The Nissan Bluebird is a compact- to medium-sized car launched in 1957. The nameplate still exists today on the Nissan Pulsar-based Nissan Bluebird Sylphy in Japan, and on the U13-based Nissan Bluebird in mainland China.
It is one of the longest-running nameplates from a Japanese automaker. It even spawned the S130 Fairlady Z/280ZX, which in turn spanwed the Maxima (originally 910 Bluebird/S130 Fairlady Z based), and the 160J/710/Violet/Auster line, which eventually got spun off into its own line, becoming the Stanza, and later the Primera/Infinti G20 line.
Export versions were sold variously as the Datsun 510, Datsun 180B (with 160B and 200B versions) and the Datsun Bluebird. The Nissan Bluebird nameplate began appearing around 1982 as the Datsun marque was phased out in favour of Nissan.
From 1981 to 1985, Australia followed the Japanese convention by calling its car the Bluebird, and had a unique, facelifted rear-wheel-drive version for 1984 and 1985. That car was replaced in 1986 by the Nissan Pintara. It would be replaced by the successive Bluebird, also called Pintara, until 1992; then the range was brought in line with the Japanese model, for the U13 series from 1993 to 1997.
In the United States, the Bluebird was eventually sold as the Nissan Stanza. In 1992, the Stanza became the Nissan Altima. Currently, the Bluebird is not sold in North America; in 1998, the Altima was completely redesigned, becoming a model unique to the North American market.
A six-cylinder version called the Maxima was released in the 1980s and became a separate model.
Although Nissan's own materials indicate that the Bluebird name emerged in 1959, some records show that the name first adorned a 988 cm³, 34 hp four-door sedan in 1957, which was part of the company's 210 series. Its engine was based on an Austin design, as Nissan had been building the Austin A50 Cambridge under licence in the 1950s.
The 210 was known for doubling Nissan's production at the time and was the first Nissan to be exported to the United States.
In some markets, this model was exported as the Datsun 1000.
The 210 established an early reputation for reliability, with two of them winning the 1,000 cm³ class in the 1958 Australia Mobilgas Rally.
The 210 had succeeded the 110 series, sold as a two- and four-door sedan and offered from 1955 to 1957. This model bore the Convar or A110 model names and was powered by an 860 cm³, 20 hp four-cylinder engine. In some respects, the A110 is the forerunner of the modern Bluebird line. Incremental changes were denoted by 112, 113 and 114 codes, with the last model a 113 with a 210 engine.
Subsequent models included the 211 (October 1958) with cosmetic changes.
The Datsun Bluebird which débuted for August 1959 was an all-new car. The 310 series had a 1 L engine from the 210 model.
In July 1960, a five-door station wagon was added. By February 1961, a 1.2 L overhead-valve engine (codenamed E1) became an option on a higher-trim DX model.
Styling tended to ape larger American cars. A very small number did make it to the United States, but were flops.
In September 1963, Nissan brought the Bluebird up-to-date with boxier styling, apeing the more European designs being produced in the United States. A sporting model, the Bluebird SS, was launched in March 1964, with a tuned 1.2 L engine.
Initially, only a four-door sedan and five-door station wagon were in the range, but a two-door was added in September 1964. The two-door SS was launched in February 1965.
The base engine was enlarged to a 1.3 L unit in May 1965 and a 1.6 L SSS model was launched the same month. This began a line of famous Nissans in Japan, with the Bluebird SSS a mainstay of the range until its deletion in 2001.
To be more appropriately correct, the early DATSUNs imported to the U.S. were branded as "Datsun", not Nissan. Nissan was the manufacturer, Datsun the marque. An 'early' Datsun is effectively any Datsun made by Nissan prior to the 1968 model year, by U.S. standards. 'Early' would also include the Nissan Patrol, Nissan Silvia (made prior to 1968). Both the Bluebird and Silvia names were used after the 1968 model year was introduced, but were entirely different vehicles and don't belong in an 'early Datsun' category. 'Early' would also include the roadsters (SPL311, and SRL311, also known as 'Fairlady'), as well as the 520 and 521 pickup trucks, both of which were based entirely on pre-1968 models with little change. By the same token, the 'Bluebird' was not labeled thus in the U.S., but designated by the actual model: PL410, PL411, and RL411, along with certain earlier models. This addition more appropriately belongs on an "Early Datsun" or "Datsun 410/411 series" dedicated page.
Launched in August 1967, it was one of the most comprehensive Bluebird ranges in terms of body styles: a two-door sedan, a four-door sedan, a five-door station wagon, and a two-door coupé (added in November 1968).
