The Beginning: 1958 Datsun 1000 Sedan


The automaker now known as Nissan in the US began it’s American operations in 1958 by importing a few Datsun 210 sedans into California and calling them Datsun 1000’s. It’s safe to say there weren’t many of them, although I couldn’t find actual numbers. Thanks to Barn Finds reader Daniel for alerting us to this example that looks amazingly original and complete. It’s listed for sale here on craigslist in San Jose, California for only $1,200. I’m really shocked that an example that appears this solid, albeit in poor quality pictures, is for sale for this price. The price guides I looked at don’t even list a value for this model as they are so rare. I found references to one for sale 7 years ago in similar cosmetic but running condition for $17k, so I think this is a bargain. And you have to admit, it’s cute! From the front, it has a little early Mini styling (and it predates it), and the bustle trunk just adds to the cute factor. The engine looks like a British A-Series engine, and I understand the A and B series designs were licensed to Nissan, so it may well be related. I’d love to see this one sympathetically put back on the road! Let us know if you pick this one up, and what you’d do with it!


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  1. packrat

    –Had I found this example from a dry climate near me, instead of on the other side of the country, I would have taken better shots of it for you, IN MY GARAGE. Quite the head-turner as it is, and of historic significance for being a “year-one” in this country.

  2. James

    Looks like a good buy at $1200.

    The engine at 988cc is based on the British B series engine with a 73mm bore vs. 73.025 for the MGA’s long stroke 1489. The Datsun 988 has a short stroke of 59mm. The MGA’s stroke is 88.9mm.

    Always like to return to “Economy Car Blitz” by Joe H. Wherry published in 1956. There was a one paragraph reference to “A Far Eastern Product”. First, second and last sentences sum up Joe Wherry’s perspective:

    “In an urgent quest for new markets for her industrial products and cars in particular, Japan is said to be attempting to invade the Australian market with several small cars. Reputedly of good quality, one must remember that the Japanese have recently enjoyed conspicuous success with cameras in the world market. …. There are many who believe such a dollar earning venture might prove as profitable as has recent optical instrument and camera successes.”

    And the rest is history.

  3. James

    From the 1958 Datsun 210 model:

  4. fred

    If for no other reason, I’d say its worth buying just to be able to say you have something no one else does. Will be quite a hit at the car shows.

  5. Lee

    I tried calling. No answer. I want this car !

  6. Galaxie Greg

    Wow… this is rare sight today. Interesting read that James put up, Early Datsun, says it all……. This one must be a 1958 1/2 model as signal lights are at the front of fenders beside grill and not on top of fenders close to windshield. Amazing it survived all these years..

    • Rocco Member

      Maybe Datsun had to move the signals to the front for US regulations. The one for sale is a left hand drive as the promo pics are right hand drive.

      Just guessing.

  7. Jim Mc

    I love it. What a unique car. But wow, what it would take. That’s why $1200 seems fair, or even a starting point for negotiation. Parts, shop manual, dual language mechanic, this one is rough. You might not ever get it right, but you’d have the only one. Hate to see it resto-modded but it might be the only way to keep this one going.

  8. Another Bob

    This will be sold very quickly. Hopefully it is not restored, but just cleaned up, repaired and preserved. Fantastic buy at $1200

  9. Ian my eye there is more than a styling hint from the Hillman Minx built under licence in Japan in the 50s as well. This car is a great find and I find myself in agreement with the above post about keeping it as it is. Must be rare-wonder if a local dealer would be interested as part of the factory heritage

  10. Howard A Member

    Agreed, cute car with a ton of history, but it should be in a museum to show the humble beginnings of what became a huge car company. As far as actually DRIVING this around, IDK, when was the last time you drove a car with 37 hp? The claim of 75 mph top speed seems a little optimistic, (with a 5:13 rear axle?), however, it would be great to have this at a show, and show newer Nissan owners, this is how it all began.

  11. Steve S

    Just found out………car has been sold!
    Another good one that got away!

  12. Maui K

    Here is a 1958 Datsun under restoration in Hawaii. This car was one of the 6 that Datsun shipped to mainland USA in 1958. Datsun also shipped 10 to the then Territory of Hawaii at the same time. Only one of the 10 is known to exist and it has no engine or drive train but a complete and good body and interior.

    • Ron Feige

      Would love those sources for windshield, window cranks & door pulls!

  13. Jim F

    Very nice, my dad is the 2nd owner of the same ’58 and it sits in his yard covered. Someday I would love to get it back on the road. Just need a windshield as that cracked years ago and why he stopped driving it daily. We haven’t been able to find one anywhere since it is curved right to left and top to bottom when most windows only have a curve in one not both directions.

    • Ron Feige

      I also have ’58 in need of windshield, rear door pulls & window cranks. Engine rebuilt with less than 5,000 miles on it. Pinkish/beige in color.

      • Maui K

        Email me. I have a source for the window cranks n pulls.

        Maui K. See photo posted Oct in this thread.

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