by Richard Clough
there was a car that won the respect of nearly everyone that drove it. Perhaps with less showroom appeal than the competition, the Datsun 1600 quickly etched itself into the psyche of many young Australians as arguably the first true "Performance 4".
John Ould Motor's GT Kit
It seemed Datsun were well aware of the potential of their car. One of the first performance kits available for the Datsun 1600 was the John Ould Motor's GT kit which cranked 30 per cent more power from the motor. It was not just an engine kit, however, since there were wheel, tyre
and suspension modifications included in the price hike to $2944. First, the motor was equipped with a Dynospeed Stage II head with polished and relieved valve and porting work.
The camshaft was altered to let the 1594cc engine breathe deeply through new manifold and twin, dual throat 40 DCOE Weber carburettors. An extractor exhaust
with a free flow muffler got the burnt gases away smartly while producing a "sporty" exhaust
note. That's all there was to the engine work but the suspension was lowered two inches in front, three inches at the back, the trailing arms' angle at the rear for the independent suspension being re-angled and fatter 165 by 14 inch radial ply tyres
fitted to wider rimmed wheels.
John Ould had a 1600 at the time, and for his wheels it was reported that he installed the high beam circuit of the headlights with a Carello quartz iodine conversion for extra night brilliance. There were discreet nose, tail and flank badges and there was a tachometer on top of the dashboard to help the driver stay below the motor's 7000 rpm limit. These performance modifications had the 1600 reaching 36 mph in first, 60 mph in second and at 7000 rpm 96 mph in third.
That made 3rd gear faster than the standard car was capable of in top gear. The top speed in the Ould Motors 1600 was a whopping 110.6 mph. A standing quarter mile was just under 18 sec., a time which put it right among high performing sedans. On the highway, a GT equipped car would run smoothly (although not particularly quietly) during hard driving. Using smaller throttle openings, the noise was reduced and cruising was more comfortable. In the straight ahead position, the steering retained its slightly vague feel but once turned into a corner, the car handled well on its altered suspension and tyres.
There was sufficient power for the driver to counter the built-in understeer and the brakes
were up to the job of coping with the extra performance. Surprisingly, the extra performance did not come at the cost of decreased torque, which made driving the modified 1600 around town a breeze. For those that could afford it, the Datsun 1600 GT from John Ould Motors offered vastly improved performance and handling to match. Many others would soon follow with customisations of their own. It was so good most wondered why Datsun hadn't released a performance version of their own. They didn't have to wait long.
The Datsun 1600 SSS
There was no doubting the allure of the big, and expensive, V8's of the day such as the Falcon GT, but to many of the younger generation the 1600, and in particular the "SSS", were a cheaper alternative and, given the right road conditions, could easily blow a V8 away. Your wealthy mate could stand aside his GT and claim "King of the Bitumen"; you could stand aside a 1600 and claim "King of the Dirt". The 1600 would win the infamous East Africa Safari Rally, one of the world's toughest motor sport events, and in the US the famous No. 46 "Brock Racing Enterprises" Datsun 1600 would take out the under 2.5 litre "Trans-am" Series in a cliffhanger final race beating the best of Europe, including manufacturers BMW
and Alfa Romeo.
It was after these races that the legend of the Datsun 1600 was born, and thousands of car lovers today still look in reverence at these unimposing but potent Japanese "sports sedans". From 1968
the Datsun 1600 SSS was supplied to Australia from Japan on special order, and unfortunately their lack of availability resulted in very low sales. Very early examples were specially imported by John Roxborough's factory backed "Datsun Racing Team" to compete in the first 500 mile endurance car races at Phillip Island, later Bathurst.
changes to the "Australian Design Rules" required all new cars to be fitted with a collapsible steering column. The Japanese built Datsun 1600 SSS was not fitted with one, and as their factory was some way off making the required changes it was decided to switch production to the Melbourne factory in Clayton. Nearly every legislative change to safety or emissions resulted in the early demise of a particular model, but in this case the once rare (on Australian roads) 1600 became rather more ubiquitous! In Australia, Datsun 1600s were very successfully rallied by almost everybody in the 1970's through to the late 1990's, over 20 years of dominance! Geoff Portman and Ross Runnells were the rally team that cemented the legend in Australia.
Here seen in the 1978 Repco Alpine Rally in their famous IFK 250, powered by the also legendary Les Collins built, Datrally "grunter" engine. It took specialized 4wd turbocharged
forest racers to put Datsun 1600's out of contention at the top the sport. At club rally level you still see Datsun 1600's in the high placings. Datsun 1600's have become collector items as many were destroyed in competition or driven until they "dropped" - and this often took 30 years!
Most sought after today are the earlier 1967
models fully imported from Japan, the Australian built cars being more prone to rust. Younger Datsun 1600 enthusiasts are now fitting high performance Nissan turbo
engines, as the basic bodies are strong and there is 30 years knowledge of readily available upgradesto handle the increased performance. Datsun 1600's were sold in Australia from 1967
, being first fully imported, until local production at Clayton, Victoria commenced from late 1969. Datsun 1600 production ceased in 1972 when it was replaced by Datsun 180B.
Datsun 1600 SSS Specifications:
- Datsun 1600 SSS - 1967 -1972
- Model Designation P510 - hence the US tern "Five and Dime"
- also called a Datsun "Bluebird" in other markets.
- Body: 4 Door Sedan - also available as 2 door Sedan and
2 door coupe, most exports going to the USA, as demand
- Full instrumentation, black interior trim, SSS sports steering wheel, SSS gear knob, "SSS" badging, engine
- Engine: 1595cc fitted with twin SU Type, hitachi built,
38mm side draft carburettors
- Power: 109BHP @ 6000 RPM
- Gearbox: 4 Speed manual and reverse Diff: R160 Independent,
3.7:1 Ratio Brakes: Disc (F) Drum (R)
- Wheels: 4.5" width by 13" dia. fitted with radial tyres
- Front, independent McPherson Stuts.
- Rear, independent semi trailing arms. Stiffer springs, re-rated
shock absorbers, stiffer anti roll bar.
- Top Speed: 105 MPH
- Fuel consumption average. 28 mpg (10 litres / 100K)>
- Price $A new. $3000 (about $A800 above the "standard" Datsun 1600