One Owner, Low Miles, No Reserve! 1979 Datsun B210 Survivor

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The Datsun B210 arrived in the US in 1973, just in time for the gas crisis to sideswipe America. With its thrifty four-cylinder engine, lightweight construction, and snazzy looks, the B210 sold like hotcakes. Only a handful of compacts came even close to its gas-miserly ways (EPA rated at 48 mpg on the highway!) – Honda’s CVCC, VW’s Rabbit and Beetle, Toyota’s Corolla. Later, the field filled out with the likes of the Chevette and the Fiesta, but the B210 remained a Malaise Era success. Here on eBay is a pristine one-owner example of a 1979 B210 hatchback, bid to $5655 in a no-reserve auction. A Southern California car all its life, it can be driven home from Chico – a journey that will likely endear it immediately to its new owner given today’s gas-price climate.

The B210’s first engine displaced 1.3 liters but as the US layered on emission controls and safety regulations, Datsun increased displacement to compensate for these performance-sapping requirements. Factory air conditioning and large bumpers added weight; EGR valves and catalytic converters necessitated numerous mechanical refinements – all amounting to running in place. By 1979 the four-cylinder OHV engine was making 65 hp, down slightly from first-year cars. The one knock on this car is its automatic transmission – an extra-cost option that did nothing for either performance or gas economy. On the other hand, the odometer reads 67,000 miles, which is said to be all she’s traveled over these forty-four years. And: it just passed California’s tough smog test.

The interior has a few flaws noted by the seller and evident in the photos: a cracked windshield, a small tear in the passenger’s door panel, torn carpet under the driver’s heel, and a few seam separations in the driver’s seat. Here’s a new windshield, the rest of these items can be finessed over time. The headliner is in near-new condition; the cargo area could use an hour’s attention. The car has its original jack and spare tire. More important than the cosmetics: the gauges and lights work perfectly.

California residency was clearly kind to this car. The B210 was made of thin gauge steel to save cost and weight, and rustproofing was not at its best in the 70s, so the beautiful underside is something of a miracle. All in all, this car – except for the automatic – is a wonderful entry in the “first classic car” sweepstakes. No, it’s not powerful, but I’d be willing to bet it will be the most popular car at just about any sidewalk show it enters.

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Comments

  1. HoA Howard AMember

    No, it won’t be one of THOSE posts, not this time. Even a person like me that bleeds red, white, and blue, recognizes what an important car this was. My 1st ( real) gf out of HS, had her dads ’64 Chevy 2 door Impala, she traded on a ’72 Datsun 1200.( One extreme to the other) Sporty thing, but total POS, I thought, compared to the Chevy, anyway. Thank goodness she never got t-boned in it. The 510, I never cared for either, the B210, like the Capri ll, addressed all the issues, the rear hatch, the biggest news, but 5 speed offered and rode halfway decent. Not sure about lofty claims of 48 mpg, but certainly 30s for most travel, but most of the examples mentioned above got great mileage, it was the car that actually a decent car. It set the pace for “NISSAN”, ( in 1981) which threw everyone for a loop for a spell, but I feel this car changed everything and is one of the biggest auto producers in the world today, thanks in part, to this car right here.
    Practically everyone will admit to the rust issue, but it was never intended to slog through the Twin Cities rush hour in a blizzard, although most were used for such. The only way you’ll find one is, like here from southern climates. I bet there’s still a couple of these types of cars still running around. Someone in my little town has one, looks like this, they only go to the store on sunny days( and another in their yard, I noticed) Nope, no “pro USA” epilogue, these were great cars.

    Like 18
    • Henry DavisMember

      I bought one of these new in 76 because I had a 160 mile daily commute to work. Was disappointed that Datsun didn’t offer cruise control on ’em, but I figured “What the hell, I can always add it”. WRONG! Yes, I could physically add the cruise control, but there wasn’t enough power to run A/C and cruise at the same time…vacuum issue I’d guess. Summers in Arkansas aren’t very pleasant without A/C, so I didn’t keep it long. Bought a 240Z which was world’s better.

      Like 13
    • Walter

      $8,000!!!!! Wow I bought one new in 1980 for around $2,000. They were great little cars. I used the hatchback for hauling around 55 gal. drums. Only had to replace clutch and pressure plate once. My Datson mechanic friend just plugged all the epa stuff up with golf tee’s and away we went.