This range became famous for Nissan's rallying successes outside Japan and paved the way for greater Nissan sales internationally together with the famous Datsun 160JSSS aka Datsun Violet(IRS L series engine version of the US market Datsun 710.) which in Japan was already a 70's Datsun with Turbo intake , unmatched condition by any other Datsuns of the era.
In many markets, the Datsun 510 was sold as the Datsun 1300/1500/1600.In those markets the Datsun 510 was known as Datsun 1300 with the "J" series 1300 engine, Datsun 1500 with the "J" series 1500 engine, push rod over head valve engine, and, Datsun 1600 with the "J" series 1600 engine. (OHV) and leaf sprung (all 510's in fact, Sedan, Coupe and SW, no IRS 510s in several markets.) In several markets around the world, the Datsun 510 was the small brother of the mighty Datsun 160J SSS aka Datsun Violet. In the US, Nissan reversed the trend, making the Datsun 510 a mighty IRS L series engine car, while the Datsun 160JSSS/Violet was downplayed into the US market Datsun 710 with leaf spring suspension and protruding bumpers.
In September 1970, the 1.3 and 1.6 L engines were replaced with 1.4 and 1.8 L units. In other parts of the world the 510 was equipped with J series OHV push rod engines . In the US it remained a 1.6.
Australian versions of the Datsun 1600 were delivered either as a full import, or assembled in Australia from local and Japanese parts. These 510 Datsuns were equipped with L 13,14 and 16 engines.
South American versions of the Datsun 510 were delivered with OHV push rod engines J series variety and leaf spring suspensions (no IRS ) on all models
The PL510 was the most prevalent model, with the 1968 import H510 two door twin SU version arriving in a batch of just a few hundred. Around the world, the J series push rod engined model was most common.
The last of the PL510 series went through Australian assembly lines in 1972, and due to the extensive use for rallying, the cars are now quite hard to find in any reasonable condition.
A 610 4dr participated in the 1972 & 1973 East African Safari Rally. Bob Sharp drove his 610 HT race car to 2nd place overall in the SCCA B Sedan Championship for 1973 & 1974. The car achieved a first place for the 1976 SCCA B-Sedan Championship but with Elliot Forbes-Robinson driving.
The 810 was introduced in July 1976. Engine options were carried over but a 1.4 L was reintroduced in August 1978. The 160B, 180B and 200B were sold in export markets, with Australian magazine Wheels calling the 200B 'a 180B with 20 more mistakes.' Styling was an evolution of the 610's, with slightly squared off features but retaining a slight "coke bottle". No two-door sedan was available, but the four-door sedan, two-door hardtop coupé (SSS Coupe) and five-door station wagon were offered.
In New Zealand the sedan models were assembled for a time alongside the Hillman Avenger, Hillman Hunter and Mitsubishi Galant by Todd Motors of Porirua, until 1978 when Nissan opened a purpose-built assembly plant for its cars in Auckland.
The Datsun 180B makes a cameo appearance as a monster truck in Pirate Baby's Cabana Battle Street Fight 2006.
Nissan began realigning its export names with the home market with the 911 series in November 1979. The 'B' tags were dropped in favour of 'Bluebird', though the models were 'Datsun Bluebird' initially. The body style options remained the same but the look was characterized by a boxy style, considered modern at the time.
For the export models, a 'Nissan' badge began appearing in 1981, and the following year the Datsun name disappeared.
The Maxima name first appeared in this generation. In the United States, these models were sold as the 810 Deluxe or Maxima. The Maxima name was solely used from 1982. The 911 name was never used in Australia.
Australia had the 910 from 1981 - 1984 with the L20B engine, and 1985 - 1986 with the CA20s engine. It was a downgraded, locally produced version of the Japanese model with no independent rear suspension, electronic fuel injection, or turbo versions. However the cars were offered in a sporty version, known as the TRX. The main difference between these Bluebirds and the base models are a sporty trim, including a front air dam, alloy wheels, a small rear spoiler, internal reading lights and so forth. Mechanically the cars weren't much different, the only main difference to be found are rear disc brakes on the TRX.
However the 910 Bluebird has become part of Australian motor sport history, the car (although an import version with a [[Nissan Z engine] turbo motor and fabricated IRS) holds the fastest lap time on the Bathurst circuit, considered by many as the best racing circuit in Australia.
The Bluebird switched to front-wheel drive in October 1983, but retained the boxy styling of its predecessor. At the time, Nissan's design chief balked at curvy shapes and believed boxy ones would remain popular. With hindsight, that went directly against the trend and the market's obsession with drag coefficients.
