A Pop Culture Icon on the Rise

When Datsun’s 510 came onto the scene late in 1968, it looked like Japan’s attempt at emulating the BMW 1600-2, which had debuted two years earlier.

Utilizing a 1600-cc SOHC engine and a drivetrain layout similar to the BMW, the Datsun offered technical sophistication and reliability that was nearly on par with its German competitor — but at a much lower cost. It was not as quick as the BMW in stock form — and it was not as good of a drive — but its price was roughly two-thirds that of the German, making it a compelling proposition.

In the United States, the 510 remained technically mostly the same during its five-year production run, with only minor model-year cosmetic differences. 510s were offered as 2- and 4-door sedans and as a station wagon. The sedans employed four-wheel independent suspension, while wagons had a live rear axle with leaf springs.

1968 model cars are the rarest, due to their introduction toward the end of the model year — and have trim differences, including different grilles and American-style instrument clusters with a sweep speedometer.

Cars from the 1969 model year retain many of the early design details. In 1970, Datsun introduced a round-gauge dashboard and headrests — not much else changed through 1972. In 1973 the 2-door was the only model offered, and 1973 cars sport rubber bumper overriders front and rear.

Some non-U.S. mar­kets received performance-oriented twin-carbureted versions of the 510 (known worldwide as the Datsun 1600), and the home Japanese market was blessed with the sleek fastback Bluebird coupe. Unfortunately, these versions were never officially sold in the United States. However, in recent years, imports of Japanese vintage cars have been on the rise, and this means that a handful of Bluebird coupes have made their way to our shores.

The Beetle is Crawling Back

 

The humble Volkswagen Beetle — which is actually not its official name, but few people know what a Type 1 is — created the massive compact-car market in the United States.

It took the brilliant mind of Ferdinand Porsche — and high-quality labor from a rebuilding post-war West Germany — to make a compact car a success in the United States of the late 1950s and early 1960s.

By opening up the compact-car market in the U.S., VW blazed the trail for all small cars — domestic and imported. While the Chevrolet Corvair was initially all but an Americanized Beetle, the rest of the domestics weren’t. Still, the success of the Falcon, Valiant, Rambler and Lark was only possible after VW made small cars acceptable in the big-car-crazed U.S.

By the early 1970s, the early Beetle became a victim of its own huge success.

By 1970, the Big Three had run one full generation of compacts off U.S. assembly lines, and a second one was on the way. The Falcon gave way to the Pinto, the Corvair led to the Vega, and the Rambler became AMC and birthed the Gremlin. In addition, the Valiant had a plethora of siblings from Dodge.

While the Japanese competitors were generally viewed as quirky and cheap during the 1960s, by 1970 they were becoming formidable competitors. During all this, the Beetle just puttered along with minimal changes.

While staying the same in a world of change played well in the turbulent 1960s — even among the Counterculture — the Beetle was old hat in the 1970s. The Beetle looked dated compared with everything else in the market.

The Not-So-Affordable Trends of Arizona

The USA, China and the European nations have each all printed over a trillion dollars in the past few years. We are in a cash crisis, with no place for this cash to go,” quipped one of my longtime automotive writer colleagues.

“This has to account for some of the big-dollar cars again being classified as asset allocations within very wealthy collector portfolios,” said another peer.

Theories such as these abounded in Scottsdale 2013 — much like the massive Read More

A Practical Hipster of a Volvo

The 1950s saw most car manufacturers reaching to sports cars to burnish their image and give a spark to their product lines.

This was especially true of European makers eager to get a bigger part of the lucrative U.S. market, where buyers were embracing a more spirited and involving driving experience — even while continuing to buy family sedans.
As a result, even Volvo — possibly the most practical carmaker on the planet — launched a limited-production two-seater to Read More

Alfa Romeo’s Underrated Grand Tourer

This was supposed to be an Affordable Classic piece about the entire Alfa Romeo 2600 range. It has become a piece about only one of the five models of the Alfa 2600 — the Sprint.

Why? I don’t want SCM World Headquarters to be bombarded with emails, letters and tweets complaining about the definition of “affordable.”

I believe that all Alfa 2600s are undervalued for what they offer, but it’s tough to call the $65,000-plus it takes to buy a good example of the 2600 Spider or the $145,000 cost of a non-project 2600 SZ affordable by any real measure, as “affordable” is roughly synonymous with “credit card” for most of us.

Five Investments in Cheap Fun

We live in a Golden Age of classic cars. There are so many choices that selecting your first or next classic car has probably never presented as many good options as it does now.
While prices of the blue-chip cars continue to climb to infinity and beyond, we’re also blessed with many good choices at the “affordable” end of the spectrum — what we might call the “white-chip cars.” These are cars that enthusiasts can love, but they won’t make Read More

Best Buys on the Peninsula

I think we can officially do away with the term “Affordable Classic” when speaking about Monterey. In my opinion, when using the term “affordable,” we should generally be referencing something that the masses could easily afford.

The five rides I’ve chosen are valued from the mid-five digits to the mid-seven digits. That’s affordable, Monterey-style.

Five auction houses replete with hundreds of cars of every marque, age and condition transformed this sleepy peninsula into the world’s largest classic car showroom. I spent six days canvassing this full extravaganza of inventory, and there weren’t more than a handful of deals.

From least to most expensive, here are five sold lots that each owner should be thrilled to now own.

GT Sleepers for Monterey Week

Any of our three international GTs fit in at any setting, and the valet guys just might leave you parked in front

The Monterey Week seems to symbolize all that’s grand, glorious, remarkable and somewhat unattainable in the collector car universe. I won’t repeat Jay Leno’s endlessly quoted line concerning millionaires and billionaires, but you can still cut quite a dash on the roads around the Monterey Peninsula — if not on the Read More

Slow to Speed, Fast to Rust

Italian sports cars quickly became successful after World War II — think Ferrari, Maserati, Lancia and Alfa Romeo — but Fiat’s entry-level two-seaters never totally captured the imagination or sales of enthusiasts.

In the 1960s, Bertone and Pininfarina slowly emerged as the top Italian styling houses, and they proved the Italians were particularly good at constructing graceful designs for small sports cars.

Yet, for Nuccio Bertone, the early 1960s were difficult. Fiat had not conveyed any interest in the Read More

One Terrific Baby Porsche

When the Porsche Boxster show car debuted at Detroit in 1993, it created a lot of excitement.

The new, smallish, two-place convertible sent writers off to research the joys and frustrations of owning 356 Speedsters and roadsters. When the 1997 Type 986 Boxster finally arrived in showrooms three years later, pent-up customer demand assured their popularity. Road testers were predominantly enthusiastic, while Porsche enthusiasts were of divided opinions — as they always are whenever anything Read More

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