Plug-In Power: 1972 Datsun 1200 EV 2-Door Sedan

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It’s a Wacky Weekend on Barn Finds, or at least it is in my cyber-cubicle.. Here is something that you have most likely never seen before, it’s a 1972 Datsun 1200 EV 2-Door Sedan and it’s at the fantastic California Automobile Museum in beautiful Sacramento, California. They have it listed on eBay with a bid of $1,150 and there are five days left so you can line up your shipper.

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Like most automotive museums, the California Automobile Museum rotates their collection every so often to keep things fresh and this unusual car is being let go. It has been on display at the museum for a number of years and because of that it’ll have to be gone through to get things in working order again. It hasn’t been used in years. If this car was a regular, gas-powered 1200 coupe in the same condition I’d be on a plane to Sacramento as we speak with a roll of hundreds in my pocket. But, I do like this unusual car, it would sure draw a crowd at any vintage Japanese car show or just a regular ol’ any-make classic car show.

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What a cute little car! And, I rarely use the word “cute”, at least in my post-teen years. This car was converted to battery-power in 1978 and was driven for over 12,000 miles in that configuration. Remember the 1970s? Earth-sheltered homes, solar power, and electric cars were all the rage and some of those things have come full circle again as things do sometimes; like mustaches, plaid shirts, and big plastic glasses. The seller says that this car will need to have the brakes looked at since it’s been sitting for so long and this would be a heavier-than normal Datsun 1200 with those batteries in the trunk and backseat area; about 500 pounds heavier than normal. And, with probably 500+ pounds of batteries in the back, I’m guessing that the rear suspension must have been upgraded to offset all of that weight. I guess that’s only like giving a couple of football players a ride, and the 1200 has a payload of 950 pounds so maybe it’s original. I’d want some special EV-rated rear tires at least if they aren’t already.

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It looks like there’s just a regular 4-speed with a clutch in this car. Some EVs, such as the Subaru ElectraVan by Jet Industries, were lucky enough to be able to keep their 4-speed transmissions after being converted to battery power, this Datsun appears to be another one. The interior looks nice other than having a couple of rips on the seats which could be fixed. Of course, the biggest worry is making sure that the complicated battery conversion is in working order. There are a lot of parts and pieces with that.

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You’ve probably all heard of the “White Zombie”, probably the world’s most-famous 1972 Datsun 1200 in that it’s undoubtedly the world’s fastest Datsun 1200. And in fact, it’s faster than most other cars no matter the make, model, or cost. At 0-60 in 1.8 seconds and a 10.2 second 1/4 mile time, it’s fairly quick.. Of course, this Datsun 1200 isn’t in the same league with a top speed of between 35 and 50 mph and I’m guessing about the same range. It’s made for quiet commuting, not road trips.

And, for the record, yes, coal plants pollute and a lot of our electricity comes from coal plants so by plugging in you don’t automatically become a non-polluter by having a car like this, unless you’re using solar, wind, or some other renewable source to recharge. That is never, ever my intention with showing an electric vehicle. My intention is just looking at something different with an open mind and seeing what is possible, and just looking at a wacky vehicle or two every once in a while. As Henry Ford said, “If I would have asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” This is a car for those folks who enjoy odd, unusual vehicles, and that’s it, there is simply no hidden agenda here. What are your thoughts on this unusual EV conversion on a rust-free Datsun 1200?

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. Fred

    I see right through you Scotty, you are a closet tree hugger!

    Seriously though, battery technology has evolved light years since this car was converted. I have no idea if available to the general public or if only in hybrids, but the current tech should lighten the load in the trunk considerably and provide a much longer drive time.

    Anyone notice the license tag on the front?

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    • Fogline

      Your thinking is exactly on the same lines as mine. Get a batter pack out of a wrecked Leaf and convert it over. I suspect it wouldn’t be that big of a project and your range and performance would dramatically improve.

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  2. Mark S


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  3. Joe

    How do they get 0-60 time if top speed is 35-50?

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  4. angliagt

    It’s so nice that if I bought it,I’d convert it back to the original drivetrain –
    “It needs a small block Datsun”.

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