The Datsun 510 was a series of the Datsun Bluebird sold from 1968 to 1974, and offered outside the U.S. and Canada as the Datsun 1600. According to AutoWeek's G.D. Levy, the 510 has often been called the "poor man's BMW." The 510's engineering was inspired by contemporary European sedans, particularly the 1966 BMW 1600-2, incorporating a SOHC engine, MacPherson strut suspension in front and independent, semi-trailing arms in the back. The European-influenced sheet metal design is attributed to Datsun in-house designer, Teruo Uchino.
The engine was pushed through by Nissan USA president Yutaka Katayama, a design developed through Prince, an acquisition, with some Mercedes Benz influence.
Launched in August 1968, it was one of the most comprehensive Bluebird ranges in terms of body styles: a two-door sedan, a four-door sedan, a five-door station wagon, and a two-door coupé (added in November 1968).
This range became famous for Nissan's rallying successes outside Japan and paved the way for greater Nissan sales internationally.
The Datsun 510 released to the U.S. market came originally with the Hitachi downdraft carbureted 1.6L L-series I4 engine, with an advertised gross power of 96 hp (72 kW), a claimed top speed of 100 mph, front disc brakes, 4-wheel independent suspension (MacPherson strut front and semi trailing arm rear- wagons had a solid rear live axle and leaf springs in back), rear-wheel drive, and either a 4-speed manual or a 3-speed automatic transmission. 2-door sedan, 4-door sedan, and 4-door station wagon variants were available. It achieved 20-30 mpg in factory trim (U.S.). JDM spec models were also available in a 2-door coupe body style in either a 1.6L or a 1.8L (1973) L-Series engine. 510's in some markets offered available twin Hitachi side-draft carburetors, which were a smaller version of the British SU (Skinner's Union) design used on Jaguars and MGs. These engines also used enhanced compression and camshaft profiles to produce more power. SSS models (not available for the U.S. 510) offered upgraded instrumentation and interior trim, as well as appropriate exterior badges. All U.S. model 510s received anti-sun glass from 1970-on.
Affordable performance combined with simple and reliable mechanicals has helped the Datsun 510 remain a popular automotive enthusiast's car for nearly 40 years. Avid collectors can be found around the world with significant numbers in the US, Australia, & New Zealand.
One advantage of the early Nissan/Datsun cars is that many of the parts are interchangeable — engines, transmissions, suspension setups, etc., were all similar enough to swap with minor modifications. This allowed the Datsun 510 to be easily upgraded from the 1.6l - L16 engine, to the 1.8l - L18 engine, and later to the 2.0L L20B engine, and to go from the 4-speed manual transmission to the 63 mm (shaft-center distance) 5-speed transmissions made available for the early (S10) 200SX and (A10) HL510, and the 71 mm 5-speed transmissions used in the (S30 & S130) 280-series Z cars, '80-'83 (S110) 200SX, the '77-'80 (810) 810, the '81-'84 (910) 810/Maxima/Bluebird, and the C210/R30 series of Skylines. The 71 mm 5-speed transmissions also saw extensive use in the 620/720/D21 series pick-up trucks in both long and short (rare) extension-housing versions.
Variations and market differences
The P510 (RHD) and PL510 (LHD) were the most prevalent models in most markets, including the U.S. The 1969 KP510T two-door coupe version arrived in small numbers to right-hand-drive markets, predominantly, Japan's domestic market, unsaddled by engine emission regulations. 'K' series 510s had a coupe-style swept roofline and shorter deck lid. In the U.S., the 1968 510 2-door sedan saw a limited introduction in April, resulting in it being the rarest U.S. 510 year/model. The 2-door sedan body style became popular and was imported into the U.S. in large numbers for the next 5 model years. For the 1973 U.S. model year, the 510 4-door sedan was dropped in favor of the 1973 P610 series cars. Around the world, the J series pushrod-engined model was most common.
In September 1970, the 1.3 and 1.6 L engines were replaced with 1.4 and 1.8 L units. In other parts of the world the 510 was equipped with J series OHV pushrod engines. In the US it remained a 1.6.
Australian versions of the Datsun 1600 were delivered either as a full import (1967 & early 1969), or assembled in Australia from local and Japanese parts. These 510 Datsuns were equipped with L16 engines. Australia officially only received the 4-door Sedan & Station Wagon models.
