I was interested in the letter by Shotaro Kobayashi in the October Motor Sport. The tyres he mentioned could well he useful to some of our members but my interest is aroused by his mention of the Datsun “Seven” of the 30s. We have recently conducted an “enquiry” in the pages of the 750 Bulletin on the origins of the Datsun. Surveying the already published material the majority of writers seem to think that their first small car owed a lot to the Austin Seven and opinion seemed divided as to whether it was just 3 “Japanese copy” or was in fact built under licence from Austins. This item was followed up by a very interesting letter from Mr. Freddie Henry, who worked for Austin at the time and he remembers the arrival of the Drumm at Longbridge. Indeed he drove it on one occasion and reminiscing “… Found the engine rough, the steering poor and the Car rolled on corners This may have been due to the narrower track and absence of shock-absorbers.” Freddie goes on to say “… we at Longbridge understood, at the time the car arrived at our works, that Lord Austin made it known to the Japanese that the Austin Seven was covered by patents and as a result of negotiations that followed arrangements were made for a licence.” In a recent Datsun catalogue is a picture of an open Datsun captioned “Our first car manufactured in 1933 under licence”. (It is ironic but apparently true that the immediate Ostwar Datsuns were A40s built under licence from Austin on production lines set up by Longbridge-trained personnel.)
In view of the foregoing it is interesting to hear Mr. Kobayashi recall an interview with the designer, Mr. Keigi, in which he said he was influenced more by the Benjamin than the AustinSeven. This throws our conclusions into doubt and I wonder if any of your more knowledgeable readers can throw any more light, on the subject ?
One thing I can enlighten Mr. Kobayashi about. the “Longbridge Datsun” is safe in the hands of Leyland Historic Vehicles awaiting restoration and subsequent display at. Dollington. Thank you for an opportunity to reopen this intriguing subject and for an ever interesting publication.
Steventage KEN COOKE Austin Seven Director. 750 Motor Club