1980 Datsun 200SX: Rare Birdie, With A Childhood Link

So, as I mostly sit outside on the deck after work and drink cocktails or sit on the couch drinking cocktails (when the weather is less than convivial, as on this cloudy Thursday afternoon), I am likely to be perusing a favored FB group, Finding Future Classic Cars.

Earlier examples include my posts on the ’78 Bonneville Brougham, ’79 Mark V and ’76 Ninety-Eight Regency coupe. But today I spied something a little different.

To wit: An ’80 Datsun 200SX coupe. Looking somewhat like a Japanese version of, say, a Pontiac Grand Prix. Yes, I do like cars other than 70s to late 80s Detroit gunboats, believe it or not. I’ve always liked these, though I’ve seen only a handful on the roads since the mid 1980s.

Because at the tender age of three or four, my parents, noticing my love of cars, started buying me Pocket Cars.

I had a lot of health issues during my early years, thankfully mostly forgotten because I was so young.

But while I was ensconced at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, my father, God bless him, went to the local Drug Town pharmacy and brought me lots of little Pocket Cars.

One of them was this beige metallic 200SX. Well, not this EXACT one, I got this mint one on Ebay a few years back. But I still have my original one!

Anyway, this one, in remarkable shape, is currently listed on Idaho Falls Craigslist for the dirt-cheap price of $1200. I probably spend more than that in a year on model cars.

So, for such a cheap price, what’s wrong. I’ll let the seller tell you. “Right now the engine needs a tune. It idles really rough and can occasionally lose power. Other times it runs strong. In any case, it will get you around. I’ve thrown new injectors at it and it helped a tiny bit. The new mass air flow sensor did nothing. Either drive it as with the quirks, or trace the problem. Fuel gauge broken is the only other thing. Paint and interior are doing well. It was garaged since the 1990s until I bought it last year, then I stored it over the winter. No salt, no subcarriage rust. Must see, can show anytime.”

That said, this car still looks exceptionally nice. And so cheap. This was the second generation of the 200SX. It was originally supposed to sport a rotary engine, but that was nixed after, ahem, problematic testing.

A hatchback was also offered, but I don’t recall ever seeing one. And I’d rather have the coupe with that excellent opera window anyway.

Initial 200SXs had the 2.0L “L20B” 4 cylinder. It was backed up by either a five speed manual or three speed automatic transmission. It was replaced in ’81 with the “Z20” inline four. And finally with the 2.2 L “Z22E” engine in 1982. That mill produced 103 hp at 5200 rpm.

So, if you have $1200 and room for a surplus car, you may want to look in to this one. It’s pretty much guaranteed you’d have the only one at the cruise nite or car show!

25 Replies to “1980 Datsun 200SX: Rare Birdie, With A Childhood Link”

  1. Chris Tonn

    Thank god that’s on the other side of the continent. If it were that clean, cheap, and within 500 miles of Ohio..I’d be staring right down the barrel of a divorce attorney.

    • Michael Zellner

      Ironies of ironies. Wednesday may 27th, like Tom Klockau i was perusing FB Finding Future Classics and saw the very same car. With the price, I was wary of a scam, but i liked the honesty of the description. After a sleepless night, today May 28th, i set up a my first Paypal account. And I BOUGHT the car! $1200. the guy was very nice and we are making arrangements to get the car to los Angeles. i only found this posting AFTERWARDS because the seller took down the craiglist post (as i requested) and i was looking for pics of a 1980 SX200. And Tom had pics of THAT car posted here. Small world!

  2. Sal Darigo Jr

    In 1980-81 I passed a metallic light blue one of these every morning on my seven or so block walk to fourth grade at good old H.R. Edmunds Elementary School. It was a sharp little machine. Kind of puts me in mind of a 5/8 Monte Carlo, then and now.

  3. George Denzinger

    An acquaintance of mine had one of the hatchback ones in 1982. I thought it was rather a nice looker, at least compared to some of the other Japanese coupes (Honda Prelude, cough, cough…). It was a nice enough little car, but I liked most anything better. I had a Mercury Capri RS turbo, with the turbo motor and the TRX wheels and suspension, it was much quicker and a better handler by a country mile. I thought the two door version was a little strangely proportioned, but not bad. If I were stuck looking at Japanese coupes of the time, my number one would still be a Mitsubishi Starion followed closely by a Toyota Celica hatchback. I loved that style of car (3 door hatchback) and would love to have another. Particularly, my 1986 Mercury Capri 5.0L…

    • CJinSD

      You bought another Ford after they sold you one with metric wheels? That was very good natured of you. Honda put some PAX rims on a few minivans and they’re dead to me.

