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The Complete Guide to Classic Datsun Cars and Trucks

1952 Datsun DC-3 Model
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Back in the early 1950s Nissan embarked on a bold plan, they were going to build their first sports car. The true boldnesss of this plan becomes all the more impressive when you realise the economic conditions in Japan at the time. In 1951 the Second World War had finished a mere half a decade earlier and the Allied occupation forces were still in control of the country. The major cities had been devistated by the relentless bombing in the closing stages of the war, and homes and factories were slowly being rebuilt. Whilst the population was no longer starving, they weren't exactly prospering either. In 1951 only one person in every 240 owned a vehicle. In 1951 Nissan built a total of 14381 vehicles, the majority of which were small trucks. It was into this economic climate that Nissan decided to take it's first steps as a sports car manufacturer. 
To design the new sports car Nissan employed the services of Yuichi Ohta. Yuichi was the son of Hiro Ohta, who founded the Ohta Jidosha car company, which produced cars in Japan between 1934 and 1957. In 1937 the father and son designed the Ohta Model OD sports car, with Hiro engineering the car and Yuichi responsible for the styling of the car. After the war Yuichi found himself at Nissan, employed as the designer. Yuichi was given the job of designing and building the new sports car, which was to be designated the DC-3. Nissan had precious little resources to expend on the sports car project, which meant Yuichi had to base the car on an existing Nissan model. The DC-3 ended up using the chassis and mechanicals of the 1950 Datsun 5147 small truck. The 5147 itself was nothing more than a 1937 Datsun 17T truck that was put back into production after the war, with a new engine in it. 
The new car was designated the DC-3, but went on sale at the Datsun Sports. It made it's debut on the 12th of January 1952. It was powered by Nissan's D10 series engine, which was an 860cc 4 cylinder side valve engine that produced 25hp. It had a 3 speed non-synchro gearbox and cable operated brakes. Underneath it was pure 1930s truck engineering, with a basic ladder chassis and leaf spring suspension all round. It's top speed was a rather un-sports car like 70kp/h. 
 It's styling could best be described as 'cute' rather than bold or dashing, or other adjectives used to describe sports cars of that era. In fact it looked more like a cartoon drawing of an MG TC. The DC-3 used the same bonnet, grille, bumpers and headlights as the 5147 truck, but was all new from the windscreen back and had front guards that swept back under the doors rather than finish just behind the front wheel like the 5147. The car was a full four seater, with two buckets in the front and a bench in the back. 
The badges on the car say DATSUN 20, with the 20 being 20ps, the power output of the engine measured in Pferdestarke (horse strength in German) which is the measurement unit used then, and still used today, in Japan and some of Europe. 
When it went on sale in 1952 it cost 835000yen, which was somewhat of a bargain when you consider that a DS-2 Datsun Thrift sedan from the same year cost 940000yen. Yet is was far from being a success, post-war Japan just wasn't ready for a locally produced sports car. In all only 50 DC-3s were ever built, and only 30 of them were sold. The remaining unsold cars had their bodies removed and the rolling chassis' were turned back into trucks. 
 Yuichi Ohta did a deal with Nissan and purchased the discarded DC-3 bodies and bought old pre-war Datsuns and converted them into his own DC-3s over the course of the next few years. Yuichi continued to work for Nissan throughout the 1950s, he designed the DW-2 Datsun Wagonette, the Datsun 210 sedan and the S211 and the SP212, which was the very first model Fairlady. 
 Very few Datsun DC-3s survive today, Nissan still owns one, and it is on display in the foyer of their head office building in Tokyo.

A sales brochure for the Datsun DC-3
Yes, there is an aircraft called the DC3, and no the Datsun isn't named after it. 
Datsun sedans from this era were designated the DA, DB and DB-2, etc. The DC-3 was simply a follow on of Nissan's model designation system at the time.
 



1952 Datsun DC-3 Sports Specifications  
Length - 3510mm   
Width - 1360mm   
Height - 1450mm   
Wheelbase - 2150mm   
Weight - 750kg   
Top speed - 70kph 

Transmission - Floor change 3 speed


Engine Specifications 
Model - Type D-10 
Side Valve 4 Cylinder  
Capacity - 860cc   
Bore & Stroke 60x75mm   
Power - 25bhp@3600rpm   
Torque- 4.9kg/m@2400rpm   
Compression - 6.6 : 1   
Carburettor - Hitachi Solex VA-26-1 single throat down draught   

Final drive - 6.43 : 1

 

Model Variations
 
Datsun 5147  
 The Datsun DC-3 was based on the body and mechanicals of this, the Datsun 5147 truck. 
 If you look at the photo of the 5147 you can see that the whole front section of the truck is exactly the same as the DC-3. The mechanicals, chassis and front section of the truck are all exactly the same as the DC-3. The 5147 itself was nothing more than a slightly updated version of the pre-war 1937 Datsun 17T truck.
 

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