04 Datsun_120YThe main problem with the Datsun 120Y is that you can’t kill it with a stick. It was a horrible little car when new 46 years ago, and continues to be prized by grannies who never exceed 30 kmh. It never breaks down. You can still find them around, usually with a line of cars behind trying to get by. Nissan Australia sold heaps of them.

04 Datsun 120Y dThe 120Y came on to the Australian market in 1974 as a four-door sedan and two-door coupe,  both with a 51-kilowatt 1.2-litre engine and a four-speed manual, with a three speed auto optional. To say it lacks performance is like saying Donald Trump lacks humility. It proved just how many Australian car buyers ignore motoring writers, who universally bagged it as slow, featureless and boring.

But it was economical and it hit the market at the same time as the first fuel crisis, so made sense to all those people who have no interest in cars whatsoever, but need one anyway. With a few facelifts the model range, which grew to include a wagon and a van, went on until 1979. And for decades after that 120Ys remained common on the roads, frustrating anyone who was interested in the act of driving. You can still find them on the car sales websites.

04 Datsun 120Y bLes Siviour, who for many years dominated Australian off-road racing in a Nissan Patrol, had a withering remark he made to anyone who thought the race routes were getting too rough. “You think this is tough?” he’d declare. “I could do this in a 120Y coupe auto.” It was the worst, most inept car he could think of.


Posted February 2020


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