      • George Denzinger

        Several other Ford cars had some version of the TRX system and you didn’t have to necessarily buy new tires. You could get TRX retreads at Sears Auto Centers at rather competitive price. (God, I feel ancient typing that sentence…) I traded the car off after 2.5 years and never had to worry about the tires again.

        • John C.

          How were those TRX tires? When they came out they supposed to be a real revelation in performance tires, but as the 1980s went along the Goodyear Eagle GT seem to be the real innovation with their prodigious skidpad grip.

          I read a comparison test of the new muscle cars from 1982 that had a Capri RS 5.0 in Popular Mechanics. It had TRX and PM said the car had a lot of trouble controlling wheelspin. It may have been the road tester who hadn’t had much experience controlling wheelspin on a new car in a while. Now would be drifters are eyeing this wheelspin not an issue Datsun.

          Interestingly, at least to me, that test also had a Regal 3.8 Turbo, that had I think the first deployment of the new GM port injection system. It had the same color scheme as this 200SX, before they went all Grand National style blackout.

          • George Denzinger

            John, it’s been so long since I drove those cars, I really don’t remember. At the time I was impressed with everything on the car, but I was young and the car was brand new!

            FWIW, my 1986 5.0L Capri had Goodyear Gatorbacks on it, and I could easily get stuck trying to leave a traffic light as the lightly loaded rear end of the car struggled to find traction, even with those meats.

        • CJinSD

          How bad were retreads really? I remember tractor trailers throwing their retreads, but I really don’t recall cars having many problems. When I was following club level rallying in Europe, Colway Rally Remolds were the hot ticket for forest rally teams on a budget. I think they made tarmac tires too. Are they gone today for legitimate safety reasons or because of Goodyear’s often immense lobbying power?

          • snorlax

            > “Are they gone today for legitimate safety reasons or because of Goodyear’s often immense lobbying power?”

            Neither; it’s because of the availability of cheapo (and often unsafe) Chinese tires.

          • CJinSD

            I believe retreads were gone for at least a decade before the Chinese hit pay-dirt with treasonous US politicians.

          • George Denzinger

            Truck retreads typically fail because of overload and heat conditions. The Sears tires I bought were only to have decent enough tread to get me through the winter. That following spring the turbo Capri was gone.

  4. John C.

    According to the ad, these had the computer voice. Murilee at TTAC pulled the mechanism for it out of one of his junkyard finds. A miniature record player, very cool.

  5. stingray65

    Looks like a good candidate to create a nice sleeper resto-mod. Instead of messing around with some unstable engine that will still be slow even after it gets sorted, I would suggest putting the complete drivetrain and IRS from a Miata or Subaru BRZ in this baby.

      • stingray65

        I thought of that, but I expect that much power in the flimsy Japanese body structures of that era would mean serious structural twist problems – you probably wouldn’t be able to open a door after a full-throttle run.

        • John C.

          Looking now back at how Nissan finally showed some signs of internal creativity as the 80s went along. Why not a Nissan 3.0 V6 from a junked 300ZX to replace the Mercedes based four? The next generation which was probably a rebody as the related compact went fwd, had them at the top of line after they dropped the turbo. It must have fit.

  6. tmkreutzer

    My sister had one of these. She ended up with it when the MGB she had to buy came down with all sorts of electrical issues just a couple of weeks after she purchased it. My dad had to go down and sort it out. I’m sure the Nissan ended up costing more, but it was such a nice, zippy little coupe. I got to drive it a few times and thought it went pretty well.

    About three years after she bought it, she was struck by a high school girl and the 200SX wound up on its top in a ditch. It was totaled, but it took the hit and saved her life. Coincidentally, having recently had a baby, she had just decided to start wearing her seat belt and happened to have it on that night. Fortunately, my niece was at grandma’s that night.

    I prefer the design of the hatchback through this generation. I would love it if car companies still produced sporty little economy cars like this. It’s great we have top-of-the-line sports cars, but I sure miss fun little cars like this.

  7. rambo furum

    How does the little window behind the door but ahead of the actual B pillar work? Can that be lowered with the door window still up?

  8. TL

    I still have that exact same pocket car in similar condition. Of all the die cast cars I acquired growing up, that one had the shiniest headlights.

  9. -Nate

    I remember these ;

    The styling looks tortured to me but it was normal at that time .
    Michael, thanx for saving it, at this price I’da tied to buy it were it anywhere near Los Angeles .

    I’d look into ignition faults for then fuel supply issues .



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