I am an old fan of Nissan and Datsun thanks to some accidental influence by my father and his customized Datsun 720 pickup and my own Nissan 720. Thanks to the Petersen, I get to talk about my favorite Japanese brand.
So, I want to share some of the glory and history of Nissan and Datsun, which are a major part of the Roots of Monozukuri exhibit at the Petersen Museum. Nissan and Datsun were both major influences into the Japanese side of the automotive culture for me growing up. My first car was a Nissan 720 pickup, as mention in the intro, and my favorite race car growing up was the Nissan NPT-90 wit it’s twin-turbocharged, single cam VG30-GTP based off the production VG30ET. The NPT-91 would eventually switch over to the dual-cam head based off the VG30DETT. Nissan and I go way back.
Son of DAT
Nissan fans from the 1960s to the 1980s here in the US were well familiar with Datsun, but that name has a history far longer than that. It was a car company established in 1914 and before it became a brand for Nissan. DAT in the name is an acronym of the surnames of partners Den Kenjiro, Aoyama Rokuro, and Takeuchi Meitaro.
Several mergers would emerge until the 1930s and a Japanese government regulation that allowed people to drive cars with engines up to 500-cc (.5-liter) without a license. That’s when the company created a series of 495-cc cars called Datsons, which was supposed to mean “Son of DAT.” Two years later, the name Datsun was established.
Creation of Nissan and after WWII
Nissan, meanwhile, would be established but not used as a brand name until 1928, when Nihon Sangyo, was shorted to NiSan on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in the 1930s to eventually create Nissan. However, they would not produce cars, just produce parts and control foundries. In 1934, DAT become affiliated with and eventually merged into Tobata Casting, a subsidiary of Nissan. However, all vehicles produced were still Datsuns until about 1937 when William R. Gorham took Aikawa’s plan of using “cutting-edge auto making technology” from America and put it into motion.
After World War II, Datsun trucks were provided to occupation forces until 1947. From there, Datsun DB and DS series cars were based off pre-war Austin Sevens while trucks were based off Chevrolets with Grahm-Paige engines, the 4W60 Patrol was a Willys Jeep redesign, and their 4W70 Carrier was based off the Dodge M37. Finally, in 1955 Datsuns created their own designs when factories and facilities were returned to Japanese control.
Prince of Japan and Nissan USA
While not a part of the official exhibit, “Roots of Monozukuri,” there was a the BLRA-3 Prince Skyline on display. Going back to my earlier article on the exhibit, you can see many American influences in this car. This one was modified, but the basic body shape is the same and very Chrysler and even a bit Edsel. Officially, the Lincoln Continential, Buicks, and the Chrysler 300 of the 1950s were its inspiration.
If you are wondering, yes, the Prince Skyline would become the Nissan Skyline when Prince Motor Company was acquired by Nissan in August of 1966 and finally ended the Prince name in Japan.
In 1958, Nissan established the “Nissan Motor Corporation in U.S.A.” and utilized the Datsun name until 1983 to 1984 when the company decided to switch to a global product strategy with the Nissan name after the success of Toyota and Honda.
Can you tell that I’m an old fan of Nissan and Datsun?
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