The roar of classic engines, the elegance of roadsters and the fierce competition in the sports car scene of the 1960s give life to the legend of the Datsun Sports. Manufactured by Nissan under the Datsun Fairlady name in the Japanese and Australian markets, these roadsters, with their distinctive design and impressive performance, became worthy contenders to renowned European sports cars such as MG, Triumph, Fiat and Alfa Romeo.
The First Series: S211 and SPL212/SPL213
The Datsun Sports epic began in 1959 with the launch of the S211, the first model in the series. This two-door roadster was powered by a 988 cc C-Series engine, generating 37 PS and exhibiting a fiberglass body, influenced by the styling of the Chevrolet Corvette. Only 20 examples were produced, making the S211 one of the rarest Datsun models.
The series continued to evolve with the SPL212/SPL213, introduced in 1960, marking the transition to steel bodies. Equipped with a 1.2 L E-Series engine and left-hand drive bodywork, this model was the first to carry the “Fairlady” name, inspired by the Broadway musical “My Fair Lady”. Its rarity and value were demonstrated in 1996, when a set of unrestored SPL212 models sold for a staggering $100,000.
Second Generation: SP310/SPL310 and SPL311/SP311
The Datsun Sports took a bold leap forward with the introduction of the second generation in 1961. Designed for mass production, this generation included notable models such as the SP310/SPL310 and SPL311/SP311. These roadsters, sold as Datsun 1500/1600/2000 Roadster in export markets, conquered the racing scene, winning 10 SCCA national championships.
The SP310, known as the Fairlady/Sports 1500, debuted in 1963 with a 77 PS 1.5 L G15 engine. Later, the SPL311/SPL310, also called the Datsun 1600 in North America, emerged with a 96 PS 1.6 L R16 engine. This model underwent styling changes in 1965, along with the introduction of the first Nissan Silvia coupe, sharing the SPL311 platform.
Evolution to Power: SR311/SRL311
The heyday of the Datsun Sports came with the SR311/SRL311 in 1967. This model, also known as the 2000 Datsun, featured a significant upgrade. Equipped with a 2.0 L U20 engine and a five-speed manual transmission, this roadster offered surprising power for its time.
The SR311/SRL311, with its 2.0 L SOHC engine, generated 135 hp in its original configuration. A competition package option provided even more power, reaching 150 hp. This model excelled in SCCA racing and was hailed as an affordable sports car. Its attractive price and impressive performance made it a popular choice among car enthusiasts.
Lasting Legacy: The End of an Era
The Datsun Sports saga came to an end in April 1970, when the last SR311 model was produced. Throughout their history, these roadsters left an indelible mark on automotive culture. Their timeless design and exceptional performance make them coveted treasures for classic car collectors.
In retrospect, the Datsun Sports was not only an outstanding competitor on the international stage, but also helped forge Nissan’s reputation in the sports car world. With every roar of the engine and every corner conquered, these roadsters wrote an unforgettable chapter in the history of classic sports cars.
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