$1,850 Roadster! 1969 Datsun Sports 1600 SPL311

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This fun little car is a 1969 Datsun Sports 1600 SPL311 and it’s in Kelso, Washington, halfway between Olympia and Portland on I-5. It can be found on craigslist for a crazy low price of just $1,850! If you’ve been looking for one of these to restore, this is it! Thanks to Stuart F for tracking down this gem.

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The SPL311 (“L” = left hand drive) was an update of Datsun’s first true sports car, the 1963 SP310/SPL310, or Fairlady 1500. Or, Datsun Sports 1500 or Datsun 1500 Roadster, or Datsun 1500, if you’re keeping score. Obviously a car named the Fairlady wouldn’t go over well in the rugged, cowboy-and-gangster-filled US, so letters and numbers had to do. Of course, Fairlady was related to the hit Broadway play of that era, in case anyone was wondering. It would sort of be like calling a new car the Hamilton today. Hmm.. that’s not a bad name, actually.

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In March of 1965, the Datsun 1500 SP310/SPL310 became the Datsun 1600 SP311/SPL311 with a larger engine. Remember when in the movie, Spinal Tap, their amps were better because they went to #11 and they were one louder? Well, it’s the same here, the SPL311 is one better than the SPL310! These were still the “low windshield” cars which are more collectible than the higher windshield cars are. Even though the high point of the Datsun Sports series may be the 1967 Datsun 2000, which was the last year for the low windshield and it also had a larger 2.0L engine, this ’69 Datsun 1600 is a gem, in my opinion. As 99% of Craigslist ads go, there is but a scant amount of information available on this car, if even that. Scant may even be pushing it. This is literally the only text in the description part of the ad, “Great project, Very complete car, Does not run. Parked along time, Rebuilt motor $1850”

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I’m not sure if I would even fit in this car, but one of these has been on my master wish list for too many years now. One of these days I’m going to get one; fit or not! This car will need to have everything looked at and restored in some way, but the body looks great, at least from the photos provided. The interior looks like parts of it could be saved but it’ll take a lot of elbow grease and a fairlady-sized amount of $100 bills to bring it back to looking like new again.

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This is Nissan’s R16 which got five main bearings in the name of reliability in 1967. This 1.6L inline-four put out 96 hp when new which for a 2,100-pound car was fairly spirited. This engine was apparently rebuilt but who knows what it will need due to sitting for so many years. There is no question that this is a fun car to drive, smoking burnouts not withstanding. I would love to get one of these cars someday, hopefully before they’re priced way out of reality like a lot of the formerly-affordable cars on my wist list are now. Have any of you ever owned one of these Datsun Roadsters?

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Comments

  1. ccrvtt

    I have always been a huge MGB fan and got to own 2 (so far). I thought of the Datsun as a rip-off of the MGB. But time passes and this example looks like a great find. I’ve never heard anything bad about this model. Would be a great companion to a Fiat 124 Spyder.

    • datsuntim

      This Datsun body style came out before the mgb body.

      Like 1
      • DKW

        Nope… the MGB debuted in 1962. Don’t think this body style didn’t come along until the late 60s.

  2. bcavileer

    I restored one, serious knock off of a british roadster. Very drivable, thetwin Hitachi’s were easy to deal with and the cockpit was identical to a TR. LOoks like a solid start.

    Like 1
  3. Another Bob

    I don’t think Datsun had time to rip off the MGB, because they came out at about the same time. I think those will appreciate nicely going forward. I’d trade my 72 2002 for one.

    • ccrvtt

      MGBs began production in 1962, the Datsuns in late 1963. So your point is well-taken. I did not recall the Datsuns starting so early. Still, knowing the prowess of the Japanese, they could have pulled it off. But not likely.

      It’s also true that a lot of their efforts during that era were derivative rather than original.

