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Nissan Celebrates 80 Years

Tue, 19 Nov 2013

Nissan held a little gathering at its Yokohama headquarters two nights before the Tokyo Motor Show opened to celebrate 80 years of building cars. It has been making them longer than any other Japanese manufacturer. CEO Carlos Ghosn, who can do everything except maybe juggle, addressed a crowd of several hundred executives, suppliers, car club members and even some media, giving his remarks in what sounded like pretty good Japanese. After turning Nissan around, weathering the recession, earthquake and tsunami, Ghosn had his squinty gaze fixed on future expansion. Even though the company is already operating in 160 countries worldwide, the ceo sees room for expansion.

“We look forward to making the car affordable to more people," he said.

There were other speeches by other dignitaries, and then we were free to wander around the collection of cars representing eight decades of the industry.

Nissan had onhand a splendid sampling of some of its coolest cars from the previous eight decades, our favorites of which we record here:

One of the first cars it ever made, the 1935 Datsun 14 Roadster, was known as much for its historical value as for the leaping rabbit that adorns its hood.

The ultra-pudgy 1947 TAMA electric car was a reminder that in immediate post-war Japan there was no gas but plenty of electricity. The precursor to the Leaf had a cruising range of 60 miles, astounding for its day.

There were only 50 1952 Datsun Sports DC-3s ever made, its shape and proportions very similar to the company's first offerings two decades earlier. Less than ten years later Datsun was able to achieve a sort of post-war modernity with cars like the 1961 Bluebird 1200 Deluxe, which mimicked the styling of similar small sedans from Europe at the time.

The 1961 Patrol was sold worldwide to markets where off-roadability was a necessity, expanding Datsun's reach into markets it would not otherwise have accessed.

A red and white 1961 Fairlady SPL213 stood as a precursor to today's mighty Z.

The very 1964 Cedric sedan that carried the torch to the Tokyo Olympics was there, with the torch-mounting apparatus still in place.

By 1966 cars like the Sunny 1000 Deluxe and 1966 Silvia looked almost modern, while a rare 1967 R380-II – which had set no less than seven international speed records in its day - had a distinct Porsche 904 appeal.

There were two ultra-modern racers on hand as well, both based on the Delta Wing that ran at Le Mans: a Nissan ZEOD RC that will itself run at Le Mans next year and the similarly Delta-winged Blade Glider concept, elements of which the company has said will appear in production vehicles in the future.

And what a future it'll be. Here's to the next 80 years.

About the Tokyo Motor Show

Japan is once again among the leaders of the global auto industry, and the Tokyo Motor Show promises to showcase the best of what that country has to offer. From green cars to super cars, technology to design, 2013 promises to be a banner year for the Tokyo Motor show. Autoweek will be on the show floor, bringing you the latest Tokyo reviews, news, photo galleries, and videos right here.

By Mark Vaughn