In 1960s, Nissan Motors Limited produced a series of roadsters called the Datsun Sports (Datsun Fairlady in Japanese market). Datsun Sports was launched before the arrival of the Z-car in the Fairlady line and served the purpose of an inexpensive substitute of British MG and Triumph sports cars. The first model to appear in this series was 1959 ‘S211’.
In 1959, the first model of Datsun Sports series was introduced as S211. It was powered by a 988 cc C-series straight-4 engine, developing 37 PS (27 kW; 36 hp). The whole mechanism of S211 was established upon the Datsun 211 sedan. Yuichi Ohta was the designer of the car who had already designed the Datsun Dc-3 and the prototype to S211 called A80X. Both the production model and prototype based on fiberglass bodywork. Total of 20 units of S211 were produced.
In 1960, the SPL212 was launched. It was regarded as the first Datsun Sports car imported in US market. The presence of letter ‘L’ in the name suggests that it was a ‘left hand drive’. Unlike S211, 288 units of SPL212 were produced and all had steel bodywork. It was based on the Datsun 223 truck. It was powered by a 1.2-L (1189 cc) E-series straight-4 engine, developing 48 PS (35 kW; 47 hp) mated to a 4-speed manual transmission. It featured an A-arm suspension with torsion bars in front. All the four corners received drum brakes. SPL212 was the first Datsun Sports car that wore the name ‘Fairlady’. The badge found on the trunk lid was exactly the same used on the Datsun 223 truck. The car was named after the Broadway musical My Fair Lady. Both SPL212 and SPL213 were marketed only in export markets and the number tags represent their engine displacement. The production of the Fairlady was shifted to Nissan Shatai plant in Hiratsuka from Yokohama.
In 1961, the SPL213 was introduced and was in close resemblance to SPL212. The only prominent different between the two was the engine. The SPL213 received the dual-carburetor ‘E-1’ engine, generating 60 PS (44 kW; 59 hp). The SPL213 was also based on the Datsun 223 truck. Only 217 units of SPL213 were produced.
The SP310 also known as Fairlady 1500 were introduced in 1963. It was a right hand drive while SPL310 was designed for left hand driving. The design of SP310 was based on the custom-made Bluebird 310 sedan platform rather than truck platform. The car received an 85 hp 1.5-L (1497 cc) G15 engine found in Cedric, but only with one SU carburetor. The first 300 units produced had a single carburetor, while the model produced later in 1964 offered with dual SU carburetors. The only shifting option available for the SP310 was a 4-speed manual transmission. It shared its rear axle shaft and differential with Cedric. A transistor radio, tonneau cover, map lights, and a clock were additional features.
The SP311 were introduced with so many changes and modifications. It was launched in 1965 with 1.5-L engine. However, the later models came equipped with a new 1.6-L R16 engine, producing 96 PS (71 kW; 95 hp). It was sold as Fairlady 1600 in many markets and offered with 14-inch wheels and slight interior modifications. Different badges displayed different names. For instance, the badge on hood said ‘DATSUN’, the rear badge read ‘DATSUN 1600’ and the sides badges read as ‘Fairlady’ for Japanese market and ‘Datsun 1600’ for export markets. The vehicle remained in production until April 1970.
The first Nissan Silvia produced by Nissan was based on SP311. An R16 engine was used in the CSP311 Silvia producing 96 hp. It used a customized chassis of Fairlady. Silvia was the first in Nissan range that received the new Nissan R engine.
The SR311 and SRL311 were launched in March 1967. The vehicle used a 2.0-L (1982 cc) U20 engine mated to a 5-speed manual transmission. These engine specifications were quite remarkable for any of the production car at the time. The cars produced in the debut year were one of the most desirable as these were not hindered by the emissions and safety regulations enacted in 1968. About 1000 to 2000 units of SR311 were produced. The SOHC engine was introduced later with 135 PS (99 kW; 133 hp). There were also available a Competition package as an option featuring dual Mikuni/Solex carburetors and a special camshaft for 150 PS (110 kW; 150 hp).
SR311 and SRL311 were also sold as Datsun 2000 in many markets. The Datsun 2000 gained a lot of praise as a bargain sports car. The idea was to enhance the Datsun image in the racing with production of this car. Datsun 2000 had the honor of racing with John Morton, Bob Sharp and many others. Although, the sticker price it wore was lowest in its class, it managed to won its class in C-Production (Mikuni-Solex carburetors) and D-Production (Hitachi-SU carburetors) in SCCA racing on a regular basis.
A well-tuned production units of Datsun 2000 was competent enough to generate 120 mph (193 km/h) achieving better than 30 mpg (7.8 L/100 km). It reached to the top speed of 140 mph in fourth gear operating with a 5-speed manual transmission. The Satsun 2000 was taken over by a stylish, dignified and famous Z series.
The whole range was upgraded in 1968 with a new body styling offering a taller integrated windshield with an integrated rear-view mirror, a padded dashboard with non-toggle switches, and lifting door handles. The engines were also designed to comply with the emissions regulations.