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SNAPSHOT 29: Datsun 1934

 

One ventures to suggest that if it was not for the fact that the make of this vehicle is given in the above title, there would not be too many people who would immediately recognise what they see here. Even though there is not a person present, the car appears to be fairly petite, and as it had a 750 cc four-cylinder engine under its bonnet – an update for 1934 over the 495 cc unit used in the original 1932 version – this rather confirms how small it is.

Suggestions have been made over the years that the Datsun was a carbon copy of the Austin Seven, but almost all of the under 1-litre saloon cars of this period were boxy in appearance and ended up looking very similar. The conspiracy theorists might have done better if as a source of inspiration they had alluded to the overall look of the Peugeot 201, or the Triumph Super Seven, particularly the latter since it had worm final drive as did the Datsun, which in addition had semi-elliptic rear suspension, not the quarter elliptics of the Austin.

To suit the narrow Japanese roads of the time the track of the car was only 3 feet 3 inches and it can be seen not to be as wide as its European counterparts. This suggests that even if the Datsun’s design team had drawn on ideas from outside their homeland, which they may well have done, they were also capable of thinking for themselves.

When Sir Herbert Austin first heard about the Datsun he sent his company’s Far East representative to investigate it, in part because it was rumoured to be for sale at £50 – less than half the price of a Seven – although it actually sold for almost exactly the same sum as the Austin Ruby saloon. Then in 1935 one was bought and examined at Longbridge where apparently it was found not to infringe any Austin Patents ……

Sales of these diminutive Datsuns in 1934 were very modest, but after all it was early days for the Japanese car industry. When looking at this picture, the phrase: ‘great oaks from little acorns grow’, comes to mind.


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