Historic Car Brands



Masujiro Hashimoto founded the Kaishinsha Motor Car Works in Tokyo. In 1914, the company produced its first car, called the DAT that was a combination of the investors’ surname initials.


DAT Motors’ main early output was trucks and the company contributed to Japan’s World War I war effort. 

From 1923 to 1925, the company produced light cars and trucks under the name of Lila and in 1929 DAT merged with a division of the USA’s the manufacturing business of IHI Corporation.

In 1931, DAT released a new small car. Originally tilted Type 11 ‘Datson’, meaning ‘son of DAT’ . In 1933, the name was changed to ‘Datsun’, because ‘son’ in Japanese is associated with loss or disadvantage.

In 1931, DAT became affiliated with Tobata Casting and merged with it in 1933. As Tobata Casting was a Nissan company, this was the beginning of Nissan’s automobile manufacturing. 


1937 Datsun 16 Sedan – Jason Vogel


Nissan Motor Co Ltd was formed in 1934 and Datsun began to build Austin 7s under licence. This operation became the volume leader of Austin’s overseas licensing of its Seven and marked the beginning of Datsun’s international success.

DAT was helped greatly by American engineer William Gorham, who carried out the company’s designs and early production plans. Most of the machinery and processes originally came from the United States. 

1938 Graham Paige-based Nissan Model 70


When Nissan started to assemble larger vehicles under the ‘Nissan’ brand in 1937, much of the design plans and plant facilities were supplied by the Graham-Paige Company. Nissan also had a Graham license under which passenger cars, buses, and trucks were made

In 1935, the first car manufactured in an integrated assembly system rolled off the line, but from late-1937 Nissan built trucks, planes and engines for the Imperial Japanese Army. 

In 1944, the head office was moved to Nihonbashi, Tokyo, and the company name was changed to Nissan Heavy Industries, Ltd.

In 1952, Nissan revived its agreement with Austin, for Nissan to assemble Austins from SKD kits and sell them in Japan under the Austin trademark, after which Nissan would make the Austin parts locally within three years.

The agreement also gave Nissan the rights to use Austin patents, which Nissan used in developing its own engines for its Datsun line of cars. Nissan produced 20,855 Austins between 1953 and 1959.

Nissan developed its own engine designs that improved on Austin’s A- and engines. 


Datsun 1600 – Jeremy


In 1967, Nissan introduced a new, advanced four-cylinder, overhead cam (OHC) Nissan L engine family that took some cues from Mercedes-Benz and the newly-acquired Prince Motors.  An OHC engine, full-synchro four-speed box and independent rear suspension put the 1600 into a class of its own.

The 1.6-litre L16 engine powered Australian Datsun 1600s that were delivered either as full imports, or assembled in Australia from local and Japanese parts. The last of these cars rolled off the Australian assembly lines in 1972.

Because of their great popularity as rally cars, these cars are now quite hard to find in any reasonable condition.


1971 Nissan Skyline 2000GT engine – TTNIS


The then Nissan-owned Prince Skyline 2000GT sedan caused a similar sensation. It was a stretched version of the four-cylinder 1500 model, powered by a two-litre, OHC in-line six.

The Skyline GT came in two states of tune: single carburettor, 105hp, with a four-speed box, or, more interestingly, a 125hp version with triple Webers and a five-speed box. (Historic Vehicles’ Allan Whiting had one of these and loved it, until the engine suffered leaks caused by a porous aluminium head casting. Bugger)


Prince Skyline GT


Nissan exploited the Skyline performance image and the sub-brand contuse today – now in its 14th generation. The ‘Skyline’ badge has been applied to some fairly ordinary sedans, hatchbacks, wagons and coupes over the years and that has caused some diminution of its worth. 


Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R


However, the Skyline GT-R has been an undoubted Japanese performance-car leader and the DR30 dominated touring car racing in Australia in the late-1980s, followed by the all-conquering R32 in the early 1990s. 


Gibson Nissan GT –  Brad Lord


Godzilla’ was so good that it caused a complete touring-car rule change in Australia and in the USA.

The Datsun Fairlady was yet another ground-breaker from Nissan. Produced from March 1967 until April 1970, this unfortunately-named sports car had a two-litre, U20 engine that was derived from the earlier Austin engines, but with an aluminium-alloy, overhead-camshaft head. It was coupled to a five-speed manual transmission and that was something that only Alfas, Maseratis and Ferraris had at that time.


Datsun Fairlady – ISX60


The SOHC engine produced 133hp (99kW) in most markets, but an optional Competition package included dual Mikuni/Solex carburettors and a special camshaft for 150hp (110kW). In Australia there were no emission restrictions at the time and all 2.0-litre cars were fitted with the Competition package as standard.


1971 Datsun 240Z Coupe – Paddys Pig


Shortly afterwards, in 1969, Nissan dropped another bombshell, with the introduction of the Datsun 240Z sports car which used a six-cylinder variation of the L series engine. The 240Z was an immediate sensation and lifted Nissan to world-class status in the automobile market.

This was the first of the Nissan ‘Z’ cars that continue well into the 21st Century. The 240Z was powered a by a derivative of the Datsun 1600 engine, with additional cylinders and developed 150hp( 113kW).

The ‘Z’ car range is now in its seventh generation and Historic Vehicles’ Jim Gibson had a beautiful, original 300ZX for some years.


Nissan 300ZX Z32 – Christian Flores


Nissan Down Under


1983 Nissan Skyline R30 2.4E Hatchback – OSX


Nissan automobiles were imported to Australia as early as the 1930s. In the early 1960s, the Australian industrialist Lawrence Hartnett took over sales and Pressed Metal Corporation began the assembly of Datsun Bluebirds in 1966.

In 1968, Nissan took over the closed Volkswagen Australia plant, where Motor Producers Limited manufactured Datsun vehicles there from 1968.

Independent Nissan production began in 1977 with the Datsun 200B. 

Between 1989 and 1992, Nissan Australia shared models with Ford Australia under a government-backed rationalisation scheme known as the Button Plan, with a version of the Nissan Pintara being sold as the Ford Corsair and a version of the Ford Falcon as the Nissan Ute.

A variant of the Nissan Patrol was sold as the Ford Maverick during the 1988–94 model years.

Other assembled models were Nissan Gazelle and Nissan Pulsar that were supplemented by Nissan Skyline and Nissan Pintara in 1986. 

Nissan’s automobile production in Australia ended in 1992, by which time production had fallen to less than 36,000 vehicles in 1991, after nearly 58,000 were made in 1990.


1973 Datsun 240K GL Coupe – Sicnag


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