The 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.