Great Little Survivor: 1980 Datsun 210 Sunny Coupe

Nissans and Datsuns have featured prominently in my life. Over the years I’ve owned at least 10 of them in various forms. In fact, I actually met my wife through a Nissan/Datsun Owners Club many, many….many years ago. This little 210 Sunny caught my eye when I saw it, so I just couldn’t resist writing about it. Located in Fresno, California and listed here on craigslist with a price of $3,500, this little beauty has a clean title and is ready for some lucky buyer to enjoy right away. A big thanks goes out to Pat L for bringing this one to our attention.

Unfortunately my experience with Datsuns has taught me something very important: The Datsuns from the mid 1970 to the mid 1980s could be very susceptible to rust. For some models it seemed like there was a kind of secret race going on between those Datsuns and some Alfas to see which could “biodegrade” the fastest. What I will say is that if a Datsun has lasted for 38 years with little or no corrosion, then it’s a  fairly safe bet that it is a good one. This little Sunny does look to be quite solid, but I would definitely want to check underneath just to be sure. Some people really don’t like the styling of the Coupe, but I think that they’re quite pleasant to look at. The paint-work also looks clean for its age, and appears to have a nice shine to it.

Sadly this is the only interior shot provided. I would love to see a few more, but this one tells us quite a pleasant story. The dash appears to be intact and as far as we can ascertain from this shot, it also appears to be crack free. The original radio appears to be intact, and thankfully it doesn’t look like anyone has butchered the interior to fit an after-market stereo. The seats sport covers because the owner is transparent enough to admit that the upholstery is worn. I still wish that there were shots of the rear seat and cargo area.

Power for this 210 is provided by the Datsun A14 engine, backed by a 5-speed manual transmission. This engine produced 65hp, and it was the last year of this engine in this configuration. For 1981 an updated version was introduced designed to further reduce emissions. That engine received a cylinder head with smaller ports, and also lost some power and performance. The seller states this engine is stock, and that it runs well. The engine bay may not be the cleanest that I’ve ever seen, but it doen’t look like any effort has gone into hiding any potential issues. I’d call this one “honest”. My own experience with these is that with the 5-speed they will run all day on the highway at 70mph. So these are equally as comfortable across town or across the country.

A few days ago I wrote up a 1980 Pinto. This little Datsun is from the same year. It is also $1,500 dearer than the Pinto. Potentially they could both do the same job. The Pinto is probably a more sophisticated design in some ways, but as one of my friends from the Datsun Club once said, “You can fix almost anything on the Sunny with a crescent wrench, a hammer and a roll of duct tape.” Which would I have? I’d probably shell out the extra $1,500 and take the Datsun. How about you?

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  1. Max

    Beautiful classic Datsun ! I learned driving back in 1986 in a 79′ 4 door version of this that was my first car bought by my father . I hope the new buyer keep it Unmolested and Original !

    • Miguel Member

      I learned to drive a stick in a Datsun F10. Does anybody remember those?

      • Dick Johnson

        Had one. I said it was green, my wife said yellow. It got better fuel mileage than my Yamaha 500 cafe.

        Our mother had a 210 wagon that covered camper duties all over the States. Since she was an English teacher, it was ironic that she had no desire to read the owner’s manual, or load range placards. Not much in the way of a plot. The 210 ate an input shaft bearing at 87,000miles, and went the rest of it’s life in the Rockies without complaint.

      • Suttree

        I remember the F10. Datsuns first front wheel drive IIRC. I haven’t seen one in person since the 80s in person. I’ve only seen one for sale on the innerweb and that was several years ago.

      • 68custom

        those F-10 would shift into 1st at any speed. my friend had one and did that to it by accident many times, never worse for wear it kept on running!
        the motor in this one is bulletproof as long as you change the oil.

  2. Andrew Member

    This car brings back many memories. Our very first new car as a married couple was one of these. It was a reliable fun car for a young family. I hope that someone keeps this car going and preserved.

  3. Beatnik Bedouin

    The little A-series engines are quite tuneable and the factory offered a lot of go-fast bits for both engine and chassis.

    This looks like a great deal on a fun, entry-level collectable.

  4. Jerry Long

    This was the first new car that my wife and I bought. It was the same 210 SL in metallic brown with gold pin stripes. Neither of us knew how to drive a 5 speed so a friend drove it home for us (40 miles). We spent the rest of the weekend in a parking lot learning how to drive it. We but 160,000 miles on before we sold it in 1992. Major repairs were a head gasket, heater coil and a clutch.The body was rusting away and the seat falling apart but it ran great. Paid $6300 for it. We saved enough on gas over the Cutlass 350 ci Olds to make the car payment.

  5. Steverino

    By 1982 I’d owned two Civics, four 66-67 Corona two doors, five 57 Chevys and a couple Pintos. The Pintos were very reliable. I’d pick the pinto over the Datsun.

    • Dick Johnson

      The ad back then said, “Drive a Datsun, Then Decide.” I’ve decided, after owning 6 of them, that I won’t have another Nissan product.

      Our 2004 Frontier requires constant monitoring. Rusted oil pan was the latest. This truck is maintained and cleaned regularly. The problem of a blown bottom tank on the radiator on this model was dealt with as a precaution. The cost of a radiator vs a contaminated auto trans was cheap insurance.

  6. Southbound

    Owned a 1979 B 210 that was similar. Most reliable car I ever owned.

  7. Howard A

    Proof positive, someone at Nissan knew a car with the name “Sunny” would never fly here, and these were always the “210” to us. Fact is, I never knew it was even called Sunny. While at the time, these were 10 times the car the Pinto was. If you lived in an area with no salt, they were the best. If you did live in salt areas, which many did, they found out, one winter was all it took. Today, I’d go with the Pinto, just for the parts issue. I know for a fact, finding vintage Nissan parts can be a nightmare.

    • Miguel Member

      I would also go with the Pinto, and did, for the difference in the thickness of the metal used to make the car.

      The Datsun feels flimsy.

      Also the engine and carb were much easier to work on on the Pinto.

  8. Bob C.

    I worked as a lot attendant at a Toyota dealership in 1981, and I remember getting about a half dozen former rental 4 doors. Not bad little cars, but very anemic compared to a Toyota Corolla of that time.

  9. dweezilaz

    Three door hatchback.

    Coupe has a proper trunk and deck lid. Also called a two door sedan.

  10. Kyushakulture

    I have an 80 Dlx with the 1.5L A15. Unfortunately, it has an automatic and some rust areas. I’ve done some work to it, but it’s mostly stock. Instagram @kyushakulture

  11. W9BAG Member

    Having read reports of the safety of these Datsuns, I would shy away. In a collision, the front seats have been known to actually have the seat mounting bolts tear through the floor of the car. Cute car, but not very safe. Cheesy Japanese steel is suspect.

  12. irocrobb

    I had a 1977 F10 in 1981 for a couple years. It was one of the only front wheel drive cars in a town of 1000 people. Just about everybody else drove a Ford or Chev. Mine had the crappy manual transmission. It was good on gas after coming out of a 340 Cuda. The Datsun was traded in on a 1984 Accord which was my only new car ever purchased.
    The Accord was worlds ahead in driver ownership.I miss the Accord but not that Datsun.

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