Eric Ackroyd first saw this period avocado green Datsun 1200 GX Coupé parked at the shops in Randburg – it must have been in 2009, he takes up the tale.

What struck me was that the car was ‘unmolested’ and totally original. Not one body panel had been repaired or resprayed and overall the car was in good original condition. It looked like it could be a granny’s car. I proceeded to write a note on the back of my business card and placed in under the wiper blade.

“Hi. If ever you want to sell your car please call me. Yours sincerely, Eric.”

Fast forward to August 2013 and I received an e-mail headed “Datsun 1200 – Green For Sale”. Any mail with a car name in the header draws my attention. The e-mail read as follows:

“Hi Eric. You left your business card with my mother a while ago requesting her to contact you should the vehicle become available. She is no longer driving it and wishes to sell so should you still be interested then you can contact me. Regards Mark.”

Without  further ado I contacted Mark and visited the Datsun. It was a 1975 model that his Mom had bought new. According to the Blackheath Motors invoice dated 12 September 1975 she paid R3 000.04 for the car. She refused to replace the car and had been driving it ever since. Not really being in the market for a Datsun I asked him how much he thought it was worth. I made an offer for R1 000 more than he mentioned. I went off to Lesotho for a week whilst Mark thought about my offer. Upon my return I contacted him. The Datsun was no longer available. I suspect his Mom did not want to stop driving.

I was very disappointed with the Datsun’s elusive behaviour. It had grown on me as I was already making plans as to what to do with it. I thought that the car was lost forever.

Come 2016 and to my surprise, I received another e-mail. The mail was headed “Datsun 1200 GX” and read as follows:

“Hi Eric. We spoke a few years ago regarding the sale of my Mom’s vehicle. Sadly she has passed away and we will be looking to sell this vehicle. Of interest to you is that we have the original service book and invoice as well as the licence. Let me know if you are still interested as I have had a few enquiries already. Regards, Mark.”

I have never been one to give a car a name and call a car a ‘she’.  This was about to change. This time Eleanor, as I named the Datsun, was not going to elude me. I contacted Mark immediately. Eleanor had been parked in his Mom’s garage exactly as I saw her in 2013, without moving an inch. I made a fair offer over the phone and made payment without seeing Eleanor.

I collected her on a Saturday. She was covered in dust, a real Barn Find.

I expected to spend a bit in order to get her to go and to get her to stop. I drained the fuel and fitted new spark plugs. She started after a few attempts and the motor ran beautifully. It took a bit more effort to get her to stop. I replaced most of the braking system. The thought of putting her on a dyno dawned on me. Just how much would she have lost over the years?

The dyno experience was a first for both Eleanor and me. I took her to Maurice Rosenberg’s Auto Rosen. I was not sure what to expect in terms of output. After a few runs on the dyno Maurice pronounced her fit and healthy. She made 38bhp on the wheels which equates to 63bhp on the flywheel (on the Reef). It took some grey matter to translate this to the factory quoted figures of 62kW (at sea level).  Taking account of transmission loss, altitude and the bhp to kW conversion factors, Eleanor managed a healthy 53kW (approximate, given the level of my maths). Not a bad performance considering optimistic factory figures and wear and tear over the last 41 years.

Eleanor is rather nippy for her age and size. Spares are readily available as she is based on the legendary Datsun 1400 bakkie (or is that vice versa?). To me Eleanor is special.  Not only did I find her, but she eventually managed to find me. Most of all, I like her because she is untouched and totally original.


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