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[Datsun 1200 encyclopedia]

Datsun History

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Category: General Information

The Datsun brand of cars came out of the merger of two early Japan car companies, DAT Automobile Co. and Jitsuyo Automobile Co. This new company DAT Automobile Manufacturing Co. eventually created the Datsun brand. Shortly after the first Datsun was produced in 1931, the fledgling Nippon Sangyo holding company, desiring to enter the automobile business, takes over DAT in 1933. The next year Nippon Sangyo names the car company Nissan Motors. The rest is history and today the company is known as Nissan Motor Co., Ltd (日産自動車株式会社).



1911 July 1: 橋本増治郎 (Masujiro Hashimoto) forms 快進社 (Kaishinsha or 'Advanced Car') in Azabu district of Tokyo, with backers of Den, Aoyama and Takeuichi. The initials DAT are eventually applied to name the car project.

Masujiro Hashimoto

1912: Hashimoto builds first prototype DAT automobile. In Japanese DAT (pronounced 'datto') is 脱兎, which means 'bounding away (with lightning speed), so it is fitting for a young company's automobile hopes.

1913 October: Second car, the DAT 1, is created
Masujiro Hashimoto is on far right

1914 March: DAT 1 wins a Bronze Medal prize at Tokyo Taisho Expo

  • V2 engine two-cylinder v-formation
  • 10 HP, top speed 32kph

1914: 快進自動車工場 (Kwaishinsha Automobile Works) is established in Tokyo. Apparently it is the first automobile manufacturer registered with the Japanese government. 快進自動車工場 literally means 'advanced car factory'.

1915: DAT 31 birth, with 2-liter 4-cylinder engine fitting

1916: DAT 41 birth, with bored 2.3-liter engine, 15 HP. Produced until 1926.

1918 August: Reorganized as Kwaishinsha Automobile Co., Ltd. (株式会社 快進社, KK Kaishinsha) with a capital of 600,000 Yen. The purpose was to sell the first generation DAT 41, a full-size five-passenger car for wealthy customers.


1919: Kubota (the tractor company) forms a subsidiary to manufacture cars, named it 實用自動車 (Jitsuyo Automobiles) in Osaka. American William R. Gorham previously had approached Kubota with a design for a design for a two passenger three-wheeled car powered by Harley-Davidson motorcycle engine. This is at the time of motorcycle mania around the world.

Yumito Kushibiki and William R. Gorham

1919 December 5: Gonshiro Kuboto, company head, creates Jitsuyo with W.R. Gorham as Chief Engineer and 1,000,000 Yen capitalization.

1919 October: Jitsuyo's first product is the small three-wheeled 'Gorham' car. Production of Gorham 3-wheeler is about 30 units per month. About 150 Gorhams are sold.

The Jitsuyo 'Gorham'

  • V2 air-cooled engine
  • 7 HP rating
  • Simple friction drive
  • Tiller steering

1921 October 24: Gorham 1 car ended (3-wheeler)

1921 November: William R. Gorham and engineer 後藤敬義 (Takayoshi Goto) completes a four-wheel car design by converting the Gorham to four wheels, but then Gorham leaves Jitsuyo to work for Tobata Castings. About 100 of these cars are sold.

1921: Takayoshi Goto creates the Lila Light Car, based on a rework of Gorham's original design.

Jitsuyo Lila

  • production from 1922-1926, about 200 cars total production
  • 10 HP, top speed 30 mph
  • both car and truck models offered
  • popular in Tokyo taxi market due to narrow 40-inch track

1923: 1st Lila completed. It has rear wheel differential drive. It is difficult to complete with Ford and GM, which are building cars in Japan.

1924: Lila modified for worm gear steering by Goto, replacing tiller steering of previous units.

1925: Jitsuyo in difficult situation, repairing Kubota tractors and GM cars in attempt to survive.


1925: 株式会社 快進社 (KK Kwaishinsha) is reorganized as 合資会社 ダット自動車商会 (DAT Automobile Co., Ltd.)

Merger of DAT and Jitsuyo

1926 September 2: DAT and Jitsuyo merge, to form ダット自動車製造株式会社 (DAT Automobile Manufacturing Co.,). Headquarters are in Osaka. Jitsuyo, in the face of intense competition from Ford and GM in Japan, was only selling about 150 cars per year. It barely survived by taking on work from Kubota and even GM. Therefore a merger with DAT was sought. DAT had military truck contracts, so was in better condition than Jitsuyo.

1928: DAT 91 planned (500cc class)

1929: DAT 91 experimental testing

1930 August: Second DAT 91 prototype completed

1930: By 1930, 137 units of DAT 41, DAT 51, and DAT 61 have been produced.

