Live Auctions

Fairly Fair Lady: 1968 Datsun Fairlady Convertible

As the number of people who are collecting Japanese sports cars rises, the search for restorable examples continues to turn up a number of cars that probably cannot be restored economically.  As with nearly all of the manufacturers at the time, rust is something that has destroyed many otherwise desirable cars.  However, every once in a while, a car shows up on the market that is in really good shape.  This may be one of those cars.  Take a look at this 1968 Datsun Fairlady 1600 Sports convertible, found on Craigslist in Mobile, Alabama, and being sold for a reasonable $4500.  While it is not the more powerful and desirable 2000 version, this one is claimed by the seller to have very little rust.  For one of these roadsters, that is like claiming to have a talking dog.

Called a Fairlady in Japan, many experts wonder why these little roadsters never saw sales success in the United States.  They compared favorably to their main competition, the MGB, and the 2000 version even offered a five speed transmission, which was unheard of in the segment.  With racing successes in SCCA Classes C and D with John Morton, Bob Sharp and other privateers behind the wheel, these cars still sold poorly.  Perhaps it was the bias against Japanese cars at the time, or maybe it was that the larger British manufacturers at the time had a long history in the market that weighed on the minds of buyers.  Whatever the reason, customers likely missed the opportunity to own a very nice car.

On this particular car, I think we are looking at a vehicle that received some refreshing a while ago, but is likely at the point it needs a full restoration.  The paint looks to be a re-spray, but it appears that the car was not stripped to bare metal and then built back up with primer, paint, and clear.  You can see areas where primer and what may be the former finish is shown where the new paint has chipped off.  Maybe this thick coat of paint saved the car from further rusting, but it obviously wasn’t a long term solution.  It could also be hiding a sea of Bondo, so bring a magnet when you look at this car.  Oh, yes I notice the extended bumper.  It may have been some bastardized continental kit at one time, but it needs to go now.  This is like putting Halloween costumes on cats.  Your moral compass should prevent you from doing such things, but sometimes these things happen to the horror of onlookers.

Inside, we see that the interior looks to be one good cleaning away from being very serviceable.  While the 2000 series cars were equipped with five speed manual transmissions, these 1600 series cars are outfitted with a four speed manual.  Conversions to the five speed were popular, and can be done if you can find one.  I have heard, but cannot verify, that later model five speeds will work.  At any rate, a five speed conversion would be something that a new owner should look into if the car is taken apart for restoration anyway.  Another plus on this one is that it comes with a lift off hard top.  No mention is made of the condition of the convertible top or its mechanism.

Under the hood we see the stout 1600 cc inline four cylinder engine that earned these cars good reputations for power and reliability.  This one looks fairly stock, and it still has its twin carburetors attached.  These convertibles received some freshening during this model year, including a padded dash, a higher windshield, and it was the first year that emissions controls were added.  The owner does not tell us if the car runs or not, only that it has been stored for the last two years and needs restoration.  If he filled it with ethanol laced gasoline before storing it, then it most certainly doesn’t run and will need some fuel system work.  That stuff is the devil to old cars.

Believe it or not, a very well restored example of a 1968 Datsun 1600 roadster sold at a Gooding and Company Amelia Island auction for $50,600 in 2013.  While that number is pretty out of the realm for one of these, especially a 1600, a car that began its restoration in fairly rust free condition and was finished to a high standard should bring good money.  If the rust claims are true and all of the parts are restorable, then this car may be a good investment.  Even if you parked it in a climate controlled garage and kept it for a few years, it would probably appreciate better than any bond you could buy.


  1. David

    What, you’re not suppose to abuse cats? Being nice to dogs I understand, but what car guy cares about costuming cats? 😝


      Shame on you.

  2. Royal Ricci

    Looks like a 69 with that dash. I thought 68 was the last year for the older dash.

    • Dean

      ’68 on have the same dash. This is a ’68 unless the side marker lights were filled in. Looks to be a decent project. These are still undervalued. I have a ’69 2000 in my garage.

