There was a point in our motoring history where we went from having no Japanese cars at all driving along the highways and byways of this green and pleasant land to the very first one starting up, emitting a polite amount of exhaust fumes and probably pottering. Off down to the grocery store. And then, before we knew it, we were swamped by cars that actually worked as their makers intended, a discovery that confused most people who’d been brought up on British cars. Now take a close look at the amazing picture accompanying this article and ponder for a short while. It may look similar to other small cars of the 1930s but the 1935 Datsun Type 14 is an unusual machine with a remarkable history and has just gone on show at the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu.
The reason why this car is quite so special is, of course, that the Type 14 marked the birth of the Japanese car industry and the company that became Nissan, though the car was never sold in the UK and this example was shipped from Japan to Britain by car manufacturing magnate Sir Herbert Austin to check every detail for possible patent infringement because the car looked similar to the Austin 7 Ruby. Theres no pulling the wool over his eyes!
History tells us that no action was ever taken by the Austin Motor Company, but the car was never registered for the road and was put into long-term storage.
As is usually the way with stories of this type, decades later, with the help of Nissan Europe, this historically significant but barely-used car is now part of the National Motor Museum collection and has been put on show.
Rather incredibly, the car-building giant Nissan can trace its history right back to this extraordinary little car. Today, many of the world’s leading automotive manufacturers are Japanese and huge numbers of cars built by Nissan, Honda, Toyota, Lexus, Mazda, Suzuki and more can be found on roads across the globe and to think that this was the car that started it all. Amazing.
The Nissan story starts in 1914, MotorMartin has been informed, when a fledgling Japanese motor manufacturer launched its first car, named the DAT after the initials of the company’s three investors. By 1931, a new, but much smaller car was unveiled, and dubbed the ‘son of DAT’, or Datson. When this diminutive car went on sale the following year, its name was changed to Datsun, in honour of Japan’s rising sun symbol. The Type 14 of 1935 was the first mass-produced Datsun, starting the manufacturer on its way to producing millions of Datsuns and Nissans over the following decades.
It’s quite clear to even a casual observer that the bodywork was inspired by other European and American cars of the era and that this compact saloon could propel four people at up to 51mph, owing to the 15bhp produced by its 747cc engine.
Beaulieu have shared with MotorMartin that the Datsun Type 14 can now be seen in the National Motor Museum as part of a visit to the whole Beaulieu attraction, which includes On Screen Cars, the World of Top Gear, the 13th century Beaulieu Abbey and grounds and Palace House, which has been home to the Montagu family since 1538.
Entrance to the National Motor Museum is included in the Beaulieu admission price and discounted tickets can be bought in advance online at see www.beaulieu.co.uk. Beaulieu is open every day except Christmas Day from 10am to 6pm. For more information call 01590 612345.
So there you have it, one more reason to visit Beaulieu and the National Motor Museum.
Where will you go?