1930: Datson is born by Engineer 後藤敬義 (Takayoshi Gotou)

1930: DAT 91 small car design (Datson) completed, with 500cc engine fitting. Production is intended.

Nippon Sangyo

1928: 鮎川義介(Yoshisuke Aikawa) founds the holding company Nippon Sangyo (Japan/Nippon Industries). Aikawa's passion is mass-producting autos, and this fledging company soon begins buying or taking over other established companies.

Yoshisuke Aikawa in 1939
150px-Aikawa_Yosuke.jpgWIKI go to Wikipedia

Takeover of DAT

1931: Nippon Sangyo controls foundries and auto parts businesses, but no automobile manufacturing. Aikawa Yoshisuke purchases controlling shares in DAT Motors

1931 June: 戸畑鋳物株式会社 自動車部 (Tobata Casting Co., Ltd. Automotive Division), affiliated with Tobata Casting. Headquarters: Fukuoka Prefecture, President: Ayukawa Yoshisuke.

First Datsun

1931 August: DAT comes out with a new smaller car, the first Datson, meaning 'Son of DAT'. It is a two-passenger car.

Nissan Story: Birth of Datsun 	

The 1931 prototype DAT-91 with its Lincoln hood ornament was developed by DAT
28792.jpgAlbum 28792

  • First Datson, model DAT 91 aka Type 10 and advertising mark
  • About 10 were sold

Datson brochure by DAT proclaims the "production Datson": the small car
28794.jpgAlbum 28794
大 阪 ・ 東 京
DAT Automobile Manufacturing Co.
Osaka ・ Tokyo

Early version? Back says DAT Automobile Co.
28798.jpgAlbum 28798

Later version? Dealer stamp on back says "Datsun Automobile Trading Company"
28795.jpgAlbum 28795 28796.jpgAlbum 28796

~~ 1931: Nissan takes control of DAT

1932 March: Datson mark is renamed Datsun, a more harmonious spelling. Reportedly though perhaps apocryphal, a common story is that after the DAT factory was victimized by flooding during a typhoon, it was attributed to the 'son' in Datson ('son' in Japanese means 'loss'). So the spelling was altered to be more positive. Whatever the impetus, the spelling was changed to 'sun'. Interestingly it fits with the Japanese 'sun' flag logo shown on the 1931 Datson catalog. Sun has no particular meaning in Japanese, except that it is pronounced 'san'. Nominally, san is a title of respect, roughly equivalent to the English Mr. or Mrs.

The Datsun mark, with red, white and blue sections, is created by 吉崎良造 (Yoshizaki Ryouzou) and 田中常三郎 (Tanaka Tsunesaburou). They are inspired by the early Chevrolet mark, such as this 1918 example. The white background red round portion represents Hinomaru (sun disc), Japan's white national Flag with red sun (morning rising sun). The cobalt blue section represents the sky.
28793.jpgAlbum 28793


1932 April 15: Datsun 自動車商会 (Automobile Chamber of Commerce) established

Datsun Type 11

The first car to use the new spelling 'Datsun' is the 1932 Datsun Type 11.

Datsun Type 11 Phaeton


  • 1932 Prototype ???
  • 1931-style wide metal spoke wheels
  • 1931-style upswept rear body
  • 1932-style bonnet louvers
  • seat forward of rear wheel


  • 1932 Datsun Type 12 Phaeton
  • 1932 production: ~150
  • Sedan weight: 400 kg, Overall length: 2710mm, Width: 1175mm, Tire Size: 24'x4', Wheelbase: 1880mm, Track: 965mm
  • Made in Osaka
  • Engine: 747cc, 56mm bore 76mm stroke, 12PS @ 3000 rpm, top speed 65kph

During this time, reportedly, Lord Austin in the UK (the head of the Austin car manufacturer) heard that the Datsun was a copy of the Austin 7. The book 'Car Wars' says Austin had a Datsun obtained in Japan, shipped to England and gone over with a fine tooth comb. The result? Austin could not find anything to sue over. Some say the size, design and engine look similar to the Austin 7, however the engine is much smaller and the car design has significant differences from the Austin 7. We may conclude, that as with many cars around the world at that time, the Austin 7 probably influenced the design of the Datsun but that the Datsun was not a copy.

1933: Aikwawa merges Tobata Casting's automobile parts department with DAT Automobile. The Company is renamed 自動車製造株式会社 (Jidosha-Seizou Kabushika Kaisha [KK, meaning Co., Ltd.])

