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Mr. D, Mr. A, Mr. T – Datsun’s Early Years

Filed under: Automotive History
by admin @ 10:31 pm on April 27, 2008

While many people, especially Americans think of the 1970’s when you mention Datsun cars, the company actually began in 1912. A Japanese engineer, Masujiro Hashimoto who was trained in the United States started a car company called “Kwaishinsha Motor Works” in Tokyo and built a prototype for a small car.

After about two years of shopping the car around to various financiers, Mr. Hashimoto secured the backing of three men; Mr. K. Den, Mr. R. Aoyama and Mr. A. Takeuchi. Taking the initials of the three men’s last names, (“D”, “A” and “T”), the car was named “DAT”. The name honored the financial backers, and also translated to the Japanese word for “hare”. Early models such as the 1935 Datsun 14 Sedan featured a rabbit hood ornament “symbolizing the car’s blazing speed”, (it had a top speed of approx. 50mph).

The DAT31 was produced in 1915 with a 4 cylinder 2.0 litre engine, and the following year the DAT41 was produced with a more powerful 2.3 litre 4-cylinder. The cars were produced through 1926 at which time the company began producing trucks. In 1925 the company had changed it’s name to DAT Motor Company and moved from Tokyo to Osaka where it merged with the Jitsuyo Jidosha Co.

The merged company also continued to produced Jitsuyo’s Lila Light Car, which had a narrow wheel base and was popular with Japanese Taxi drivers as it could fit into tight places.

By 1931, “DAT” was bought out by a larger company called Tabata Imono as part of that company’s plan to build a mass produced Japanese car to compete with American exports. Using the prototype of the 1931 DAT, the car went into production in 1932 and was renamed “Datson” — literally meaning “son of DAT”.

For two reasons, the name was quickly changed from Datson to Datsun. The first was that the word “son” in Japanese means “loss”, (or “fail”), and the second was so that the rising sun, a national symbol in Japan could be incorporated into the name of the car.

In 1932, approximately 150 Datsun’s were manufactured in roadster, touring and salon models. Production continued but on June 1, 1934 the name of the company was changed to Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., and the factory was moved from Osaka to Yokahama. By mid-1934 the 1000th Datsun was produced.

The early Datsun featured a 495cc four-cylinder engine, semi-eliptical rear suspension, worm gear drive, and were capable of a top speed of approximately 35mph. In 1935 engine size was increased to 725cc. In the early 1970’s Datsun produced the 240Z, (followed by the 260Z, then the 280Z and ZX models), and entered the performance sports car market.

In 1966, Nissan ran a promotion inviting the public to name it’s new car, (the B210 model), with nearly 8.5 million post card responses the company took the public’s suggestion and the car was named the “Sunny” (in the Japanese market — in the US it was sold as the Datsun B210).

Eventually, the Datsun name was dropped and the cars were simply marketed under the Nissan brand.

While many models are produced for both Japanese and for export markets, the Japanese seem to prefer light-hearted names for their cars as is the case with the Nissan Model S30 which was marketed in Japan as the Fairlady but sold in the US as the 240Z.

In late 1989, Nissan followed the export success of it’s Datsun and Nissan models by introducing a high end line of cars and SUV’s to the North American market under the Infiniti brand name.

In 1990, the Nissan 300ZX Turbo won the coveted Motor Trend’s Import Car of the Year award. The legend of the “Z Car” which has it’s roots in the little “DAT” car engineered by Mr. Hashimoto in 1912 continues today, nearly 100 years later in the Nissan Z and Infinity G series models.

Bibliography & Web Resources:
• Encyclopedia of the Car, 1998, Chartwell Books Inc.
• Motor Trend Magazine – www.motortrend.com
• Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. – www.nissan-global.com
• Infiniti at en.wikipedia.org
• Datsun at en.wikipedia.org




The Most Valuable Z-Car ?

Filed under: Z-Car Collectibles
by admin @ 7:00 pm on April 24, 2008

Probably the most valuable Z-Car is…. The 1977 Mattel® Hotwheels™ Z-Whiz….. (at least by weight it is!)But, only if you have one in the right color.

In 1977, as one of the Hotwheels “Flying Colors” series cars, Mattel produced a 1/64th scale Datsun 240-Z and named the car “Z-Whiz”.

The model was produced in silver-grey paint with black-wall tires and a smaller quantity with the “redline” tires that had become popular on many California custom cars. In addition, a very limited number of Z-Whiz models were produced in white enamel paint with redline tires

While many of the silver-grey models can still be found, very few of the white Z-Whiz redline cars are known to still exist. With even fewer in mint collectible condition and only a handful still in their original packaging, this model, manufactured only in 1977, (at the end of the “redline era”), has become one of the “holy grail” to Hotwheels collectors.


1977 HotWheels “Flying Colors” Z-Whiz
White Enamel Redline
(with blue tinted windows)

The “toy” is worth an estimated $2000 to $7500 depending on condition. A mint one out of the package has a book value of $3500… in the “blister pack” it lists at a whopping $7500.00 — one of the priciest cars listed in the Ultimate Redline Guide.

Mattel began producing the HotWheels “California Custom Miniatures” in 1968 and based the original 16 models on what was happening in the custom car market in Southern California — redline tires, “blowers”, (turbo chargers), hood scoops and other high performance and sporty looking features. The line has included cars designed by famous California car customizers like Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, George Barris and Tom Daniels. Custom paint, custom wheels and tires, custom raked suspension and details down to the modified exhaust and window tinting set these cars apart from anything else in the market.

Today, many adult collectors search for cars like the White Z-Whiz, some just to recapture their childhood, some to remind themselves of the Datsun 240, 260 or 280 “Z” they owned, (or wished they had), and others who have just been bitten by the collecting bug.

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