Datsun 120Y

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Datsun 120Y


Datsun 120Y

1973 - 1977
4 cyl.
1200 / 1400 cc
69 bhp
4 spd man / 3 spd auto
Top Speed:
Number Built:
1 star
Datsun 120Y
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 1


The 120Y was the third generation Datsun Sunny and featured an all new styling, now very distinctly Japanese looking. Initially there was little different from the previous models, as underneath the suspension and drive train were the same - even the 12" wheels were carried over. But the 120Y was a safer, stronger, more comfortable car than its predecessor. The body and interior, however, were all new. Available as a two or four door sedan, a coupe, a wagon or a panel van, called Runner there were also three door wagons available in some markets. Utilising A series engines initially of 1200cc, this was later upgraded to 1400cc. American 120Y's, known as the B210, also came with the A13 engine.

The 120Y body was five inches longer and a couple of inches wider than the 1200, but it had the advantages of the safer cell and extra room, but carried a weight penalty of 155 lb (in the coupe) over the old 1200. And instead of using the heavier but lustier 1400 cc engine available in Japan, Nissan stuck with the 1171cc unit, willing though it was, it would always prove problematic on hills – as we can attest to travelling along Punt Road in Melbourne. But it seemed few cared that the performance did not match that of the Datsun 1200.

Over the years the 120Y developed an enviable reliability record for reliability. There were few production cars that could be driven into the ground and still thrive. Sure, it was not particularly outstanding and there were definitely some areas which should have been better – but it was an easy car to live with and, like a dog, would forgive you no matter how neglected it was. One of the best things about the 120Y was the four-speed all synchro gearbox – tight and direct it was a pleasure to use, which was a good thing because you would have to use it a lot. The synchro could not be beaten and moving through the gears was effortless and made the job of stirring the little 1200 engine along a lot more pleasant.

The engine developed 69 bhp at 6000 rpm. It revved freely, which was just as well as to maintain brisk progress the revs had to be kept up. If they did happen to drop back and the car ran out of breath it was only a matter of a quick change through the slick box to recover. But let the revs drop too far back and recovery would be slow – embarrassingly slow. You would have expected that by revving the bejesus out of the engine the fuel consumption would have taken a hammering, however it was very easy to get 34 mpg, and if you were prepared to be overtaken by pedestrians that figure could easily be improved.

Some claimed the 120Y would develop a good driving style – and not too many cars can claim that. To maintain good progress in a 120Y the driver had to be steady, smooth and always thinking well ahead. Driving skill rather than brute horses was the name of the game and it was good for the ego to be able to keep up with the heavies by merely positioning the car in the right lane at the right speed at the right time. As for the bad points, there were a few. The brakes on initial application would give a dead pedal feel and required some effort to get effect. They had the right system of discs at the front and drums at the back but lacked power assistance. You could effect an emergency stop from 70 mph in less than 200 feet – so it was not on the dangerous side – it was just that you really needed to stand on the brakes to effect the stop.

Suspension, with the leaf back springs, was as conventional as you could get. The 120Y would pitch and toss the driver excessively in the seat on undulating roads. But it did corner OK with some understeer but a lack of roll resistance which could be unnerving at speed (provided you could wind it up to a speed that would be dangerous, which would involve a strong tail wind and long downhill slope). The 120Y coupe was, to our mind, the pick of the bunch. The big rear deck lid hinged from the top of the bigger back window, and was supported on gas-filled struts that replaced the rather pokey little boot lid on the 1200 coupe. The back seat squab folded down so the coupe was, in effect, a more stylish station wagon. The entire proceeds of an attack on a supermarket, plus the troops, would all fit easily.

The spare wheel was stored beneath the cargo area and covered by very thin hard-board which was way too flimsy. Also, it was trimmed in a very light vinyl and you needed to take care to ensure you didn’t rip it while loading after it had been sitting in the hot sun. Attention has been given to vision and the coupe had two small windows in the rear quarter panel to overcome what would have been a pretty big blind-spot. The big back window allowed plenty of rearward vision but was not too easy to demisting in winter – and a demister was not listed as a option. Visibility was further enhanced by the elimination of the front quarter windows.

