Split Personality : 1983 Datsun Maxima Wagon

Nissan Motors applied the Datsun brand name to its cars for many years (originally to distance the company from the fact that Nissan was a major military supplier during World War II). The Datsun name was, of course, extremely successful, but in 1981, Nissan management made the expensive decision to rebrand its cars world wide under the actual corporate name.

In the US market alone, Nissan spent a total of around $500 million on the brand name change, which took place over a three year period, 1982-1984. During that time, cars were initially branded “Datsun by Nissan” and gradually the Nissan name became the only brand name on its vehicles. In 1983, the Maxima was apparently still carrying at least some Datsun badging, as this clean, low-mileage example, for sale on Craigslist in Rochester, New York demonstrates.

As is so often the case on Craigslist, the seller has very little to say about the car he is trying to market. The ad states that the car is in excellent condition for its age, has been driven only 94,111 miles, the air conditioning works and it has “hardly no rust.”  That dashboard is a very good example of ‘eighties Japanese car interior design.

With only four photos provided, and any potential buyer will want to get this car on a lift to check for hidden rust, and go through its various operating systems just to be sure. It is, after all, almost 35 years old, and in all likelihood, this car spent its life in the rust belt.

This Maxima is equipped with a four speed automatic, and while it’s by no means a speed demon, going from zero-to-sixty in about 13.4 seconds, Datsuns (and Nissans too) have a well deserved reputation for reliability and if you are a fan of older Japanese iron (as I know some of us are – Scotty, are you seeing this?), this Datsun, in good condition, can be a fun part time daily driver or cruiser. It’s got a good amount of room inside, and is a very comfortable driver on the road. And parts are not all that difficult to source. I thought the $3800 asking price seemed reasonable, but who knows what this car is really worth? NADA says high retail is only $3025, which really surprised me. So what is this car worth, really? And is it collectible? What do you have to say about it?

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  1. J.Raley

    Bit high on the mileage for the $$$$$.

  2. Jeffro

    Is the t handle on shifter backwards? Shouldn’t the button be pointing towards the driver?

    • PaulbZ3

      Probably that way for the JDM and wasn’t a safety concern BITD to retool that item for LHD export market would be my guess…FWIW

    • slimwhitman

      Yes, its backwards. I had an ’81 Maxima for 13 years until recently and know that shifter well.

  3. Scotty Staff

    Yes it’s collectible! That car looks fantastic to me – nice find, David! This one will haunt me..

  4. KevinR

    Mom had an ’83 Datsun Maxima while I was in college. It was a torquey little sedan that was a lot of fun to drive. A major upgrade from the ’81 Cutlass Supreme she had previously.

    I remember smooth power delivery and basically good handling. I think it really could have benefited from stiffer shocks and beefier sway bars.

    Unfortunately I think the bodywork came from recycled beer cans, because it seemed like just looking at it funny would result in dents.

    And yes, the shifter in this car is mounted backwards.

  5. Neal

    I remember that instrument cluster! My grandfather had a dark brown sedan version of that Datsun/Nissan Maxima new since late ’83 that I rode in often. Then it went to my folks for a bit and finally to me in the mid 2000’s. We kept it up well, but rust was starting as a daily driver in the northeast. It had really low miles, like maybe around 35-40,000 even after twenty years? Cushy interior and that long hood. Fun rear-wheel sliding in the snow. My wife and I considered keeping it instead of the Corolla wagon as the main car for a few years, but then the exhaust system disintegrated in the New England wintry mist. Passed it on to a friend who was willing to revive Brown (“What can Brown do for YOU?….). Sadly, it chunked its timing chain a short while later, and all the king’s horses and all the king’s men insisted that we not put Brown together again. Great pull from that long inline six. Smooth ride. Great sound system (state of the art cassette with Dolby!). Memories of Pop every startup. And she talked to you too, quipping about low fuel and doors ajar, etc. I do recall that the plastic interior pieces were disintegrating daily, and by the end chunks of the dash surround were missing and the center console around the e-brake mechanism went awol raggedly. Sad that it isn’t still around chugging away with eighties panache. I remember a neighbor wondering who the hell had that “brown turd”, but his RangeRover was broken half the time. Wish the voice chime could have said,”even with the low miles, the old timing chain will fail”….

    • Ray Jorgensen

      How did that timing chain die? Mine had over 300K miles on it when I replaced it about a dozen years ago, not that it was strictly necessary. A broken water pump bolt required a front cover pull, and while in there it made sense to refresh the chain and tensioner, as the chain had stretched and was on marker 2 or 3 (forget which.) Now the car is coming up on 440K on the original bottom end and still running strong, not to mention surprising the smog check people with how clean it is.

      • Neal

        It wasn’t in my possession when it went, so I don’t have many details about the fail.

  6. tirefriar

    Its worth what the seller and buyer come to agree upon but to me its worth about $2500. Had it been a manual I could see potential here but the Japanese slush boxes of those years don’t excite me too much, not that many particular models from those years do anyway….

  7. Howard A Member

    These were such nice cars. It’s as if, Nissan threw everything they had to impress Americans in this. Wasn’t the Maxima (Maximum? No, Maxima,,Jerry Seinfeld joke) top of the line? I had a friend with a Maxima sedan, and he said he HAD to set the speed control, because 80mph didn’t feel any different than 50. Nice car, these didn’t last too long by me.

  8. jim

    My folks had the sedan, when it was new. I drove it cross country….loved it, great car. Yes, 80 felt like you were going 50!

  9. Cajuncarlover

    My aunt had a ’82 dark brown wagon and I always loved that car. Now I have the same but a sedan and I still love it!

  10. Jubjub

    There was a fast talking kid named Maya is my class. He had that whole ’80s El de Barge/Miami Vice look going with the big curl mullet, pleated linen pants and jacket, and an open collar shirt displaying a necklace. Hey may’ve had a gold tooth too. I remember him commenting “I got two cars…a Cadillac and a Maxima!” His was slate blue. Once in class, the teacher asked us all what we wanted to do for a living. Maya said he wanted to be a pimp and own a liquor store. He’s probably enjoyed a more successful career than me!

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