The history of the Datsun company dates back to 1911 when Sotaro Hashimoto, an American trained engineer, joined with three partners to create the Kwaishinsha Company. The Company began producing the first Japanese cars which were named DAT. The name was derived from the surname of one of its financiers, namely Kenjoro Den, Rokuro Aoyama and Meitaro Takeuchi. Ironically, the name 'DAT' in Japanese also means 'fast hare'. The production of the 'DAT' vehicle continued until 1926 when it merged with Jidosha Seizo.
The great depression crippled many automotive manufacturers. In Japan, things were no different. In an attempt to revitalize its image, the company went through a reorganization. Part of their plan was to rename the company. So in 1930, the Kwaishinsha Company changed the name of the company to 'Datson' which meant 'son of DAT'. The name was later changed to Datsun. The company was then acquired and split from it's parent company. Later, it was re-acquired by a holding company named Nihon Sagyo that had ties to the previous owner.
In 1933, the Nissan Motor Company was established in Yokohama with the purpose of producing the Austin A40. They began exporting the vehicles to other countries. In the begining, the production was low.
When World War II occured, the outlook for the company was unknown. After the war, the factories were returned to their original owners and production of automobiles continued.
The name Datsun was used to refeer to the passenger vehicles while the Nissan name referenced commercial vehicles. From the 1950's through the early 1970's, Datsun was known for their stylish sports cars.
In 1958, a man named Yutaka Katayama created a rally team in an attempt to promote the Datsun name in high-profile events. The team participated in the 'Around Australia Mobilgas Trial' where it won the rally. The continued success on the racing circuit vitalized sales and created a demand for the vehicle. Two years later, in 1960, Yutaka Katayama was hired as marketing manager for Nissan's North American operation. With a passion for sports cars, Katayama encourage executives to produce sporty cars that would appeal to American buyers. The American market had always been attracted to large vehicles powered by big engines. Since the early 1950's, vehicles such as MG, Austin Healey, BMW and Jaguar had been producing small, sporty, responsive sports cars that was becoming more and more appealing to the American public. This was evident which General Motors responded with the Corvette while Ford answered with their Thunderbird and later with the Mustang. For America, the trend of big-motors continued but switched to smaller cars that weighed less. The response was the muscle car era.
By 1966, Datsun engineers began work on a prototype that would become the 240Z. The purpose was to create an agile, compact vehicle that would offer performance, comfort, and a competitive price. By 1969, the 240Z was on sale in the United States at a price of around $3,426. With the 2400cc six-cylinder, 150 horsepower engine, the car was able to travel from zero-to-sixty miles per hour in under nine seconds. Demand for the little vehicle was overwhelming. Kelly Blue Book rated the 1969 240Z at a value of $4000.
The vehicle was not only a success in showrooms, but also on the race track. John Morton won the C-Production SCCA National Championship for Brock Racing Enterprises in 1970 and in 1971. Bob Sharp captured the title in 1972 and 1973 while drive a 240Z. The streak continued for 10 years.
The name Datsun is still in use in Japan, but in other parts of the world, the name became part of history and is not longer being used since around 1982.