In late 1962 the Datsun Fairlady (SP 310) was introduced to the world market, named for the famous musical film of the same name. It arrived in Australia mid-1963. There had been some earlier model roadsters manufactured by Nissan, but the all-new model was the first serious attempt to export and compete with the predominantly British sports car market.
The new roadster was powered by a 4-cylinder ohv 1488 cc engine. The original single-carby was soon replaced by twin side-draught Hitachi (SU licensed) carburettors, the engine developing 85bhp at 5600 rpm. The gearbox was four speed, and front suspension was independent with coil springs and A arms. Originally this car had the unusual feature of a third seat mounted crossways behind the two front seats. Although not a startling performer, managing a standing quarter mile in 20.2 seconds, it was not bad compared to other sports cars of the same era, and economical achieving nearly 29 mpg when tested. It was praised for the quality of finish and extras such as a radio included as standard.
1965 saw the introduction of the 1600 sports (SP311). The name Fairlady was dropped in the USA and Australia at dealer request, a more macho image being required, although some overlap models saw Fairlady badges still being used rather than the 1600 motif which replaced them. The name Fairlady continued right through all models to 1970 in Japan. The 1500â€™s front drum brakes were replaced by discs, a new grill was added along with other detail changes to interior and body, and the increase to 1595cc was achieved by increasing the bore. Power was raised to 96bhp dropping the standing quarter mile to 19.5 sec. With this model Datsun Sports Roadsters modified for racing began to make an impression on the competition scene, and a 5-main-bearing power plant replaced the original 3-bearing unit.
The year 1967 saw a giant leap forward with the introduction of the SR311, or 2000 sports. The cheaper 1600 version remained in production. The new model had a 1982 cc engine delivering power through a new five-speed gearbox. The engine was basically the same as the 1600 with the stroke increased and the cam moved to the overhead position. There were more detail changes to body and trim, and the chassis was strengthened, but the brakes remained unchanged. The twin-Hitachi carb engine produced 135bhp at 6000 rpm, but an alternative double choke twin Solex side-draught version with high lift cam produced a remarkable 150bhp. (Compare this with the 95bhp of the MGB of the same era) Australia only received from Japan the 150bhp version. A standing quarter mile time of 16.1 was achieved with a top speed of 124 mph. In Australian racing, the new 2000 sports in the hands of drivers like Doug Whitford of the works Datsun Racing Team cleaned up the competition, and in the US drivers such as Pete Brock and Bob Sharp did likewise.
Production continued until 1970 when the huge success of the Datsun 240Z ended the roadsterâ€™s run, the factory space being required for the new model.
In all, approximately 50,000 Datsun Sports Roadsters were manufactured, mostly sold in the USA.