The Varsity, !964 Mustang Introduction And A1968 Datsun Road Test
Stories, videos and photos by Miguel Caparros.
An Automotive tradition in Atlanta is the cruise in the 1st Thursday of every month. The Varsity down town cruise in has been going on since the 70's. It is hard to imagine Thursday nights with out the thousands that flock to the Iconic anchor of the Varsity empire that is billed as the worlds largest drive in with out what is with out question is one othe the largest gathering of cars in Atlanta. I have never been able to put an actual number on the crowd, the fluidity of the event makes it very difficult. Some visitors have their spots that they have been at for two generations and others just float in and out but many stay past the departure time of 9pm. One interesting thing I noticed when I first attended 4 years ago was the diversity of the people and the wide range of the ages.
In 1964 I was the luckiest kid in the world. I lived a few subway stops form the New York Worlds Fair. Dad took the whole family on opening day and I was presented with a golden ticket. I could get in to the Fair for the next two years any time I wanted! And you know I did! The first day was very special as it was the Introduction of the Ford Mustang. The Ford Pavilion is the first place we went. Since we were there early the line to ride in a new Mustang was not very long, I picked a red convertible for us to sit in for the ride inside the Ford pavilion. The following April I would meet Carol Shelby at the New York International Car Show, he gave me a poster of the GT350. Four years later I would own one of Mr Shelby's creations. Thirty years later I would be working for him. I guess you could say the Mustang was an important part of my life. Where the GT 350 was very good for what it was intended it was not the best street car in the world, Hair trigger clutch, a very stiff suspension and lots of noise are not acceptable in a daily driver, unless you happen to be a teen ager, or race car driver or both! The Mustang Fastback presented in this video is in my opinion the best compromise of Style and Performance as any car of the period. This GT even came with the milder of the two 4 barrel V8 with a rated 225 HP. The optional engine was a solid lifter High Performance unit that was rated at 271 HP and was the basis for the GT350 engine that put out 306 HP. The GT was a dream to drive, Smooth, a transmission that was a smooth to shift, the clutch was firm and did not need the strength of The Governator to push the pedal down. The suspension was firm without being jarring. If you wanted to abuse your self you could order it with out power steering, something I would never suggest as the manual steering is not only slow but very heavy at low speeds. The GT350 came without power steering and a very fast ratio that made it almost impossible to steer at anything below 25 MPH, I remember the GT350 it came with an ad for Weider muscle building system. Today the GT is a wonderful collector car that can be driven any where. The closing credit Photo is the roof of the New York Pavilion at the Worlds Fair. You may remember it from the movie Men in Black, the flying saucers! This was the roof of the building that connected the two buildings supporting the saucers. Much to my mothers horror I laid down on the floor and took the photo on that first day.
In the early to mid 60's Datsun was the one on the move in the US market while Toyota was still sleeping. Datsun was taking on the British car industry head on as it recuperated from WWII. Datsun was one of the companies that benefited from the leadership of W. Edwards Deming, he was chosen by the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP) a title held by General Douglas MacArthur during the Occupation of Japan following World War II.
I remember the first time I saw an SPL 311 and my reaction to it. The quality of build seemed much better than the MG, Triumph or Alfa Romeo, given the fact that much of the technology was under license from US and Great Britain. As great as the quality of the mechanical aspects were concerned, the quality of the interior vinyl and plastics left much to be desire. In spite of that, they slowly chipped away at the established manufacturers with a product of superior
mechanical quality and value for the money spent. The SPL 311 line finished in 1970 with the Datsun 2000, A car that had to be taken very seriously as a performance sports car. It was the follow up that put the final nail in the coffin of the British dominance, the 240Z, Fairlady.
Driving impression of the Datsun 1600 from 1968. First thing I noticed was the size of the car, it felt bigger than an MG Midget but smaller than the MGB. The controls and switch gear had a quality feel to it and the standard Am Fm radio was completely integrated into the dash. Also well integrated was the heating and ventilation levers and switches and they had a light feel as opposed to some of the British cars that felt as if you were trying to move a rail road track change lever with a tooth pick.
One stab of the gas pedal and a light pull of the choke and the car started right up and the choke was not needed after a few seconds and the engine settled to a smooth idle. The clutch was unusually light as was the shift the lever. As I took off I could immediately sense that although the steering was light it did not have the precision of the British rack and pinion and the ride motion was both soft and choppy at the same time. Getting on the power made me smile as the little 1600 had power equal to if not better than the 1800 in the MGB. But it was the great feel of the gearbox that got my attention. Both precise in movement and light in feel. Taking it through my favorite set of twisties in Coral Gables It felt good but not as well planted as an MGB or my own Alfa. But there was no question in my mind that Datsun had a winner here, specially when you take into consideration the price.