  4. bcavileer

    Nothing about these early Japanese cars was original, they were all knock offs of other designs. Not that it is any different today, look at Ford and Lexus and their ripprd off front ends. Easy to see who they stole that from…
    BTW a 5′ 8″ leggy brunette fit in that 1500 just fine. Just saying.

  5. Dan h

    I’ve always liked these little cars and I’m pretty sure I’ll end up with one some day. Have fantasies of touring the local vineyards with my lady,top down (the cars), sunny and mild outside….
    Sure, a vintage European car would be a more fitting ride for such excursions but reliability trumps style any day, especially with your wife onboard!!

  6. ron tyrrell

    Fair lady was introduced around 1960, way before the MGB was available. What sports car in the 60’s overhead cam, all sy cro gear box , decent brakes and did not cost a bunch, Datsun 2000 roadster if you wanted a little less power and money the 1600 was available . These are still available for not a lot of money and it would be a good time to pick up one, this one looks like a good one to start with. I have two 2000 roadsters both in very good shape tucked away in a covered building.

  7. wuzjeepnowsaab

    I saw this seconds after Scotty first posted…at the ask I’m surprised it’s still available!

    If I was closer it sure wouldn’t be! What a great little car

  8. Dolphin Member

    I get that people see the similarity between the MGB and the Datsun and think it’s a copy or at least derivative, but it’s important to look at the facts.

    Here is a summary of the Datsun 1500 introduction:

    “The Datsun 1500/1600/2000 Roadster, also known as the Datsun Fairlady in certain markets, is a sports car produced by Datsun in Japan from 1961 to 1970. It made its debut at the Tokyo Motor show in 1961, several months before the roll-out of the MGB.”
    [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datsun_1500,_1600,_2000_Roadster]

    I think the criticism Datsun got and still gets on this point is unfounded. Let’s just recognize these cars—all of them, MGs and Datsuns alike—for the inexpensive, fun cars they are.

    Like 1
    • ron tyrrell

      Thank, there were other car badges introduced about that time that were just fun, cheap and available. Fiat 1200 Spyder, Sunbeam Alpine 1600, for example and none of these were influenced by the B, what brought the B around was updated the A because they were losing the market because of stagnant design. I was a young mechanic and repaired most of these cars and the Datsun was much better built than the English and Italian. Exceptions were Lancia and Alfa, very sophisticated design , well built and not a lot of money

  9. Righteous Bob

    Bet you didn’t know this, the head off a 1600 Datsun will fit a 1800 MG, I’ve done so I know it’s true…

    • ron tyrrell

      Yes, it will as the 1200 Austin head will fit in a 1200 Bluebird (Datsun)

    • Doug Towsley

      I did not know about the head, Will have to mention that to my father in law as he has a number of MG projects, Maybe I will gift him some parts.
      However I have said this MANY times on here. But my BIL and FIL used to build kits with Datsun ignitions for MGs.
      The A series Datsun motors (For example B210) had a good little electronic ignition. Far superior to the MG units. Salvage the distributor, hold down, wires and the little brain box. Then Drift out the roll pin securing the gear off the bottom of the Dizzy, Then install the MG gear onto the Datsun Dizzy, install, time and VROOOM! Bobs yer uncle and you now have a very reliable ignition.

  10. Paul Z

    I had 5 of these in the 80’s. They are a blast to drive, the only problem was rust. The inner front fenders at the firewall front fenders as well as the rear wheel wells were very prone. Also found out when I took the body off of one they used some type of material between the body and the frame that would hold moisture. The top of the frame rotted out. Nothing a welder couldn’t fix tho. The other problem I had back then was finding parts to restore it, none available. They were a lot of fun tho!

  11. PhxBarbie

    I had a TR 250 in high school. Then I had a Datsun 1600 and shortly after a Datsun 2000. I liked driving the Datsuns much more than the Triumph. I also love the classic lines of the Datsuns a lot more. They are a sleek little car and a blast to drive with the top down.

