Exported as the Datsun 120Y and Datsun B-210 (in North America), the third generation (1973–1978) Sunny was extremely popular as it debuted during the 1973 oil crisis. It was first shown on 1 May 1973 in Japan, as the 1.2 or the 1.4-litre Excellent. Both engines were offered in two different levels of output, from the lowest powered 68 PS (50 kW) 1.2 to the 95 PS (70 kW) Excellent GX Coupe.
Six body styles were offered: the four-door sedan, two-door sedan, two-door fastback, three-door wagon, five-door wagon, and a three-door van. The coupé retained its fastback styling, but now featured a full hatchback door rather than the small trunk lid of the previous generation Sunny. The wagon and van were not offered in North America. In 1975, Japan models were fitted with emission control technology.
The related Sunny Excellent continued until 1976 as PB210 models, at first fitted with a 1.4-litre L14 engine. American markets B210s were the first Sunny’s to have the larger 5 mph (8 km/h) collision bumpers, due to the USA’s safety standards at the time. Other markets continued with the more tightly-fitted chrome bumpers. In most markets, the B210 line featured as the only engine option a re-designed A12 engine. As usual for Japan, the wagon (three- and five-door models alike) was marketed as a van for commercial use, where it was only available with the lowest-powered 1.2 engine (VB210). The van, in its lowest standard equipment level, came equipped with a three-speed manual gearbox with a column-mounted shift lever.
B211 is the chassis code for the minor facelift of the B210, introduced in February 1976. It included a changed grille and other minor changes, such as new wing mirrors and hubcaps. The most important differences were under the hood, where the engines had been upgraded to meet Japan’s 1976 emissions standards. The Sunny Excellent now only came fitted with the larger 1.6-litre engine, with the more compact A14 engine replacing the L14 and being installed in the regular bodied model (HB211).
The Excellent’s chassis code changed from PB210 to GB211 and was now considered a trim-level option for the regular B211 rather than a separate model. Although regular production in Japan as well as sales in most countries ended in late 1977 for the 1978 model year, the B210 series continued to be produced by Nissan South Africa through 1980. The van models were not replaced until later.
The Datsun B-210 continued to be the fuel-economy leader in North America and it was one of the least expensive cars available. This was in part due to the light metal; small A13 or A14 engine with OHV technology and a very basic vinyl interior used in its construction. Introduced for 1974 with a 1.3-litre four, this was replaced by a larger and more powerful 1.4-litre version for 1975. This engine remained in use, continuing to be installed in the next generation B210. At the time, their body styles were popular with buyers – mainly the hatchback coupé as the sedans were considered by some to be less appealing. The 1978 B-210 (American model) with five-speed transmission was rated by the United States Environmental
Protection Agency at 50 mpg US (4.7 L/100 km; 60 mpg imp) highway fuel economy.
US-market models were fitted with these A-series engines (years given are model years):
• 1974: A13 engine, 1.3 L (1288 cc) OHV I4
• 1975–1978: A14 engine, 1.4 L (1397 cc) OHV I4. Power in 1975 was 70 or 68 hp (52 or 51 kW) (SAE Net) in 49-state versus California trim – the regular version took leaded fuel and depended on an EGR system for air cleaning, while the unleaded California cars have a catalytic converter. Gross horsepower ratings are 80 and 78 respectively.
Despite earlier misgivings, the 120Y, when finally launched in New Zealand in 1974, proved popular with Nissan NZ. It
eventually assembled some cars in a temporary CKD plant in the Auckland suburb of Mount Roskill, before the new plant in Wiri was completed later in the decade. Four-door sedans and three-and five-door wagons were built locally and were supplemented by some coupés imported built-up from Japan.
The 120Y was assembled from kits in Melbourne, Australia and boasted disc brakes (although not power assisted), alternator, 4 speed gearbox, radial tyres, radio and mud flaps as standard, most of which were options on other makes. The modest performance and strictly conventional design were offset by excellent fuel economy and a better standard of build. The 120Y was sharply criticized by magazines such as Wheels of Australia, which felt that it offered no true improvement on its predecessor. That was not surprising given that the B210 platform was carried over, but used a slightly revised A12 engine.
In the South African market the B210 was assembled locally from December 1975 until 1983, replacing the previous “Datsun
1200”. South African “Y-series” cars, as they were called locally, also featured L14 and L16 engine options, as well as two special editions of B210 coupe, badged as the 140Z and 160Z. The 140Z featured a high performance camshaft, free flowing exhaust and twin 40 mm Dellorto carburettors, while the 160Z featured twin Hitachi (SU type) carburettors. Both had four-speed transmissions. The standard 120Y has the 1171 cc A12 engine as already used in the 1200, with 49 kW (67 PS; 66 hp) at 6000rpm. The well-equipped 140Y GX had a 1428 cc 70 kW (95 PS; 94 hp) L14 motor and was also available as a two-door coupe. The only other bodywork available at the time of introduction was a four-door sedan; later a four-door wagon joined the lineup. All South African Datsun Y’s received the longer Sunny Excellent front sheet-metal, allowing the fitting of the L14 engine. In October 1976, a version of the 140Y with a three-speed automatic transmission appeared which had a 62 kW (84 PS; 83hp) engine.
During 1978 the Y-series received a facelift, which mostly consisted of a retouched front grille. Datsun-Nissan South Africa also decided to fit the bigger L16 engine. This motor, now with DIN ratings, produced 57 kW (77 PS; 76 hp) in GX specifications and 70 kW (95 PS; 94 hp) in the 160Z. The 140Y sedan received the new A14 engine, while the 140Y station wagon
retained the earlier L14 unit. The 160Z appeared in November 1978, with 120 cars built that year, and 121 built in 1979.
When introduced in the UK, the 120Y quickly gained popularity, further strengthening Datsun’s position, helping it to gain second place amongst foreign imports. The car’s popularity was helped by high equipment levels for a car of this size, while also being competitively priced as well as Datsun cars have a reputation for being reliable, while at the same time UK-manufactured cars were in short supply due to the regular strikes and stoppages affecting British car plants. British Leyland was particularly hard hit by these crises, while at the same time several of its model ranges were gaining a reputation for being unreliable and badly-built.
Chassis Code B210, B211, PB210, GB211
Also called Datsun 210, Datsun 120Y/140Y, Datsun Sunny
Production May 1973–1977Assembly Zama Plant, Zama, Kanagawa, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Rosslyn, South Africa
Body and chassis
3-door panel van
1171 cc A12 l4 OHV (In Line 4 Cylinder) (B210)
1288 cc A13 I4 OHV (In Line 4 Cylinder)
1397 cc A14 I4 OHV (In Line 4 Cylinder)
1428 cc L14 I4 OHC (In Line 4 Cylinder) (PB210)
1595 cc L16 I4 OHC (In Line 4 Cylinder) (GB211)
1595 cc L16T I4 OHC (In Line 4 Cylinder) (ZA only)
3/4/5-speed manual (all-synchromesh)
Wheelbase 2,340 mm (92.1 in)
Sedan/Coupe 3,950 mm (155.5 in)
Wagon and Van 3,985 mm (156.9 in)
Excellent only 4,045 mm (159.3 in)
US with bumper 4,080 mm (160.6 in)
Width 1,545 mm (60.8 in)
Height 1,360 mm (53.5 in)
907 kg (2,000 lb)