Datsun 1200: The unsung Bathurst hero

16 November 2012
The five-speed Datsun 1200 ‘factory lightweight’ built for Bathurst ’73 was a pocket rocket! (Image from: autopics.com.au)

The Datsun 1200 was one of the most successful Series Production cars ever to compete in the annual Bathurst 500/1000 endurance race. Only trouble is, few people knew about it. 

While the media and most race fans were focused on the annual stoush for outright honours between Ford and Holden, the Datsun 1200 starred in some of the most competitive and fiercely fought battles in Class A in the early to mid-1970s which barely rated a mention.

Class A was for the smallest, cheapest and least powerful cars in the Bathurst enduro’s multi-class structure. As a result, they were always the first cars to be lapped by the outright contenders and were often referred to as ‘tiddlers’ which did little more than fill out the tail end of the starting grid  and provide mobile chicanes for the faster cars to weave through. 

Fact is, the Class A battles at Bathurst each year were generally closer, more exciting and competitive than the outright contests. These were ferocious encounters, fought out between numerous official works teams or quality dealer-backed entries mainly from Datsun, Mazda and Toyota. 

They were often so close in lap times that you could have thrown a blanket over the top four or five cars. And the amount of rule-bending that went on, which made life hell for the scrutineers, only proved how close the competition was and how high the stakes were in Class A.

According to former motoring journalist and Datsun factory team driver, James Laing-Peach, George Denner was the man in charge of Datsun Victoria back then, which handled state-wide distribution of Datsun vehicles. An entirely separate operation called Capitol Motors in Sydney run by Arnold Glass handled NSW distribution. 

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