Nissan produced the Vanette, a cab-over van classed as a light commercial vehicle, from 1978 to 1994 for two generations. Mazda also built a Bongo-based utility vehicle, which Nissan rebranded as Nissan Vanette, from 1995 to 2011. This rebadged Mazda Bongo was not available in Australia, so the focus of this article will be on the first two generations of the Nissan Vanette.
The Nissan Vanette succeeded another cab-over van called the Datsun Cablight, a rebadged version of a Hajar vehicle and produced in 1962. The Cablight underwent a redesign in 1969 and evolved into the Datsun Sunny Cab, aka the Nissan Cherry Cab, which could carry up to five passengers and had an extended trim that could carry up to eight. It had a clamlike rear design that ensured the door would separate into a top and bottom fold when opened.
The Cherry Van was a lite version of the Datsun Sunny Cab, and its design enabled it to be low priced. These were the predecessors of the Nissan Vanette.
First Generation: 1978–1988 (C20)
In 1978, Nissan took over the production of the Cherry Cab from Datsun with the launching of the new Nissan Cherry Vanette and Nissan Sunny Vanette. The new generation came as either a 2-door truck, a 4/5 door van, or a 4-door minibus. The minibus featured a 1.4-litre A14 inline-4 engine that put out 55kW peak power. Its companion models came with 1.2-litre A12 inline-4 engine that produced 47kW of power, paired with a 4-speed manual gearbox.
The Nissan Cherry Vanette, however, did not arrive at the Australian marketplace until 1982 as the Nissan Vanette. The 1982 Vanette came with minor design adjustments to the previous model release. A bigger companion dubbed as the Largo also stepped into the marketplace but remained exclusive to Nissan’s home market - Japan.
The Australian model came in two trims - the base and blind trims. The base trim was the 2-door, 5-seat minivan version, while the blind trim was the more powerful 2-door, 2-seat ute. Below were the powertrains offered during those times:
- Base model - a 1.2-litre A12 I4 petrol engine with 4-speed manual gearbox that produced 38kW of power and 79Nm of torque
- Blind model - a 2.0-litre Z20 I4 petrol engine coupled with either 4-speed manual gearbox or 5-speed automatic transmission rated at 64kW of power and 147Nm of torque
In 1983, production began for the DX-A version, which sported design and transmission modifications. This year also saw the release of three trims which included the base, the GL and the SGL models.
- The base had the typical 1.2-litre A12 inline-4 petrol engine with 4-speed manual gearbox that produced 38kW of power and 79Nm of torque.
- The GL model also featured the 1.2-litre A12 inline-4 engine and 4-speed manual gearbox.
- The SGL had an upgraded 1.5-litre A15 inline-4 petrol engine coupled with a 4-speed manual gearbox that generated 52kW and 112Nm.
In September 1985, Nissan stopped the production of the minibus models in favour of the C22 Vanette. This phasing out did not include the C120 Vanette trucks, which received slight changes in their August 1986 release.
1987 saw the return of the Vanette to the previous trim naming system but came with updated base and blind trims. Both trims now had the 2.0-litre Z20 inline-4 petrol engine mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox (64kW, 147Nm). Their production carried on up to 1988.
2nd Generation: 1989-1993 (C22)
The next generation of the Vanette came in 1989, coming to Australia as a minivan. This generation came in a larger 5-speed manual gearbox and 4-speed automatic transmission for their 4/5-door van. However, cases of the vehicle overheating and catching fire dampened the Vanette's popularity in the second generation. The cause of this problem was the use of a larger engine in a tight compartment that limited cooling.
After a series of recalls in 1993 that failed to solve the issue, Nissan decided to call all Vanettes back to their factory for a refund. While many accepted, some opted to hold on to their Vanettes. Unfortunately, the model did not survive to see a relaunch and production in Australia.
On the off chance that you own a Vanette or need refurbished used parts for it, hit us up at Carpart.com.au. We’re here to connect you to buyers and sellers of auto parts in Australia!