Road Impressions

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The Datsun Bluebird 160B

We test the cars that come to us and thus it was that I found myself in a Datsun Bluebird, although not possessed of any pronounced Oriental enthusiasms. The car submitted was the 160B, which shares a single overhead-camshaft engine with the larger Bluebirds, in this case of 1,595 c.c. It has a bore and stroke for the four cylinders of 83 x 73.3 mm. For the 1,770-c.c. 180B power unit both bore and stroke are bigger.

First impressions were of rather lively riding from the MacPherson front/semi-trailing-arm rear coil-springing and much engine boom at speed. Nor was I aware of any nostalgic Malcolm Campbell associations to be derived from the car’s type-name. But I had been told that the fuel consumption was very low and this I was pleased to discover was true. Indeed, the tank holds just over 12 gallons so the range is exceptionally generous. This smaller engined Bluebird’s thirst for 4-star petrol was 36 m.p.g., improving to nearly 39 m.p.g. with careful usage. Oil consumption was approx. 470 m.p.p.

Like most Japanese cars the 160B is well equipped, with a Toshiba four-headlamp set, Japanese Dunlop SP68 radial tyres, servo disc/ drum brakes, reclining front seat-squabs, two speed wipers, electric washers, heated rear window, hazard warning lights, reversing lights, side indicator repeaters, lockable fuel tank cap under a flap, an internal fuse-box down on the o/s of the scuttle, fitted carpets, Hitachi radio, and steering lock. The four-door body has the now old-fashioned “coke-bottle” waistline and rather big knobbed internal door locks. The bonnet needs to be propped open and the rather narrow but deep boot requires a key to open its lid and luggage has to be humped into it.

The seats, in spite of a metal trim on the centre of the cushions, are comfortable, the brakes, unlike those of some Japanese cars, effective and nice to use, and the gear lever selects the gears with case, and smoothly. The clutch is light but a little sudden. The facia has some simulated veneer about it and carries a speedometer with k.p.h. additional markings and decimal readings for both total and trip mileometers, a big-accurate clock, and a combined fuel gauge and engine thermometer. Four warning lights have their own window and record handbrake-on, Hitachi alternator charging, low pressure and lamps on high beam. One slender l.h.-control stalk looks after all services except that the lamps and the wipers are put on with two knobs at the extreme o/s of the facia. Flicking the stalk one way dips the headlamps and flicking it the other way puts them out, leaving the side lamps on. The horn is sounded by pressing either of two buttons on the wheel spoke.

It was when setting out in the Datsun that I was less enamoured. At first I fumbled around for the hand-brake, not realising that any manufacturer still locates it as a pull-out-and-twist thing. It is under the facia, for left hand operation. Then from cold the engine was a very reluctant starter even with the inconvenient choke control that lines up with the steering column fully extended. The engine spat for some time, but maybe its Nikki 2-3-282 carburetter had been set for economy. It was some distance before the claimed power output of 60 b.h.p. (100 SAE) at 6,000 r.p.m. was being properly delivered. Incidentally, the plugs are NGK BP5Es and the c.r. is 9.0 to 1.

The heater has simple-to-understand controls and is most effective, but sensitive to changes of car speed. The fan has three speed settings. There are lots of fresh-air vents, at the facia extremities and in the centre of the front compartment, arm-rests, door pulls and locks are well contrived, and stowages consists of a lockable cubby, the catch of which has a nice transverse movement but which has a nasty hand-scratching internal projection, a shelf under the n/s side of the facia, and a small well behind the gaitered gear-lever.

The stout prop for the heavy bonnet functions easily and the bonnet is easy to release, with a toggle on the driver’s side. Once open the accessibility of plugs, coil, reservoirs, Ampco fuel pump driven from the front of the engine, distributor and large six-cell battery could not be bettered.

Altogether an effective “Japanese Marina”, which sells here for £1,546, in spite of the distance it has to be shipped. The finish seems good but I do not care for the styling of the dished wheel-trims. Incidentally, it is claimed that 17% of the Datsun work force are engaged on quality control.—W. B.

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