Unsung Heroes : Nissan Bluebird

We once again ponder while taking a sideways look at cars which once littered the streets of the UK. This one was solid, dependable, reliable and the favoured choice of many a cab driver – made in Blighty too!

Ladies and gentlemen… Its the Nissan Bluebird.

The not-so Trojan Horse

Nissan Bluebird T72-series
Nissan Bluebird T12/T72-series

If ever a poll was taken as to which car you have most likely been sick in the back of, then I wonder how many of us would confess to being taken ill after a night on the town in the rear of a Nissan Bluebird – the chosen car for the average taxi driver. I know I have a few times, and looking back, my heartfelt and profound apoligies go out to the driving staff of Anglia Cars in Northampton or Check Taxis of Bedford.

They were the choice of Taxi for what seemed years, capable of being double shifted around the clock seven days a week – the Bluebird never seemed to fail its master. I have personally seen these things lumber into the arena on banger night at independent auctions showing over 200,000 miles and never failing to attract another owner. To this day, I know one gentleman who runs a G-plate 2.0 SLX which has now passed 250,000 clicks still running on it’s original clutch, effortlessly eating up a 120 mile a day commute from Cambridgeshire to London bought three years ago for just £200.

When the UK plant of Nissan started producing cars in 1986, the T12/T72-series Bluebird was the single model (in saloon and hatchback form) produced at what has now become England’s most efficient and largest car plant. The Bluebird offered reliability and satisfaction to its owners who would have sadly never experienced this level of quality owning any other UK built volume car from Austin, Ford or Vauxhall.

Our very own Austin Rover assembled the Acclaim and latterly, the 213 from kit form, but this new Nissan factory was much different. UK workers were not only assembling the car but also building the engines, pressing the panels and sourcing parts from English suppliers. Right from the outset some unique ideas and practices were draughted into the Nissan UK blueprint business plan – and it was this UK-production and Euro-focus that upset a number of rival manufacturers. The Italians and French, especially, described these cars as locally built ‘Trojan Horses’; a means of getting Japanese cars into Europe, and circumventing voluntary sales quotas.

But then, most buyers didn’t care about the politics – they just wanted a well-priced, reliable product that they didn’t have to wait for. And Nissan proved rather adept at supplying this from its Washington/Sunderland factory. In the 26 years (is it really that long ago?) since the first car left the Tyneside car plant, not one single day has been lost to industrial action, its quality control matches or exceeds those of Japan while this year also marked the six millionth car to be produced in Sunderland.

But what of the Bluebird itself? The name first appeared on Japanese market cars in 1958, and followed on with a succession of well-equipped and engineered saloons that sold in bucketloads in their homeland. As the Japanese car industry became stronger and more confident going from the 1960s and into the ’70s, Nissan spearheaded the export drive into Europe – and by the time it really became established in the UK in 1973, BL, Vauxhall and Chrysler were in sharp decline, and the door was opened.

The Bluebird 610 and 810-series (sold as the 160 and 180B here) became big-sellers almost overnight throughout the 1970s, and were followed on by the Cortina-clone 910-series of 1980, and the FWD U10 of 1984. It’s here that the story gets interesting, and did have contemporary commentators confused – why launch another brand new Bluebird in 1985, a mere 18 months after the previous all-new model was rolled out a mere two years previous?

But the new car – and the one UK buyers would become so familiar with – wasn’t a Bluebird at all. It was the second-generation Stanza (as we knew it) or Auster. Viewed in that way, the evolution and genealogy of the first UK-built Nissan becomes a whole lot simpler.

Being a UK-built product, the Bluebird range was devised very much with fleet car managers in mind. So it was possible to buy in a wide variety of trim levels and 1.6- and 2.0-litre petrol form and with the minicabber’s favourite 2.0-litre diesel. All were capable and competitive in the power and economy stakes, as was the 1.8-litre turbo that found its way into the ZX and Executive variations. Dynamic and ergonomic masterpieces they weren’t though – and when pitched against the class-leading Ford Sierra, Vauxhall Cavalier, Montego and Peugeot 405, the Bluebird was found wanting.

Of course, none of that mattered. The Bluebird was rugged and reliable, and proved that us Brits could screw cars together just as well as our Japanese or German counterparts, given the right product and factory. And for a huge number of buyers, the dull as ditch-water Bluebird was more than capable enough – and sales success surely followed. The Bluebird’s big sales and profit paved the way for Nissan’s huge expansion into the UK, with its Technical Centre at Cranfield subsequently proving responsible for the chassis tuning of the brilliant Primera.

