AJ’s Car of the Day: 1966 Datsun 1600 Roadster

AJ’s Car of the Day: 1966 Datsun 1600 Roadster

Car: Datsun 1600 Roadster

Year: 1966

What made it special: The Datsun Sports was a series of roadsters produced by Nissan in the 1960’s. The series was a predecessor to the Z-car in the Fairlady line, and offered a competitor to the European MG, Triumph, Fiat and Alfa Romeo sports cars. The line began with the 1959 S211 and continued through 1970 with the SP311 and SR311 lines. The Fairlady saw competitors follow its introduction, with examples called the Honda S500, the Toyota Sports 800, and the Daihatsu Compagno. In Japan, it represented one of three core products offered by Nissan at Japanese Nissan dealerships called Nissan Shop, alongside the Datsun Truck and the Datsun 1000. The Datsun SRL 2000 was the two-seat roadster that made their name.

What made it famous: The new model was first shown at the 1964 Tokyo Motor Show, but did not enter production until March 1965. Marketed as the Datsun Sports 1600 in many export markets including North America, it featured 14 inch wheels and minor exterior changes. The SPL311 was also known in the United States, on the West Coast, as the “Roadster”. The front suspension was independent, utilizing coil springs over hydraulic shocks. Rear suspension was a common leaf springs design, dampened with hydraulic shocks. The 1600 SPL311 came with a pair of SU carburetors. The engine produced 95 hp. The R16 is an in-line four cylinder OHV engine. Early SPL311 came with a high compression engine that had three main bearings, hydraulic lifters, a cast iron block and cast iron head. Top speed for the SPL311 with approximately 91 octane gasoline was approximately 105 mph. The axle gearing suffered from design limitations and Datsun performance parts offered a cooling system as a retrofit. Steering utilized a worm gear design. The hood badge said “Datsun” in individual letters, the rear badge said “Datsun 1600”, and the side badges said “Datsun 1600”  for the export market. It continued in production through April 1970.

Why I would want one: Love the style, love the roadster’s top down, in the wind driving experience.

Fun fact: Actor Paul Newman started his racing career in one. It had a potent 1,982cc overhead cam engine with dual SU type side draft carbs and a five-speed transmission.