DAT truck production is separated off and merged with Ishikawajima and TGE, the new company being named (Tokyo Jidosha Kogyo). It will eventually be named Isuzu.

1933 March 1: 日 石川島 (Ishikawajima) Ishikawajima and merger, 自動車工業 (Automotive Industry) (Corporation) established

1933 August 18: Small car regulation expanded to 750cc

1933 September 22: Tobata Casting removal of Datsun manufacturing license (from Automotive Industry)

1933 November 1: 495cc to 747cc conversion

1933 December 6: 自動車製造 (Auto Worker) Corp. established


1934: Aikawa 'separated the expanded automobile parts division of Tobata Casting and incorporated it as a new subsidiary, which he named Nissan Motor (Nissan)'. This is 日産自動車 (Nissan Motors).

1934 June 1: Renamed to 日産自動車 (Nissan Motor Co.)

1934 June: The shareholders of the new company however are not enthusiastic about the prospects of the automobile in Japan, so Aikawa buys out all the Tobata Casting shareholders (using capital from Nippon Sangyo). At this time Nissan Motors effectively becomes owned by Nippon Sangyo and Hitachi.

1934: 880 Datsuns produced, 44 units exported

1934: New Yokohama plant is being built. Aikawa, with William R. Gorham as technical advisor, is building the largest automobile manufacturing factory in Japan. They purchase entire production lines from the troubled american Graham-Paige company, including production tools and truck designs. Import/Export specialist Mitsubishi is engaged to import the american equipment into Japan. Do to this expansion and modern tooling, DAT gets advantage over all other Japan car producers.

Datsun Type 13

1934 September: Datsun Type 13 birth. It is still a two-passenger car.

  • Datsun Type 13 Roadster
  • Overall length: 2800mm, width: 1200mm, height: 1450mm, top speed: 65kph, weight: 500kg
  • four sedan models squaring, coupe, phaeton, roadster, van, and the truck was manufactured

Datsun Type 14

The Datsun Type 14 was the first four-passenger Datsun.
11788.jpgAlbum 11788

1935 April: First Datsun rolls out of new Yokohama factory, a new design Datsun Type 14

The Datsun Type 14 is a four-seater: 'Beautifully streamlined compact car. The favorite of the day. One for every family.'
dat-3.gif dat-4.gif
rabbit mascot created by body designer Ryuichi Tomiya.

    • Rabbit: 兎
    • DAT: 脱兎 (pronounced 'datto') meaning 'dashing away', 'bounding away' or 'with lightning speed'
    • Perhaps inspired by the leaping hound mascot placed on the original Datsun 10 prototype. From factory photos, it was clearly an off-the-shelf Lincoln part. The hare mascot though was all-Datsun and a thing of beauty.
    Note the squeeze-bulb horn visible under the steering wheel
  • Overall length: 2790mm, Width 1190mm, Height 1600mm, Top speed 80kph
  • 3800 produced
  • Can you drive without a license (750cc car, driver's license is not required)
  • 1935 53 units exported
    Datsun Type 14 Sedan Price: 1,900 yen (Yokohama ex)
    Compare to the then 75 yen starting salary for civil servants

Type 14 Sedan | Type 14 Roadster
dat-2.jpg datsun-14-roadster-1935.jpg

The Datsun Type 14 featured the L engine, a four-cylinder overhead valve design.
722cc engine fitting, 15HP

Type 14 Roadster Photo Gallery at

1935: Nissan has impressive advertising campaign to highlight their superior compact car. Time Magazine features Datsun in article, although Datsuns will not be sold in america until 1958
Shipments Already Are Being Made to Australia and South Africa

Datsun Type 15

1936: Datsun Type 15 birth

Datsun Type 15 Roadster

1936: 87 units exported

Datsun Type 16

1937 April: Datsun Type 16 birth
datsun-16-sedan-1937.jpg page09_02.jpg

  • 1937 Datsun Type 16 Sedan
  • Overall length: 3120mm, width: 1200mm, height: 1600mm, top speed: 80kph, weight: 610kg

Datsun Sport

Shouwa 27 = 1952

11757.jpgAlbum 11757

Nissan Branded Vehicles

1937: First Nissan-branded car introduced, the Nissan Type 70, created with with American Graham-Paige production line design

Nissan Type 70 Phaeton, 1938 model
440px-Nissan_Model_70_Phaeton.jpgWIKI go to Wikipedia

Nissan Sedan

NISSAN delivery van, based on Graham-Paige truck designs puchased by Nissan
NISSAN with 3670cc six-cylinder engine in 三越 (Mitsukoshi) department store livery


1938: All car production in Japan is halted.