Now, its UK centre of excellence is fully responsible for the Qashqai – of which over a million have been built here. A true case of success borne from small beginnings. Just ask any 100,000-mile a year minicabber…

Nissan's conventional saloon was a 1980s hero of the UK motor industry
Nissan’s conventional saloon was a 1980s hero of the UK motor industry
Mike Humble


  1. Yep, an awful car and also a landmark car. Gave the lie to any suggestions that cars had to built in the midlands to be well made or successful (cf Linwood, Speke etc). I well remember the amazement and delight, locally, that a company of the size and quality of Nissan were going to invest here in the North East. Real jobs, and lots of them. Still the most important employer in the region. And around Wearside, you see Nissans everywhere!

  2. The Bullet-Proof Bluebird! The best car to come out of Washington since the Clan Crusader. I’ve got many fond memories of those and not just because I live within walking distance of the factory. If only the Montego had been so well engineered.

  3. Ultimately, as dull as dishwater. However, they were a tad more European in feel than earlier Bluebirds. They did have an honest, workhorse appeal.

    I started college shortly after the Sunderland plant opened, just down the road in Middlesbrough. This made me especially aware of the Sunderland factory, Bluebird.

    A very significant car in terms of economics, developments within the motor industry.

  4. A proper unsung hero this one. Not many left now of course, but the Bluebird is worthy of it’s place in the history of car making in England.

    Mike’s piece is in stark contrast with Keith’s recent item on the closure of the Triumph factory at Speke. If only BL had been so well run.

  5. I remember smoking around in an interstellar miler 1.8 LX on a D plate when I was a valeter all those years ago, and it still felt tight as a drum. The mk1 phase 2 UK Bluebird came with stupid levels of equipment. Even the base 1.6 LS came with pas, central locking, all round leccy windows, leccy mirrors, and a tilt & slide electric sunroof. My uncle Bob had a red E reg example (E492UNW iirc)bought new from the Nissan dealer in Castleford, and it never put a foot wrong in the 3 years he owned it. This was at a time when the base model Sierra and Cavalier came with just a stereo.

  6. Yup a good solid motor not outsanding in any respect.
    Capeable of high mileages ask any mini cabber.
    I saw a faded red one yesterday. I thought, its been ages since i had seen one.
    My dad had one as a company car, he liked it so much he managed to buy it for my mum. It was replaced by a MK1 Primera, his last company car before he retired. Now the Primera really did move the game on.

  7. I remember the last post of Nissan/Sunderland/Washington… http://www.aronline.co.uk/blogs/2011/09/08/news-nissan-celebrates-25-years-in-the-uk/ If I can perhaps explain, Washington was once part of Co Durham (including Sunderland) and was little more than a small village surrounded by numerous Coal pits and Farm land, The USA also took its Capitol name from this once tiny Village (Link here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington,_Tyne_and_Wear ) Due to the George Washington connection.

    In 1964 It became a new town expanding rapidly, (some say the biggest New Town at the time?) A change of Boundaries meant Sunderland became responsible for Washington but was heavily influenced by the Tyne and Wear Development Corporation which kick started its biggest growth including Nissan Factory, possibly in response to the declining Ship Building and Coal Mining.

    However when Sunderland became a City in 1992 It became Nissan Sunderland, Weshington (as the Locals call it) is separated by the A19 with Castletown to the East and Sulgrave (where Lady Mucca used to live) to the West, you can look at the factory here http://gridreferencefinder.com/ then grid ref NZ 34097 58368.

    You still see the odd BlueBird which suggests decent tin worm resistance?

  8. Talking of Nissans of roughly this era. I remember my Grandad opting to buy a Cherry. I was appalled at his choice and showed him various reports favouring dynamically superior Eurpean cars. He would not be swayed, ultimately being attracted by the price, reliability and high equipment tally. I’m sure thousands of other buyers felt the same way, hence no more BL.

  9. Great cars, superbly rustproofed. I know the chap who selected the leather handbrake for the fully leather trimmed and ZX-Turbo body kitted run-out Bluebird “Executive”. Upon being presented with a variety of leather handbrake handle shape options by the (UK) supplier, he selected the one “which felt exactly like a todger”… Great work!

  10. I was knocking these out to cabbies in Weston Super Mare in the late 80’s. As I recall there was a Nissan supported finace package of £200 down and £200 per month.
    Maybe an example of metal moving that MG should consider?

