Featured: What Made The Datsun 510 Bluebird Coupe So Special?

What Made The Datsun 510 Bluebird Coupe So Special?

By Petrolicious Productions
July 17, 2015

We’re big fans of Japanese Nostalgic Car here at Petrolicious, and have decided to launch a series on historically-significant Japanese cars. Along with our recent 510 video, JNC has written a great history of the Bluebird Coupe, a condensed version of which is shared here.

Story by: Ben Hsu // Photography by: Jeremey Heslup

Nowadays there are few cars from Japan’s Miracle Years that escape the collector’s eye, but long before every grandma’s Toyota Corona or obscure Isuzu was sought for by street tuner and speculator alike, the Datsun 510 stood alone at the forefront of the classic J-tin vanguard.

Cars like the Toyota 2000GT or Datsun 240Z were always going to become blue chip collectables. Hugely expensive low-production grand tourers and widely beloved best-selling sports cars were destined for classic-dom, but a budget compact marketed on its affordable price ($1,990) and its fuel efficiency (30-plus miles per gallon)? For decades while Japanese cars of similar provenance were being sent to the crusher by the thousands, the Datsun 510 was being hoarded, tuned, raced, and most importantly, loved.

Like any plebeian transport turned cult classic, the Datsun 510 came in a variety of body styles for the masses. Upon its August 1967 introduction in Japan, where it was named the Bluebird, Nissan offered a trio of shapes: the standard-issue 4-door sedan, a family-oriented station wagon, and the sportsman’s alternative, a 2-door sedan. Likewise, when the car came stateside as the Datsun 510 — apparently Nissan didn’t think us Americans secure enough in our manhood to drive a “bird” that wasn’t emitting fire or thunder — those same three styles were made.

But why a 2-door sedan and not a coupe? Well in November of 1968, Nissan added a fourth body style to the lineup, a true coupe featuring a completely redesigned greenhouse portion and a much “faster” back window and C-pillar. The Bluebird Coupe would be the halo car of the 510 series, well-appointed and sleek for a time when the inconvenience of two doors and less rear headroom, not towering over others in traffic in a mobile lounge, was the epitome of automotive cool.

To learn the rest of the Bluebird Coupe’s story—and why this unique car quickly made its mark on history, head over to Japanese Nostalgic Car for the rest of the retrospective.

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Ron MastersTony GordonMatthew LangeGuitar SlingerJon Ulrich Recent comment authors
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There is no such thing as a “Datsun” 510 Coupe. In Japan it was the Nissan Bluebird Coupe, and the few that were exported to Australia were called the Datsun 1600 Coupe.

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange

Thanks for the story and video on a car most people in the UK would know very little about. According to Wikipedia Datsun/Nissan imported 4000 510s into the UK but only 10 are still registered as on the road. Unfortunately Nissan rather debased the name Bluebird here by applying to a very underwhelming saloon in the 80’s that was mainly used as a minicab.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

To paraphrase Garrett Morris’s SNL character ; ‘The Datsun 510 been berra berra good to me . The Nissan Bluebird I don know . But the Datsun 510 been berra berra good to me ‘ As Mr Ulrich said earlier the 510 with a tweak here and an upgrade there was a direct competitor with BMW’s 2002’s on every level and in any venue . And brother did the little beasts ever clean up in SCCA and Trans Am Jr races back in the day . So ahhh yes . The 510 been berra berra good to a lot of… Read more »

Jon Ulrich
Jon Ulrich

The BRE racing 510 did more for the model in the US more than anything else. I remember it as a BMW beater with good handling and brakes. I believe the 510 helped the reputation of all “built in Japan” cars and opened the way for more performance oriented models coming to America.


Great video and car! As a fellow “bluebird” owner its great to see the vintage Japanese love here on Petrolicious. I will be in contact Mr. Ermish as I need someone in NorCal to implement a mild brake upgrade on mine soon. Be in touch and congrats on the video!

Tony Gordon
Tony Gordon

Good choice. Troy knows the 510 better than anyone else I can think of.