Datsun 200B: Twenty more bugs | drive flashback

Datsun 200B: Twenty more bugs |  drive flashback

In 1977, Datsun took the popular but terrible Datsun 180B and created the 200B, making it even worse. It sold like hot cakes.

The Tony Davis story was originally published on February 28, 1997.

You heard the joke: B stood for Blunder and the 200B had 20 more of them than its 180B predecessor. Another 200B joke was that people bought it. In thousands.

At the end of 1977 the five appeared Datsun 200B Range launched in Australia. It included three versions of a locally built sedan, as well as an imported wagon and coupe.

The slogan was “You took a great car and made it even better”.

Many believed the opposite: that the company had taken a perfectly ordinary car and made it worse.

First problem: When new, the 200B looked old. It was also underdeveloped, poorly built, hard to ride, unsafe to handle, and deadly boring.

The most enthusiastic 200B road test proclaimed: “Reasonable but not exciting”

 Wheels The magazine captioned the word “dubious” before going through “questionable,” “inferior,” “uncomfortably loud,” and even “fucking awful.”

To get the full measure of the 200B’s failure, think about where Datsun started. The 1600 sedan of the late 1960s was a nimble, true sports model that is still highly coveted today. The 180B that replaced it was uninspiring but at least competent. Then came the 200B.

The name officially referred to the 2.0 liter engine that replaced the 180B’s 1.8. The 200B’s 70kW and 152Nm output seemed respectable, but the donk produced more noise than momentum.

The ride was bumpy and the steering was pig-heavy. Then there was the handling…

Nissan/Datsun claimed the 200B sedan had “one of the most sophisticated suspension systems in the world”.

In reality, this IRS setup came as a shock and was soon replaced with a locally built Borg-Warner drive axle.

This change was made to meet a quota for local content, although the much less polished live axis was actually an improvement. For once, Nissan Australia had gone from worse to worse, rather vice versa.

A locally conceived SX version was introduced to create a bit of excitement. Very little, and even that was mostly available among people who poked fun at its exaggerated exterior stripes and garishly (with a capital G) striped interior panel.

At the beginning of the article, Nissan couldn’t keep up with the demand. Only later did it learn the trick of building so many 200Bs that people couldn’t keep up with the supply.

It was the beginning of a stage death that even Verdi would have thought about for a long time.

Nissan Australia denied the obvious and continued to build cars here until the 1990s, by which time it had made nearly $1 billion.

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