      Like 3
  2. DW

    One that hasn’t rusted away. Now that is something.

    Like 15
    • Raymond E Snow Jr

      Living in MA, I can’t recall the last time I saw one that was roadworthy and not sitting rusting away somewhere

      Like 1
  3. bobhess bobhessMember

    Solid little cars. If you need a 5 speed transmission, and can find one, this is the one you want to put into your British car.

    Like 6
    • HoA Howard AMember

      Blasphemy, Bob,,wasamattayou?

      Like 3
    • HoA Howard AMember

      Actually, after the cars rusted to being undriveable, the motors were used as early APUs( auxiliary power unit) for semis.

      Like 2
  4. TorinoSCJ69

    Datsun was a part of the landscape in late 70’s – my Wife’s sister drove a blue one, and our Family friend she owned hers (as 1st car) for 20+ years.

    Nice that it survived and quite uncommon !

    What will this fine example bring – $8,000 ??

    Like 6
  5. Mhuff

    I put a clutch disk in a Datsun one time , wow it goes in from top ,no engine or trans separation, not sure what model that Datsun was ,does anyone know?

    Like 3
    • angliagt angliagtMember

      Datsun 310.

      Like 1
      • Pzzaninja m

        Wasn’t the 310 FWD? Friend of mine had one in HS and I totally remember it being FWD unless I’m having a senior moment 😅

        Like 1
    • Walter

      $8,000!!!!! Wow I bought one new in 1980 for around $2,000. They were great little cars. I used the hatchback for hauling around 55 gal. drums. Only had to replace clutch and pressure plate once. My Datson mechanic friend just plugged all the epa stuff up with golf tee’s and away we went.

      Like 2
  6. Maggy

    I remember seeing these everywhere as a kid.All rotted away up here in the midwest like all old cars did.If someone likes these this one looks great to restore.The automatic doesn’t bother me.Was probably an Aisin which were good transmissions.Glwts.

    Like 7
  7. TomP

    I just cant figure out why cars in 1979 got 48 mpg, and today’s cars get less than half that. It just doesn’t make sense.

    Like 10
    • Rodney - GSM

      Weight…

      Like 9
      • Nelson C

        Weight and the testing methods. Nat’l Energy Speed Limit was 55 mph. The EPA fuel economy cycle was run at 45-50 mph in a laboratory. Driving for mileage is not fast.

        Like 11
    • FredG

      The easy answer is that they didn’t get 48 mpg. The EPA system for estimated mileage was not very accurate back then and vastly overstated mileage. The system changed some time in the 80s and all cars lost 10-15 mpg.

      Like 10
      • HoA Howard AMember

        Bingo! Back then, gas mileage was the absolute “hot button”, and it was the main selling feature of all these tin cans. People were willing to sacrifice a lot for that. Oh the claims, VW with over 50mpg, Mazda, even Pinto, but few had any credibility. The best part of those claims was, “your mileage may vary”,,,
        Now, on that subject, I rented a new Chevy Malibu, 4 cylinder, I think, I never looked, got a respectable low 30s on the highway, and recently, a new Kia Soul, that I didn’t care for, but got mid 30s, even in 100 degree heat and a/c on, so gas mileage is still on everyones mind.

        Like 1
      • Frank Drackman

        Best I ever got in my 78′ Ford Pinto with a 4 speed was 28mpg for highway driving. With the deep rear gear 75 mph was about 3000 RPM, EPG rating was 29mpg. Around town it was 22-23mpg.
        My 94 Z28 would get 25 mpg on the highway, 16-17 in town.

        Like 2
      • Greg in Texas

        Bullcorn. My 1.9 Opel Manta was 35mpg regular driving 15 highway miles to work for 2 years. A much lighter lower displacement Datsun was an option. But it was too slow for my youthful exuberance. Today I’ll take the 45mpg and let the V8 homies impress each other and show their intimate tattoos to each other at the muscle car meets. I’ll just put my leftover money into old motorcycles, metal, coins and collectibles. That will still be around after I press the gas pedal.

        Like 0
    • Evan Greenwald

      My ‘77 B210 5 speed got 45 MPG average…Loved that car, it was a really solid car. I lost her after 186,000 miles and one blown engine.