The range was offered in four-door sedan, four-door hardtop and five-door station wagon forms. The coupé was deleted.
Australia made do with the 910 series, which was facelifted in 1985.
New Zealand marketing for the U11 proclaimed the vehicle as the 'Widetrack Bluebird', to differentiate it from its very similar-looking predecessor.
This model was offered in Europe for two years before Nissan began building the Auster as the Bluebird in England in 1986.
Although the U11 sedans were replaced for the 1988 model year, the station wagon continued in to 1990.
The range was available with 1.6, 1.8 and 2.0L petrol engines. A V6 was offered for the first time in 1984 in Japan, in a model with an extended front end, called the Bluebird Maxima.This V6 was a non intercooled 2.0L V6 turbo.There was no N/A V6 in any Bluebird.
In the United Kingdom, the following versions were offered:
The T12 and the later T72 Nissan Bluebird, is in fact a third generation Auster, rebadged and sold in Europe. However, its well known build quality and reliability and the influential role it had in what is now Europe’s most efficient Car factory merits the T12/72 its Bluebird badge.
The T12 was introduced in Europe in 1985 as a replacement for the U11 Bluebird. From July 1986, the T12 was assembled from parts shipped in from Japan, at Washington, England. The saloon versions (four door) were available first and the hatchback (five door) became available in January 1987. Using the U11 platform, Bluebird Estates were also built at Washington.
The later T72 models replaced the T12 during 1987, followed by a face lift around a year later. This is a point to note, as it is a common mistake to class all pre face lift models as T12s. The face lift models had a more modern and European look, with round front and rear bumpers and the corporate slatted grill. These were eventually built entirely in England. In 1990, Nissan replaced the Bluebird with the Primera series. In the late 1980s and early 90s, Nissan Bluebirds were very commonly seen as taxis, their drivers racking up phenomenal mileage on just routine servicing. The bodyshell's resistance to corrosion has become legendary - it is not uncommon to see Bluebirds as old as 1987 or 1988 vintage still on British roads with virtually no trace of rust at all. However, the Bluebirds' reliability and all-around robustness has ultimately led to its demise – as a banger racers' car of choice.
Almost all petrol T12/T72 Bluebirds came with 8 valve versions of Nissan's CA Engine and either a 5 speed manual or a 4 speed automatic transmission. The diesel models used the normally-aspirated LD20 engine. Performance was average for its class, the 1.6 struggling more with its lower torque characteristics that didn’t seem suited to the weight of the car.
Although all but the most basic models were already well kitted out, the real pick of the crop from the Bluebird range were the Executive models. These had their own range of colours, Connolly Hide interior, body kit, lattice alloy wheels, air-conditioning and a vast array of standard equipment, even with electrically adjustable suspension (Executive Turbo, and T12 / pre-facelift Turbo models).
The turbo models used the CA18ET engine with 135 bhp giving a 0 - 60 mph time of 8.6 seconds. This is the same engine used in the European Nissan Silvia S12. The incredibly strong nature of this engine allows enthusiasts to modify its power output to 200+ bhp without having to change the basic parts of the engine (Cams, Pistons, etc). Front mounted intercoolers, larger turbochargers and higher capacity fuel injectors are vital parts in the 200 bhp+ challenge. For further power, the CA18DET double overhead cam turbo engine is a relatively simple swap, and the modding potential is increased further.
UK Trim levels were as follows (European trim levels may vary):
Please note, some of the early T12s shipped from Japan were available as a three door hatchback; these are now very rare. Also, some later European models were known to use 16 valve versions of the CA Engine.
Nissan evolved the boxy shape of the U11 slightly, released in September 1987. This model was sold as the Nissan Pintara in Australia, replacing a larger Skyline-based model, from 1989 to 1993. There, it had been codenamed ‘Project Matilda’, leading the press to speculate it was a car developed uniquely for Australia—which was not the case.
In Japan, a four-door sedan and four-door hardtop were offered, although Nissan of Australia did create a five-door Pintara 'Superhatch' model that was sold as the Bluebird in some export markets, including New Zealand. It was marketed as the 'Bluebird Aussie' in Japan, selling complete with a fluffy little koala, Aussie flag under the clock and other small touches.
Nissan made a turbocharged Bluebird from 1987 to 1990 named the RNU12, using the 1807cc DOHC CA18DET that was sold in Japan only. It also used ATTESA.
Innovations for the U12 included the introduction of Nissan's mechanical four-wheel-drive system, called ATTESA and the ever popular SR20DET engine was introduced in the series 2 (HNU12) bluebirds (89-91). With the Maxima having been spun off into its own range, U12 Bluebirds were all four-cylinder models, with either a 1.6, 1.8 or 2.0 L petrol engine and also the option of an LD20 2.0l diesel. The sports and luxury versions came with a factory viscous LSD.
