The Sunny line started back in 1966 as a compact car which touted fuel efficiency and economical motoring as its most important qualities. Intended as a competitor to the Toyota Corolla, it was introduced the very same year.
A second generation launched for 1970, and in export markets was known as the Datsun 1200. This generation came to North America after Datsun made changes to interiors and bumpers to comply with new U.S. government regulations. The 1200 strengthened Datsun’s foothold in North America, with the company shifting about 44,000 units of its 1200 model each year between 1971 and 1973.
The third-generation Sunny was ready for 1974, now known to Americans as the B-210. Datsun kept the original Sunny’s characteristics intact, as the B-210 was one of the cheapest and most fuel-efficient cars American consumers could buy.
In 1978 a new Sunny debuted around the world, wearing a body which gained five inches in length over its predecessor. North America waited a little longer, as a new 210 (no B) was not available until 1979. This generation ran through 1982, when both Datsun and the Sunny had a last-of moment.
As the new model replaced the old in the latter half of 1982, it took with it the Datsun name, rear-drive layout, and the 210 moniker. This new vehicle was now front-drive, and called Sentra. It was sold by Nissan, and made available at your local Datsun-Nissan dealer. Available in coupe, hatch, sedan, and wagon formats, the Sentra had between two and five doors. It was the second model to utilize the no-numbers naming scheme introduced by Nissan in 1981, when it debuted the new Stanza at the New York Auto Show.
Along with front-wheel drive, the Sentra switched to a more modern overhead cam-style engine, rather than the prior 210’s overhead valve arrangement. All engines had four cylinders, of 1.5, 1.6, or 1.7 liters in displacement. Two manual transmissions were available (three- and four-speed), along with a three-speed automatic.
The new Sentra was immediately successful, once again offering low prices and fuel-sipping economy figures. In its first full year of sales for 1983, Sentra moved an impressive 209,889 examples. That figure made it the eighth most popular passenger car in America.
Before long, Nissan found itself preparing for the next generation of Sentra. Production moved to the company’s brand new Smyrna, Tennessee factory in 1985. In that year, the new factory built the old B11 Sentra as it readied itself for the incoming B12 Sentra in 1986. It’s worth mentioning the Rare Rides series has featured a B12 Sentra before, in the form of an imported right-hand and four-wheel drive Sunny sourced from Japan.
Today’s Rare Ride is from the first year of B11 Sentra production, 1982. In wagon format and with an automatic transmission, it’s traveled just over 55,000 miles. It seems to have the base 1.4-liter engine, and few power options to match those basic steel wheels. The ad copy has so many typos I can’t really read it, but eBay says the price is $2,999.