Following Toyotas and Mazda’s success in the UK with their light commercial models in the UK, Datsun decided to follow suit with a pick up and light van in 1975. In the States Pick up trucks had long been established as an affordable mode of transport and with Datsun reputation for reliability and durability, the ‘Li’l Hustler’ 520 series of pick ups introduced in 1969 became an instant success with nearly 180,000 sales. They were tunable and subject to personal customisation – a knock on effect created from the successful 510 model. This trend however was not common in Europe, where there was no tax breaks for pick ups and no established pick up truck fashion, although the trend for customisation was encouraged by the available option packs. The majority of pick up trucks sold in the UK at the time, were generally sold for commercial or motorhome use.
Visually the 620 pick up follows a near identical looking design to the other Japanese pick ups – double headlamps, larger manufacturers text on the tailgate and similar sized engines. Datsun had a long tradition of producing car derived pick up vehicles, but the model had long deviated away from it’s passenger car roots and were unique in terms of styling and engineering. The 620 model was originally introduced in Japan in 1972, and was an evolution of the previous 520 version. The 620 has some shared components with the 610 Bluebird of the period but it was powered by the 1.5 litre J-series engines. Imports into the UK started in 1975, with a single short short wheel base example, badged as the Datsun 1500.
The successor to the 1500 used a more familiar L-series 1.8 engine. Introduced in 1980 the 720 model, with quad headlamps used many existing parts from the range and was the first pick up model to consider dealer option accessories. As well as the standard pick up, Datsun introduced into the UK the first of a long line of lifestyle four-wheel drive vehicles, the 2.2 litre 5 speed King Cab. It had a longer cab design and sold on its lifestyle appeal available with options such as large chrome wheels and off road tyres, roll and bull bars, auxillery lights and interior comforts to open up a new niche in the UK. This was the first 4WD Datsun in the UK, a market that Nissan had competed well in across the rest of the world.
Introduced at same time as the 620 pick up, the 7 cwt van, based on the 120Y 3 door B210 Sunny estate. At the time it undercut the price of Morris Marina 7 cwt and Ford Escort 35 by at least £200 and selling on the same virtues as the passenger version of the 120Y. It was complemented in 1977 with the 1 litre 100A FII van, based on the estate version of the FII – this offered a similar sized load capacity to the Sunny van at a marginally cheaper price, perhaps appealing to smaller private businesses rather than building and industrial based companies. The FII van didn’t quite sell as strongly and when the FII range was discontinued, it wasn’t replaced in the UK. The B210 series was discontinued and replaced in the autumn of 1978 by the new square rigged B310 ‘New Sunny’ model, retaining much of the mechanics and the same 1.2 litre engine and in turn replaced by the facelift model in 1980. The Sunny van continued to be the main car derived vehicle echoing the styling of it’s equivalent Sunny estate counterpart into the 80’s and early 90’s.
Datsun UK were late into importing their medium sized vans into the UK and may have lost out on more sales due to the import quotas introduced in the late 70’s, but imports of the E20 series of vans and in particular the smaller Cabstar were instant sellers. The vans opened up UK buyers to a small but useful range of commerical vehicles. The E20 series was sold both as a panel and a windowed van, competing directly with the popular Toyota Hiace and the out going VW transporter. The model had been introduced in Japan in 1973 as the Caravan/Homy and the 2 litre petrol model was in its final years of production when introduced into the UK in 1978. It used the unique to the UK H series engines, which were available in other commercial vehicles and JDM spec Cedric models. Its replacement the E23 was badged as the Urvan in Europe, now featuring more powerful fuel injected engines and were sold in larger numbers in the UK.
Introduced in 1979, the Cabstar based on the Caravan/Urvan models but featured a uniquely styled forward control cab with a useful drop sided bed, powered by the same 2 litre G series engine as the E20. The Cabstar managed to carve out a successful reputation, competing directly with other Japanese drop side trucks. The Cabstar was also imported just as a cab on a chassis, allowing private companies to make conversions to the rear deck – these ranged from camper vans to luton vans. The Cabstar was a long lived design and while it was facelifted in 1982, it survived as a Nissan badged vehicle almost unchanged until 1990.
The final vehicle to be introduced into the line up before the Nissan name change was the 3rd generation 160 series Patrol model, like Toyota’s Hilux, it had also generated a following all around the world as a durable rugged off road vehicle. The first imports arrived in early 1982 2 years after it first went on sale, with a short wheel based 2 door hard top and long wheel based 5 door 7 seater estate. Both were available with the L-series 2.8 petrol unit or a SD33 diesel unit – the first Diesel engine to be sold in the UK by Nissan in a passenger vehicle. Its off road abilities were admired more than its road comfort, due to the size and general basic refinement but the Patrol introduced the UK to Nissans eventual four wheel drive aspirations.
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