Cherry 100A/120A (1971-1977)

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Released in the UK in July 1971, the 100A was an instant success in Europe and was appreciated for its ease of driving, reliability and its clever packaging. It soon became a familiar sight and Datsun UK sold over 70,000 examples over 7 years. At the time of release, there were surprisingly few transverse engined front wheel drive rivals, its direct competitior being the Fiat 127 and both cars were credited for getting the FWD concept right first time.

 e10_2door1974 UK spec Datsun 100A 2 door saloon

The 100A was designed and developed by the Prince Motor company, whom Nissan had acquired in 1966 and featured certain styling traits with some of the companies more illustrious designs, such as the GC10 Skyline. PMC also had the innovation and integrity to risk designing a FWD, something that notoriously conservative Nissan would have been reluctant to conduct. In Japan, the new car stood alone with no other local FWD competitors, such was the relative conservatism of the car buying market at the time, who preferring the bigger RWD Sunny, which held a higher status in the its home market. Japan was selling a huge amount of sub-900cc Kei cars to local markets but unlike the new Cherry, they were in the lower tax band, so there was no real incentives to buy the Cherry. The designers, while embracing the FWD set-up didn’t consider Fiats and Renault hatchback recent developments, perhaps in fear of appearing to make their new baby car appear too utilitarian. To help increase domestic sales, several performance versions were available, the X-1 was a 2 door saloon 1.2 litre with twin Hitachi SU carbs, while the very collectable X-1R featured the same 1171cc and twin carburetors but in the coupe body, complete with wheel flares and unique ‘sports hatch’ styling. Both cars had relatively short lives, and are now subsequently highly prized in Japan, with some notable race track achievements. The standard models also became an able enough rally car and was used in club competitions throughout its life. Two van versions were also available, one being a standard estate with no rear seat but still retaining the rear glass windows. Several European countries received these, as some countries had tax breaks for commercial vehicles. Curiously most European versions also had anti-roll bars front arms brackets to their imports of the 100A, which improved the handling considerably but this wasn’t even an option in the UK. The second version was an actual short wheel base mini-truck and although they didn’t share much in terms of body panels, they shared the same mechanics.

 e10_mk11972 UK spec MK1 Datsun 100A 4 door saloon
e10_4door 1973 UK spec Datsun 100A 4 door saloon

The first imports arrived in mid 1971, with a series of 2 and 4 door saloons, complemented with a 3 door estate model. At the time of the cars release, the company were quickly gathering sales momentum, the successive releases of new models from Datsun into the 70’s was spearheaded by the E10. In late 1972, a short lived coupe version with a transversely mounted 1171cc engine was announced for the UK market, this model added a further practical element of having the opening hatchback but its high sill limited it from becoming a usable shopping car. It was priced close to the forthcoming 120Y Sunny coupe (with a longitually mounted RWD version with the same 1171cc engine), but offered a slightly more sporting experience helped by the still novel FWD set up. A 3 door Estate version was also available but retained the Japanese commercial vehicle specification (many estate cars were classified as commercial vehicles in Japan) including all round drum brakes and lower trim levels. The load bay of the estate was impressive for such a small car and due to the leaf springs, provided the car with surprisingly agile handling, which improved on the E10’s already impressive performance. Both models were discontinued in late 1975. Janspeed UK and Midlands based Samuari also tuned several coupes and saloons to demonstrate how flexible the A Series engine were and several saloons and coupes were tried and tested by several UK magazines in the early 70’s, with favourable responses. All but the 2 door saloon model were discontinued in the autumn of 1976, when in de-luxe trim became the entry level car of the range, having been replaced by the bigger Cherry FII models in late 1976. The De-luxe was still listed for sale well into 1977 as Datsuns entry level budget car, with the last registered cars making it on ’77/S plates.

e10_coupe1973 UK spec Datsun 120A 2 door coupe
 e10_wagon1975 UK spec Datsun 100A 2 door estate
 e10_vanJDM spec Datsun Cherry van

Model History

Cherry 100A (1971-1977)
A10 4 Cylinder 988cc OHV
2 and 4 door saloon, 3 door estate
July 1971
100A 2 door, 4 door and 2 door Estate launched in the UK
November 1971
Front disc brakes standard, Electric cooling fan
November 1973
Minor grill restyle, new wheel trims, redesigned rear lights on all models. Standard and heated rear window on saloon
March 1974
Interior improvements – 2 speed wipers, dual scale speedo, Push button radio, electric washer, hazard flashers, reversing lights and alternator
September 1974
100A 2 door L introduced, without heated rear window, carpets, door mirrors and radio
January 1975
Anti-dieseling solenoid on carburetor
November 1975
100A Estate discontinued
December 1976
100A 4 door and 2 door L discontinued
March 1977
2 door saloon De Luxe discontinued
Cherry 120A (1973-1975)
A12 4 Cylinder 1171cc OHV
3 door coupe
February 1973
120A coupe available in the UK (announced October 1972) rev counter, centre console, 3 spoke steering wheel
November 1973
Minor grill restyle, new wheel trims, redesigned rear lights on all models. Cloth upholstery, new door trim and carpets added as standard
March 1974
Interior improvements – 2 speed wipers, dual scale speedo, Push button radio, electric washer, hazard flashers, reversing lights and alternator
January 1975
Anti-dieseling solenoid on carburetor
November 1975
120A Coupe discontinued