“To Infiniti and Beyond!”  Those (kind of) famous words from Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story really describe the amount of work Nissan and its sister company, Infiniti put in.  As I write these words, there are probably some next-generation Infiniti G’s, Nissan Altima’s and many more that we’ll delve into another time. 

The history of Nissan and Infiniti is lengthy, but interesting.   

In 1914, in Japan, three men; Kenjiro Den, Rokuro Aoyama, and Meitaro Takehuchi founded an automobile company called DAT.  They took the first letter from their last names to make the acronym: DAT.  DAT made military trucks, but the demand for military trucks was nil.  It forced DAT to merge with another company (but I am getting ahead of myself!).  Two years before DAT was bought by Nissan, they came out with a car called the Datson (son of DAT). In 1933 DAT was bought by an auto-parts supplier; Nissan When Nissan bought DAT, the Datson was renamed the Datsun.  “Son” in Japanese means ‘loss’.  ‘Nissan’ was an abbreviation used on the Japanese stock market (the founders of Nissan Auto Parts liked the sound of Nissan). 

During WWII, Nissan Motor Co., Ltd and all its subsidiaries (including DAT) made trucks, planes and engines for the Japanese military.  DAT was temporarily moved to captured land in China.  It kept on producing military equipment until China threatened to bomb the factory in 1948.  Then DAT went back to Japan.  Cars were imported under the Mitsubishi name to South America, where there was a booming business for foreign cars.

Shortly after the DAT company was renamed Datsun, in 1951, Nissan started to make its own cars.  Using help from Datsun, they built a legendary vehicle.  It could be called one of the first SUV’s, and was Japan’s answer to the Willys and Ford Jeeps.  It had more horsepower than the Willys and Ford (85), a complex (for the day) 4×4 system, and was more capable in everything.  The vehicle was named the Patrol.  It is still sold everywhere around the world except in the U.S.  You can have one shipped over in parts and register it as a kit car. 

In 1958, the first Datsun to go on U.S. roads was a Datsun Bluebird, becoming one of Datsun’s top sellers until the 1970’s.  “Fuel-efficient, fun, fast enough, and big enough for the whole family!” was Datsun’s advertisement.  What kind of person is in the market for a “fast enough”car?

In 1960, the Datsun Motor Company (but owned by Nissan, so you can call it the Nissan Motor Company) established a firm hold on U.S. soil when they bought a headquarters building in Santa Barbara, California.  Los Angeles, forget it!  Too expensive.  Santa Barbara was perfect:  Right by the sea, pretty, and close to LA. 

In 1962, Nissan finally had to tackle the European market.  They set up headquarters in Sunderland, England.  Since then, there are Nissan HQ’s all over Europe.  Four years later, Nissan merged with the Prince Motor Co.  This meant that there was a larger pool of engineers.  Nissan added the Gloria and Skyline models within a year.  One concept for each car, and three prototypes total.  Wow.  Usually, there are about two concepts per car, and close to twenty prototypes.  Boy, the Japanese are efficient!

The legendary Datsun 240Z came roaring into production in 1969!  With 150 horsepower, it had Porsche performance at half the price!  The four-speed manual had  a beefy, yet easy to use clutch.  According to my dad (who drove one!), as the 240Z aged, the carb had to be tweaked every 150 miles! 

During the 1970’s oil crisis, the 1973 Nissan Sunny was the car to get, as it scored number 1 on EPA tests.  It achieved huge popularity in the U.S. and around the world. It got over 65 mpg!  No wonder it was so popular!  They should bring it back into production.  Say your prayers Prius!

The year 1980 was groundbreaking for Nissan.  A new plant opened up in Tennessee for trucks, thus avoiding the chicken tax. 

Three years later, the Datsun name was discontinued.  All vehicles that were previously Datsuns were then Nissans.  The Datsun 280Z was discontinued.  To make up for the loss of the amazing Z line, Nissan started to make the 300ZX.  It was the next generation Datsun Z!  Even today, Nissan still makes the Z line (with the 370Z!).

Three years later, the first Nissan Bluebirds for Europe started flying off the production line in Sunderland, England.  Bluebirds had been in production for 30 years, when they started making them for the Western European market.     

In 1988, Nissan of Europe was very well-established, and started to win a lot of awards.

Tune into my blog next Tuesday to read about what happens next to Nissan!  Happy weekend!

6 thoughts on “The Long and Winding Road from DAT to Nissan

  1. Hey, you didn’t mention my Datsun, the sports or Roadster (US name) or fairlady (Japan market name). They started making them in 1959 and continued until 1970 when the 240Z fully replaced it. Mine is a 1969 2 liter with big ol’ Solex carbs. Originally sold in Japan, it has right hand drive and both a convertible top and removable fiberglass roof.

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