  11. @dontbuythebluemotion. I’m from that ‘tiny village’ in fact, I’m typing this from there right now. You’ve done Washington a disservice by suggesting the ‘village’ was only known for pits (7 that I can instantly think of) farmland (lots) but also one great big and highly significant Chemical Company located on the banks of the Wear (Washingtons’s other river). Turner Newalls which later become Cape produced and invented many chemicals, cables and materials from here until it all went off to Germany and India. Indeed, Germany bombed us regularly because of it. Only last week, the cemetery adjacent to the Village Green became a Commonwealth War Grave site.

    As for the Nissan plant. Washington Postcode (NE as opposed to SR) Washington telephone exchange (41 as opposed to 58), all Emergancy services that attend the plant are from Washington, Washington sewerage takes takes care of the Waste, need I go on??? Sunderland just takes the money and the glory, thats all. Its within the original Washington boundry (Usworth actually), well before it became a New Town with expanded boundries and control was given to a corrupt and incompetant Sunderland Borough Council (I refuse to accept City status – its a joke). Nissan don’t even use Sunderland Docks to import/export!

    Sunderland couldn’t even be trusted to brew its own beer (see Vaux for further details).

  12. A great car, a credit to the workers who built it in NE England.

    Well known as a bulletproof motor.

    The mk1/2 Primera was another great underrated car.

    The ZX Turbo was a great Q car, and the Primera had a great run in BTCC (98 championship and as an independent team 99 and 2000)

    A shame that the mk3 was based on the Renault Laguna, and Nissan canned it soon after (and a few years later, the Laguna is resigned to the same fate).
    Have never really taken a liking to the lineup replacement Qashcow unfortunately.

  13. Great read… my comments – The factory is actually in Wearside, not Tyneside (that offends Wearsiders!). I worked on videos for Nissan when the factory was built. The first cars were saloons only, the hatchback was added in 1987 and gradually, UK sourced content of the cars increased.

    I recall the history and development of the Bluebird through the 70s and Mike’s right, the first FWD Bluebird was quickly replaced with this one, which was already sold in Japan as the Stanza/Auster.

    In retrospect perhaps Nissan should have just named it as a new Stanza but I guess they were streamlining their range of cars to avoid having two almost identical sized models.

    With regards to the Qashqai, that seems as popular as the Ford Focus in the North East and rightly so, but I don’t care for the look of the Juke.

  14. Just to get your geography right, could you replace Tyneside with Wearside as the plant is 6km from the River Tyne and 1km from the River Wear. Secondly, Washington is part of the City of Sunderland and has been since 1974. The site of the plant is on the old “Sunderland Airport”

  15. The underwriter dealer that worked with the dealers I knew in the Borders drove a Bluebird. Carried enough cash to buy a Porsche every week, but drove an elderly Nissan Bluebird, and liked it.

    I think the key to success back then was to be as inoffensive as possible.

  16. The thing that always struck me about the Bluebird was its amazing resistance to rust – I’ve seen E and F reg ones still floating around which are in showroom condition. Same couldn’t be said about the original P10 Primera which followed it, which is a real rot-box, the rear sills and bootlids were notorious for rotting out.

  17. I remember that Nissan Japan imported Sunderland built Primera’s with a Union Jack and they sold for a premimum over the Jap built models as they were better built! My Aunt’s Uncle use to work in the mines before they shut and was aphrensive when he was offered a job at the plant when it opened, but he retired from their about 12 years ago, and his family still work there.

  18. @ Dave H

    You be right, and I quote Tim Healey from the promotional film and advert when the plant opened….

    “and now… were buildin’ the cars betta o’wa here… than they dee o’wa there man”

  19. @ Lordsward

    Opps I do apologise (not sure why my post appeared all scattered?) in not mentioning the former Cape insulation who indeed invented the stuff ! And how could I forget the Washington Born Swarve Brian Ferry, who’s Father worked at Glebe Colliery, However it was just a quick History Lesson and do agree that Locals despise being associated with Sunderland… even some who support their football team.

    I live just up the road from Weshington which is getting popularised by Qashqai’s (squashed-pie) which Owners tend to keep hold of them, But I am even more amazed at the amount of Juke’s (Joke) round, Todays Talbot Matra Rancho?