Australian models came with the CA20E SOHC 2.0l EFI and KA24E SOHC 2.4l EFI motors.
Sadly for Nissan Australia, Project Matilda was not the success it had hoped, even with a twin built for Ford Australia called the Corsair, which was even less successful. This led to the collapse of Nissan’s Australian manufacturing operations in the early 1990s..
The U12 was also sold in North America as the Nissan Stanza.
Trim levels of the Australian U12 Pintara were as follows:
Note: All models were available as a 4 door sedan and 5 door hatch, except the TRX, which was only available as a 4 door sedan. Note 2: The Corsair was available as a GL (CA20) and Ghia (KA24, and similar features as the Ti).
The U13 series was launched in Japan in September 1991 as a four-door sedan and four-door hardtop. The two models were visually distinct: the four-door sedan had curves where its U12 predecessor had edges, while the hardtop, called the Nissan Bluebird ARX, had more traditional styling.
Several Japanese models included an All Wheel Drive version (ATTESA).
The Australian delivered U13 Bluebird was released in late 1993 and terminated in 1997. The US delivered U13 (Altima) was released in 1993 and was similar to the Australian U13. Series 1 ran from 1993 until 1995 while Series 2 ran from 1995 to 1997. Series 2 saw the addition of a driver's airbag, revised grille styling, and a seat belt warning light. The Series 1 LX model came equipped with cruise control standard but strangely it was an option on the Series 2. The Australian U13 Bluebirds were available in three different models, LX—the base model but very well equipped, Ti— the luxury model, and the SSS—the sports model. The U13 Bluebird was introduced in New Zealand during 1993, and was produced at Nissan's assembly plant in South Auckland until 1997, when it was replaced by the Primera. New Zealand models were; S (base model), SE (mid-spec), SES (sport) and SEL (luxury).
Compared to the LX, the Ti had climate control, a sunroof, woodgrain styling, and gear selector display on the instrument cluster (automatic models only). while comparing the LX to the SSS, the SSS had a HUD (heads-up display—digital speedo on windscreen), climate control, fog lights, ski-port, woodgrain styling, and gear selector display on the instrument cluster (automatic models only).
Despite there being a sports model (SSS), the LX was the fastest of the Australian models due to having the least weight.
The engine used in the Australian and US U13 models was the KA24DE (112 kW, 210 Nm of torque).
The engines used in the Japanese models ranged greatly in capacity and type. The SSS ATTESA LTD model used a redtop SR20DET (154 kW/206 hp). This was a similar engine/drivetrain package to the Pulsar GTi-R (169 kW). It had only a single throttle body as opposed the GTi-R multiple throttle body, smaller bearings, hydraulic rather than solid lifters, and a smaller turbo. The GTi-R had a large top mount intercooler, while the SSS ATTESA LTD had a smaller front mount intercooler. The Bluebird SSS was set apart from the North American Altima in that not only having the SR20DET and AWD ATTESA as an option, it also had power folding retracting mirrors (some heated) and a rear wiper if equipped with a spoiler.
Yulon Motor, the Taiwan-based automaker, developed this variant of the U13, called the EQ7200-II series, in 2001. This featured a U13 central section but heavily revised front and rear ends. However, the centre of the car remains the same, and the 2,620 mm wheelbase is retained. No mention of the Taiwanese connection was made in advertising in mainland China.
The EQ7200-II was built until 2003, when it was replaced by a revised EQ7200-III model.
The car is considerably longer at 4,664 mm, as opposed to the original U13's 4,585 mm.
These Chinese models used a Chinese built SR20DE.
Nissan switched to boxy styling for the U14 Bluebird for January 1996. The American Altima had different front and rear ends, in keeping with its sports sedan positioning. But in its home market, the Bluebird was targeted more at buyers who favoured the formality of larger Japanese sedans. However, the SSS trim was retained, though it no longer referred to a truly sporting model in the range. To fit in with a lower bracket in Japanese taxation legislation, the U14 retained a 1,700 mm width.
Only a four-door sedan was offered. The hardtop, and the option of a 1.6 L engine, were removed. The Nissan Hyper CVT automatic transmission was available in this generation.
This was the final appearance of the Bluebird as a separate line in Japan. The series received a facelift in September 1998. The range was deleted in August 2001. Officially, there was no U15 series, according to Nissan.
After this, Bluebird production continued solely in China (v.s.), and the Altima line continued in the United States.
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