1969 Datsun Sport 1600 Roadster ‘Fairlady’: East Coaster Today

Five-year-olds drag their mothers across parking lots to look at Kai Bader’s 1969 Datsun Sport 1600 Roadster.

Well, of course they do. Just look at it!


1969 Datsun Sport 1600 Roadster


Kai believes it originally came from California. He’s the third owner.

The Datsun Sport 1600 first appeared in Japan in 1961. The ‘Fairlady’, a sweet name used in the Australian and Japanese markets, went up against the other fun little roadsters from Fiat, Alfa Romeo and the British MGs and Triumphs.

The Datsun 1600 was the predecessor to the Nissan Z series everyone loves so much.

This particularly perfect gem had a full frame-off restoration in the 1990s, by the previous owner, including a drivetrain rebuild of the 1.6-litre engine and four-speed manual transmission, as well as a new paint scheme in 2019 to commemorate its original rally car heritage and pedigree. There are 20,000 miles on it since the restoration.



Previous owners made it more drivable by installing a new more reliable alternator, an electronic ignition and an adjustable electric fan. Lucky for Kai, the previous owners corrected the rust and neglect and all he has to do is maintain it… and drive it! Which is a blast.

He’s only had it for a month and has already put more miles on it than the previous owner did in three years!



The interior is virtually perfect.

When Kai saw the Datsun 1600 on display inside the window of a local dealership, where the previous owner had traded it for a new vehicle, it was love a first sight. A fever ensued and a week later, it was in his garage.



“It drives absolutely fantastic!”

With a top speed reportedly of 105 miles (Kai hasn’t tried that yet), he says he cruises on the highway all day long with no problem at all, sheepishly admitting he drives with a bit of a heavy right foot on ramps and such because he loves the sound of the engine.

He’s owned other project cars before, like a Chevy Nova, Corvettes, an early model Trans Am and a BMW Z4 M but Kai’s enthusiasm for the Datsun roadster is tangible. Sounds like it has won his heart.



“This is no trailer queen,” Kai says it best. “Nor did I just slap an Antique Plate on it so it can just sit on the lawn at shows. This is a daily driver, albeit a fair weather one. I drive it whenever, wherever I can. I’m of the opinion that classic cars need to be driven and seen by the public – A reminder that not everything always looked like a Camry.”

A real conversation starter, Kai has seen people taking photos of the Fairlady while he’s in Starbucks and asking questions wherever he goes. Apparently, it’s not just for five-year-olds.


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13 Responses

  1. I had a 1969 Fairlady when I was a senior in high school. It was a blast, but I was always replacing the headgasket. But I did love the car.

      1. I was 12 yrs old my dad brought a 67 home and we had a blast doing car rallys every weekend we were a good team …great times wish I had one today ?

    1. Head gasket is a perennial pain in the A. In designing the engine they mirrored the head between cylinders 2 and 3.The exhaust valves ended up next to each other. Creating a hot spot burning out head gaskets. In ’77 girlfriend had a 68 I ended up doing all the wrenching. Spent a lot of time under that hood and a few hours behind the wheel. I had a Mazda rotary pickup at the time she preferred driving that(a lot more zip). Found memories we split and she moved on to a Austin Healy 3000. Her dad took over the Fairlady restored it but never beat the head gasket issue. For years I had torque specs and sequence in my head

  2. I have a 69 2000 that I started on in 1975 then life got in the way so the car with a new (never on the road) Imron paint job, at least 2 engines, new dash, new chrome, new cam and not sure what else might be new has all been stored inside since 1975ish as a retirement project. I retired and broke my back so now my wife says the car has to go.

    1. That sounds like quite a project car. Would love to see it! Sorry to hear about your back. We truly hope you get to at least drive it before you sell it. Such a shame. Take care and thanks for reading!

    2. Man, that sucks but you should definitely come here with a link to the ad when you do put it up for sale.

      My father had a 1970. I wanted that car so bad… he sold it a few months before I got my license. I would love a chance at a do over.

      1. I have my Dads 1970 2000 with 38,000 miles on it. A complete extra motor and transmission. Tons of spare parts and three different top. I will most likely sell everything if possible.

  3. I just came across two of them that have been garage for several years one of them in complete shape looks pretty good and another one that is parts car two complete cars three different hardtops quarter panel on one is damaged and I have the other quarter panel he’s got a set of valves for it the rear end pinion gear slipped but the other car has a rear end in it to replace it and I just purchased for $1,100

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