  20. For the Juke I always think Nissan designers got the plans of the Datsun Violet coupe out of the archives and gave them a pumped up 2010’s makeover with SUV proportions……

  21. Like or loath the Juke, its waiting list is huge and there is no sign of demand dropping. I was on a factory tour there last year ready for the Nissan Leaf buildings coming on stream. The thing about the Juke is that Washington won the contract to build it; production wasn’t just given to Washington. The employees there ensured that the old Micra line was recycled, the old Bluebird Press was upgraded and alot of special line-side tooling was home made. Literally. Such cannyness meant that Washington’s bid to build was the most competitive.

    Oh, and I’ve never heard of ‘Sunderland AirPort’ despite living mere walking distance from Usworth Aerodrome. Neither has my father who grew up there. I’d ask my grandparents if they’d heard of it (they also grew-up along the banks of the Wear in Washington)but they’re dead. Mainly from pit explosions and Asbestos, but I digress.

  22. @26 Kevin… I prefer the look of the 1970s Violet Coupe to the Juke! The Qashqai is OK though.

    @27 Lord Sward… In 1977 I had to fly up to the Orkney’s on a job by light aircraft. We took off from Newcastle outbound and made the return landing at Sunderland Airport (Usworth Aerodrome). One could not imagine that less than a decade later it would be the site of the NISSAN factory.

  23. I had one of these as my first reps car – an 1800 petrol in metallic blue. I’m not sure why but I took an instant dislike to it (I wanted a Vauxhall, but this was what I was given)and whilst not a great car, it took all the abuse I hurled at it.

    I used to sit there with my mates spinning the wheels with the handbrake on (company supplied tyres too!) and thrash it within an inch of its life every day of the week. The clutch gave out in Birmingham and I got it back to Sussex on the starter and double de-clutching. The gearbox finally went (probably a combination of the drive from Brum and the excessive wheel-spinning everywhere) but it got rebuilt and I think it left me at 125,000 miles – still fighting!

  24. Interesting comments on the Juke.. This car was styled in the UK (Paddington Studio) and has become a terrific sales hit across Western Europe and Russia.

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder…. If you loathe it, you don’t buy it, but if you like it, there’s nothing else which can compete.

    This approach has proved itself with Qashqai and Juke; the plant wasn’t running 3 shifts 6 days a week to keep up with demand for previous unremarkable vehicles such as the N16 Almera and P11 Primera.

    If Nissan had continued with the traditional approach (eg. Toyota Auris), no-one would be talking about the vehicles, and no-one would be buying without huge discounting especially against increasing competition from Korea. Instead they embraced local design and product planning expertees; a smart strategy which has proved itself in the 1/2 million units per year volume now achieved.

    Toyota in Derby can only dream of that situation sadly, as they’re suffering from old school Japanese design conservatism and lack of competitive Diesel engines (whereas Nissan can take advantage of Renault’s leading edge Diesel technology).

  25. Awful car but so reliable.

    The replacement Primera was just brilliant – I regularly drove a pool car which had done 50k in 9 months and it still felt good.

    Great the plant is doing well – there is a news story that the plant made 480,000 cars last year – amazing. Maybe this is quietly the heyday of British car manufacture after all.

    As for where the plant is – the answer is Usworth

  26. My ex bought a Blunderland built Almera 1.8 Sport +, and apart from a dodgy crank sensor (later subject to a recall) it was thrashed, trashed and dowright abused covering 22k in the 1st year.

    As exiting as Harrogate… but as dependable as a black Labrador

  27. Re the Nissan / Renault diesel engines, the old man had a Navara as a work van. Engine blew without warning. Apparently it is a known issue with the D22 diesels.

  28. Lord Sward please check out this link
    I agree it was RAF Usworth when it was military, but it changed an awfully long time ago.
    And another bit of info, when Sunderland AFC won the 1973 FA Cup the winning goalscorer, Ian Porterfield, was presented with a Datsun 240Z for his efforts, which he managed to pile up into the side of the Airport as the A1290 curves past the Three Horse Shoe pub, result: dead Datsun and broken skull. Who would have thought that they would turn it into a Datsun/Nissan factory to commemorate the event.

  29. I had an N reg Nissan Primera 2.0 SE (in that mid-Nineties dark metallic green that all the cars back then seemed to come in) about seven years ago. Bought it for £1100 with 12 months MoT, it had everything as standard – leather seats, all round electrics including sunroof, Clarion-made stereo with CD changer, alloys, spoilers, the works. I was seeing a girl who lived 45 miles away at the time (who lived in the sticks and didn’t drive) and so racked up 40k in two years. That car never let me down – plus it was fast, comfortable, good on fuel and handled superbly. If you want a top motor for very little money at all, then you can’t go wrong with a Primera. They really are one of the most underrated cars ever.