      Like 5
    • Henry DavisMember

      I kinda avoid newer cars, just because I like ’em without all the nanny stuff. But I rented a new Camaro a couple of weeks ago. 6cyl automatic. The damn thing had plenty of power, and averaged 35mpg on the interstate, cruise control @ 79mph for a 400 mile trip. I was amazed!

      Like 6
      • Pzzaninja m

        Wasn’t the 310 FWD? Friend of mine had one in HS and I totally remember it being FWD unless I’m having a senior moment 😅

        Like 1
      • Greg in Texas

        Ford and GM do make good economy 6 cylinder cars in pretty heavy bodies. Imagine those eco 4 and 6 cylinders in more sensible hatchbacks. They are all determined to pretend we want to lug around empty back seats, ever hopeful we’ll add more unwanted children to their mass consumption agenda. But that being said: Hopefully some muscle car dudes buy the body styles with sensible power trains suggesting they might spend money on a traditional date instead of gas hogs to impress the fellers.

        Like 0
    • Ray

      While they didn’t do that well…30s were possible. Size, increased ride height, huge wheels and tires (anyone remember 13s on these cars?), and weight from all the added safety features that we don’t have the option of NOT selecting, as do other countries, many cars are also AWD from the factory.

      Like 1
  8. rustylink

    you lost me when I saw the slusher. I test drove an automatic off a used lot in the mid 80’s after spending time around a couple buddies and their 5 spd B210’s and it made the 5 speed seem down right lively. I got out on the highway to hear that 1.3 liter groan with disapproval when the peddle was pushed. It was loud, slow but I am sure extremely reliable. I made up my mind to keep looking for one with a stick

    Like 4
    • angliagt angliagtMember

      210’s had a 1400 cc engine (A14),same as the
      later B210s.

      Like 1
    • Greg in Texas

      Fun story. USA got the 1.5 liter. Previously the 1.3 only arrived with a manual transmission. But fun story.

      Like 0
  9. MICHAEL SCHUBERT

    We called these “The Steel Cockroach” when I worked for Nissan USA.

    Like 8
  10. John EderMember

    I had a friend who drove one of these back in the day. He really got tired of women scratching their phone numbers in the paint, begging to go for a ride…

    Like 6
  11. Troy

    Nice little car should make someone a decent commuter for a few years meanwhile if they make car payments to a money market account so when its time they can come here to barn finds and find another older low mileage car and pay cash for it. And continue to stay away from all this computer junk on cars today , I find the new Subaru infotainment system more distracting than using my cell phone having to push multiple buttons to switch from finding a radio station to controlling the heat and A/C

    Like 5
    • Greg in Texas

      Analog cars are going to make a return. Apartheid Musk or tank slab gas guzzling AWD off-road junk with a mortgage sized car payment is insanity confirmed. Serious adults need reliable, affordable basic 2 seater transportation that doesn’t add Big Brother on the dash, or drive us to debt filling a gas guzzler tank.

      Like 0
  12. 59Poncho

    This is NOT a B210 just a 210. The B was a different body style. They marketed “Honey B’s” in 1978 for $2850! Being the car person in the family my sister gave me her 1980 210. It was a 5spd and was I guess an upgraded model with wheel trim rings, fancy stripes etc.
    I remember the car being COLD blooded. Needed at least 10 minutes to warm up and drive properly. High winding motor but to no avail-GUTLESS no matter what. Sold for 500. F……………………..

    Like 9
    • HoA Howard AMember

      Meh, good catch, but “tomato”,,,”tomahto”, what’s the difference? The cold blooded issue affected most all these with a carburetor. Fuel injection hadn’t made it to these types of cars, and all needed time to “warm up”. Trouble was, they were a spaghetti bowl of vacuum hoses for emissions, I don’t recall many that idled right either.

