A Brief History Of The Vintage Datsun

Datsun, Fairlady, Z, Nissan, Gas Monkey, Richard Rawlings, Fast N Loud

At face value it may seem strange for a hot rod shop like Gas Monkey Garage to undertake a JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) car, but truthfully the path of the hot rod and the Datsun do not stray so drastically.

To fully understand the Datsun you have to first know that it’s a part of Nissan and while you may not know much about Nissan, odds are good that you’re familiar with WWII and the role the Japanese played. Well, like practically any other country involved in the second World War Nissan dedicated themselves to the war effort and not only did they lose the war, but the Nissan name and brand suffered greatly. Bad news for Nissan, but good news for their lesser known Datsun line post-war.

On the allied side, young American troops returned home to a surplus of ’30s era cars and, arguably, a lot of adrenaline; the perfect combination for the birth of the hot rod. Back across the Pacific, Nissan would take years to return to making cars as they did pre-war, but when they did soldiers in the U.S. were hitting an age where a second car was needed, an energy crisis was looming and an affordable, stylish and fuel efficient Datsun was primed to capitalize.

Since that time Nissan discontinued the Datsun name in the ’80s, but has since relaunched in in certain markets. However, the ’70s era Datsuns remain a favorite of customizers and collectors alike.


  1. Love fnl ever since first show but after the first ten minutes i just couldn’t watch last night’s episode. Sorry but i have absolutely no interest watching rice burners. I fast forwarded to the old willys segments … that was cool.
    Maybe if you guys had stuffed a small block in it i would have stayed.
    Worst episode since the low rider.

  2. I was a mechanic back in the 70’s. It was difficult if not impossible to find anyone other than the “dealer” to work on these imports that were flooding the market so our shop became the local independent “specialists”. We were amazed at how many (brainwashed?) customers would walk around , look into our shop full of Toyotas and Datsuns and say, “Gee I didn’t think these cars ever broke down” People actually believed that back then. And parts? if you could get them were 4-10 times more expensive than comparable American parts. This article reminded me, In our customer area, we displayed a new water pump for a Datsun 240Z, It was priced at $86. (that, was ALOT for that time!) right next to it was a water pump for a big-block Chrysler. They were very similar in size & shape (small & round) almost identical. It was priced, new at $24. The most common repair all we did was replace head gaskets and timing chains. And don’t get me started on AUDI ! (LOL)

Gas Monkey Fans - Send us a message