The Datsun 1600 is, depending on who you talk to, the last decent Datsun car ever to be sold here. In an age where the 240Z grew fatter and slower to become the 260Z and 280ZX and Datsun cars became known as Nissans and lost their independent rear suspension and any trace of handling, the Datto 1600 stands out like a beacon. The body shell was a square little number that was surprisingly roomy inside and there was even a station-wagon version for those who needed the space. But it was the sedan that everybody wanted and as well as a top-notch car for everyday use, the Datsun 1600 car was turned into a very successful rally car. In fact, attend a club rally meeting even today and you'll be odds-on to see a handful of Datsun 1600s being thrashed mercilessly across rough roads and taking it all in their stride.
Datsun 1600 – On The Road
A Datsun 1600 might not seem like high-tech these days, but back when it was new, it was pretty cutting edge stuff. An independent rear suspension, disc brakes, four-speed transmission and an overhead camshaft engine were fantasy stuff at a time when the best-selling Holden had a leaf-sprung rear end, a three-speed gearbox, drum brakes and a pushrod engine. So, while a 1600 mightn't feel too modern these days, it's still a way better drive than just about anything else of the same age. The engine is willing and while it isn't as snappy as modern stuff, it gets the job done. The handling is faithful and the brakes are up to modern traffic. But the best thing about a Datto 1600 right now is that it's a kind of perverse modern classic with loads of street cred. It's the old, budget car that you could drive anywhere and never have to apologise for it.
What To Look For When Buying a Used Datsun 1600
The biggest trick now is finding a Datsun 1600 that hasn't been rallied. And even if you do, it's a fair bet that it won't be an original car and will have been modified, possibly extensively. This, however, is not necessarily a bad thing since most of the original mechanical components would be worn out by now anyway. The overhead-can four-cylinder can be tuned to produce enormous power and a car with a pair of Weber carburettors should go very well indeed. A five-speed conversion is another popular change and, again, it only makes the car better. An example with a roll-cage, extra gauges, chunky tyres and big mud-flaps is almost certainly a rally-car or has been one in the past. The big bodywork check is the condition of the panels just behind the rear windscreen. Dattos tended to crack in that area, allowing the boot and rear quarters to sag. Any car with a drooping crease-line in the rear panels has probably broken in that very spot. It can be welded up, but it's a relatively big job.
Datsun 1600 - The Final Verdict
+ One of the first, true Japanese classic cars
+ Still good to drive
+ No better club rally-car has ever been built
- Any left may be very tired
- Grandfather's axe. Probably
Datsun 1600 Standard Specifications
Engine Size: 1.6 litre
Fuel System: Carburettor
Standard Transmission: 4-manual