Worst Idea of the Day: 1982 Datsun 200SX

1982 Datsun 200SX Convertible

We love automotive oddities. There is just something about them that we can’t resist. Some of the oddballs we find seem like great ideas, others not so much. Some of them came from the factory as oddballs, while others were customized or coachbuilt. Richard R sent us a link to the bad idea you see above. This 1982 Datsun 200SX is newer than most of the cars we feature and it wouldn’t normally pique our interests, but when we realized it had been converted into a convertible, our minds started picturing all of the various reasons this was simply a bad idea. Have a look at the worst idea of the day here on craigslist with an asking price of $1,300. Thanks Richard for the tip!

Datsun 200SX interior

For fans of the Datsun 200SX, don’t think we are saying that the car itself was a bad idea. The decision that makes this one a bad idea was when someone decided to chop the roof off of it. One of the biggest issues automotive engineers face when building a convertible is addressing the structural issues that result from not having a roof. Nissan, aka Datsun, never built the 200SX as a convertible. That means this one came from the factory as a coupe and then had its roof lobbed off by either a coach builder or in the backyard of someone with a saw and a dream. This one looks to have been done correctly and the seller believes it was done by Hollywood Coach Builders. We trust a coach builder more than someone with a saw and good intentions, but we still have our concerns about how safe this can be and if it was done correctly. If the frame wasn’t properly reinforced it could make this make this car not only terrible to drive, but unsafe.

Datsun 200SX Convertible

The 200SX is actually a fun little sports car, but we aren’t sure how we feel about this conversion. If it was done correctly, then you could have an interesting and rare oddball. If it wasn’t, well driving it at highway speeds could be frightening. Hollywood Coach Builders had a reputation for building exquisite cars in the ’70s and ’80s, so we would assume this one was done correctly, but the fear of it folding in half would always be in the back of our minds. So was turning this 200SX into a convertible a great idea or the worst one you’ve seen today?


  1. Brian

    Assuming it’s not a total hack job, it looks like an interesting buy! Even if it’s not a coachbuilder transformation, it could probably be strenghtened up without too much trouble, but it would be interesting to have some documentation.

  2. Brian

    Assuming it’s not a total hack job, it looks like an interesting buy! Even if it’s not a coachbuilder transformation, it could probably be strenghtened up without too much trouble, but it would be interesting to have some documentation.

  3. Brian

    Assuming it’s not a total hack job, it looks like an interesting buy! Even if it’s not a coachbuilder transformation, it could probably be strenghtened up without too much trouble, but it would be interesting to have some documentation.

    • rusty

      hi brian

      what was that
      what was that
      what was that…hee hee

      Like 1
      • Don Andreina

        rusty, rusty, rusty. Hehehe.

        I’d be looking very closely under that car before I shelled out. What a seller ‘believes’ is not good enough.

      • Brian

        Not sure what happened. I hit post, waited a moment and boom! Maybe there was a buy one post, get two free sale on BF!

  4. Wiley Robinson

    I had one of these and drove it 312,000 miles. Around 280,000 I was just completely sick of if and decided to drive into the ground. I drove it like I stole everywhere I went (you could hang out the back end by dropping the clutch when taking a turn), I hauled logs in it, I drove it straight in to a 115 MPH hurricane and in the end I had to concede defeat. I sold it still in perfect working order (but it looked like it had been parked on the deck of the Titanic) to an guy from India. When he came to get it he confessed that he couldn’t drive a stick so I gave him a quick lesson and told him I’d follow him from Fuquay-Varina to Durham just in case he had trouble.

    About halfway there I came to realize he apparently had no concept of how to drive at all, driving most of the way in the emergency lane. I felt bad because I knew it was my duty to humanity not to sell him that car but just didn’t want to look at anymore. It didn’t leak or burn a drop of oil. I bet that car is still running somewhere in South America!

    • Don Andreina

      I had a similar experience with a 1983 280C. Bought for peanuts, everything worked incl. aircon. Had a giant surface rust spot on the roof so this was only ever a car I was going to drive into the ground. Finally died because the springback in the keyslot for the ignition was gone and it eventually killed something down the chain. Was quoted $800 to fix and scrapped it instead. Everything else was still working. Loved that car.

      • Wiley Robinson

        The roof of mine was completely rusty too, must have been a Datsun thing. Mine was an 82.

  5. Mark E

    I wonder if this ‘hollywood job’ could have been done by Sundowner? They did convertible conversions for Toyota back in the day…

    • Mark E

      Mixed up the names there, Mark! ASC did the convertible conversions, one was called Sundowner. So you made a mistake, I did not. Nyah-nyah! :-P

  6. Dolphin Member

    I can see doing an aftermarket chop job to make an interesting car into an even more interesting convertible. Even cars like the Ferrari Daytona were successes after being chopped up, with converted spyders looking as good as the factory version and usually commanding higher values than the original berlinetta.

    But I never saw any point in making an entry level ’80s box of a car like this into a convertible. Far better to put the price of the car and all that conversion work together and buy yourself a real convertible that actually looked good. You’d be happier and look a whole lot better in it too. And if it happened to be a nice vintage convertible it would be worth waaaaay more than this car by now.

  7. Robert Janca

    Hmmm. Living in California, I have seen several of these Datsun 200SX convertiblke conversions over the years. They appear to have been properly done. With the right chassis bracing a unibody car makes a fine convertible. Volvo made convertible versions of the Amazon back in the 60’s and that was a unibody car. Actually, there is an extremely rare one of those for sale on Sacramento CL at the moment for $1,000.