    They look a bit dull though, it has to be said.

  30. @31 I agree Nissans current production success is down to the Qashqai + Juke and rightly so. Long may it continue.

    @34 Mike Humble, you’re right, Black Labrador’s are dependable – we used to have one.

  31. Politically important. Its primary value was to attract banger racers thus maybe saving some nicer cars. I miss Chevettes and Alpines (where have they all gone???)and most other 70s/80s tat – but I dont miss these!

  32. “Awful car but so reliable”

    If it was reliable then sure it can’t be called awful. Certainly couldn’t be described as good looking though. But comfortable, reliable and didn’t fall to bits, more than could be said about many other vehicles of the time.

    I really don’t get all the moaning about which boundary the factory is in or even when the airfield was called. I mean “London Airport” was never in London. Heathrow, Gatwick, Croydon, Biggin Hill and Stansted are all referred to as “London”. Just call it Nissan UK Manufacturing, i think everyone can agree it’s in the UK.

  33. “Awful car but so reliable”

    Reminds me of the Car magazines good, bad, and ugly review of a Volv240

    For: Lasts for ever
    Against: Lasts for ever.

  34. OK, the Nissan Bluebird will have been ditchwater dull and ultra reliable. But this car should be remembered for successfully challenging the perception of British-built cars.

    The Bluebird was the first car proving that cars can be properly built in Blighty. Nissan have gone from strength to strength since building their cars in Washington, Sunderland. Today, they can’t make the Qashqai quick enough to keep up with the demands for them and there’s already been over a million of them rolling off the production line.

  35. @Dennis

    Reminds me of the current “everyone get excited for London 2012” mentality that the Government is trying to distract us proles with at the moment.

    Instead of calling it UK-2012 and trying to get everyone involved.
    For people on the extremities of the UK, London can sometimes feel about as local as New York or Paris!

  36. It’s the same everywhere though, if you live in Belfast you’re pleased when things come to Belfast, but if you live on the other side of NI then you think ‘everything’ goes to Belfast why not here.

    Half the problem in the UK is the poor infrastructure, it takes for ever to get anywhere on out badly laid out motorway network and then look at the proposed HS2 rail link, before it’s even approved nimby’s are complaining about it. So rather than end up with a fairly straight efficient route you know we’ll end up with some convoluted thing that snakes all over the place. So long with be spent fighting nimby’s that it will end up only being half built because they run out of money half way though!

  37. @Dennis

    Good points well made. Have heard it in terms of the local road network too, the western side of NI don’t have much in terms of Motorway or quality D2 roads.

    HS2 should at least stimulate the economy a bit, as the post-war motorway construction projects did.
    However, as per your last point, just like parts of the motorway network it will probably end up half-built and abandoned when money runs out.

  38. @Mike (43)

    Damn I forgot about the Acclaim, I should have said the Bluebird was “one of the first” 🙂

  39. For interest, the Discovery Museum in Newcastle have the (alleged) very first Bluebird off the Washington assembly line in 1986, so you can see what they were really like when they were new and unregistered in the showroom, rather than a restoration. I’ve looked closely at it, it has about 50 miles on the clock but there are a lot of parts marked “Made in Japan” so it must have been much more of a screwdriver job of imported bits then, totally unlike today.
    Has any lunatic actually properly restored an original Bluebird?
    Cheers, David

  40. @ David Walker

    Wearside college had the 1st one off the line, though nothing to confirm this as no chassis numbers were present, it was the same as the Museum item White ZX Turbo, however it got chopped up into a skip along with a pre production Pimera.

    Remember the Bluebird was sent over to Washington in Kits until parts were sauced locally.

  41. Great to stumble upon this trip down memory lane for the Bluebird… Enjoyable read… Thank you.

    I bought a green C reg U11 Bluebird Estate off eBay last year for the princely sum of £360… A year on its done another 10,000 miles… Cost me just £200 to get it through the MOT, failed on a gaiter and 2 rusty brake pipes…. Summing this all up… I gotta say I love this car.. Which the previous owner called the captain…

    In every way possible it just does the job.. Purrs along and is a car that utterly belies its age in terms of solidness.. All the bells and whistles works… Its economical …There is no computer anywhere near it…. Keep fit windows too…, all add up to not a lot to go wrong…

