datsuns of this era could rust quickly especially in snow/salt states.

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  13. John B

    We bought a ’77 model 810 sedan new when I was in high school. Manual 4-speed transmission, and what a smooth wonderful motor it had!

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  14. Fred C

    I had an 810 sedan, four speed manual. Basically a four door 240Z. Loved it. I also had a 210 wagon at that time.

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  15. Gay Car Nut

    I’ve always loved Japanese cars of this vintage.

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