Although we’re generally infatuated with oddball European cars, occasionally we like to venture beyond our standard fare and dig up truly rare things like coachbuilt Japanese convertibles from the early 1980s. For those of you who weren’t around then, the death of the convertible was a common theme for automakers and car enthusiasts. There was a major push for passive safety (witness the addition of park-bench sized bumpers, impact bars in the doors, foam rubber dashboards, and open cars such as the Fiat X1/9), and the lack of a roof just didn’t seem compatible with our dangerous new world. As a result, several small coachbuilders took on the task of chopping the roofs off of regular production cars. Cars such as the Toyota Celica and Corolla, Subaru DL, Honda Prelude and CRX, and Mazda RX-7 all went topless thanks to these folks. Also among that crowd was the Datsun 200SX, seen last week in the Bonham’s at Quail auction parking lot with an unspecified price (but really, how much could it possibly be?).
As your eyes drink in the elegant black & silver coachwork (go Raiders?), know that this conversion was the work of the prestigious American Custom Coachworks, Ltd. How do we know they’re prestigious? Well, they’ve got a PO Box in Beverly Hills, that’s how. Where’s Mulliner Park Ward’s PO Box? Not in Beverly Hills, that’s for sure.
All sarcasm aside, this really is quite an amazing example of what was a disposable sports coupe in the early 1980s, with a fairly ordinary folded-paper design. The color is definitely more appealing than some of the other survivors we could find online, which seem to show up in wonderful period shades like brown.
As the badge on the right rear corner says, this is a Roadster. Just in case you were wondering. It does look really straight, and from what we could glean online, the structure has been reinforced by tubes to make up for the lack of a roof.
Interior seems to be in excellent shape for its age. And wait, what is that? A manual shifter? Most of these survivor cars seem to be lumbered with an automatic transmission to suck any of the remaining power from their smog-choked engines, but with this one you can enjoy the full 103hp. In all honesty, that should make highway cruising tolerable, unless you insist on filling all the 4 seats with friends.
Of course we had to zoom in on the component-looking stereo system, with separate tuner, tone/balance/fade adjusters, and cassette deck. Notice the ability to turn the “amplifier” on or off. Why is your amplifier turned off? Well, I’m trying to save electricity to make this a better world. Wait, what?
The details, in case the seller didn’t manage to sell it. Rumor has it it was sold by David Swig to Myron Vernis, both serious car nuts. Try to save his marriage if he did have to bring it home to Ohio – it’s very likely it made it there. For our parting shot, we’ve reserved a picture of an early Lamborghini Countach at the auction, which went for well over this Datsun’s asking price, even though it’s older and doesn’t have a talking voice box – a mere $836,000.