Growing up in a relatively poor family in the Philippines, we never got the chance of owning a brand-new car. So whether or not it was out of necessity and availability, tinkering on less valuable older Japanese cars that nobody cared for became a hobby that led to a lifelong passion for the oddball.
I love old cars – country of origin is not much of an issue to me. However, there is a sense of nostalgia for old Japanese cars that keeps me wanting to go back to my roots as I grew up around them. You see most of the time, I don’t look for cars. Cars instead find me. I admit I’ve been in and around Craigslist for the past few months back then, convincing myself that I needed to buy a Toyota Corona RT100, a car I use to own in the Philippines back in college, so coming across this 1979 Datsun 310 was completely unexpected – serendipity!
It was my typical Saturday morning. I was in Early Rodders, a local cars and coffee in La Canada, California. While everyone was flocking around the typical mainstream cars, the Datsun humbly parked away from the crowd caught my eye. It was so easy to not notice the car as it looks like a dusty old “Nissan Sentra” that a high schooler may have bought using dollars he saved from flipping burgers from his school cafeteria. But because of my keen eyes for orphan cars, I was drawn right away to this relatively rare car. So, after successfully convincing my wife that I finally found the right car I need, and pretending to the owner that I am not too interested so I could get a better bargain, I purchased the old Datsun, and drove it home.
The Datsun 310 is the U.S. market version of Japan’s Nissan Pulsar N10 series that came out from 1978 to 1982. It is powered by a 1488cc A15 inline 4 motor hooked to a 4 speed manual gearbox, and had been known for fuel economy, with a factory-claimed 38 highway MPG. The seats are covered with velour cloth making its interior look very luxurious for its time, and of course, the remote control rear windows that Datsun boasts off, are actually a couple of levers between the front seats with cables connected to the rear window latch to open it. The Datsun 310 can effortlessly cruise at 80MPH all day, as long as it’s going downhill. Although the 310 was Datsun’s upscale model, the $5,369 sticker for this front wheel drive car didn’t help much competing against its own rear wheel drive B210 that costs $500 cheaper. There’s not a lot of front wheel drive Datsun 310s around nowadays, and the preference for restoring old rear wheel drive cars may also contribute to its scarcity.
This Datsun 310 is a time capsule. It was claimed to have original 3000 miles on the odometer when I got it and the interior is so intact it’s as if nobody ever sat on its 39-year-old velour- covered seats. I have not done much with the car other than clean and freshen it up, and replace the original 13 inch steelies to 15” alloys wrapped in 195/50-15 rubbers for better handling.
I have added a few thousand miles on my old Datsun since I acquired it a couple of years back and I love how it gets so many thumbs up from other drivers and never fails to start a conversation anywhere I go, a healthy exercise from a recovering introvert like myself. This 310 can be actively seen around Southern California car events, but the goal is be able to participate in the California Togue with other nostalgic Japanese cars.
My Datsun fascinates me. Whenever I drive it around town, windows down, original stereo blasting out loud sounding like an old transistor radio in 1979, I can’t help but ask myself, why would someone buy an entry level car that was meant to be driven daily but instead kept it until it was old enough to be classified as a classic, in spite of the fact that its value is not even an object? I don’t exactly know the story as to why this car was kept in such a pristine condition. And while I strongly believe that cars are meant to be driven, I’m thankful to be the recipient of one that may have been kept in storage for a long time, so I could enjoy driving it a few decades later.