Inside the 120Y

The 120Y had a very efficient flow through ventilation system - the flow of air could be increased dramatically by opening the side windows which were hinged on their leading edge. Instrumentation included a speedo and tacho. Included as standard kit were reciting bucket seats, laminated screen and push-button radio, these were all expensive options on Australian-made cars. It also had carpet (of a horrible check pattern). The overall appearance inside was that of the staunch plastic car from trim to dash. Plastic it might have been, but it was done in such a way as to give a solid, quality finish. The trim colour was black, which wasn’t a good choice for a car that did not come with air-conditioning – but maybe we are judging the 120Y on today’s values. Legroom in the front was plentiful but the back was not a great place to be for any length of time. The seats were comfortable and held the driver in place although there was a tendency to shuffle around a little after about an hour at the helm.

The 120Y underwent undercarriage modification in 1975 when the front suspension was changed, 13" rims fitted and the later type A12 engine with a 5 bearing crankshaft were used. Back in its day the 120Y was a good investment. It did nothing outstanding as a car, yet provided good reliable transport. It was solid, and dependable. Better still, it was very popular, and enjoyed very high resale values. It was never a glamorous car in its hey-day, but the perennial 120Y can still be seen on the highways of today. Due to its poor road manners is not particularly collectable. But, as with all cars that have been out of production for over 20 years, they are becoming more scarce and an extremely good condition vehicle could just make a good buying decision. Add to this the public's love of re-cycled kitsch and the 120Y could, just maybe, make a comeback. When released a spanking new 120Y Coupe cost $3578. Provided you hadn’t driven it much, we are confident you would get your money back today.
Datsun 120Y

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Also see:

