Nissan Sentra Ancestor: 1981 Datsun 210

At one point in my life and for the last few years I have been intensely interested in almost anything and everything in the vintage Japanese vehicle world. If I were still in rabid buying mode for these types of cars I may have at least made a call to the seller of this 1981 Datsun 210 sedan. This rear-wheel-drive car can be found listed here on Craigslist in Hardy, Virginia. They’re asking $3,500 or reasonable offer for this super nice looking car. Thanks to angliagt for submitting this tip!

I should qualify that opening line. My first car was a 1971 Toyota Corolla 2-door wagon and it solidified my love of Japanese vehicles. Then, I took a hiatus for a few years with a couple of German cars and several American vans and cars and then fell back into vintage Japanese cars in the last decade. This Datsun 210 was known as the Nissan Sunny in most other markets, or the B310, and it’s a rear-wheel-drive car. This is the last of the rear-wheel-drive Datsuns for North America and close to the last for the Datsun name to be used in North America before the parent company switched to Nissan badging. I recently had a 1983 Datsun-Nissan Sentra which is basically what this 210 evolved into but in front-wheel-drive configuration. In fact, if you could zoom in on the trunk badge of this ’81 210 it says “DATSUN 210 By Nissan”, so the switchover had already begun in 1981.

This car looks like it’s in amazing condition. It isn’t too often that we see a Japanese car of this vintage that isn’t all rusty and beat up. The seller “purchased in 1982 from Hertz Rent-a-Car, and has been GARAGE-KEPT and SINGLE-OWNER ever since. Car has 147,145 Actual miles.” Cool. They go on to say that “Having been garage kept, it’s in amazing condition both internally and externally. Check out the photos, as they speak for themselves! The car is maroon in color with original paint. However, there is some sun damage to the paint on the trunk where sunlight shines through the garage windows.”

Being a four-door sedan, that’s one reason that it may have been kept in better condition than usual. The automatic transmission may be another reason that this car survived in such nice condition. And, nice condition it sure appears to be in. The interior looks almost like new both front and rear.

The engine looks super clean and it should be Nissan’s A15, a 1.5L inline-four with 65 hp. You can see that it isn’t transverse-mounted like the Sentra would be when they switched to front-wheel-drive. There’s no specific word on how this engine runs but I’m guessing that it runs as good as it looks. I know that there are vintage Japanese car fans out there from previous posts, but how about a rear-wheel-drive, four-door car with an automatic transmission?

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Comments

  1. j liu

    Wow, the car looks like it has 47,000 miles vs 147,000. The lure of the simple car…no computers beeping away, no electronic this and that..pure simplicity and rear wheel drive!
    I hope the person who buys this continues to treat it well.

    10
  2. grant

    My first car was a 79 Datsun 210. Not quite as nice as this one but a great little car. Seems strange that $3500 feels like a fair bargain on it, I paid $425 for mine. Of course that was in 1991…

  3. Rhett

    I rented one of these in 1983 in Colorado – it was a 2 dr Auto, I drove that thing in and out of the mountains with no complaints, even grew to kinda like it – was a far cry from the Buick Sport Wagon I owned at the time. While it had OK torque for climbing hills, it was still bog slow..

  4. Paul

    I had a 1982 2 door version of this car with a 5 speed manual in college. I had to feed the gerbil to get it to go! Ha Ha! I put a bumper sticker on the back that said, “Relax, you’ll get there” as it took the entire length of the onramp to get that thing up to 50 mph! Ha Ha! The car I had before it was a ’77 Chrysler New Yorker with a gas guzzling 440 that would go like a bat out of hades…until the entire electrical system shorted out on it and I sent it to the junk yard! The Datsun’s name was Dinky. I had fun with that car even though it was the slowest thing on the road! Ha ha!

    • angryjonny

      Paul, could you run out to that junkyard and pull the transmission for me? I’ll send you cash! ;-)

    • Fordfan

      My boss bought one of these a 2door hatchback in silver
      His previous car was a 1973 Plymouth fury with a 440 c u engine
      He kept It in a car port washed and waxed it regularly within 3years it dissolved
      Away from rust

  5. Beatnik Bedouin

    Not quite a Shelby GT350H, but a great entry-level collectable that also has a Hertz connection.

