Jay Leno digs into the Nissan Heritage Collection

In this episode, Leno gets out of the garage and heads to Nashville

Jay Leno’s Garage went on the road for its latest episode, which took the comedian and car guru to the Nissan Heritage Collection.

Based in Nashville, Tennessee, the collection is home to some of the oldest and most special Nissans and Datsuns on the planet. But Leno didn’t dedicate the episode to the typical Nissan heroes, like the Skyline GT-R. Instead, he looked at some obscure models that might be new to even devoted car fans.

With the help of Dave Bishop, senior manager, product development for the Aftersales division of Nissan North America, Leno started with one we all know well: the 240Z. The Z car remains a Nissan staple today. Leno pored over an original 240 model and took a look at how things changed with the release of the 280Z. He humorously compared the 280Z in the collection to a Japanese take on an American muscle car.

Indeed, its gold and black colors seem to recall the Pontiac Trans Am, and we see a little bit of Oldsmobile 442 in the paint scheme, too.

Of all the cars in the Nissan Heritage Collection, Jay Leno was able to drive this 1960 Datsun 1200. | Screenshot

Of all the cars in the Nissan Heritage Collection, Jay Leno was able to drive this 1960 Datsun 1200. | Screenshot

We’re also treated to some background on why Nissan entered the United States market decades ago under the Datsun brand. Executives decided “Datsun” was easier for Americans to pronounce than “Nissan” at the time, though Leno posed that it may have been due to uncertainty about how the cars would fare on American roads. Perhaps the truth is somewhere in the middle.

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By the 1980s, Nissan phased out Datsun for the global Nissan name, though every Datsun-branded car still had a Nissan Motor Corporation stamp under the hood.

Leno took a look at the Datsun 510 of the early 1970s, a car that rivaled the BMW 2002 on the street and posted big victories in Trans Am racing, then made his way to the car he test drove: a rather pedestrian 1960 Datsun 1200 sedan.

As the name implies, a 1,200cc engine resides under the hood, which manages just 48 horsepower. The sedan was one of the first cars Nissan used to prove its worth in the U.S. market as reliable and affordable transportation. It arrived just over a decade after WWII and faced an uphill marketing battle.

Needless to say, Leno found a lot to appreciate in the 1200 sedan, even while driving it in the rain.

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