  8. DT

    Ive seen these Datsun convertibles before also,but Volvo made roadsters but no Amazon convertibles,the car you are thinking of is a cloth sunroof,he called it a ragtop

  9. Foxxy

    Where are the pics of the custom hollywood hack job???

  10. Don Melcher

    Likely the definition of cowl shake – considering how flexible the 3 open top cars I have had that were factory derived from coupes – 71 Super Beatle, 69 912 Porsche Targa and 2001 Toyota Solara

    • rusty

      oh you meant the car…soooooorrryyy

      seems to me Hollywood is to blame for more than celebrities trying to make a sows ear out of a standard body. even cars are not exempt.

  11. Jim-Bob

    As this is a unibody car, there is a very easy test to see if the conversion was done properly. Open the door. Note how it opens and if it shuts easily without scraping. Now, open the door again and sit in the car. Close the door again. Not how it closes. Then, try to open it again. If it was done poorly, your weight will compress the car enough to make the door hard or impossible to open. Only after it passes this test on both sides do you need to check any further with regards to how well it was built. My bet is that if it passes, it’s a good job since it was likely done 30+years ago and the car would have warped severely in the interim if it was not done properly.

    Now as far as what I would do with it, that’s simple. I assume it has some sort of L series variant under the hood (NAPS-Z, etc.), so I would swap it over to a KA24DE/5 speed from a S13 or S14 240sx. It would give you a 50-75% boost in power with no loss in reliability and a likely gain in fuel economy. I currently have 382,000 miles (of mostly pizza delivery) on one in a Frontier and it has never been out of the truck.

    Like 1
    • Mark E

      If you’re gonna swap engines, swap in a DETT from a Skyline and offer fast delivery of pizzas within a quarter mile radius! :D

  12. Robert Park

    I bought my ’82 hatchback with 78,000 miles. Sold it with 345,000 miles, still running strong. A couple of alternators, disconnected the voice (your door is ajar, lights are on) and drove the %$#@ out of it. The right model, (5-speed, hatchback, sunroof) and yeah, I’d do it again.

    • Mark E

      I had a Thunderbird like that!! Silly car! Everyone knows a door is a DOOR, it can not be a jar!! ^_^

      Like 1
    • Lazlo

      Mine has a button to turn the voice off, but she’s my darling and i like her voice.

  13. Bryan Cohn

    The 2nd Gen 200SX did have a version of the NAPS-Z which uses the L-Series bottom end, one of the stronger and more capable engines series ever made, from 1600cc 4 cyl. as used in early 510’s to 2800 cc 6 cyl. as used in early Maxima RWD and the last 280zx turbo’s.

    This strikes me as the perfect drift car project looking for a place to happen. Buy, gut, rebuild with cage and all the safety gear, install 500hp worth of LS1 power with a T56 and stock up on cheap, bald 14 inch tires. You’ll need them! You could be true to Datsun and go with a VG series engine but why work so hard? :)

    I loved Datsun’s of this era. I’ve owned three 210’s, one 1st gen 200sx and two 1st gen Sentra’s and all were outstanding cars in their own right. My 1979 210 sedan checked all the right boxes: Brown with tan vinyl. check. 4 speed. Check. Kamei front spoiler. Check. Nissan Comp FIA cylinder head with twin Japanese SU’s. Check. Trailer hitch to tow my FV to local auto crosses. Check and check! It had Kleber tires too (who remembers those?) which were the hot lick in Showroom Stock in the early 80’s, in case the FV broke, which it did often I could unload all my stuff from the Datsun and autocross it so the day wasn’t a total wash. Great, great cars one and all.

  14. Bruce

    My wife had an 81.She traded a really nice Camaro LT for it. It was a cute and good running car but too small without much pep. I told her it sounded like a lawnmower when you stepped on the throttle. We married and I bought her and I a pair of 300ZX. Now that was a car!!

  15. Jay Michaels


    Apparently, American Custom Coachworks used to perform these conversions. Several in decent shape are still on the road today.

  16. jim f

    think this is a 1981 Datsun. I have a1982 Datsun the hood is different.

    I’m looking for parts for this 1982 Datsun. If anybody knows where I can get some let

    me know. Thanks.

  17. shelley

    I had a 1982 (auto) and a 1983 (standard) datsun 200sx. The first mentioned was my first car, and I LOVED IT. It started my love for datsuns. Making this car into a convertible is a terrible idea. Did they take out those cool little back windows that went down?? I didnt’ realize mine talked until one day I heard a lady’s voice say “Key is in the ignition” and almost sh*t myself!!!! Best car I’ve had to date. Wish I could find another one, but they are so rare to find!

  18. Ron W

    I’m on my second 81 … had one as a teenager but had to sell it once I got married as my wife couldn’t drive standard. Bought the identical car (except an automatic) back in 2011 but now my wife isn’t allowed to drive it! Wish there were a few more around as its hard to find parts for them … if anyone knows where to find some please let me know. Thanks.

  19. Orville

    Its actually a very rare car only 11 were done by American coachworcks in Beverly hills California and they’re values are rising, theirs one listed on the concourse de Lehmans website.

    • Rick gutierez

      I have 1982 Rochester ny

  20. Freddy S.

    You are wrong about Datsun/Nissan never making a 200sx convertible…they made 11 of them in 1982. Check the record’s.

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