      Like 4
      • Greg in Texas

        Yep. Then the fuel injection was blackmailed by catalytic converters, robbing the efficiency gained but worse: 1400 degrees of smoldering clay and platinum burning small amounts of unspent gasses actually doing more damage than those trace unspent gasses in properly maintained engines. Car engines that cooled off in an hour to work on take 3-4 hours with that smoldering catalytic converter. EV is fine. Plug-in hybrid best. If catalytic converters eliminated. Back then, if we’d just stuck with improvement of CDI ignition, valve design and fuel injection mapping, the climate change from cars themselves would be minimal. It’s not too late, but we can’t have gas cars over 2,000 pounds and over 2 liters. No turbo no superchargers. The complete combustion objective cannot be tolerated by dumping more gas or pushing more weight. And slop cover by superfluous catalytic converter nonsense gotta go. Cars thus era getting fuel injection and CDI ignition – eliminating the carb inefficient vacuum solenoids will make even this 1.5 seem like a Toyota Corolla. Maybe that’s not enough. But 45+mpg and reliability is everything to most people.

        Like 0
  13. AzzuraMember

    I had a friend that bought one of these new. I bought a new Plymouth Champ twin stick the same year. There was no comparison at all. The Mitsubishi won on all counts.

    Like 4
  14. Nelson C

    Some of us have reached the point where we can appreciate driving a slow car. When I was 19 having a slant six was no thrill to me. Neither was my BF’s ’74 Toyota Corona wagon with the automatic. It was put your foot on the floor and steer. Funny how when gas reached $1.25 in ’81 it was alright to drive a 1.7/stick Horizon. This is probably not a car I would thrash everyday on the freeway but would be content to putter around town and on the 2-lane.

    The Steel Cockroach was applicable.

    Like 6
    • Grape Ape

      Owned a 1974 Corona SR5 2 door, with a textured paisley vinyl top. 5 speed, 1800RC engine. Vehicle had an overhead idiot panel that was rather unique, dash was curved. Certainly no speed racer, likely better than the wagon tho with the auto. Not too bad highway RPM in 5th, don’t know if I checked mileage, perhaps not. Unique little car. Brown paint, top, and interior.

      Like 0
  15. bill

    I had a 1981 210 SL 5 speed. I could sqeeze 400 miles out of a tank of gas!
    That was when the Datsun was becoming Nissan.
    Just as the midwest fellow said, the engines ran forever, but not the bodies!

    Like 3
    • TJ

      My mother bought one of these new when my brothers and I were in high school. It was less than two years old and my brother got in a fender bender with a Chevy Vega. The Datsun was totaled in the Vega, drove away.

      Like 3
  16. Disillusioned

    As Poncho commented, this is a 210, not a B210. I had a 78 with a 5-speed. Not real comfortable, but solid little commuter, if weak on power. My daily commuter for about four years. Rust and the need for catalytic convertor replacement claimed the car, with nearly 160k on the odometer.

    Like 3
    • Greg in Texas

      Wasn’t aware as early as 78 that Datsun had catalytic converter. Most Japanese imports had carbs with EGR pumps and vacuum triggered gas flow inputs that either worked as designed without good performance but good gas mileage or tolerable acceleration dumping excess fuel always smelling of gas and oil on the engine cooking. But I do remember working at a Buick dealership when Opel Germany was dropped for izuzu Opel in 1979. The hatches had this emissions spaghetti and EGR pumps, the Impulse had the catalytic converter. I learned years later that was the reason we lost the better German Opel line. Because no 1400 degrees catalytic converters on German Opels, just the Solex carbs choked by vacuum lines that behaved differently every change of season for most Americans.

      Like 0
  17. David Moore

    I owned two 1976 Datsun B210s and two 1979 Datsun 210 station wagons over the years. My first wagon was my first experience with a headlight switch on the turn signal stalk and without an owner’s manual I spent 20 minutes searching for the headlight switch because the parking lights had accidentally gotten turned on. The final wagon I saved from the junk yard, put a clutch in it and sold it to a girl I was sweet on but never made a move. I later saved it from the junkyard again after the head gasket failed when her boyfriend was driving it. I finally took it back to the same junkyard I rescued it from when it was at the end of its life.
    The B210 moniker ended with the 1978 model year so this is NOT a B210. As I recall, in the B210, at least by 1976 the only engine was a 1.4L and either a 4 spd manual or an automatic. By 1979 you could get a 4 spd or a 5 spd and the automatic. You could also get a 1.5L by 1979. All of my cars were the 1.4L and 4 speeds. Curious note, when almost all cars after 1976 required unleaded fuel which was more expensive, my little 1979 wagons would run on leaded gas.

    Like 2
  18. Sean Howard

    $7,000 for an econobox with a slush box transmission? There’s one born every minute…

    Like 1

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