By Jeff Bennett
As the number of people who are collecting Japanese sports cars rises, the search for restorable examples continues to turn up a number of cars that probably cannot be restored economically. As with nearly all of the manufacturers at the time, rust is something that has destroyed many otherwise desirable cars. However, every once in a while, a car shows up on the market that is in really good shape. This may be one of those cars. Take a look at this 1968 Datsun Fairlady 1600 Sports convertible,$4500. While it is not the more powerful and desirable 2000 version, this one is claimed by the seller to have very little rust. For one of these roadsters, that is like claiming to have a talking dog.
Called a Fair Lady in Japan, many experts wonder why these little roadsters never saw sales success in the United States. They compared favorably to their main competition, the MGB, and the 2000 version even offered a five speed transmission, which was unheard of in the segment, these cars still sold poorly. Perhaps it was the bias against Japanese cars at the time, or maybe it was that the larger British manufacturers at the time had a long history in the market that weighed on the minds of buyers. Whatever the reason, customers likely missed the opportunity to own a very nice car.
On this particular car, we are looking at a vehicle that received some refreshing a while ago, but is likely at the point it needs a full restoration. The paint looks to be a re-spray, but it appears that the car was not stripped to bare metal and then built back up with primer, paint, and clear. Maybe this thick coat of paint saved the car from further rusting.
Inside, the interior looks to be one good cleaning away from being very serviceable. While the 2000 series cars were equipped with five speed manual transmissions, these 1600 series cars are outfitted with a four speed manual. Conversions to the five speed were popular, and can be done. At any rate, a five speed conversion would be something that a new owner should look into if the car is taken apart for restoration anyway. Another plus on this one is that it comes with a lift off hard top.
Under the bonnet the stout 1600 cc inline four cylinder engine that earned these cars good reputations for power and reliability. This one looks fairly stock, and it still has its twin carburettors attached. These convertibles received some freshening during this model year, including a padded dash, a higher windshield, and it was the first year that emissions controls were added.
Believe it or not, a very well restored example of a 1968 Datsun 1600 roadster sold at a Gooding and Company Amelia Island auction for $50,600 in 2013. While that number is pretty out of the realm for one of these, especially a 1600, a car that began its restoration in fairly rust free condition and was finished to a high standard should bring good money. If the rust claims are true and all of the parts are re storable, then this car may be a good investment. Even if you parked it in a climate controlled garage and kept it for a few years, it would probably appreciate better than any share you could buy.