    The little BMC B-Series-inspired pushrod four is pretty indestructible and I think the automatic transmissions were sourced from Borg-Warner.

    These were known as the ‘Datsun Sunny’ in my adopted homeland of NZ, where few survive due to their propensity to rust, doing so almost immediately after being assembled here.

  6. Loadstar

    On a Vacation in 1981 in Miami. With automatic & air conditioning . It wasnt a bad car as such it just wasnt a good car. TBH it was the automatic that really made it suck. I dont mind autos but at 65 hp there just wasnt enough for A/C & an auto. Given it was Miami I’d settle for keeping the A/C . I like the simple styling really. I love it because it’s a survivor.

  7. Superdessucke

    After I got rid of that crappy Chevette that I used as a urinal (see Chevette Scooter thread) I jumped into the fire with of these. 1980 silver 2 door. Exact same seats. Some punks broke in and poured motor oil on them. Had to deliver my pizzas sitting on cardboard after that, and even then some oil would get on my butt. I think that was around 1991. Great time in my life. Thanks for the memories!

  8. BarnfindyCollins

    What a neato rear drive econobox! I bought a 2 door 5 speed ’81 for 50 bucks needing a carb rebuild in 1993; after getting it back driving I got rear ended by a brand new Isuzu Stylus. That Isuzu had to be towed away but the old battering ram bumper Datsun had no damage. Sold it 6 months later in Augusta, GA.

  9. Steve

    Growing up on the Texas coast in the 80’s, I had a friend whose mom had one of these, powder blue with a manual trans (I forget if it was a four or five speed…???) I remember the ling ding aling warning chime for the seat belts.) It rusted out fairly quicly due to sitting out in the salt air. It still ran well, so they removed the trunk lid, mounted a pair of mud grip tires on back and fed cows out of it (seriously). I wish I had a photo of it. It never got stuck, as far as I know. I guess it was a “ute” of sorts! (Since they never wore seat belts in the pasture, IIRC, the set belt reminder chime went off constantly. They said “you get used to it”. I buckled the seat belts with no one sitting in the car and voila! no more chime! LOL

  10. Little Cars

    That’s the most pale maroon I’ve ever seen. Drove the coupe version of this car into the ground for a courier company I worked for from 79-81. Tossed it around on the factory skinny tires — came very close to a tree on one of my circuit rides. Only damage was a broken headlamp.

  11. Saul

    Pull the fuse. The chime had it’s own fuse IIRC. I know the chime was independently fused on my first-year Quest van.

  12. Miguel

    This car reminds me of a rental car in Hawaii around that time.

  13. nessy

    My Aunt bought one new in March of 81. A baby blue automatic 2 door hatchback with no options except for the automatic, no radio but a heater of course. That little thing cost just over 6000 new. Not cheap for a tinbox as she called it. Slow and not as great on gas as you might think. No discounts as they were selling off the lots fast. Here is a photo I took of the car a few years ago. She only putted around town in the car. It only has 34k miles now. It’s still holding up pretty good, so is my aunt at 80+ The Datsun still runs like new but the body panels are rusting off.

  14. Miguel

    I just remembered my connection to this car.

    My parents paid for a driving school just before I turned 16, which was required by California law. I didn’t take drivers education in school, at least not the practical part.

    Anyway, on the second day, the instructor brought one of these. He handed me his keys and I started the car.

    We were driving and he said “I can see you can drive, so pull over here and we will go over what will be on the test”. So I did.

    When I tried to turn off the car, the key wouldn’t move.

    As it turned out, I had put in his Toyota key, which started the car, but now it wouldn’t move. We had to go to a locksmith, which I drove to, to get the key out and put the right one in.

    It seemed odd to me that the Toyota key would go in and start the Datsun, but not mover from there.

  15. Jewild

    If it comes with the sanyo FM converter, then the price is a steal

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