Jay Leno’s Garage went on the road for its latest episode, which took the comedian and car guru to the Nissan Heritage Collection.
Based in Nashville, Tennessee, the collection is home to some of the oldest and most special Nissans and Datsuns on the planet. But Leno doesn’t dedicate the episode to the typical Nissan heroes, like the Skyline GT-R. Instead, he looks at some obscure models that might be new to even devoted car fans.
With the help of Dave Bishop, senior manager, product development for the Aftersales division of Nissan North America, Jay starts with one we all know well: the 240Z. The Z car remains a Nissan staple today. Leno pores over an original 240 model and takes a look at how things changed with the release of the 280Z. He humorously compares the 280Z in the collection to a Japanese take on an American muscle car. Indeed, its gold and black colors seem to recall the Pontiac Trans Am, and we see a little bit of Oldsmobile 442 in the paint scheme, too.
We’re also treated to some background on why Nissan entered the United States market decades ago under the Datsun brand. Executives decided “Datsun” was easier for Americans to pronounce than “Nissan” at the time, though Jay poses that it may have been due to uncertainty about how the cars would fare on American roads. Perhaps the truth is somewhere in the middle. By the 1980s, Nissan phased out Datsun for the global Nissan name, though every Datsun-branded car still had a Nissan Motor Corporation stamp under the hood.
Leno takes a look at the Datsun 510 of the early 1970s, a car that rivaled the BMW 2002 on the street and posted big victories in Trans Am racing, then makes his way to the car he will test drive: a rather pedestrian 1960 Datsun 1200 sedan.
As the name implies, a 1,200-cc engine resides under the hood, which manages just 48 horsepower. The sedan was one of the first cars Nissan used to prove its worth in the U.S. market as reliable and affordable transportation. It arrived just over a decade after WWII and faced an uphill marketing battle.
Needless to say, Leno finds a lot to appreciate in the 1200 sedan, even while driving it in the rain. Check it out, along with other obscure cars in the collection, in the video above.