Datsun Brochures
Datsun B210 (USA Edition)
Datsun History
Datsun/Nissan Production 1934 - 1979
Reader Reviews page 1 of 1
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Posted Recently
I have just competed a full restoration on a 1977 120Y 3 door wagon (B210R). The car was assembled at the Leyland plant in Umtali Rhodesia, now Mutare Zimbabwe, the original owner from whom I purchased the car bought it new in Bulawayo and brought it to South Africa in 1985.
The car had been garaged for about 4 years and was in a pretty sorry state. Meechanical parts were not difficult to find but anything bodk related a nightmare there is still "work in progress" .
Went out for its first long run recently 300km's and it went like a dream and comfortable considering that this was a base model car, absolutely no frills.
Posted Recently
Hi everyone I have 120y coupe daily driver good car has 2.5 hemi v8 differant running gear if you want photos give us a email [email protected] *** I will happly send you a photo to all you dado drivers go the dado
Posted Recently
I have fallen in love with my 120y which i have owned for the last 5 years! Such a reliable,economical and attractive car with so much power for an original 1.2l motor with excellent handling on the road too! The 120y definitely stands out from the crowd with beautiful lines that run down the out side of the car, the front grill and chrome bumpers,door handles etc the vinyl interior and design is absolutely stunning too. I will never part with my 120y have had so many memories driving her around she has never let me down 10 out of 10. The only slight problem with 120ys is the original ignition many ppl change to electronic.
Posted Recently
Every 120Y owner i've ever met has nothing but good reports about their 120Y's reliability & economy. Great transport, but leave towing your 18 foot cabin cruiser to your equally trusty xb falcon. Both basic, honest cars.
Posted Recently
Hi I have a 1978 4 door 120Y, fire engine red so it goes faster lol, im in Adelaide SA and need a LH rear tail light and a set of extractors if possible? Thanks wrecker [email protected] ***
Posted Recently
Hi I have a 1977 datsun 120y um on the Gold coast need bonnet, front left and right panel, left front door rear right door
Posted Recently
Hi, can some one supply me with a steering coupling for my datsun 120y coupe please ( [email protected] *** )
Posted Recently
Hi, can some one supply me with a steering coupling for my datsun 120y coupe please
Posted Recently
Hey all of you I lost plastic panel cover interior left hand 120ysedan. 4door imale is [email protected] *** Move too this message
Posted Recently
Hey all I lost plastic Interior at my datsun 120y left hand back can anybody help my with this Irisland 200 @ gmail. Com Siggi from Iceland Coacbuilder
Jay jonah
Posted Recently
Hey all , best car ever to live , I have an 81 sunny fast back wagon had an a15 in it but decided it needed more so I have put a 4.3 L rover V8 in it plenty more poke, but about a year ago someone crashed into her front right and cleaned up most of the front end , would really appreciate any help finding parts as I am in wa and there doesn't seem to be much left here, if it comes to it I will change the whole front end to 120Y.
Posted Recently
its such a wonderful car that Nissan has decided to reintroduce it by 2014!!
Posted Recently
hi all,
i have a 120y, 1975, in from Sri Lanka, last week some crazy lady driver on a BMW knocked my car, i need to find the head light, right side signal lights ,the shell, and the front bumper
can some on3 help me please ...
Posted Recently
i have forsale a 1977 datsun120y engine1.4 liters (1400cc)with 50-51k original miles on both engine n transmission,motor was runnin when i took it out no should have no problem startin it up.if intrested plz email me @ [email protected] *** ,or text or call me 7183506674 my name is vishal.
Posted Recently
i hav a 1977120y with 50000 original miles ,it turns head in the streets of ny,i even got pull over by the nypd just coz they wanted to look at the car,its a head turner love it but the 1.4 motor is bein swaped for a 2.0 610 motor with a stick tranny,havin fun with it thnx for readin.
Peter B Lowen
Posted Recently
I had a green one and it is made in the year 1979 and it is auto. Pretty good car and love it everytime I take it for a drive. I was wondering have anyone ever fix a garmin GPS on it? I was thinking of fixing the car cigarette lighter in order to run my GPS, but then again I am not very sure whether it will works, ie the right voltage for the GPS?. Appreciate any suggestions to [email protected] *** . Thanks guys for sharing the good memory 120Y.
Posted Recently
these cars are awsome they have alot of grunt for such a little engine, myself i have a 1975 datsun 120y 4door, running a worked a15 and twin 40mm dallordos carbs, am in new zealand so there are still alot of old cars parked in wreckers here to pull apart =) if anyone is looking for datsun parts feel free to ask if i can get them, email [email protected] ***
mr datsun
Posted Recently
hi Courtney how are you iv'e owned alot of datsuns and i love them im in a position at the moment where i cant email you but any questions you have i can answer on this site and towards the start of next year i'll be in adelaide and i'd love to help out a fello dato lover with any type of work i just really enjoy working on them there great cars but it might cost you a dinner or something. as for breaking down on you not likely there pretty bulletproof just a regular service things like oil change new plugs airfilter and a carby clean should keep her running good take care mr dato (ben)
Posted Recently
hey guys,
im looking to buy a sweet 120y i found selling for cheap but it needs a lot of work.
i need repair panels available in adelaide.
and any recommended places to get some rust work done.
its also done 330 Ks and need any opinions if its gonna break down on me soon.
if anyone has any answers or opinions please email me on:
[email protected] ***
Posted Recently
Hey guys, i own one of the 1974 four door wagons. i love it. sooo much character to them. mines had some restoration work done and has mags etc. they handle excellenty, the steerings quite light and responsive for a rack and pinion system. these cars can carry large amounts of mid corner speed relative to many other cars (that dont have electronic driver assists). the turning circle is great, almost never need to do a three point turn even in car parks. its honestly got the tightest turning circle of any car ive ever driven. its kind on tyres. fuel consumption (if driven right) is comparable to modern cars. they also handle great in the wet.
only criticisms are that the wiper speed is alot slower than most modern cars and as such extra care should be taken in the wet as visibility is affected.
and the big one, datsun's (from my experiences at least) used very course threaded bolts (metric) to secure all the parts. these are great when the bolts are subjected to hight loads but for most cases they arent. because the threads are so course alot of the bolts vibrate loose. i would strongly recomend regular checks of bolt tensions on engine, gearbox and starter motor mounts etc an if possible use lock nuts, spring lock washers, mild thread locker etc to secure them.
Posted Recently
I didnt know that so many people love these cars. They are excellent. They're reliable as a donkey, look interesting, have an excellent looking dash(for the time), handle well due to their light weight and are cheap. I have owned 3 and on my 4th one. I live in Australia and enjoy driving it on windy roads in the Blue mountains of NSW. Only downside is it has some rust that is getting worse. Maybe its time for a 5th one...and my advice to anyone is to get one in manual that has been owned by a granny.
Posted Recently
hey i have a 1975 120y, and i need to buy some mag wheels for it.. does anyone know where i can get some half decent mags?
Posted Recently
Hey if anyone is ever selling at datsun 120y manual 2 door coupe please let me know, i have been looking for one of these for months now, if so please get back to me and email [email protected] *** . Thanks (:
debe dude
Posted Recently
got one of these datsun 120Y...excellent condition ...SR 2O ENGINE, MANUAL ,AIR CONDITION, MAGS, 205 TIRES, GLOSS WHITE PAINT JOB -MUSIC 2 15' DIGITAL DESIGNS .....

