Bob Sharp Tribute: 1976 Datsun 610 Coupe

Following the success of the Datsun 510, you might expect its successor to be even more of a home run. In this case, I’m not sure why it didn’t have the same starpower, but the later 610 seen here on craigslist is a genuine rarity today. While the 510 has a fan base committed to keeping the car alive, any 610s still on the road exist purely by luck. It’s listed for sale in South Carolina for $2,500, and be sure to go here if the ad disappears.

My first thought was that this Datsun was actually for sale in California, where all the rare Japanese metal seems to live. Its presence on the East Coast is surprising, especially given its seemingly rust-free condition. Now, today is an outlier as even South Carolina experienced snowfall, but for the most part, this is a safe spot for fragile classics like a vintage Datsun to reside. The uppermost surfaces of the car have had their paint baked off, but it might come back with a buff.

Despite not being quite the legend that the 510 became, the 610 still offered a driver-focused cockpit and (thankfully) a manual transmission in this example. And while the 510 is frequently captured in its Bob Sharp Racing team livery, the 610 did duty under Sharp as well, capturing victories in various SCCA events. In fact, comedian and known car guy Adam Carolla owns the backup race car that did showroom tours and other promotional events alongside Sharp’s 510 and 240Z team cars.

Frankly, I find the idea of building a tribute car immensely appealing. As this video will show you, the L20 motor with sidedrafts sounds quite tasty and lumpy, and the car’s connection to Sharp’s success in B-sedan racing gives it some surprising chops as it relates to provenance. Japanese classics are becoming increasingly popular among collectors, and this rarely seen 610 will be a surefire hit with the Cars & Coffee crowd.

Comments

  1. BarnfindyCollins

    Ha!! You noticed this little bird in my neck of the woods, with its period hubcaps no less. I imagine it being sold by Southside Datsun in Augusta or Dick Smith in Columbia; two long lived and very successful dealers in the area. I see lots of interesting tin roundabout GA/SC. Keep looking!

  2. Adam T45 Staff

    I can honestly say that if this represents how the 610 was sold in the US, you guys have been seriously ripped off! Here in Australia these were standard from the factory with dual side-draft “SU” type carbs. In Australia they were sold as the Datsun 180B SSS, and were also available ex-factory with a steel crankshaft. Coupled with the standard dual-row timing chain and double valve springs, our Aussie examples could be spun to 8000 rpm safely. In that form they were a worthy successor to the 510. The only thing that hurt them (and it was common in this era, regardless of the car) was that the 610 was significantly heavier than the 510. Would I have another one given the right circumstances? Absolutely!!!

    • Brakeservo

      We had smog and emissions requirements that quashed our chance to get the performance you enjoyed. But now your government has gone completely bonkers over even the most minute possible bit of asbestos when bringing a cool old car into Oz!

      • Adam T45 Staff

        Brakeservo, I know all about our ridiculous import laws. If our Border Security even SUSPECT that a car being imported may contain asbestos in its brake linings, clutch, or even in any gaskets, that car is impounded and held until the car has undergone microscopic examination and decontamination by an approved inspector. The cost? Anywhere between $15,000 and $25,000, which is paid by the importer/owner. And what if the inspection reveals no asbestos and Border Security were wrong? The importer/owner is still liable for the cost of the inspection.

    • Steve M

      sounds badd azz….I guess we did get ripped off

      • Adam T45 Staff

        Steve M, it was probably more to do with your pollution laws than anything else. Our national anti-pollution law (ADR27A) was introduced in 1977. That’s when we really started to hurt. It got worse when unleaded fuel became mandated for new cars, which in Australia was 1986.

    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      Adam T45, we absolutely did get boned on so many great cars. This being one of them. The “Bluebird” was a honey of a car in almost every other market…no wonder these faded into obscurity in the US. Almost makes one wonder if our anti-pollution “laws” were done more to protect the Big 3’s small-car inadequacies….

  3. Len

    I used to have a 180B too. Mine was four door and vinyl roof. Great cars!

  4. Mark S.

    Datsun built some great vehicles, then Nissan came in and ruined a good thing. A buddy of mine had a Datsun pickup that was nearly bullet-proof.

    • Mallthus

      You mean in 1934 when DAT Automobile Manufacturing Co., Ltd. was merged with Tobata Casting under the Nihon Sangyo banner (stock nickname “Nissan”)?

      • Mark S.

        No, 1982, Datsun was merged into the Nissan name essentially ending the brand.

      • Jorge

        Datsun was always Nissan hence the fact that it always said Nissan on the Vin tag or engine no merger just name change for the American market and other foreign countries.

    • The Walrus

      Didn’t know simply returning to the company name after changing it for export made that much of a difference.

    • Whippeteer

      It always was Nissan. It was just a shift of branding in countries where they were Datsun.

  5. angliagt angliagt Member

    I always thought that the wagon version has
    some really clean lines.Look at this,& then look at a
    Juke/Murano/Armada – hard to believe they came from
    the same company.

  6. Whippeteer

    Remember, after the 510, they lost the IRS in the sedans. Also emissions choked out a lot of the engine capabilities. The 710 was a much better car than the 610 all around, but neither had the handling, and lighter weight of the 510. Sideways in my mother’s 710 was always fun, and deriguer in winter driving.

    • Datsuntech

      The 610 was IRS also, except wagon, just like the 510. The 710 was when they got rid of the IRS .

  7. irocrobb

    My parents had a white one like this in about 1979 or 80. You could almost hear it rust in the winter. Reliable car but rusted out when 8 years old.

  8. Scott Tait

    Nissan Datsun are one in the same they chose one name for export “Datsun” … then later brought it back into line to Nissan (Ni-san) this is why in some markets you have identical vehicles carrying Datsun or Nissan badges

  9. jdoc

    I had an orange 1973 610 Wagon that provided me many miles of service until it finally died. In 1986 I found a blue sedan with 10,000 original miles. When I arrived at the owners residence I found out he was the original dealer that sold the car to a neighbor lady. Upon retiring from the dealership in 1980 he bought the 610 back from her. Everything was just like brand new. I took it for a drive even though it was going to get wet in the rain. We agreed on a price and I came back the next day to find the car all wiped down and polished up. The elderly owner, who became blind in 1882, loved the little 610 so much he couldn’t let it go without making it gleam for the new owner.

    • Len

      Great story! Thanks for sharing.

  10. chad

    JDoc – that what we call a “car guy” !

    #1 didn’t sell it till after 4 yrs of blindness;
    #2 polish it up AFTER sale.

    we’re “hard on the outside soft on the inside”
    to our 2 or 3 or 4 or…wheeled buddies.

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