  12. Joe Muzy

    This is well below the valuation in both Kelly blue book and Hagerty. Good deal for someone

  13. kyle houchens

    restored on in high school and learned everything I know about cars from it- Very easy to work on, awesome car to restore, really really fun to drive- This is a really great deal- someone is going to get a great car for a great price!

  14. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    Knock offs done better……..agree these solid ones will go up….sorta like a 911….just not as high….

  15. Loco Mikado

    I have always liked these little Datsun roadsters. A friend of mine’s girlfriend had a 1600 (a 5′ 6″ leggy brunette)in the early 70’s and another friend of mine had a 2000. Fun cars to ride in and drive and a lot more dependable than the British cars(another friend had a MGB-GT in the same time frame), think the “Prince of Darkness” for Lucas electrical s and driving 50 miles with no headlights at night. The 1600 got traded in on a Duster 340 six pack, the 2000 got sold when he went in the service and the MGB-GT got totaled in a wreck. But right before the positive ground electrical system spontaneously converted to negative ground so all the gauges read opposite of what they normally would. The MG mechanic said it was common for them to do so, but have never read anything about this on the internet. Anyway the Datsun roadster’s were fun little cars at least from my exposure to them, and more dependable than the British roadsters they were patented after. I like them better than the “Z” cars that followed them.

  16. Mike

    In 1976 I bought a very clean 1969 Datsun 1600 Roadster, white with black in. People still called it a “Fairlady” back then. It was a very sweet car (middle TN, no salt) and did everything it was supposed to do. Everything worked. All the time. Typical Datsun. Good heat, Lights, switch gear. I remember the engine was 1595 cc and I believe it rotated the opposite direction of the 1600 Sedan, a completely different engine. It was a clean example, no rust or issues of any kind. And was well worth the $1,200. purchase price.

  17. Matt

    Beware. The parts are hard to find, the suppliers expensive, and reticent to sell for some reason.

  18. Doug Towsley

    I have always though these were cool and assumed sooner or later I would end up with one but has not happened and at this point in life I am downsizing.
    But while I have a Triumph TR4A, (Selling it soon) I have always been a big fan of Datsuns and owned many of them. (Currently have a 510 wagon, a 620 Datsun truck project, and a 74 260Z I am using as a donor for a kit car body.
    I too think this is a smokin’ good deal. I am not too far from it as I am outside Portland Oregon. We dont salt our roads so good chance this is a solid project.
    Me thinks it would be interesting to restore original motor and trans but set them aside and PERHAPS install something newer. Generally Datsun stuff interchanges well. I wonder if a 2000 or a later motor would fit? Nissan 240SX had a really hot 4 cyl with 5 speeds, You can put on a Non Efi intake with a carb if you like,. Or go turbo. Was just reading current issue of Hot rod magazine and intriguing article on cheap turbo kits out there. What is the rear end like on these? Durable? Same parts as others?
    On Z cars the really desirable rears are the later 280Z rears. 200mm ring gears same as a corvette and availible in Posi. Many people swap these.

  19. Tim W

    Bought a ’64 Fairlady in 1972 for $50. Rust was already at or beyond repair but as high school kids my brother & I set out to restore it. My brother painstakingly put in a new wiring harness & after just a little tinkering we got it running, actually ran great. It was at my Grandfathers service station awaiting the body work when some punk high school kids vandalized it- damaged beyond repair. Sold it for $50😩

    • Mike

      Tim, I hit the wrong button. Sad. Sorry for the loss of your little Datsun so long ago. Young vandals simply have nothing else better to do. That’s sad too.

  20. Tim W

    Thanks Mike- maybe I’ll get another some day

  21. Rad

    Had one back in the 70’s. A blast to drive. Couldn’t afford the monthly visit to the dealer for repairs. Usually had to take it in a couple times per repair.

    Anyway, with the tiny (1600) engine, the firewall is way forward. I’m 6’3″ and could not reach the pedals with the seat all the way back. Unless you play for the NBA you would probably fit.

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