    I do find myself wondering how much life is left in the old captain. what I could get to replace it when its time cones… Something that could possibly replace it in its simple, comfortable utterly quiet just gets on with it way.. And do you know what… I don’t think there is anything to compare it to… It’s just so well thought about and conceived… Never thought I would see myself saying that about a bluebird… But they are bloody fantastic cars…

    The absolute worst thing about ownership now is just trying to find another U11 Bluebird as a donor car… Let alone trying to find an estate version … They are as rare as hen’s teeth… I missed one in London just a couple of weeks ago.. It had been in a lock up in Hackney since 1996 unmoved, a banger racer chap had bought it for £200… Turns out he changed the spark plugs, put some damp start in it.. Topped it up with some juice and it fired up… Got sold to someone who’s going to export it to Africa… No doubt to drive another couple of hundred thousand miles more and start a new chapter in its life…

    Anyways… Here here to the Bluebird… I don’t care who thinks they are boring dull or whatever… Let them drive about in the Beamers, modern dull cars that’ll cost them loads to run….

    Long live the Bluebird or what still left of them… and if any banger racers read this.. Please send me an email if you come across one… I have the bits off it you’ll no doubt be skipping before you weld up the doors…


    Adam ( adamdescribed@gmail.com )

    if anyone

  42. I know of a G reg 1.6 LX that when my friend sold it, had covered just under 400k and it went on to have two further owners.


  43. It’s finny how I have different memories of Bluebirds & Primeras.

    The T12/T72 might have sent tin worms packing but the 610’s corrosion resistance was practically entirely in the hands of the dealer. If you bought from the wrong garage though, like my Grandpa did, you’d spend all your free time touching rust up (my Dad got that job)!

    As for Sunderland’s much vaunted build quality, I once read that the plant had the highest productivity rate in Europe which I can believe. The dashboard on my P10 Primera rattled terribly (as did the one on my Grandpa then Dad’s 610 for that matter. When I took it to bits I found that every screw was on the wrong thread which explains the productivity. The gamble paid off (usually when a dash is tinkered with by a ham foisted DIY mechanic it’s never the same again)!since I never heard a squeak out of it after that.

    The cars were notoriously under tyred, even the 2.0 eGT which could shift only had 14″ wheels. My 1.6 LSX weighed 1250kg’ which was heavy for a family sized saloon back in 1991, but was shod on 165/80 13s dubbed “castors” by my friends & I and not without good reason. Handling could only be described as atrocious until I read in the manual that 185/65s could be put on the same rims. A set were duly bought & the hand,ing was transformed with no deterioration I ride.

    One couldn’t escape from that weight in ones respect though. The car’s performance. 1250kg is a lot of car for 103 horses to lug around especially when one considers that the missus’ Rover 25 weighs only 1020kg yet has the same power output (although probably with less torque wit the engine being a 1.4 rather than a 1.6). As a result it was thirsty & as a result the minicabbers on my manor all drove Toyota Carinas as they were better on fuel. As a result when I sold it I got peanuts for it, even by nine year old cars’ standards, as the only people who buy family saloons of that age round where I live are, you’ve guessed it, minicab drivers!

  44. As well as the typos associated with late night wine lubricated iPad usage, I’ve just noticed that my ramblings above are absolutely littered with the phrase, “as a result”!

  45. I had one of the Bluebird’s successors, an Almera, for 3 years. Apart from being ripped off by some Kwikfit style service centre, who said the car needed new discs when I later found out the discs rarely failed before 8 years old, the car never cost me a cent in repairs, always started, was well equipped for the money and could do 40 mpg easily. However, it was the last of the deadly dull Nissans, had absolutely no driving flair, hated corners and looked tedious inside and outside. Yet for the money here was a reliable and cheap to run British car and I could see the appeal.

  46. Hi, I would just like to say I find these posts very interesting,

    I have a bluebird today, it is almost in showroom condition hence only having covered 15, 000miles from new yes only 15, 000 miles!

    It drives like new, all the original parts, interior in perfect condition all round

    It is a 1.6 ls basic model hatch, a shame it hasnt got power steering

    Apart from that its a perfect soon to be a classic an absolute cracking enthusiast motor!

    If anybody is interested in this car then feel welcome to contact me on 07925301648

  47. @waqaas

    Are you selling your Bluebird?

    Or are you telling us of it, do you have pictures of it?

    How I miss the Bluebird. It was once part of street furniture, unassuming yet those in the know knew they were unkillable. The design a world away from the tonka truck aggressively styled SUVs that are pumped out these days, show Nissan’s 21st century output to a 1980s motorist and they’d think they were props from some post-apocalyptic scifi film where everybody drives tanks.

