1967.5 Datsun Sports 2000. Click image to enlarge
By Jeff Burry; photos by John Frampton
Datsun Sports 2000, 1967-1970
For those of us to whom the word “vintage” might not only refer to a classic automobile, but also one’s age, the term “Z cars” holds a particular significance. Of course I am referring to the Datsun Z cars produced by Nissan starting in the 1970 model year.
But even before those Z cars were imported to North America, Datsun had made a previous attempt to break into the North American sports car market with the Datsun Sports 2000. It was billed as a cheaper alternative to its competitors – namely British sports cars such as MGB and Triumph.
Before the Sports 2000 (dubbed Datsun Fairlady in its home market of Japan), there were a series of roadsters produced by Datsun with the first one being the 1959 SP211, complete with a 988-cc engine producing a whopping 37 horsepower. Following the SP211 was the SP212, SP213 and SPL311. Of interest, only twenty of the initial SP211 roadsters were ever produced.
Japanese sports cars were not highly regarded by North American’s at the time and were still viewed as second-rate vehicles. However, a saying at the time stated, “Unlike MGBs, Datsun roadsters kept their oil in the engine at night, not all over the garage floor.”
As Datsun continued to “evolve” and redesign its roadsters throughout the 1960’s, the end-product was a performance-oriented roadster possessing a design not unlike the MGB.
The folks at Datsun, wishing to boost the car’s image, went all out in designing the Sports 2000 for the 1967 model year. This particular model was built with racing in mind and race it did… and succeeded.
That vehicle, raced by Paul Newman, John Morton and others, often competed against Porsche 911s and Lotus Elans. It won the C and D production classes as well as competed and won in SCCA racing events. Other racing notables included Bob Sharp and Pete Brock who were racing these roadsters well into the 60’s. A competition department was even established in the United States to supply parts to the various racing teams.
The Sports 2000 was produced between 1967 and 1970 with a limited production run of under one thousand vehicles being produced in its inaugural year. The 1967 Sports 2000 received numerous upgrades, compared to previous models and sold in North America for approximately $3,000 making it a bargain basement roadster, compared to its European counterparts.
In wishing to reduce the weight of the vehicle, Datsun used an alloy cylinder head and a crankshaft complete with five main bearings, versus the three that were standard on previous models. The rear drum brakes were also made from alloy and sported a finned design. A five-speed synchromesh gearbox designed by Porsche further enhanced its performance image.