38k Original Miles: 1976 Datsun B-210

When the Datsun B-210 debuted on the American market, its timing could not have been much better. With the 1973 Arab Oil Crisis being felt around the world, the little Datsun was one of the cheapest cars that the motoring public could buy at that point in time. Its frugal fuel consumption hit the spot at a time when fuel prices were not only rising, but fuel shortages were biting deeply. This 1976 B-210 is in impressive condition for its age and has only accumulated 38,000 genuine miles during its lifetime. Located in El Cajon, California, it has been listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding on the little Datsun has reached $2,850, but the reserve hasn’t been met.

The Datsun is finished in Burnt Orange and presents very well. The steel used by Datsun during this era was not of consistent quality, and some of their cars could virtually dissolve before your very eyes as rust took hold. However, any Datsun that has survived for this long without suffering these issues is almost certainly a good one, and shouldn’t be terribly prone to future problems in this area. Of course, life in California will also have helped in this respect, but thankfully, those same UV rays haven’t taken a toll on the Burnt Orange paint. Judging by the text in the listing, this has been one pampered little car. The owner says that it has always been garage-kept, and even in the garage, it is also placed under a cover.

Apart from the propensity for some examples to succumb to rust, interior plastic trim was another consistently weak area of all B-210s. It was relatively fragile to begin with, and could deteriorate over time, especially after prolonged exposure to the sun. This car hasn’t suffered that fate, with the vinyl trim and plastic all in very nice condition. There have been no aftermarket additions to the interior, and apart from a few very minor scuff marks, it’s pretty hard to fault. If life in the lap of luxury was your ultimate goal, then you had come to the wrong place if you expected that from a B-210. Apart from a rear defogger and an AM radio, a small floor console is about it. When the weather gets warmer you will need to rely on what I refer to as “2/50 air conditioning” if you want any relief. That’s 2 windows down at 50mph.

Powering the Datsun is the 1,397cc A-Series 4-cylinder engine, producing 70hp. As you have probably gathered from the previous photo, those horses are sent to the rear wheels via a 3-speed automatic transmission. If anything was designed to disappoint me about this particular car, then that’s it. The A-Series engines are not the most powerful, but they can be quite fun if you don’t mind rowing the shifter a bit. The automatic version really suffers in the performance stakes, and the figures only tell part of the story. A 0-60 time of 16.4 seconds and a ¼ mile time of 21.1 seconds are nothing to write home about. The part that they don’t tell you about is how uphill stretches of road, especially those with plenty of tight corners, can slow progress. Having said that, as an urban run-around, these really are in their element, being light, small, and nimble. Once up and running, they are also capable of cruising happily on the open road at 60mph, so they aren’t all bad. The owner doesn’t provide any information on how the Datsun runs or drives, but the engines in these are essentially bullet-proof, so there’s a good chance that given the low mileage, that it should be in sound mechanical health.

The Datsun B-210 was the right car at the right time, and it sold in pretty respectable numbers. The disposable nature of cars of this era, combined with the previously mentioned rust issues, have seen their numbers thin rather dramatically. Finding a good one today is getting more difficult, but it is by no means impossible. These can be quite an enjoyable little car to own and drive, and if the next owner is not fixated on originality, converting one of these to a 4 or 5-speed manual transmission is relatively cheap and easy. That would be what I would look at doing if I bought it, but I would retain the parts to return it to its original specifications if that proved necessary at some point in the future. Then I’d jump behind the wheel and enjoy driving an entertaining little Japanese classic.

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Comments

  1. Jake

    Well, I’ll be the first to comment. My dad just passed 2 days ago and he used to have a ’76 Datsun B210 Honeybee with a stick. He drove it from Utah to Viginia. I learned to drive stick on this car with my sister riding shotgun. I regret how I abused this car; but she was indestructible…except for the rusted out rockers and floorpans. Thinking about getting a rust free Honeybee…but hard to find these days.

    Like 20
  2. Billy1

    The only reason this car survived this long is the auto. If it was a stick it probably would have been abused into the ground. With that said, an engine swap from a Silvia(240sx) SR20det with 210-250 hp turbo four & a 5/6 speed would really wake this car up.

