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To Drive or Not To Drive?

Datsun owner ponders: To drive, or not to drive?

By J. Daniel Jones  ::  Special to the San Diego Tribune  ::  August 30, 2008

“I just love cars — especially race cars! And what I love most is driving them,” said Spears, an eloquent, talkative, exuberant and “let's just say I'm over 40” resident of Del Dios.

Dawn Spears' baby-blue Datsun Fairlady 1500 was a diamond in the rough when she bought it.

But it is her love of driving that is her biggest frustration with her pristine 1965 Datsun Fairlady 1500 roadster.

“I acquired the car through a friend,” she said. “He was moving out of state and told me about his little Datsun that I just had to have. Well, the car snob in me thought there couldn't possibly be a DATSUN that I just HAD to have. But when I first saw her, I realized I was wrong!”

When Spears acquired the car in 2006, the Fairlady was less than fair. After 30 years of pampering by its first owner, the second owner had parked the car outside with only a light cover to protect it. Dirt and grime had permeated the car from stem to stern. Spears barely noticed that the odometer showed fewer than 24,000 miles.

“I naturally assumed the odometer had turned over and she was a 100k-plus car. I did a quick cleanup, got her running and put a few hundred miles on her almost immediately. She really is fun to drive,” Spears said.

The odometer on the 1965 roadster shows fewer than 25,000 miles.

The car's 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine is pristine. (& a fair lady in the mirror!)

A broken arm then derailed her plans for a complete dismantling and detailing.

“Once my arm healed, I began work on my soon-to-be daily driver. But as the Fairlady got cleaner, I was more and more amazed at the lack of wear and tear under all that grime.”

Becoming suspicious, Spears dug into the documents that came with the car and determined that it had fewer than 25,000 miles.

Learning that took the fun out of driving the car, she said.

“Now I'm scared to drive her,” she said. “I mean, she's gorgeous and now I know it‘s all ‘original’ beauty. She belongs in a museum or a car collection — certainly not as a daily driver. She deserves attention, and she just doesn't get it sitting in my garage.”

Fairlady 1500s sold moderately well in 1963 and ’64, but in 1965 their days were numbered. Sharing the showroom was the newly introduced 1600, which offered more power for not a lot more money. Consequently, production of the 1.5-liter 1500s ended in January 1965. Spears' 1965 Fairlady 1500 is No. 448 of 1,124. Those facts created a dilemma for her.

The baby-blue Fairlady is an attention-getter. Before its rare status and originality were fully realized, Spears and her boyfriend, Chris Erickson, took the Fairlady to the 2006 Coronado Speed Festival. Spears has a passion for vintage racing, and she always attends the annual event, which is scheduled for Sept. 27-28 this year.

“When we drove in, they directed us to the car-club corral. Before we knew it, we were a ’60s-era entry in the car show,” said Spears. “The lot was filled with beautiful muscle cars. We were actually parked next to a gorgeous Cobra. I felt kind of bad when we took first place, especially when the entire crowd was huddled around the Fairlady and pretty much ignored the Cobra.”

Now that Spears understands that her Fairlady is special, she is reluctant to add mileage and subject it to the dangers of the road.

“If she got her first rock chip while I was driving her — well, I'd feel really bad,” she said. “I’m not a collector, I’m a driver. This little Cinderella deserves better!”

 J. Daniel Jones is a freelance writer, video producer and old-car addict. He can be reached at

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