The car market during the 1970s was an exciting place to be. Datsunís 1600 had made life tough for the Corona and Holdenís four-cylinder Torana and four years later the 180B was still top of its category. Then in 1977 Mitsubishi changed the game with the sharply-priced Sigma and Datsun dropped the ball completely with a 200B that betrayed much of what its predecessors had achieved.
The 180B that arrived in 1972 was offered as a sedan in differing trim levels, a station wagon and coupe with ĎSSSí badging. Options across the range included auto transmission and air-conditioning.
The engine was Datsunís familiar overhead-cam design; enlarged and 10 per cent more powerful than in the 1600. Performance except in the SSS diminished slightly but the benefits over the 1600 included more occupant comfort and equipment and generally improved quality.
The 200B cut costs by deleting the independent rear suspension on Australian-built cars. Power output was also affected by new emission controls that Nissan, in common it must be said with most car-makers in our market, struggled to implement Limited-edition versions of the 200B were introduced to help lift the image of the model but they were still stuck with the basic 70kW engine and while a 200SX might spark some interest we doubt that an Aspen is going to turn many heads.
Finding a good 180B or 200B in todayís market is going to be a struggle and the issues of availability only get worse if you want a SSS. Two door cars were scarce when new and very good ones today command three times the money being made by sedans of similar quality. Wagons are uncommon as well but generally cost a little less than sedans. This could relate more to the quality of vehicles on offer than lower demand for load-carrying Datsuns.
Good news is that most 180B/200B models wonít have been modified to the extent that 1600s have been and anyone wanting to experience an almost 50 year-old design in original form will have that chance.
Excellent four-door examples of both models are available at $8000 or less and only when you go hunting for a SSS in exceptional condition is the money going to soar beyond $20,000.
Old Datsuns these days are likely to be decked out in non-original colour-schemes and might feature panels made from fibreglass. That still leaves a structure thatís at least 40 years old to be checked for rust and repairs of suspect quality. Many of these cars were fitted from new or later with vinyl roof covering and can be economically irreparable once rust gets into the roof and pillars. Look hard at rear quarters and for signs of bubbling along turret edges and around windows. Rust repair sections including complete floor-pans are available from local suppliers but larger panels will be second-hand. A variety of parts are being remade locally in fibreglass with prices ranging from $335 for front mudguards to $695 for a bonnet. Complete kits of body rubbers are available for around $700.
Properly maintained SOHC Nissan engines should go close to 250,000 kilometres between rebuilds however they are getting on so listen at start-up for rattles from the top or front of any engine Ė signifying camshaft, valve train wear and timing chain wear. Replacing the carburettor with a pair of SUs or even Webers plus exhaust extractors will deliver a decent power boost. Check the water pump isnít leaking. Automatic cars use a simple BorgWarner three-speed and these are cheaper to replace than repair if slipping or slow to change. Likewise, replacing a clapped out manual gearbox with a later five-speed is less expensive than rebuilding the original and will deliver quieter cruising and better fuel economy.
NUMBER BUILT: N/A
BODY STYLE: all-steel integrated body/chassis four-door sedan & station wagon, two-door coupe
ENGINES: 1770cc or 1952c in-line four cylinder with overhead camshaft and single downdraft carburettor
POWER & TORQUE: 78kW @ 6000rpm, 147Nm @ 3600rpm (180B)
PERFORMANCE: 0-100km/h Ė 13.4 seconds 0-400 metres Ė 18.6 seconds (180B manual)
TRANSMISSION: four or five-speed manual, three-speed automatic
SUSPENSION: independent with coil springs, struts & anti-roll bar (f) independent or live axle with trailing arms, coil springs and telescopic shock absorbers (r)
BRAKES: disc (f) drum (r) power assisted
TYRES: BR70H13 radial
The handling of a 180B with its all-independent rear and the live-axle 200B will feel similar until you start pushing both cars hard on a bumpy or unsealed road. Good-quality shock absorbers help if the bounce is really bad and the 180 needs its half-shafts checked for wear (clunks and clicks are warning signs). Recirculating ball steering may feel vague anyway but if there is more than 50mm of free play at the top of the wheel check the steering box isnít moving on its mounts. New brake rotors, pads, drums, calipers and brake hoses are all available and a complete overhaul including the booster should cost around $1200.
In all likelihood the original front buckets will be gone donít worry as plenty of alternatives exist. Saggy seats with decent covers can be revived with new foam padding. Make sure the mountings are secure and front buckets arenít twisted. The standard seat belt mounting will be annoying for some people and canít be moved without modifying the mounts or unless you install a roll cage and harnesses. Dash cracks are inevitable and most by now will be beyond plasti-welding. Get a trimmer to custommake a cover if you intend keeping the car. Window mechanisms jam with age so make sure they all work.