      Also, the Datsun Roadster predates the MGB.

  3. BiggYinn

    Had the chance to nosey around one of these years ago… a 1600 with a 5 speed

    Very peppy and good handeling …if you look at the styling you can clearly see british sports car influences the front is very TR4 and the rear quarters are MGB…to my eyes atleast

  4. Adam

    It is missing the emission equipment – a common modification. No telling if the distributor was recurved or the faulty fan clutch replaced. A different distributor, solid spacer and four blade fan would be an improvement.

    To Royal – the 1968 was the first year of that dash, and you can tell it’s a 68 by the lack of side markers.

    The five speed is geared all wrong for this engine. It’ll fit, but it’ll be slower off the line. I’ve heard that some later diesel five speeds will fit, but haven’t verified it. The more common L series won’t due to the starter being on the wrong side.

    That Continental kit has got to go – put the bumper back where it belongs!

  5. JimmyJ

    4 years ago I passed on an immaculate one for $8000 still regret it

  6. Jeff

    I’ve owned several of these…including a ’70 2000 and a ’66 1600. Regret selling the ’66…c’est la vie.

  7. larry k

    I had one of these 1600’s in a bit of a different form….full SCCA GP class road race car back in the ’80’s. Absolutely a blast to race and learned a ton about engines (like keeping rod bearings alive at high rpm’s), and suspensions. Won a few races and usually finished well. After going to another class (S2000) in the late ’80’s, donated the car, spares, and trailer to a local high school in San Diego for their auto shop students.

  8. Barthman

    In 1968 US regs. required side reflectors or lights on all new vehicles including motorcycles.
    Why are none here?

  9. Gary Hamilton


    MGB started in 63 I believe, these in 65 or so if I am correct.

    Notice the SU carb knock offs.

    Japanese were great at taking someone else’s design and improving it.

    I had a chance at a 2000 about 6 years ago, reasonable price, but the guy was a clown.

    Didn’t know anything about them, driven hard, put away wet.

    This appears to be a pretty nice example if rust isn’t bad.

    • Adam

      The Datsun’s first year was 1963. Development of this and the MGB were at the same time. Most significant difference is the MGB is unibody while this is body on frame. The SUs were made under license by Hitachi so aren’t “knock-offs”.

    • Dean

      From the website Unusual Cars
      “In the West it’s often compared to the MGB. Some accuse it of being an out- right copy, and therein lies one of the many myths surrounding Japanese cars. In actuality, the iconic British sports car went on sale in May 1962, seven months after the Fairlady 1500’s debut at the 1961 Tokyo Motor Show. Given the lead time required to design a car, it would have been impossible for either one to copy the other.”

  10. Chuck Foster 55chevy Chuck Foster

    I’m an hour east of Mobile, there was a nice looking local white one for $1500 a while back, I think they even dropped the price, the ad didn’t last long.

  11. Tim W

    Bought a ‘64 Fairlady in the early 70’s, ran great but rust had already eaten it up beyond redemption.

  12. Brakeservo

    They don’t just look like an old British roadster, but the cylinder head from either an MGA or MGB allegedly interchanges! And I don’t think you can say the cars were not a success either – back “in the day” these were more common on the highway on long distance trips than the MGB – probably because the typical MG didn’t have the reliability to make an multi-state trip! But the performance potential of the 2000 – outclassed just about anything from the land of British Racing Green – I once overtook, passed and got away from a CHP patrol car at 130 MPH on the San Bernardino Fwy. Only a Jag or Aston Martin had that type of speed back then and were soooooooooo much more expensive. (Admittedly, the Datsun wasn’t stock – it had twin side draft Solex carbs and a different cam.)

  13. Tom Justice

    I have a 66 and it has gone up in value every year I have owned it. This car, in
    “good driver condition” is worth 10K at least so if you have the skills and the time you could actually get your restoration money out of this car if the engine is not in bad shape and that does not happen often.

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