1981 Datsun 810, aka 1981 Nissan Maxima

Illustration for article titled 1981 Datsun 810, aka 1981 Nissan Maxima

Welcome to Down On The Street, where we admire old vehicles found parked on the streets of the Island That Rust Forgot: Alameda, California. Today we've got Exhibit A in the Datsun/Nissan Rebranding Story.

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Illustration for article titled 1981 Datsun 810, aka 1981 Nissan Maxima


It seemed like utter madness when Nissan decided to ditch the Datsun name they'd spent so much to build up, but that's what they did in the early 1980s. At first, they just added an inconspicuous "By Nissan" to their vehicles' emblems, and apparently they figured that, while they were at it, they'd also do a gradual transition for the model name of their big six-cylinder machine. So, for 1981, the full-luxe top-of-the-line 810 was sold in North America as the "810 Maxima."

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Illustration for article titled 1981 Datsun 810, aka 1981 Nissan Maxima


I found this car, with its brake lights in 24/7 "on" mode, parked on the same commercial strip that gave us the 1968 Mercedes-Benz 280SL. It's rough, but it's the first non-junkyard 810 I've seen in years.

Illustration for article titled 1981 Datsun 810, aka 1981 Nissan Maxima
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The 810 Maxima for '81 came with a smaller-displacement version of the Nissan L engine found in the 280Z. With 120 horsepower moving 2,800 pounds, the car performed reasonably well for the Late Malaise Era. The price tag? $10,379, which was more than three grand costlier than a new '81 Chrysler Cordoba (though a couple thousand cheaper than a BMW 320i).

Illustration for article titled 1981 Datsun 810, aka 1981 Nissan Maxima
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Illustration for article titled 1981 Datsun 810, aka 1981 Nissan Maxima
Illustration for article titled 1981 Datsun 810, aka 1981 Nissan Maxima
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Illustration for article titled 1981 Datsun 810, aka 1981 Nissan Maxima
Illustration for article titled 1981 Datsun 810, aka 1981 Nissan Maxima
Advertisement
Illustration for article titled 1981 Datsun 810, aka 1981 Nissan Maxima
Illustration for article titled 1981 Datsun 810, aka 1981 Nissan Maxima
Advertisement
Illustration for article titled 1981 Datsun 810, aka 1981 Nissan Maxima
Illustration for article titled 1981 Datsun 810, aka 1981 Nissan Maxima
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Illustration for article titled 1981 Datsun 810, aka 1981 Nissan Maxima
Illustration for article titled 1981 Datsun 810, aka 1981 Nissan Maxima
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Illustration for article titled 1981 Datsun 810, aka 1981 Nissan Maxima
Illustration for article titled 1981 Datsun 810, aka 1981 Nissan Maxima
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DISCUSSION

Does anyone here remember the Car & Driver article in which all of the editors at that time (including Don Sherman, Patrick Bedard, and Jean Lindamood) took a group of cars that were competing in the new "Sports Sedan" category to Baja? I had the article once, but can't seem to find it.

If I remember correctly, the cars included this 810 Maxima, a Toyota Cressida, a Pontiac 6000 STE, a Dodge 600, an Audi 5000, a VW Quantum (aka later Passat), and a Volvo 960. They killed a cow with the 600, and drowned the Maxima, and abandoned all the cars in La Paz. It was one of the more memorable articles in Car & Driver history.

One of the highlights was the fact that not one, but two cars had a talking interface, the Maxima, and the Dodge. Oh, and the HP ratings were really nothing to write home about (I only remember the Dodge with the 2.2L four had 90HP!). Thanks for sharing this car because it always brings back that article in my mind!