  48. The Nissan Bluebird to me screams 80’s minicab, in most major towns in the 80’s chances are if you hired a minicab then you be getting in the back of one of these, although another couple of possibilities would’ve been a MK2 Granada or a Carlton.

  49. I currently own a Micra, although this is one of the first Indian built ones. Yes it’s no ball of fire like any small Nissan and certainly has minimal street cred, but coming with equipment like cruise control( rare in this class), a decent warranty and free breakdown cover, 45- 55 mpg guaranteed and £ 30 tax, it was too good to turn down. Also no doubt it will be totally reliable.
    You can see why cars like this sell. For those of us whose budget can’t run to expensive( and often overrated) German cars, all we need is something reliable, cheap to run and which is value for money. Nissan have provided this for decades and you can see why their cars still sell well.

  50. I drove an F reg 2.0 Diesel bluebird from Workington to Newcastle in 1991. I thought it was going to take 3 days, it was soooooooo slow. An awful car all round really, but very well equipped compared to the equivalent Vauxhall or ford.

  51. Was about to make a slightly controversial posting at odds with everyone’s bar no 23 from Dave H when I realised that my thoughts were encapsulated in October 2012 in posting no 52.

    Only one thing to add. If Primeras were that good, why don’t we sell them here any more?

    I appreciate that crossovers are selling in increasing numbers at the expense of saloons, but Ford & Vauxhall still knock out Mondeos & Insignia. Renault may not bother us with the Laguna any more but PSA still offer us C5s & 508s & they sell in viable quantities.

  52. @64

    The D segment is shrinking, D-segment crossovers are the de-facto replacements.

    The Primera was a good car in mk1 guise, but underrated and ignored by most of the buying public. Even a strong BTCC presence didn’t help matters. Nissan cut some costs with the facelift/mk2.
    Then, the last model, wasn’t helped by having polarising styling. Those that wanted a conservative Japanese saloon went to the Avensis or Accord, those that wanted avant-garde styling bought Vel Satises. Being based on the mk2 Laguna mechanicals didn’t help reliability either – usually a selling point of Japanese metal.

    Nissan at this point decided to head for niches and got lucky on betting the farm on the new Qashqai crossover.

    The others?
    The Mondeo and Insignia sell well to fleets, the former has been severely discounted as an aging model, the US Fusion-style new Mondeo run into delays. The latter recently facelifted.
    Laguna, the mk2 got a bad reputation for unreliability, the mk3 was very blandly styled compared to the attractive mk2. Slow selling in the UK, got axed. Given that the UK don’t like big mainstream cars, we’re missing out on the internal combustion engined Fluence and the Latitude too. They looked to sister marque Nissan, and are focusing their marketing efforts on their new models the Clio and Captur.

    Honda have given up on marketing the Accord, and will likely quietly delete it from sales lists. The marketing push, and defacto replacements being the Civic estate and the CRV.
    The Avensis, while a good seller here locally, is also not being pushed.

    The C5 and 508 replace the C5, C6, 407 and 607. The C5 is aging, and with the DS5 may not be replaced. The 508 isn’t as big a fleet seller as the 406, and with the PSA ‘large car’ tie-up having fallen apart, future is uncertain.

  53. I think Nissan have a really excellent range of cars now. The Micra and Note appeal to those who want unassuming small hatchbacks that are cheap to run and well equipped, while the Juke appeals to those who want something avant garde but easy to own, and the Qashqai looks like a very upmarket crossover for similar money to a Mondeo. Also not one of their cars scored less than 95 per cent in a Which reliability survey last year, which suggests Sunderland and India are still producing very reliable cars.
    OTOH I reckon French manufacturers, though less so Citroen, could face very hard times. Renault has sacked half its dealers and withdrawn four models from the UK, as buyers have finally realised terrible quality and reliability don’t sell cars, and Peugeot’s range of cars fare little better and the bigger ones are just ugly.

  54. A mate of mine bought a Bluebird 1.6LS nearly new back in ’91 and he kept if for 15 years, he ran it every day and it never let him down, by the time he scrapped it in 2007 with 178k miles on the clock. It had the original engine, gearbox and none of the trim or electrics even looked worn and it still drove brilliantly. What killed it was a combination of a leaking heater matrix and a rotten front cross member.. brilliant car, pity the Primera that followed it was a unappealing rust bucket!

