1979 Datsun Cherry Coupe GL 1.2 petrol
A reliable classic that could be used every day.
The only things ever to really go wrong with the car was the front brake (passenger side) decided to bind, or stick, resulting in a molten hubcap after a short drive into town. Cheap to fix, and surprising easy to repair.
The interior of the car, primarily the seat-belts and rear seats, were coated in a fine green moss, which had decided to start growing inside the car after it was stood for a prolonged period of time prior to my purchase.
This car was a revelation, a £45 buy from an old chap who had given up driving, and for the last three years he had owned it, had used the car in first gear, and reverse; first to move it out of the garage, then reverse to put it back in. Unfortunately, the car had manages to procure some damp inside, causing the seat belts and rear seat to become infested with moss, but this was easily cleared with some all-purpose detergent, never to return thankfully. And it was immaculate inside, no wear, tear or cigarette burns. A 45,000 mile bargain. I was ecstatic.
The manual gearbox was a strange arrangement, with 1st gear being across and DOWN, rather than straight up. If you forgot and went straight for far left, and up, you got reverse; a bit of a surprise in busy traffic jams, and even more so in supermarket car parks! But it was a 5speed box, and once mastered, gear-change speed was on-par with that of a sports car, although the little 1.2 engine could be hurried along nicely with a heavy boot, it was no Lancia Stratos, let me tell you. The interior was very 70’s almost Americana styled, with lots of blue velour, and the trademark, deep-set round dials, that glowed a glorious green when night fell, which I thought was fantastic, having been used to fairly modern, albeit very boring wall-to-wall plastic interiors and not a hint of vinyl or 70’s ostentation.
The rear coupe windows, remember it is a two-door, also rolled down manually, which looked awesome in the summer months when the fronts were down also, just a shame the pillar wasn’t a little more inconspicuous for that American pillarless look; but safety is a priority, and who can argue with that? The car felt very solid and well made, but then the Japanese sure do know how to build cars; and they certainly know a thing or two about engines, especially nowadays.
The engine bay was very spacious, making DIY repairs easy, the bonnet being the fold-forward type, giving you plenty of room to jostle about, although having owned the car for two years, nothing more than the occasional fluid checks, one oil and filter change were required; it was so reliable it was almost considered a loving pet. Some would say it was frustratingly reliable, but me being not of the type of enjoys tinkering with engine parts, I found it reassuring that its constancy was only matched by that of a cutlery set, which you knew would continue to do its job until you snapped your spoon, after watching Uri Gellar on the television and becoming frustrated at your failed ability to bend spoons by fondling them. So, I never fondled and ultimately, never broke anything.
Fuel economy was not good compared to modern small engines, and to be honest, I had a 1.6 Cavalier, that did almost the same to the gallon as the 120a, but it was probably more to do with driving style, because the Datsun/Nissan was, as stated before, a little underpowered and on the open road needed a fairly large amount of throttle to get things hurrying along nicely, although once up to speed, it would do 70 mph all day, but fuel economy would suffer as a result.
However, even though the Cherry’s engine started without fail, no matter what the elements could throw at it, alas the bodywork didn’t fair so well against the wrath of mother nature; it did rust, as do all early Datsuns and Nissans, and it continued to do so until the day I sold it to a couple of chaps seeking to restore it for financial gain. I made £350 profit when I sold it to them, so everyone was happy.
Would I have another Nissan? Of course. Another Cherry? If I could find one in decent enough condition, you bet! Then I could don my medallion with pride and hunt for a pair of bri-nylon flares.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 6th January, 2007