Another one from the ‘unexpectedly sort of hot’ files

From a time (long ago) when Toyotas had any semblance of coolness about them. Not quite approaching the Datsun 510 – which was in a whole ‘nother league – but getting there.

Design work was started in 1974 by Fumio Agetsuma. The goals he told his team were:

  • Quiet cars will have a definite edge. Conservation of both resources and fuel will be very important. Economy and value will also carry considerable weight.
  • Our new Corolla must be as aerodynamically perfect as the parameters allow. It must be comfortable, with enough interior room to move about in. It will need all the modern features that future customers will want as well.
  • Corolla must change. But we should never destroy the popular base upon which Corolla sales are built. Our new car must reflect the wishes of the consumer, the ordinary people who drive Corollas.
  • There should be no generation gap with Corolla. It should appeal to young and old alike. Corolla must also transcend national boundaries. It must perform as well in sub-zero temperatures as it does in the tropics or in the heat of the deserts of the world. Above all, Corolla must be a car that pleases.
  • Corolla has an illustrious tradition. Now, let us build our new Corolla on that tradition, the kind of new Corolla we know the drivers of the world will expect (source).

Don’t laugh— this little car had RWD and weighed next to nothing. But why does it feel like we are taking a page out Raphael Orlove’s playbook? (tuner aesthetic notwithstanding)


~ by velofinds on August 3, 2011.

29 Responses to “Another one from the ‘unexpectedly sort of hot’ files”

  1. bwah hah hah – it was only a matter of time! My nefarious plans of making everyone else like boring cars so that they leave all the world’s Maserati Khamsins for me is well under way

  2. Always loved these. Especially love the wagons.

  3. The things with these, and with a 510, is that they aren’t actually “better” than a 2002. The 510 was fast around the track because it weighed nothing next to the bmw, mostly down to the thinner sheet metal and less “engineered” design of the datsun. On the street, the 2002 is better. I think you are just secretly longing for the BMW…

    • Interesting. I don’t necessarily disagree with you, but a Datsun loyalist (which I don’t consider myself to be) might have some choice words in response to that 🙂

      I will say that the 510 has great style (at least when modified) and a unique flavor that is different from the 2002. I believe it has its own value and isn’t simply “BMW lite,” even if that is how it may have initially been conceived.

      • I’m not trying to rip on Japanese cars here, but something that always astonishes me about the younger generation today who liked “jdm” cars never seem to realize that all the “classic jdm” cars were styled after European cars. The 510 was very much a copy of the 2002. The thing is though, the 510s just haven’t lasted where as there are still TONS of 2002s around. Here in San Francisco, I have seen exactly ONE 510 which appears to be driven at least semi-regularly. I myself, one but one car, which gets street parked, and that is my 2002. I drive the hell out of it, just as many other people in the area do…and it is still track ready… and it comfortably fits five adults on a regular basis… and it goes on road trips… etc. I wonder how many 510 owners can still say the same thing in this day and age? Don’t get me wrong, 510s look cool in that classic boxy Japanese way, but the 2002 can look brilliant with a few simple changes (mostly getting rid of the US spec bumpers found on the square tail light cars.)

        • ah, but i think that is orthogonal to what we are talking about here. i don’t think many will dispute that the bmw was probably the better-made car, at least as it came from the factory.

          • As I said in my first post, the 510 was generally quicker on a road coarse primarily because of its lower weight.

            Other than that, I would say the BMW design has it beat in just about every way.

            The M10s racing pedigree is up there with the all times greats and the 2002 was a competitive racer in many categories, as it still is today, and it launched the whole 3 series who’s sporting credentials need little introduction.

            What is the 510s legacy?

  4. Ummm… The 510 has tons of room for a whole family. Which is why the 2 door and the 4 door are the exact same dimensions. And how could the 510 have copied the 2002 since they both came out in 68? The reason the 510’s wasted away is that they made a gazillion more of them than the 2002. So people didn’t think much of them and let them waste away. Just like you don’t see 1987 Sentras all over the place….

    • Not to mention the 510 looks 10x’s better than the 2002 🙂

      • aesthetics are a matter of personal preference so i’m not going to get into that, but for those not in the know, if someone has built a custom 510 the way brandon has, he is entitled to that opinion 😉

      • Are you also suggesting the 2002 is more reliable than the 510 as a DD?! That’s insanity.

        • As I said, I drive a 1974 2002 daily, everyday. I commute to work in it, take inter-state road trips in it and track it. It has never, ever, broken down on me. The m10 is was of the most stout and reliable engines ever made. I think you should do a little research!

  5. The 2002 design was actually around far earlier than 68. The 1602 (essentially the same car without the 2L engine) was release in 66 but other, very similarly styled ‘Neu Klasse’ BMWs existed since the early 60s. Many Japanese designers looked to these cars for inspiration as they were typically styled by the popular Italian stylist of the day.

    My comment about the 510 is that how many times do you see someone daily driving one AND carrying their family in it. Where I live, almost never while I see 2002s doing it all the time. On my 2002, I was able to quite easily fit an e36 bmw rear seat into mine and that comfortably fits 3 adults (it is surprising how close the dimensions are between the two seats even though they are 30 years apart!)