  55. I’ve never wanted a Nissan, but I understand why people buy them and it was the UK-built Bluebird that turned things around. Qashqai and Note are excellent cars for what they do. I don’t undertand the Juke, but then I’m not supposed to. Who cares? They all create jobs in this country.

  56. The Juke is a bit of an oddball, my Sister thought about getting one but found the boot was too small, so she bought a Mini Countryman instead.

  57. i own a bluebird 2li love it stood for 2 years before i mot it again wiper blades @rearbreak cylinder @ seazed wiper arm .wd40 the cars a good un still got it now @ lov it

  58. I’ve had my 11 plate Micra for 6 months now and apart from a small electrical fault, which has cleared itself up, hasn’t been one bit of bother. Also on a long journey 60 mpg is possible and on a return trip from Whitehaven to Alnwick it averaged 58 mpg, almost as good as a small diesel. Add in a very effective climate control, which was vital in July’s stifling heat, and gizmos like cruise control and a trip computer and this is a very good small car for the money.
    Ideally, though, with a lottery win, I’d like a Qashqai as everyone I know who owns one raves about the drive, the rock solid quality and the styling.

  59. The Bluebird T2/T12 series is indeed the dependable “Trojan Horse”. The 2.0 SLX Hatchback model was my 1st car; I bought is as what we call “Belgium” in Nigeria, i.e fairly used. That was way back in 2001 & like the dutiful servant, served me for 12 whole yrs! I gave it out as a gift & still serves the new owner till date. I’ve never seen a car as rugged, reliable & dependable as the Bluebird T2/T12 series. A good companion for the average income earner.
    I still have sentimental attachment to this car & wouldn’t mind getting another one but it appears to be out of production. Pls Nissan, when is the new “Trojan Horse”, T2/T12 salon or Hatchback hitting the market?……we are waiting!

    • Now would an Austin Montego or Ford Sierra give such faithful service in Nigeria? It’s a testament to Nissan UK that they could build such a dependable car that could cope with the roads and severe heat of Nigeria. Also over here, I have heard of Bluebirds that had done 200,000 miles and were almost faultless.

  60. The Bluebird and first two generations of Primera( pre the tie up with Renault) were known for being able to do 200,000 miles without a single problem and became very popular as taxis. However, since the tie up with Renault, things haven’t been so rosy for Nissan, particularly ones with Renault engines, and the last generation of Micra was known for clutch problems, not long after my last comment on here, the clutch failed at 20,000 miles. Not inspiring and I have since moved over to Skoda.

  61. What’s surprising about the Nissan Sunderland plant is how much of the car is actually made there in addition to final assembly, even aluminium cylinder heads and the plastic bumpers are made there, it’s almost a throwback to the days of Dagenham when one factory made virtually all of the car.

    • I remember seeing a clip from a publicity film made in the 1950s that mentioned that the Dagenham plant generated all it’s own electricity, using regular trains of coal to run it.

  62. When Nissan started assembling the Bluebird at Sunderland in 1986 most components came from Japan. (Similar to a classic “CKD” arrangement).
    As a result it was only sold in the UK at first.
    That low “UK content” explains why exports did not commence until 1988 when Sunderland had increased UK content significantly, with engine assembly starting in 1988. France for example (who placed strict limits on imports of “Japanese” cars) was able to block the Bluebird until 1989 based on its low “European content”. But they had to accept the Triumph Acclaim from the start.

    The body of the Triumph Acclaim was pressed from British steel at Cowley from the start in 1981, and as a result Acclaim always had enough UK content to qualify as a “British car” for trade purposes.
    Thanks to that Acclaim fell outside the 11% market share quota then imposed on Japanese cars in the UK, and it was possible for BL to export it to EEC markets untroubled by the restrictions countries like France and Italy placed on imports of Japanese cars.

    Acclaim was more “British” than the early Bluebirds in that sense.

  63. While doing some work at Nissan’s factory in 1988. A staff rest room had a poster on the wall, of a facelift T12 Bluebird called X1 and the slogan “For Europe – it’s Bluebird X1” The car had a simpler style coloured grille with chrome Nissan logo badge.

    These actual facelift cars appeared in UK a short while later and stayed like that till the Primera arrived at end 1990.

  64. Nice read. Thanks for this. My dad still had his bought from new 1990 1.6 lx whilst I was learning to drive in 2007. Handled like a bumper car but Uber reliable.
    Shame it got kicked in 2011. I’m sure it would still be around today

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