If Nissan were upset when their first sports car, the 1952 Datsun
DC-3, accounted for a total of only 50 ever built, then they must have
been totally dismayed when their next car, the Datsun S211 sold only a
total of 20. But while the S211 may have been a sales disaster, more importantly
it represented the first step in a line of sports cars that would sell
in increasingly larger numbers and eventually lead to the Z car series,
which would become the biggest selling sports car in the world in the 1970s.
The Datsun S211 prototype, called the A80X, made it's world
debut in the rather unlikely location of the rooftop of the Nihonbashi
Mitsukoshi department store in Tokyo on the 10th of January 1958, during
a special Datsun display at the store. The display was due to go for three
days, but the number of visitors was so great it was continued for a whole
week. The production version went on sale on the 4th of June 1959.
The car was designed by Yuichi Ohta, who was the son of Hiro Ohta, who
founded the Ohta car company in Japan. Yuichi Ohta had previously designed
the Datsun DC-3 and the DW-4 Wagonette. Obviously inspired by the Austin
Healey, Ohta came up with a design that could best be described as an 'orientalised'
Big Healey. The coloured flash along the side of the car and the front
section had an obvious Healey 3000 feel, but the rear section looked more
like a shorted version of a Kaiser Darrin.
The Datsun S211 has the odd distinction of being the only Nissan
product ever to have a fibreglass body. The fibreglass re-inforced plastic
resin bodies were made by the Tonouchi Industrial Company in Yokahama,
with the materials supplied by the Nitto Chemical Company.
Like the previous Datsun DC-3 sports car, the S211 was based on the mechanicals
and chassis of another vehicle, in this case it was the Datsun 211 sedan.
The S211 sat on the same chassis as the 211 sedan, and used the same engine,
but the S211 had a 4 speed floor change gearbox instead of the 3 speed
column change in the sedan. The only other notable mechanical difference
was that the sports car sat on 14 inch wheels instead of the sedan's 15
The dashboard of the S211 is a solid timber panel with the
instrument binacle from the 211 sedan mounted in the middle, instead of
being directly in front of the driver.
The S211 went on sale in 1959 at a cost of 35000yen, compared
to the first Datsun Bluebird which cost 19000yen. With only 20 ever built,
and only a few still surviving today, the S211 is the rarest of all Datsuns.
The S211 was replaced in 1960 by the Datsun Fairlady SPL212, which looked
almost identical, but was in fact a substantially different vehicle. The
SPL212 had an all steel body for a start, rather than the S211's fibreglass
body. There are a couple of visual cues to differentiate the two cars.
The two cars actually have different shaped doors, if you look at the bottom
of the door on the S211 you can see that the front edge of the door is
curved on the S211, and on the SPL212 this part of the door comes to a
sharp 90deg. angle. The S211 has a Datsun 1000 badge that is incorporated
into the strip that runs along the side of the car, the SPL212 has no badge
here, but instead has a Fairldy badge above the side strip. The front Datsun
badge on the S211 is much taller and chunkier looking than the slimmer
Datsun badge used on the SPL212. On the back of the car near the boot handle
there is a Datsun 1000 badge, the same as the one used on the side of the