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Datsun Fairlady

1961 - SPL213 Series

 The 1961 Datsun Fairlady SPL213 went into production in October 1960 and continued through until September 1962. In all a total of 217 were built.   

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Visually the SPL213 is all but identical to the SPL212 that it replaces, the only visual clue that this is a different model is the fact that for the SPL212 the wheels were painted the same colour as the two-toned section on the side of the car, and on the SPL213 they are painted silver. The major differences can only be found when you lift the bonnet.
The SPL213 boasts a 12hp increase over the previous SPL212 model thanks to it's new 60hp E-1 series engine. Most of the engine is the same as the old E engine, but the new E-1 has a new cylinder head design, a new intake manifold, and a new dual throat down draught Nikki carburetor to give it it's extra performance. Also the old school oil bath type air cleaner has been replaced with a new paper element style air filter.
Changes were also made to the brakes and all four axles. The SPL212 had brake drums that incorporated the axle hub, while the SPL213 had a seperate brake drum. These changes required the fitting of slightly different wheels.
As with the previous model, the SPL213 was only available in left hand drive, and was only ever sold in the United States.

The S211 was based on the 211 sedan, and shared it's reverse Elliot I beam front suspension. The SPL212 instead had the independant front torsion bar system from the truck. Whilst this was certainly an improvement, it was still far from being ideal for a sports car. The chassis for the sports car was little more than a shortened truck one. The choice of running gear was a puzzling one, because at the same time the SPL212 went on sale Nissan had just released the all new 310 series Datsun Bluebird sedan, which had a much more modern double wishbone independant front suspension system, which would be used in the next Fairlady, the SP310.
The SPL212 was the first car to wear the Fairlady badge, a name that over 50 years later is still in use today. Badging in the S211 said Datsun 1000 on the sides and at the rear, for the SPL212 there were Fairlady badges on the sides, above the side strip, and the same Datsun 1200 badge that was used on the 223 truck was fitted to the boot lid. The badge on the front of the car is much slimmer than the one on the S211, and is the same badge that was used on the later SP310 Fairlady.
 The engine was the same as the one used in the 310 Bluebird sedan and the 222 truck, which was the 1189cc OHV engine which produced 48hp. It was fitted with a single throat down draught Hitachi carburetor with an oil bath type air cleaner.
The SPL212 had a different dashboard than the S211, with two large dials placed directly in front of the driver.
The one really odd thing about this car is that it was an export only vehicle. The SPL212, and the later SPL213 were only ever built in left hand drive, and were only ever offered for sale in the United States. None of these cars were sold in Japan.
 The SPL212 went into production in January 1960 and was built until 1961, when it was replaced by the more powerful SPL213 model. A total of 228 SPL212s were built.
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It's a little known fact, but one of the first non-Japanese drivers to race for the Nissan Motor Company was a woman.

When Nissan were first starting up operations in the USA in 1959 they sent out Yutaka Katayama to head up their new venture, and with him they sent an engineer by the name of Masahiko Zaitsu. Both Katayama and Zaitsu were motor sports and sports car enthusiasts, in particular Katayama, who founded the Sports Car Club of Japan in 1951, and more famously headed up the team that won it's in class in the 1958 around Australia race, the Mobil Gas Trial. Once they started to set things up in the USA they decided they needed to hire a local mechanic to become the company's Service Manager. They were quite fortunate because one of the people who applied for the position was a gentleman called Jean LaPlant, who had considerable experience with Austins, which was particularly handy when you consider the fact that Nissan were building Austins under licence at the time, and all the new Nissan models were based on Austin designs. Also helpful was the fact that LaPlant was an amateur race car driver, as was Benny Ackerman, another mechanic that was hired in the early days.  

 In 1959 the first car to wear the Fairlady name, the SPL212, went on sale in the USA. LaPlant, being the racer he was, suggested to Katayama and Zaitsu that they should race the SPL212 for publicity. It no doubt took little to persuade Katayama and Zaitsu, and soon funding arrived to set up "Team Nissan". The first Fairlady wasn't quite the performance car the later ones were, producing only 48hp, and was built on the chassis of a 223 series Datsun truck. The two American mechanics tinkered with the car to up the performance, and it was eventually entered in the "F Modified" class. The funding was minimal, with no provision for a pit crew, the drivers had to do everything themselves. Team Nissan debuted in 1960 with LaPlant driving, partnered by another local driver called Jim Nieland, and surprisingly managed to win a race in 1960 in Palm Springs.

 The car was campaigned into 1961 and 1962 by LaPlant and Nieland, but in 1961 the decision was made to enter the car in another category, the All-American Women's series. The driver chosen to compete was a lady by the name of Norah Taylor. Norah's husband Sam was a racer, and Norah followed in his footsteps and started racing herself in 1955, driving her husband's MG TD. She soon got her own car and raced an MG TF before moving into a Lotus 4.

 In 1961 she started driving the Fairlady. The competition in the "Ladies Series" was substantially more serious than the "F Modified" series the men were racing in. The men were racing in cars of a similar size and performance, whereas Norah went up against women driving Jaguar XK120, Ford Thunderbirds, Lotus 7, Alfa Romeo Guiletta and Sunbeam Alpines, to name a few. To her credit, although thoroughly out-classed in her truck based sports car, she still held her own and even managed one 4th place.

 Norah stopped racing after that, but Jean LaPlant continued on, eventually driving the new SP310 race car when it debuted in 1963. The new SP310 was a much more serious machine, which went on to win numerous SCCA races between 1963 and 1965.

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Model Variations

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1960 Fairlady SPL212

There were no model variations of the 1960 Fairlady SPL212.  

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Datsun 223 Small Truck

The Datsun SPL212 was based on the chassis and mechanicals of the Datsun 223 truck. More information about this vehicle can be found on the Datsun 223 page.   

1961 Datsun SPL213 Specifications

Length - 4025mm
Width - 1475mm
Height - 1380mm
Wheelbase - 2220mm
Weight - 890kg
Top speed - 132kph
Transmission - Floor change 4 speed

E-1 Series Engine Specifications

Model - E-1
OHV 4 Cylinder
Capacity - 1189cc
Bore & Stroke 73x71mm
Power - 60hp@5000rpm
Torque- 67ft/lb @2400rpm
Compression - 8.2 : 1
Carburettor - Nikki 2D-30C dual throat down draught
Final drive - 4.625 : 1