1980s / Datsun / Endangered species / Japanese / Nissan

Endangered species: Nissan Datsun Sunny (B11)

nissan-datsun-sunny-6The Nissan Datsun Sunny (called B11 internally) hails from a time when uncertainty reigned over most Japanese automakers.  After establishing a secure foothold in several markets throughout Asia, major players like Toyota, Honda and Nissan embarked on quest to get a sizable slice of the European and North American markets.  With few exceptions, these automakers took a global approach to the problem and created several distinctly different nameplates and body styles that all rode on the same platform.

In hindsight, that approach was far ahead of its time.  Most manufacturers regardless of origin are gravitating towards it today and the ones that have shunned it are in dire financial straits.  However, 30 years ago the globalization of the auto industry was still in its infancy and the Japanese automakers’ business plan was not the resounding success that many had hoped it would be.

There were other problems, too, including the fact that most Japanese car firms had a very vague notion of what European consumers were after in a car, and the issue that a lot of these companies had absolutely no brand recognition to speak of outside of big cities.

In this unfavorable context, Nissan launched the B11 Sunny at the 1981 Tokyo Motor Show.  It marked a drastic break with the past because it was the first Sunny to offer front-wheel drive and, a year or so after its launch, a diesel engine.

Designed to take on Toyota’s infamous Corolla, the European-spec Sunny was offered with a host of four-cylinder engines including a popular 1.5-liter unit that made 75 horsepower and 89 lb-ft. of torque.  Buyers could pick between a five-speed manual or a three-speed automatic gearbox.

The Sunny failed to find its public in mainland Europe but it enjoyed reasonably healthy sales in the United Kingdom and in Ireland, where an opulent range-topping variant called Sunny Maxima was sold.  Still, very few of these cars are left today: A look at howmanyleft.co.uk reveals that just seven 1.5GL models are left on U.K. roads.


Nissan dropped the Datsun name in 1983 so the example pictured here is either a 1981 or a 1982.  It has been parked in the same spot outside of a nearby airport for over three years.  It is registered in the north of Paris, on the other end of France, so we’re guessing someone drove it down for work or for school and abandoned it before moving back up, a scenario that is far more common than it might seem.

Save for a broken fog light lens out back and a couple of minor scratches, the Sunny is in fantastic shape inside and out. The car is worth next to nothing and, as far as we can tell, it has no enthusiast following to speak of so we don’t expect that a collector will go through hell and high waters to convince airport authorities to let it go.

Update: Airport authorities removed this car in June of 2015.

6 thoughts on “Endangered species: Nissan Datsun Sunny (B11)

  1. The fact no one will knock down the fence to get this little ugly gem is a shame. Thes little Japanese gargoyles are becoming so very popular in teh States. japanese nostalgia collectors would bite. I have bitten off a bite myself with a 1980 200B.

    • Ha, that’s interesting, I never realized they were growing in popularity in the United States. How common are they? I don’t remember seeing many when I lived in Utah.

  2. Guy in my home town has a white ’84 plate one of these with over 330 k miles on the clock still going like a train

    • They’re more solid than they look, from what I heard.

      I was at the airport on Sunday night, the Sunny is still there. It hasn’t been vandalized, the tires still hold air, etc, sad to see it that way.

  3. In Turkey, by now, there are 4 1st gen Sunnys for sale in the classifields, if you add 2nd gen, this number becomes 111 so I cannot claim that Sunny is an endangered speciess unless you specially focus on the 1st gen. alone.

    • Interesting, I didn’t know they were that common in Turkey. Here they’re quite rare, definitely not a car you see every day. I don’t even think you see one once a month!

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