Friday, October 12, 2018

Well, son of a DAT: Here’s one vintage Datsun/Nissan product that you probably won’t find a tuner chip for

1933 Nissan Phaeton
Photo: Nissan USA Official Media Newsroom
My weekly travels often involve a stop at a strip shopping center where there is both an e-cig store and a Domino’s pizza location. No, I’m not patronizing either of those establishments—my weekly visits have an entirely different purpose that there’s no real need to go into.

Apparently, having both a vaping store and a mostly-delivery pizza joint in the neighborhood is the perfect formula for making a parking lot look like there’s a cars and coffee for the tuner-dudes crowd going on, even when there is not a planned car-guys event taking place.

A lot of the pizza delivery dudes have cool sporty imports, and so do some of the employees and customers of the vaping store. Among the sightings I can count on just about every time I stop there is a nice Scion FRS, a Scion TC, and a Volkswagen EOS that all belong to pizza delivery drivers.

Then there is a lovely red Honda Prelude that apparently belongs to one of the sales associates in the e-cig store—it has just enough patches where the clear-coat has weathered flat to make it look lived in.

Beyond those regulars, other sightings range from various flavors of Nissan Altima, older Toyota Corollas and Nissan Sentras that have been modded to some degree or another, to even a couple of Imprezas and Saabarus (for the uninitiated, that’s the 2005–2006 Saab 9-2X, basically a re-badged Impreza).

Between pizza runs or e-cig customers, the owners are often gathered around in the parking lot, checking out each other’s cars and stroking their beards as they indulge in a bit of geeked-out car-guy chatter.

In short, it’s a shopping center that for certain demographic reasons has become an accidental gathering ground for many of the models that are stereotypically beloved among millennial tuners and tinkerers. And there are lots of tire chirps in the parking lot as the pizza guys take off for runs.

Meanwhile, when an alert showed up this morning in my inbox noting that Nissan, on their media site, had posted or moved a page about the 1933 Datsun Phaeton, it made me wonder how far some of these young import enthusiasts had ever delved into the older history of their beloved marques.

Yes, Nissan/Datsun does have a history that goes back that far. Datsun’s history goes back to 1914, when a manufacturer called the Kwaishinsha Co. rolled their first car off the assembly line. It was called the DAT, with the three letters taken from the initials of three investors.

And what did Kwaishinsha call their second-generation vehicle? Yep. They called it the DATSON, which according to Nissan literally means “son of DAT” (presumably, even then, there was apparently a lot of very deliberate Anglicization going on). It might sound apocryphal, but it’s true. If you’re skeptical, go ahead and look it up—it’s on the Interwebs.

The 1933 Datsun Phaeton, a cloth-topped four-seater, was equipped with a 748cc, water-cooled four-banger that made a whopping 12 horsepower. It had a 75-inch wheelbase and an overall length just over 106 inches.

It sold for $1,350, which you might think would have been hella money back in 1933. But actually that’s $26,418 in today’s dollars, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator—just a little more than the MSRP of a base Nissan Altima today.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

If you’re a Nissan/Datsun fan who hasn’t delved very far into the manufacturer’s deeper background yet, take a little trip down history lane and visit the Nissan Heritage Collection website. There’s plenty to learn there—enough to keep any car guy or car gal happy while there’s a little extra time to kill during a lunch break.

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