    I don’t have the production numbers, but I would imagine both sold pretty handily. The 2002 was a HUGE seller for BMW and it was by no means a rare car. The reason that the Datsun’s are no longer around is simply rust, lack of parts support (you can still get 2002 parts from the dealer, if you want) and simply because they weren’t as valuable of a car (purchase price was lower).

    From the first paragraph of the wikipedia entry:

    The Datsun 510 or P510/PL510 was a series of the Datsun Bluebird sold from 1968 to 1974, and offered outside the U.S. as the Datsun 1600. According to AutoWeek’s G.D. Levy, the 510 has often been called the “poor man’s BMW.” The 510’s engineering was inspired by contemporary European sedans, particularly the 1966 BMW 1600-2, incorporating a SOHC engine, MacPherson strut suspension in front and independent, semi-trailing arms in the back.[1] The European-influenced sheet metal design is attributed to Datsun in-house designer, Teruo Uchino.

    • i don’t have much else to add to this discussion, but i will note that bay area (and more broadly, california) car culture exists so far beyond the mean that i’d be hard-pressed to take your observations as anything more than anecdotal evidence from what is ultimately an exceptionally narrow slice of the universe. california is basically a world unto itself (and not one i wouldn’t want to be in, mind you).

  6. All of this gets back to my original point that the current generation of JDM fans are woefully unaware of the connection between early JDM cars and their European counterparts.

    • I would tend to agree with you on that. But then again how many cars are there where they don’t take cues from other cars/manufacturers etc? I also see nothing wrong with that. Take whats readily available and improve upon.

      • I am with you, I am just postulating that it is well worthwhile to look at everything that is on offer, not just one particular regions offering, PARTICULARLY when that region was drawing heavily from another that was rich with passion for automobile design.

        As a quick rundown, here is my 2002 (100% of this work is done by me):

        Totally shaved body (painted by myself)
        m10 with MS2
        FORD EDIS ignition
        m20 throttle body
        m3 injectors
        custom front struts with ground control adjusters, kmac adjusters, gti inserts
        custom rear suspension
        a getrag 240 5 speed w/ custom drive shaft + shifter platform
        z3 shifter
        320i steering wheel
        honda prelude front seats with e36 m3 rear seat
        320is steering wheel
        wilwood dyna pro calipers up front with vented disc
        custom rear disc brake setup
        all custom electrics
        320i radiator
        TEP strut brace
        kamei air damn
        urethane bushings everywhere
        16×7 bbs rs
        custom carpet + door panels
        massive “Gaz” pedal and dead pedal
        custom clutch + brake pedal
        euro rear bumper

        and much more that I can’t think of. One day I’ll make a site for it all and photograph it but lately I am busy setting up a business making period correct roof racks for cars like yours and mine 😉

  7. One thing to remember is that Wiki is worthless when looking for absolute facts. Nothing to do with this discussion really but just saying 🙂

    You don’t see people DD’ing 510’s b/c they are so highly desireable and therefore not driven as much. When I used to pull up to meets in my 510, it would steal the crowd. Even from cars like Enzo’s etc.

    My dad had plenty of 510’s since the early 70’s and there was never a car that he had that was more reliable. He made many a drive from ATL to RVA and back with no problems.

    Of course we could have this argument all day long though 🙂 It’s like Ford/Chevy. But anyone who claims that 510’s are unreliable POS’s are just severely misinformed.

    • I think you are misunderstanding me, Brandon. I never said that I don’t like Datsuns. I merely pointed out that they are far more rust prone and not as stout or readily available as the 2002. From there, I pointed out that the 2002 is the genesis of the 510. None of that was to put them down. I have repeatedly pointed out that the 510 is typically quicker than an 02 around a road course due to its lighter weight.

      My biggest point is that I have seen time and time again, that, like in this thread, a lot of the younger JDM crowd don’t seem interested in learning about anything other than JDM cars. The 2002 510 link is legendary and a fascinating battle to watch on the track. I would put (my truly desired car) Alfa Romeo in there, too.

      I love old cars, as is evident by the fact that my one and only car is a 1974 2002. I do all the work on it myself, including body work and paint (in my driveway), and all the customization, megasquirt, etc. I don’t post it up all over the internet because I do it for me, not for any approval from others. But I have to say, the reactions I get from the JDM crowd just puzzle me.

      I have long wanted a 240z, ever since I was a kid. I understand its lineage and its inspirations, and that is what charms me about it. The problem is, I can’t find one that isn’t badly rusted (even here in CA) or one that isn’t badly abused.

      What I could find, though, was a 2002. Heck, I’ve even delivered Pizzas in these cars. Dead reliable. :p

      Anyways, you should read up on them, I’m sure it’ll be interested. Even the “inka” orange of your 510 is an homage to the BMW…

      • But which thread are you referring to, Colin? Hopefully not this post, in which I had merely made the passing (and quite frankly, rather startling) observation that a vintage four-door Corolla could actually be desirable— a thought that hadn’t previously occurred to me. It was never intended to be some zero-sum suggestion that an old Corolla be considered in lieu of a 2002, which is fairly unthinkable (longtime readers will tell you that this is blog is very pro-2002, almost embarrassingly so).

        There’s also no young JDM crowd regularly reading and leaving comments on this blog – not even Brandon here – so I find it perplexing that you somehow arrived at that conclusion.

        • Sorry, I have been getting my replies mixed up as I am trying to this while at work.

          A lot of my comments are just general ones based on the puzzling attitude that I get from the younger JDM enthusiast that are here in the Bay Area. They are quite standoffish about the early BMWs and I’ve never grasped why, especially when you consider the link between late 60s early 70s european cars with the JDM cars. Brandon built a brilliant looking 510 and I love it, but it does appear that he has a bit of a blind spot about the lineage of his car and its very close relationship to the Neu Klasse cars.

          I love your site to death, btw, and I love that you cover a broad range of cars. I know you love and respect the 2002 based on your numerous posts about it, and I have to admit that I was goading you a bit to try and get you to purchase one. I know you’ve got your brilliant looking e30 right now though, but trust me, that is just a gateway drug to the early cars…

          • Ha, very good. Of course I’d love a 2002 (a nice round tail, in particular), but in order for me to seriously consider plunking down for one, it would probably have to be pretty quick— I couldn’t really see myself going from an M20 (itself not what you’d call blazingly fast) to a stock M10 at this point, even if the older cars are a good deal lighter. Maybe an M2— i.e., an 02 with an S14 dropped in? Now that I’d really love.

            Otherwise, if I were to buy any older BMW at this stage, I’d say a 3.0 CS or CSI coupe (the E9) would be the leading contender.

          • Now that said, from reading your list of mods, it sounds like you must have one fairly quick and very well-sorted (not to mention nice-looking) car. Wouldn’t mind seeing a picture of it sometime.

            • Hey if you’re interested, I would be down to do a little diary on your site about my continuing experiences with the car and what it is like to daily drive one…

  8. Wow, I don’t think I would say that I’ve sewn seeds of destruction, but man, I didn’t think that seeing a RWD corolla on motoringconbrio would cause so much excitement! Happy to see that everyone in the end just likes cars, though I am slightly saddened that the ultra cool following that corollas get in the Phillipines and much of Southeast Asia never got in on the discussion. Certainly 510s, Corollas and 2002s all have great mechanical benefits and are easily modified and made trackable, but there is so much to enjoy in each of the cars’ social contexts.

  9. Hahaha. Great discussion though.

    Colin, I love BMW’s as my true project is my 92 E34 525/5 speed. M52 w. S52 cams, Garret GT3076R turbo w. TRM tuning, Wilwood 6 piston calipers and E38 750il rotors, M5 seats, 85 door panels, Powerflex bushings, custom subframe, ACS type III’s etc etc 🙂

    For me personally though I just never liked the way the 2002’s looked. Maybe the younger generation is more like me (I’m 32 btw) The 510 looks so much better IMO. In every aspect from exterior to interior. I don’t like the single lights on the 2002 and I cannot stand the rear. Now I have seen a few that have been highly modded that I absolutely love. But only 3 of them that I recall. And they probably had 6 figures in them. The only classic BMW I want is the E9. Otherwise, the E30 and the E34 are the oldest BMW’s I like. Again just personal preference. I agree that the 510 took many cues from European cars in general but I still don’t feel they copied the 2002 body style. They really don’t look very similar if you think about it except that they are small boxes. Everything else Datsun at the time was more unique.. The 510 was basically designed, built and marketed as an econo box just to get from point a to b with reliability.

  10. I read the first few posts for both BMW and 510’s and although I have owned many Datsuns and fewer BMW’s I can tell you which ones cost more to keep up and which ones I pushed more. In my 30 years as a car fanatic and raised near Detroit…(born as a muscle car head) I have tried the so called “pedigree” cars from Porsche’s and BMW’s and I’ll tell you the bang for MY buck was with Datsun. I wanted to race SCCA and chose a 510 for it’s simple, affordable performance. Light, IRS, tunable 2.0 litre and I was SMOKIN’ guys on the track with 3X the price cars. There’s a reason BRE HAD to race in the “sedan” series….they would’ve put to shame all the 911’s and “pedigree” cars in the time. How much did a 2002 cost vs a 510? I rest my case!

    • nice post— thanks warren. i certainly wouldn’t mind owning a 510 in my lifetime.

    • Warren, I don’t know which BMW models you are referencing, but I’m quite sure that you’ll find the price of parts (OEM and race bits) for the 2002 to be quite a bit more affordable than that of a Datsun 510. Not many 510s have survived over the years, and parts availability appears to be spotty. BMW and Mercedes are both excellent about supporting their “classic” models. I know Datsun/Nissan both have a frustrating part number system where the part numbers change periodically. They also appear less committed to keeping their “classics” on the road. Some BMW models are quite expensive to get bits for (3.0cs) but the 2002 (which is the direct competitor to the 510) is not one such model.

      I’m not trying to spread any fanboyism, but objective facts about two great cars.

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