Nissan-Datsun New Zealand had the four-door manual sedan assembled locally from 1968, replacing two generations of Bluebird (the name continued on 1600s sold in Japan) with the new 1600 export badge. Local content was about 40% and included glass, wiring, batteries, radiators, carpet and interior trim. Locally made radios were a dealer-fit accessory. The cars were built under contract at Campbell Motor Industries in Thames; the preceding Bluebird had been built at NZ Motor Bodies in Auckland. The first year or so of 1600s had 'clap-hand' wipers that parked in the centre of the windscreen and a rectangular speedometer; wipers soon were changed to a parallel action that cleared more glass. The 1970 facelift brought a new dashboard with recessed round dials, new tail lamps with additional chrome trim in the lens and detail changes to the grille. Automatic versions were a special import, built up, and only if (limited) import licence was available, and a few 'SSS' sedans were also imported fully assembled. The 1600, popular for modification and racing, not least due to its independent rear suspension (when contemporary rivals like the Ford Cortina and Toyota Corona had live, leaf-sprung rear axles), was replaced by the 180B in 1972 and was sought after used for many years afterwards.
As well as American and Oceanic markets the 510 was also imported into Europe, first imports were delivered shortly after the announcement of the car in Japan and was one of the models to spearhead the brand. The first UK imports were announced at the October 1968 Motorshow, the first models were the L16 saloons, with the estate versions following shortly after. L13 models arrived in early 1969, and a series of minor updates and equipment changes followed - as dictated by the changes made for the US market. The L14 model replaced the L13 in October 1970 and was imported with the L16 until May 1972, when the car was replaced by the far more successful (in the UK) 610. Nissan imported about 4000 510 models into the UK, and less than 10 of those original UK spec cars are known to exist. Nissan established a proper dealer network around the time the 510 was discontinued, (Octav Botnar was instrumental in the massive success of the brand in the UK) so the 510 never really received the marketing nor recognition that was achieved in other countries. All official imports in the UK were 4 door saloons or estates, but several 2 doors and at least one 4 door SSS version are in the country.
South American versions of the Datsun 510 were delivered with OHV pushrod engines J series variety and leaf spring suspensions (no IRS) on all models.
The 510 was sold in Taiwan as the Yue Loong Bluebird 706 and was powered by the J13 from the 411 and leaf spring rear suspension.
The Datsun 510 differed with the markets it reached. In South America, Asia (excluding Japan) and in Africa, 510 sedan, 2-door & station wagon models traded rear independent suspension for a leaf-sprung solid axle. The engines for these markets also differed. Rather than the OHC 1.6l L-series, they received pushrod inline 4-cylinder engines from the J-series with either 1.3l or 1.5l displacement. These variants were also known as Datsun 1500 (J15 engine) and Datsun 1300 (J13 engine). In these markets, the IRS Datsun with the L series engine was the Datsun Violet, aka 160JSSS. In the US, the Datsun 710 was the non IRS version of the Datsun 160JSSS. It appears the Datsun 510 was favored by Nissan in North America, while the Datsun 160JSSS was the choice outside of North America. The Datsun 1600 P510 was built in South Africa in Pretoria between 1969 and 1974. They were available as a 1600 deluxe, 1600 SSS sedan, 1600GL, 1600GL SSS and 1800GL SSS. They all had independent rear suspension and the SSS versions had twin carbs. These cars were very popular for motor sport in South Africa.
The last of the P510 series went through Australian assembly lines in 1972, and due to the extensive use for rallying, the cars are now quite hard to find in any reasonable condition. In the U.S., Datsun P510 cars are becoming increasingly rare in the Rust Belt regions, but can still be seen in the more temperate Western and Southern States. Greatest numbers of the cars seem to be in the West Coast region.
The Datsun 510 was sold in Canada till 1981, it had rectangular front lights since previous models had round ones and in 1982, they changed it to (Nissan) Stanza. The 1981 model had a 2.0L (L20B) with 96 HP.
The 510 is best known in the United States for its competitiveness in the Trans Am Series under 2000cc class. Datsun won its class in 1971 and 1972.