If u ever need parts for this car... *** e to Trinidad u'll shurely get me....
for more info
email: [email protected] ***
Posted Recently
hey, my bf has this datsun 120y and its his baby.. i agree its a really good car!! even though its old!
BUT i need your help.. anyone knows where i can get an Engine Block?? we're from Malta and no one sells parts anymore :(
anyways gl with your cars.. treasure them while they last!
Posted Recently
i love these cars and im 15
cant wait to buy one
are they cheap?
Posted Recently
I am fourteen and I am currently awaiting the day I am legally aloud to drive my 120Y on the roads :D
Hatchback and heaps bright orange
best car I have ever seen :)
Posted Recently
i have a datsun 120y panel van and i love it , all my friends think it is pice of *** but it is not, now i wil name the things i have done to it , i have a weber.extractores,a huge cam , a done up head , some 17 inch rims,lsd diff,sports streeing wheel,n and just some other inside stuff and all from supercheap auto
Posted Recently
Posted Recently
120Y's were noted for their ability to do roll overs. This was not the fault of the car. It was due to drivers, like me, who were use to driving cars with four or more turns lock to lock along with rather vague steering response. When I first drove a 120Y I regarded the steering as very touchy and scary. A step back into driving the afore mentioned vehicles taught me that the 120Y had very direct and responsive steering.
On a score of one to ten, the 120Y doesn't score much for comfort but when it comes to starting, coming and going and reliability. its ten out of ten. Durability is a ten plus.
Bruce 120Y driver for 23 years, 600,000 ks, over both sealed and gravel roads
Posted Recently
120y is the best car !, still in good condition after serving me for 30years.
Sohaib Hassan
Posted Recently
Five years back I had this car. I love this car, to me its like hummer to hummer lovers. I had this car for more than 15 years as my father bought it and i used it for 6 years before we sold it. This car had a very great drive and never let you down in any long drives. Once i even it drove it to other city without checking the oil. my lovely 120 Y got me there and then i got it repaired there
Franz chong
Posted Recently
My Auntie had one of these.the first of many Datsuns and Nissans to join the family.The Coupe which was imported from Japan.I drive a Nissan Tiida now which is the modern day version of her 120Y and love it.Mines a Hatchback though.One of the best small cars ever made
Posted Recently
My family has a sky blue one of these. It is great , it runs on its 69 BHP engine and has 12 inch jellybean mags on it. If only they werent so slow to accelerate. But truly the BEST small car ever made.
Posted Recently
The 120Y was our family car for years and was the vehicle my siblings and I all learned to drive in. We all loved it! It was aqua blue, had black vinyl seats, no middle seat belt in the back, and an odometer which stopped after its 3rd time around the clock. It became our run-about car for the remainder of its 23 years with us. The only thing that stopped it was when someone actually stole it and the perpetrators killed it by taking it bush bashing and boiling it! Our 120Y was singlehandedly blamed for my Uncle's English wife divorcing him after they used it to tour around in one Australian summer :)
Posted Recently
My Mum had one of these - the hatchback. It was brilliant - Mum & Dad flogged the living daylights out of it - I don't know how many trips between Adelaide & Melbourne it did with a minimum of maintenance. When they went OS & I got my hands on it we could fit four blokes & 4 surfboards in it & I only charged an iced coffee for fuel as it used so little. It only died after my Mum put it into a stobie pole!
Posted Recently
This was my very first car, a divine "baby diarohea poo" coloured automatic sedan! Yes, auto - why did they bother. Fond memories of 4 people in the car, bottom of Punt Rd in Melbourne (steep incline) trying to inch my way up the hill with traffic giving me grief!! Such fun, but I loved it! Especially when my "mates" chocked the diff up with a log leaving the back wheels about 1 cm from road but enough to cause hysterical laughter as I tried to get the poor thing to move!
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