South Africa’s first Datsun luxury sedans make interesting entry-level classics. Here's what to look out for...

CAR magazine’s first Datsun test was a Bluebird 1200 in 1962. More compacts followed before the first straight-six sedan arrived in 1967. This was a bold move; entering the sedan/saloon market remains tricky up to this day.

Packaging

Designed by Pininfarina and manufactured in Rosslyn, Pretoria, this car achieved 45 percent local content. In other climes, it was known as a Nissan Cedric and the series was 130.

Two rows of bench seating could accommodate six occupants with a boot capacity to match. Our test lists the volume as 650 litres but this would be a “gross” figure.

The instrumentation was a classy mix of ribbon speedometer flanked by three gauges and set in a woodgrain finish. This was switched to a more fashionable but less glamorous squared-off layout in the 2400.

Powertrain

The small-six engine (H-series) of 2,0-litre capacity used a cast-iron block with an aluminium head. It was undersquare and had a mild compression ratio (CR) of 8,3 to 1. The power figure of 63 kW was not much so, in 1969, the 2300 was released (L series) with a new OHC engine with a higher CR of 9,0 to 1 which raised power output by 23 percent. Interestingly, the newer engine had the poorer fuel economy. This was followed by the 2400 with 83 kW. With the enlarged capacity came a swing to oversquare bore and stroke that pushed the peak power revs up from 5 200 to 5 600 r/min. Carburetion was via a Hitachi twin-choke downdraft DAE 342.

The gearbox was a four-speed manual with column shift. This was retained for the 2300 with a taller final drive to make provision for the extra power and greater top speed. Acceleration improved dramatically. The 2400 models switched transmissions to a three-speed auto ’box called a Nissan Full Automatic. Made by Jatco, it replaced the ubiquitous BorgWarner Type 35.

Suspension and brakes

These were times of rapid technological growth and the all-round drum brakes initially fitted soon switched to front discs for the 2300. Conventional suspension used front coils and rear leaf springs, while recirculating-ball steering without power assistance was the order of the day.

Which one to get

Acceleration was distinctly leisurely on all models but the larger engines provided more urge. The fuel economy using our index figure of the time (plus 40 percent) was 14,7 L/100 km, so factor in extra cash for petrol. Body condition and no missing parts are most important.

What to watch out for

Reliability was good but rust will likely have taken its toll and not many of these sixes remain intact; body and trim items will be scarce and patience is required. A Weber 32/34 carburettor can be used as a replacement.

Availability and prices

The 2000 placed 27th on the sales chart for 1967 (1 580 sold). Following sales were 1 352 in 1968, 250 in 1969 (2000 and 2300 models) and 2 124 in 1970. The last 40 cars sold in 1973 made it a grand total of 9 359. Not many have survived but we did spot a few in the classifieds which quickly found new owners.

Interesting facts

Clever initial marketing saw the provision of some standard features uncommon at the time. These included a large factory-fitted National Panasonic FM/AM radio, full carpeting, rear armrest and twin reversing lamps. The cherry on top was a full set of luggage to fill the boot.

The H- and L-series engines are not to be confused with the sought-after S-series. These had 24 valves with d-o-h-c and were used in the Skyline GTs. The s-o-h-c L-series engines were also used in the 240Z and 280Z.

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