    Like 3
    • JoeNYWF64

      I wouldn’t do that with the mickey mouse rear end on this.
      I would address the restrictive exhaust & silly VERY heavy 5mph bumpers.

      Like 2
  3. Ken Wittick

    Only have one question ….why ?

    Like 1
  4. rustylink

    ew I have driven a slusher B210 the same year. Painfully slow, I remember it being the first car I ever drove (I was 21 at the time) that it was so slow that I thought there was something wrong with it. Turns out it ran fine – a Bug would’ve smoked it at a red light.

    Like 4
  5. Bob C.

    These were all over the place back in the day. Yes, they certainly did rust, oh man did they rust, and FAST.

    Like 1
    • JoeNYWF64

      & yet many many consumers never looked back at the domestics & stuck with the soon to rust imports till they stopped rusting badly after the late ’80s Hyundai Excel(try to find 1 of those too) was done. I don’t get it.

      Like 3
  6. George

    Hell no! I had a 77 that was identical to this one except for having a 4 speed. It literally rusted in half by 84.

    Like 1
  7. Sam61

    Reminds me Red and Kittys car on “That 70’s Show”.

    Like 3
    • Howard A. Member

      HA! One of my favorite shows! It was a Toyota Corolla, and the irony was, Red got laid off from a car maker where he worked because of foreign cars. They didn’t say which one, but taking place in Wisconsin, you could figure it out.

      Like 4
  8. Howard A. Member

    Yeah, another game changer from Japan. California is about the only place you’ll see one today, although, there is a woman in my little town that has one. Clean as a pin, so you know it never saw moisture of ANY kind. Mid 70’s was a panic time. Imagine paying .32 cents for gas, and almost overnight, it was over a buck. Today, that’s like $1.77 going up to over $6 bucks! Like the author said, it was perfect timing, and all we had was Pintos, Vegas and Gremlins. And these were cheap, come to think of it, this car changed many US attitudes, and we never recovered from that. They did rust fast, but the low cost of buying and operation seemed to balance that out, and many were simply thrown away. Truckers used these motors, which ran forever, as kind of a pre-APU( aux. power unit, not the owner of the Kwik e Mart)) mounted behind the cab. Cool find, but better hide it from water, even washing it.

    Like 5
  9. dougbrashear

    Who remembers the old Datsun commercials that used to run here in the US market in the 70’s? “Sakes alive, sakes alive, now Datsun’s got a sporty truck for just fifty seven ninety five!” ;-)

  10. w9bag

    My Aunt & Uncle bought a ’73 as their first brand new car. As you might imagine, with the A/C on, it could barely get out of it’s own way. The steel was so flimsy, that the seats could dislodge in the event of a frontal crash. They just had it a few months. Traded it for a ’72 Impala. Wise choice.

    Like 1
  11. Mikey P

    I hate when people abuse the word “immaculate “

  12. Johnny L Dunshee Member

    I don’t think I have ever seen an immaculate B-210. They all seem to have a propensity for attracting fast food wrappers. Maybe that was what held them together for so long.

  13. chrlsful

    just needs a hatch, dats all…

  14. David Thomas

    Know as the Datsun 120 in the U.K. probably the first really popular Japanese car. Firstly it would start on cold damp British mornings and, and it had a radio!!!
    Even if only one wave band. DT

  15. Stevieg

    I bought one of these in the late 1980’s as a beater. I paid $75.00 for it. It ran great, handled nice, to bad it was so rusty that it was unsafe to drive lol. That didn’t stop me as a stupid kid, and I am (luckily) still here lol.
    My Mom bought a new Sentra in 1984, basically the front wheel drive replacement of the Datsun 210, which oddly enough, replaced the B210. Never understood why the B210 came before the 210 lol. Anyhow, I used to joke that it felt like it was turbo charged when you turned off the air conditioning lol. It literally lunged forward (lunged is a strong word, but the power difference was notable) when you turned off the air. Pretty pathetic lol.

  16. Mitch Ross Member

    About 5 years ago I saw a hatchback version of this car in Loretto, Baja. Absolutely mint condition. Even then, I thought it had been 2 decades since I had seen one. It’s been 5 years since I’ve seen one

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