1940s: Nippon Sangyo, now popularly known as 日産 (Nissan), becomes the famous Nissan 'Zaibatsu' (combine) including Tobata Casting and Hitachi. It grows to include 74 firms, and to be the fourth-largest combine in Japan during the wartime years.

1947: For two years (1947 to 1948) the company was briefly called Nissan Heavy Industries Corp.

1951 May: Datsun DB-2 launched with an 860cc, 20hp engine

1952 January: Datsun Sports DC-3

  • Body by Y. Ohta
  • DC-3 Production: 50 cars

Nissan and Austin

1952: In the postwar era, like Hino and Isuzu, but unlike Toyota, Nissan partnered with an established European company to gain access to automobile and engine designs. Nissan chose Austin of the United Kingdom. They entered into a well-documented legal agreement with Austin, for Nissan to assemble 2,000 Austins from imported partially assembled sets and sell them in Japan under the Austin trademark.

Caption: December 1952, Nissan has launched a technology alliance with Austin, in 1953 began production in April to assemble A40 from knock-down. The engine is 1200cc 42HP. Sale price was 112 yen in Tokyo.

The agreement called for Nissan to make all Austin parts locally within three years, a goal Nissan met. Nissan produced and marketed Austins for seven years. The agreement also gave Nissan rights to use Austin patents, which Nissan used in developing its own engines for its Datsun line of cars. In 1953 British-built Austins were assembled and sold, but by 1955, the Austin A50 -- completely built by Nissan and featuring a slightly larger body with new 1489 cc engine -- was on the market in Japan.

Nissan produced 20,855 Austins from 1953-1959.

1953 April 4: production birth Austin A40 by Nissan at Tsurumi Austin factory. From the start of production, domestically produced tires, batteries, and flat glass were used.
Austin A40 Somerset Saloon by Nissan

1953 May 8: Commemorative launch event of Austin production held in Tsurumi, with guests including the Trade & Industry Minister and the British Ambassador.

Austin A50 Somerset Saloon by Nissan
Caption: The domestic A40 > A50 companion made by Nissan with the February 1955 A50 issue. And the sealing from three years and nine months completed their domestic production, the mission closed in February 1960 at the creation of Cedric. 1500cc 50HP gain.

Engine Technology

As as a result of Nissan manufacturing and license of Austins, Nissan leveraged the Austin patents to further develop their own modern engine designs past what the Austin's A- and B-family designs offered. The apex of the Austin-derived engines was the new design A series engine in 1966.

For developing the 1000cc engine (C Type) for the 1957 Datsun 110 -- under the advice of American engineers, Donald Stone was enrolled at Nissan. He was formerly at Willys-Overland. The C engine was derived from the production Austin A50 Cambridge license. He destroked the BMC B series 1500 engine, and the resulting C engine was called the "Stone engine". When it was later increased to 1.2 liters for the first Bluebird (Datsun 310) it was named the E1 engine.


The Austin B-series 4-cylinder engine was available in sizes from 1.2 liter to 1.8 liter. This was too big for the Japan small-car tax class, where a 1000 cc engine was needed. Hence Stone's destroking ideas were applied.

Datsun Sunny

1966: Datsun Sunny birth with all-new 1000cc aluminum-head Nissan A Engine.
Datsun 1000 'Sunny'

1970 January: Datsun Sunny 1200 birth

Datsun Sunny 1200

End of Datsun Brand

1981-1983: After becoming one of the world's great brand names, Datsun brand name is globably replaced with Nissan badging. This was to achieve greater recognition for the Company (Nissan) rather than the better-known Brand (Datsun).

1989 November: Japan model Datsun 1200 pickup, lacking Datsun badges for some years, is formally badged as a Nissan

Datsun Name Continued in Japan

Also See: Datsun truck

1984-1985: Datsun continues to be used used as a model name in Japan for the 720 truck

1985-1997: Datsun name used as a model name in Japan for D21 pickups (known as Navara or Harbody in other countries).

2002 D22 Datsun Truck (1997-2002)
cqdxcqdx_8649-img600x402-1326800689aey8ia69102.jpg cqdxcqdx_8649-img600x402-13268006898mclxe69102.jpg

Datsun Truck - Wikipedia Japanese (D22 production ends in Japan March 2012)


End of Datsun 1200 Line

1994: Nissan ends production of Datsun 1200 pickup (now called Nissan Sunny Truck) in Japan.

  • See main article: B120

2007 November: Nissan South Africa ceases production of the Datsun 1200-bodied based Nissan LDV 1400 small pickup.

  • See main article: B140

See Also

* Datsun History - Australia
* History of Datsun 1200



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