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The Complete Guide to Classic Datsun Cars and Trucks

1936 Datsun NL-75 & NL-76
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The NL-76 is shown on the left and the NL-75 is on the right
 

 Nissan's motorsport history begins right here.  
 In June 1936 Japan's first permanant race track was opened. The Tamagawa Speedway was located on the banks of the Tama river near Tokyo and was a 1200m oval track. This naturally attracted a lot of interest, and car importers, backyard enthusiasts and Japanese car makers all looked on with great interest. 
 In 1936 the car industry in Japan was in it's infancy. The single biggest success story in the industry at the time was Nissan, who by that stage were the biggest car manufacturer in the country. Morale was high at the time, with Nissan workers proud of what their company was achieveing. To build on this pride a group of Nissan workers and engineers decided to build their own race car. 
A small corner of Nissan's new factory was set aside for the project, where the first car, the Nissan NL75 was built. The people who designed and built this car did so voluntarily in their own time, and the car was completed in only three months from the start of the project. Three months is an impressive effort for a group of people working in their spare time, but the feat was even more astonishing when you realise that the designs they were working on were groundbreaking for an Asian manufacturer, with some highly advanced technology being used. 
 The NL75 was based on the chassis of the 1935 Datsun 14 production car. The road-going Datsun 14 featured the new Type 7 four cylinder 722cc side valve engine that produced 16hp, but for some reason they decided to fit the NL-75 with an engine based on the old 747cc DAT engine that was last used in the Datsun 13. It is unclear whether this decision was made thanks to a desire to utilise some of the older engines or whether it had to do with the slightly larger capacity of the old DAT engine. The engineers used only the lower section of the engine and not the cylinder head, because they had something rather interesting in mind for to top of the engine. What they did was to design a double overhead cam cylinder head to use on the DAT engine block. This was cutting edge technology in 1936, whith only the likes of Isotta Fraschini, Bugatti and Maserati using DOHC designs for their Grand Prix cars at the time, and certainly not something you would expect to see on a pre-war Asian race car built in someone's spare time. It would be thirty years before OHC technology reached a Datsun production car with the 130 series Cedric in 1966. The engine featured two valves per cylinder, with the valves cantered at about 20deg. Not only did the car have an impressive head design, it also had a Rootes type supercharger which also appears to have been built in-house. There is some confusion as to the output of the engine, with various figures quoted relating to the pressure the supercharger was set at, but the car seems to have raced with something around 42hp. 
 The car used the same chassis as the Datsun 14, which was a fairly basic ladder chassis. Suspension was semi-eliptical leaf springs front and back, but the steering system was different to the sedan, with the wheel operating a lever arm on the side of the car which then moved a rod that ran almost parallel to the chassis, which then operated the swivel axles. The whole setup is similar to that used on speedway cars. 
 The NL-75 was a single seat race car, it's body was a steel construction made of hand beaten sheet metal. It looked like a minature version of a Grand Prix car from that era, or rather like a more modern speedway car.
 At around the same time a different car was built called the NL-76. The NL-76 was a very different car and was designed to race in a production based category. The NL-76 was nowhere near as adventurous in it's mechanical design as the NL-75. It too was based on the Datsun 14, and it continued to use the 14's chassis and suspension. The steering on this car was closer to the design of the road car than the NL-75, with it's componantry located within the bodywork. This model did not have either the twin cam cylinder head or the supercharger of the NL-75, and nor was it based on the same engine. The NL-76 used a worked version of the new 722cc Datsun Type 7 engine, which had only just been fitted to the new Datsun 14 sedan. The Type 7 engine as fitted to the Datsun 14 produced 15hp, and in the Datsun 15 of 1936 it's output had increased to 16hp, the work done on the NL-76's engine raised the output to 22hp. 
The body of the NL-76 was significantly different to that of the NL-75. The NL-76 had a much shorter nose section than the NL-75, with a much more vertical grille. The rear of the NL-75 featured an incorporated headrest behind the driver which offered some form of roll-over protection, the NL-76 offered no such protection, and at the back of the car the bodywork tapered away rapidly behind the cabin. The driving positions were very different between the two cars, with the seat positioned further forward in the chassis for the NL-76. The NL-76 also featured some additional streamlining at the front with the steering and suspension covered in a large fairing.
 Two of each models were built and raced at the time, with the Datsuns doing well at the Tamagawa Speedway, recording several race wins against other much larger foreign cars. Also racing at Tamagawa at this time was Soichiro Honda and his brother Benjiro, who were making Honda's first tenative steps into the world of motorsport. This new era of motorsport would prove to be short-lived, the next year war broke out between Japan and China and Japan had begun it's descent into the Second World War, with oil and petrol being rationed car racing was out of the question, and would be for amny years to come.

1936 Datsun NL-75 Specifications 
Length - unknown   
Width - unknown   
Height - unknown   
Wheelbase - unknown   
Weight - unknown   
Top speed - unknown 
Transmission - unknown
Engine Specifications 
Model - DAT 
DOHC Supercharged 4 cylinder 
Capacity - 747cc   
Bore & Stroke - 56x76mm  
Power - approx. 42hp 
Torque - unknown 
Compression - unknown 
Fuel system - unknown  

Final Drive - unknown


1936 Datsun NL-76 Specifications 
Length - unknown   
Width - unknown   
Height - unknown   
Wheelbase - unknown   
Weight - unknown   
Top speed - unknown 
Transmission - unknown

Engine Specifications 
Model - Type 7 
Side valve 4 cylinder 
Capacity - 722cc   
Bore & Stroke - 55x76mm  
Power - 22hp@4000rpm 
Torque - unknown 
Compression - unknown 
Fuel system - unknown  

Final Drive - unknown

 

Datsun NL-75 
 The Datsun NL-75 was a two seater race car based on the Datsun 14. It used a double overhead cam supercharged version of the DAT 747cc engine.
Datsun NL-76 
 The Datsun NL-76 was a two seater race car based on the Datsun 14. It used a modified version of the Datsun Type 7 engine from the 14.
Ohta Race Car 
 This photo has been doing the rounds of the internet for years tagged as being a Datsun NL-75, but it isn't. The car is actually a single seater built by Yuichi Ohta in the early 1950s. Yuichi Ohta had a long association with Nissan, and he was the designer of the Datsun DC-3 and the Datsun S211 sports cars.
 This car however was not a Nissan product, it was Yuichi's own project, though it did have a Datsun engine.
Datsun 14 
 The Datsun NL-75 and NL-76 race cars were based on the mechanicals of the Datsun 14. More information about this vehicle can be found on the Datsun 14 page.

 
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