1976 Datsun 120Y 1.2 from Australia and New Zealand


A OK as a first car, and as reliable as all getout! But NOT especially clever in any one area


Absolutely next to nothing! Built November 1976, first registered in January 1977.

120Y sedan basic in aquamarine with cream PVC trim.

No headrests or radio options fitted, and no tints.

Aside from the usual scheduled maintenance, carried out at the recommended mileage, all it had needed at three years was a battery.

This car always started on manual choke at the second or first short churn, come rain, hail or shine!

The performance of this car was, once warmed through, was very acceptable I'd say, with both a willing and smooth OHV engine free revving cleanly to 5500, and a slick shifting stick!

Around 88 mph or 155 km/h was the top end for these I believe. My very first car to have driving experience of at age 16, before gaining my license.

MPG was incredible at 42 MPG, only dropping to 36 if really pushed!

Room inside was very near as good as an English Rover P6B 3500 Mk11 in actuality; one of which we also had at home, dating from the early seventies.

Seat comfort, at least to the front, was nothing to enthuse over at best! And after a mere 40 minutes perched there, you got bum ache no question about it. Well most people including my brother did; not me, so I reckon NOT a good car of choice to take on long overnight trips! The back seat was passable in that regard.

Materials used inside the car are cheap and cheerful. The old adage you get what you pay for was never more aptly used... and were fairly durable in actual fact. 7 out of 10.

The brakes on this one were disc / drum unassisted, and quite adequate UNLESS you used them hard in the wet when lightly loaded!

The 9 gallon gas cell was good enough for 320 miles or so. Very good.

The paint finish on the car was OK, but LOUD OK, in aquamarine blue, although it was better than many metallics for longevity, ours remaining polishable after three and a half years of every day use and with 65,000 kms on her. The instrumentation was spare, but legible enough I guess.

The heater plenum chamber beneath the screen got blocked by leaf debris often if the car was left out, and so could temporarily block the airflow of the blower! But a snick to unblock.

Handling & predictability on these is pretty well dependent, as is the ride, on what weight you carry on board at any time! Lightly laden in the wet, if pushed a little, can be a nightmare, with the back end feeling jittery on the smaller bumps.

Yet with a full compliment of passengers i.e. four heavyish guys and a full tank of gas, can ease the ride a little, and provide for more secure handling in the dry at least, where the car isn't so bothered by joining strips in the road and tram lining, as it is when unladen.

A stout front anti-roll bar might have gone some way toward curing any handling ills, which if any were evident, seem to stem from a touch too much understeer when pressed. I for example, when setting out driving, was once caught unawares on a damp night going down a road, and then turning suddenly on crossplies, and the car scrubbed out at the front! At least it was SAFE understeer I suppose.

All the electrics continued to work, even when at long last, you thought they perhaps wouldn't. The headlamps were so so / OK.

Windscreen wipers were two speed with no flick wipe, BUT that granted, managed to stay on the screen at 75 mph in strong winds! Something you can't claim for THAT many cars of the seventies!

Crosswind stability was only fair; the car feeling as if it were being buffeted quite badly in only a 100 km/hr stiff motorway breeze.

The construction of this little car, for an 1800lbs automobile, was quite durable, unlike the 1200 with the same drivetrain before it.

I well remember one morning, when my mom took me to school in a bit of a rush, she hastily backed into a quarry stone wall at 15 mph! BANG! I got out to inspect, and there was the merest conveniently placed dent in the rear lower left valance under the bumper for her troubles! Damn tough!!

Carrying capacity was OK for the weekly shop drop.

I certainly never remember anyone carping about the lack of luggage space, except for on a long trip four up, which barely EVER happened with that particular car anyways.

We DID, get a small leak in from the rear window at around the 55,000 km. But then the car WAS left out in the rain a fair bit - it was quickly cured with a tube of soft rubberise compound.

Return value on this car sold at 43,000 miles or 75,800 km at the end of 1981 / beginning of 82 was the same as we paid for her back in 1977 at 4000 dollars; neat! So resale was OK as well.

To sum up then, let's see. We are left with a dead reliable, semi comfortable but accommodating, frugal, nippyish, easy to master AND work on mind you - little runabout, with next to no depreciation.

But long trips e.g. over 60 miles are probably NOT a good idea in these cars, saloon or coupe. There just isn't either the refinement or comfort for that.

Recommended as a first car for the young set, particularly 1976 - 1978 vintage! You don't need more than two thousand or a half for any really good one left, so get in there and make a go of it before they finally DO run out of supply! BIG SMILE!!!

Thanks from Alisha!

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 29th February, 2012

2nd Oct 2012, 04:51

An intelligent and personal review.

I remember these cars everywhere in NZ as a kid, and they seemed so much more exciting than the British cars then on offer. Maybe it was the colour palette. I now have two of them - one in bright yellow and one in red/orange, and kids love them, so the colour must have something to do with why the cars lodged in my memory.

Swap the seats, and with some larger wheels, the car is quite comfortable on long journeys, although you do get the odd impatient driver of a modern car.

The greatest joy is owning two cars that make people, young and old, smile and want to have a chat. The Sunny B210 really does make the sun shine :-)

1976 Datsun 120Y wagon 1.2 from Australia and New Zealand


It is a bit rusty and the paint has gone.

General Comments:

I love my Datsun 120Y. I have owned it for so many years and when I drive it I feel so young! Datsun 120Y is a very sporty car with great handling and so much style.

Sure, it isn't built very well, but who cares- it so cheap to run and that's the main thing.

The interior has a modern feel to it and is so light and airy.

All my friends want to drive it- I say to them " go and taste it... if you like it Datsun has made one for you too".

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 30th March, 2006