The first true Datsun sports car launched in America was known as the Datsun 1500. Though the 1.5 L SP310 continued in production through January 1965, a new 1.6 L R16-powered SPL311 replaced it in March that year. The restyling was executed in part by Count Albrecht Goertz, who would later be involved with designing the first Fairlady Z. Marketed as the Fairlady 1600, or the Datsun Sports 1600 in many export markets including North America, it featured 14-inch wheels and minor exterior changes. The SPL311 was also known as the “Roadster” on the West Coast of the United States.
The front suspension was independent, utilizing coil springs over hydraulic shocks. The rear suspension was a common leaf springs design, dampened with hydraulic shocks. The 1600 SPL311 came with a pair of SU carburetors. The R16 inline four-cylinder engine produced 96 horsepower. Early SPL311 came with a high compression engine that had three main bearings, hydraulic lifters, a cast-iron block, and a cast-iron head. The timing of the distributor could be easily adjusted to reduce pre-ignition knock and thereby tune for questionable quality gasoline. Engines in later SPL311 had 5 main bearings and this addressed a design weakness. The top speed for the SPL311 with approximately 91 octane gasoline was approximately 105 mph. The axle gearing suffered from design limitations and Datsun performance parts offered a cooling system as a retrofit. Steering utilized a worm gear design. The hood badge said “Datsun” in individual letters, the rear badge said “Datsun 1600”, and the side badges said “Fairlady” (Japanese market) or “Datsun 1600” (export market). The SP311 continued in production alongside the later 2000 model through April 1970.
The seller of the 1600 Roadster featured here provided this description:
“This little Datsun 1600 Roadster hadn’t left its garage since some time in 1979 (the last year it was registered) where its second owner, who bought it in the early 1970s, parked it. After having removed and categorizing all chrome and trim pieces and after his having repainted it himself, serious long-term health problems forced the owner to finally abandon his goal of putting it back on the road.
After his passing in 2020, his heirs decided to include this beloved classic car when closing out the estate. Since it was garaged for over 40 years and while it can’t definitively be documented, the family estate believes that the 27,860 odometer miles are accurate.
This 1600 SPL311 has since been given some serious TLC, including the usual mechanical maintenance to get it up and running and it comes with a perfect boot as well as a tonneau cover and the original 1979 Texas license plates, which are registered and current and has a clear Texas title in the seller’s name. It now sports a new Haartz Stay Fast 3-window HD canvas top (not the cheaper vinyl type), some pinstriping and racing stripes, a new tinted windshield, new rubber weatherstripping throughout, new correct dual red ring tires, new carpet, new seats, smartly refurbished interior, new dash and more. It’s now ready for the next sporty car enthusiast to own.”
To help you make informed bids, we’re providing a link to Classic.com, the analytics and search engine for the Classic Car market, that provides an interactive graph of recent comparable sales in the past two years. By clicking on the green dots, you can navigate to each comparable car sold as a way to help you make an educated bid on the car we are featuring for auction here: