The Nissan Bluebird is a compact car designed and built by Nissan Motors as 2-door coupes, 4-door sedans, and 4-door wagons from 1955 until 2001. The Japanese automaker began producing the earliest series (110 to 910 series) as Datsuns, which was the marque used by Nissan for all the vehicles they’ve exported before 1981.
The Bluebird has been Nissan’s most recognised sedan in the global scene. It was to Nissan what Corona was to Toyota. The production of both cars had run parallel to each other through generations. The Corona had a spinoff version that served as taxis, while every Bluebird series had also been available as taxis. While these rival models have long ceased production, the Bluebird differed in that it has spawned several models through its lifetime. Some of these younger generations include the Datsun Stanza, Nissan Maxima, Nissan Pintara, and Nissan Altima, which is currently in production.
From 1955 to 1983, all Bluebirds used the front-engine, rear-wheel-drive (FR) layout. After 1983, Nissan redesigned the model to adopt a front-wheel drivetrain, although still adopting the same engine position.
Below are the generations (twelve in all) of this long-running nameplate:
- 110 Series – 1955 to 1957
- 210/211 Series – 1957 to 1959
- 310/311/312 Series – 1959 to 1963; in Australia as Datsun Bluebird (1960-1965)
- 410/411 Series – 1963 to 1967
- 510 Series – 1967 to 1972; in Australia as Datsun 1600 (1965-1972)
- 610 Series – 1971 to 1976; in Australia as Datsun 180B (1972-1977)
- 710 Series - 1973 to 1977
- 810 Series – 1976 to 1979; in Australia as Datsun 200B (1977-1980)
- 910 Series – 1979 to 1983
- U11 Series – 1983 to 1990
- U12 Series – 1987 to 1992; in Australia as Nissan Pintara and Ford Corsair
- U13 Series – 1991 to 1997; in Australia as Nissan Bluebird
- U14 Series – 1996 to 2001
The Bluebird wore various badges depending on the market they were exported. In Australia, for instance, the first series in the market was the 310 Series arriving as the Datsun Bluebird. The 510 Series came labelled as Datsun 1600, followed by the succeeding series badged as the 180B and 200B.
110 Series: 1955-1957
Nissan introduced the Datsun sedan 110 Series to pitch against the Toyota Crown RS. This series served taxi fleets, which was its main market segment in Japan at the time. While available primarily as compact sedans, the 110 was also produced as a station wagon (W110/W112/W113), 2-door cabriolet, and several light commercial vehicles, although very few of these body styles were ever produced.
This series used an 860-cc D10/B-1 side-valve inline-4 petrol engine mated to a 4-speed manual gearbox.
210/211 Series: 1957-1959
The 210 Series was Nissan’s first car to be exported to the US and was responsible for increasing the Japanese automaker’s production by 100%. In this series belonged two cars that won the 1958 Australia Mobilgas Rally 1000-cc category, establishing the Bluebird's reputation for reliability.
Two engines were introduced for this series, in addition to the previous 860-cc. These were the 988-cc C OHV and 1189-cc E OHV inline-4 petrol engines, all paired with a 4-speed manual gearbox.
310/311/312 Series: 1959-1963
This series was built as 4-door sedans and 5-door wagons, still in FR layout, and all available in bigger engines (1.0L and 1.2L) equipped with 3-speed manual gearboxes. The 310 took design cues from American cars at the time. It was the first generation to be assembled and sold in New Zealand. It also reached Finland, making the Bluebird one of the first Japanese cars to sell well in Europe, surpassing the Swedish Saab and the British Triumph in sales.
In Australia, this series had the Datsun Bluebird nameplate and under its hood was a (1,189 cc) 1.2-litre Nissan E inline-4 petrol engine teamed up with a 3-speed manual gearbox. It was sold from 1960 to 1965.
410/411 Series: 1963-1967
This Pininfarina-designed series mimicked the boxy styling of European cars during this period and was released in time for the Summer Olympics in 1964. The available body styles were 2-door and 4-door sedans, 3-door light van, and 5-door station wagon.
A commercial ute version of this series was available in Australia as the 520, and curiously, it was sold until 1972, several years after the 410 ceased production. It was powered by a (1,483 cc) 1.5-litre inline-4 petrol engine (58 kW, 118 Nm) paired with a 4-speed manual gearbox. Later versions of the 520 aligned with the more modern look of the succeeding series, the 510.
510 Series: 1967-1972
The Bluebird 510 reached Australia as the 2-door convertible Datsun 1600, equipped with a 1.6-litre L16 inline-4 petrol engine with a 4-speed manual gearbox. It became immensely popular, especially for rallying due to its affordability, performance, and simple mechanicals. The convertible was later replaced by sedan and wagon body styles, which were powered by the same engine.
In the US, this series remains one of the most well-known production cars in amateur racing. It is also rose in popularity in Australia for its competitiveness in the Australian Rally Championship, including historic wins in 1982 and 1983, by drivers Geoff Portman and Ross Dunkerton, respectively.
610 Series: 1971-1976 (Other Markets) & 1972-1977 (Australia)
The 610 featured higher comfort levels, the reason why it was marketed as the Datsun Bluebird-U (for User-oriented) in Japan. It was also the first Nissan to adopt some Coke bottle design cues, thus featuring a narrow centre and slightly flared fenders. This series competed against the Corona Mk II and was available as 4-door sedans, 2-door coupes, and 5-door wagons.
Four engines were available for this series, with the Aus-spec 180B powered by a (1,770 cc) 1.8-litre L18 inline-4 petrol engine (78-82 kW, 147 Nm). Nissan Australia released the following models and trim levels, which include the sporty SSS trim:
- Coupe SSS – 2 doors/5 seats; available in 3-speed automatic transmission
- Sedan Deluxe – 4 doors/5 seats; available in 3-speed automatic and 4-speed manual gearbox
- Sedan GL – 4 doors/5 seats; available in 3-speed automatic and 4-speed manual gearbox;
A facelift in 1974 would add a GX trim to the sedan variants and a wagon version, also in GX trim level. The 610 received a squarer grille and new taillights. The SSS also received a 5-speed manual gearbox as an option. The 200B replaced the 180B in 1977.
710 Series: 1973-1977
The 710 Series is the first generation of Nissan/Datsun Violet and is not a Bluebird per se but a smaller sedan with a strong semblance to the 610. Releases to the US wore the Datsun 710 nameplate, while other export markets received it as Datsun 140J/160J.
810 Series: 1976-1979 (Other Markets) & 1977-1981 (Australia)
This series has evolved to a squarer version of the 610, with more angled corners but retaining the Coke bottle styling somewhat. As mentioned earlier, Australia renamed it as 200B, succeeding the 180B. A car magazine amusingly refers to it as a180B that comes with 20 more mistakes to it. It comes powered by a (1,952 cc) 2.0-litre L20B inline-4 petrol engine (70 kW, 152 Nm) paired with either a 3-speed automatic or 4-speed/5-speed manual gearbox. Other markets had access to other engines, including a 2.4-litre L24/L24E inline-6 petrol engine.
In the first year, Australia received the 200Bs fully imported, but local assembly started the following year. These were the available 200B models:
- Coupe SSS
- Sedan Deluxe
- Sedan GL
- Sedan GX
- Wagon base
The wagons were also released in GL and GX versions in 1978 when local assembly began. The 200B featured a spacious interior, which made it the preferred choice among family buyers. Apart from this roominess, the 200B became known for its reliability and toughness, which more than made up for its conservative styling. An SX trim, which was manufactured exclusively for the Australian market, was released in 1978. It wore a redesigned grille, alloy wheels, front spoiler, tachometer, and a revised suspension.
910 Series: 1979-1983
This series is the last of the rear-wheel-drive Bluebirds. It also dropped the Coke bottle styling in favour of clean and neat lines. As always, this series strengthened Bluebirds reputation for reliability. From the 810 and 910 series branched out the Nissan Maxima, featuring the same 2.4-litre L24 inline-6 petrol engine in both Bluebird series.
The 910 Series featured the same range of models as the 810 and retained the same engine, suspension (MacPherson strut) and wheelbase.
U11 Series: 1983-1987 (Sedan) & 1984-1990 (Wagon)
The U11 is the first Bluebird series to adopt a front-engine, front-wheel-drive (FF) layout. Several new engines were offered for this generation, including a diesel variant. Following the footsteps of the 910, this too had a boxy exterior, which was a primary factor in the U11's high drag coefficient of 0.39.
The Bluebird in Australia during this period remained to be the 910 series, which strongly resembled the U11, except for a wider track. It continued to sell until 1986.
U12 Series: 1987-1992
A more streamlined U12 replaced the U11 in 1987. It was sold in Australia as the Nissan Pintara, produced under Project Matilda. Nissan Australia built a 5-door Pintara hatchback, exporting it as the Bluebird Aussie. Ford Australia also sold its version of the Bluebird as the Ford Corsair. Please refer to our separate articles on the Nissan Pintara and Ford Corsair.
U13 Series: 1991-1997
This generation was produced in both FF and F4 layout. It adopted a longer wheelbase which allowed more cabin space and a taller roofline resulting in more headroom. The designers of the U13 indeed had user comfort in mind. This Bluebird featured a noise-cancelling system for selected models and markets. The U13 exported to Australia were all sedans powered by a (2,389 cc) 2.4-litre KA24DE DOHC inline-4 engine (112 kW, 210 Nm) mated to either 5-speed manual gearbox or 4-speed automatic transmission:
- LX, base model – air-conditioning, alloy wheels, cruise control, central locking, cloth trim, limited-slip differential, power mirrors, power steering, power windows, and radio cassette with four speakers
- SSS – adds to the base: automatic air-con/climate control, CD player, front fog lights, leather steering wheel, radio cassette with six speakers, and a rear spoiler
- Ti - adds to the base: automatic air-con/climate control, CD player, front fog lights, leather steering wheel, power sunroof, and radio cassette with six speakers
While the SSS was the sportier trim, the LX had the fastest speed, thanks to its lightness. A US-spec U13 trim, called Altima, also came out in 1993 and was similar to the Australian SSS variant. It would later branch out to become a separate model, the Nissan Altima. Nissan marketed the U13 in Australia until 1997, the last Bluebird series to be sold in the country.
U14 Series: 1996-2001
The U14 reverted to a boxy exterior for the final run of the Bluebird, at the time only released in its home market. It was available as a 4-door sedan and several engine choices. The Bluebird finally bowed to its successors in 2001.
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