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      What makes the 1936 Datsun 15 Phaeton Drophead Coupe the ultimate RetroCool?

      Aditya Chatterjee

      Aditya Chatterjee

      Datsun, a brand which fathered Nissan, entered India not too long ago with the Go and Go+. They might have come across as a car maker with a solution for the budget conscious kind but then that is just partial knowledge about the brand. For the less informed, Datsun has an amazing history of making iconic cars such as the nimble footed Fairlady 240 Z, a car born in 1969 that commands respect among performance enthusiasts all over the world even now.

      Datsun 15 Phaeton Drophead Coupe 5
      1936 Datsun 15 Phaeton Drophead Coupe

      But then the roots of the brand go further in the past. Wind your clocks to 1936 and you shall stumble across this interesting piece of vintage art by Datsun - the Phaeton Drophead Coupe Type 15. Built as a successor to the popular Datsun 14, the Phaeton had an upgraded motor with a higher compression ratio and increased power output.

      With design lines like that, the Datsun 15 Drophead Coupe can surely bring the running hands of a clock to a standstill. It was longer and also had a larger wheelbase. These changes were brought in to make the cabin more comfortable by increasing the space inside. A modern day Datsun Go too has been designed on the same principle of a spacious cabin and thus, it scores a lot more than its rivals by providing an airy cabin.

      Datsun 15 Phaeton Drophead Coupe 4
      1936 Datsun 15 Phaeton Drophead Coupe

      Look at it from front, and the pop out headlights seem to have an alerting expression. The straight vertical radiator grille in chrome with multiple slats across its height occupies the majority of the front face. After seeing something like this, you tend to realise that simple is beautiful as modern day cars have just got more complicated compelling us to notice things whose absence won’t have created a difference. The flared wheel arches which flow from the bottom of the grille all the way to the top of the wheel exhibit elegance and style. The simple made for a purpose solid metal bumper was the only thing that kept other cars or beings at a distance.

      To the side you find the long hood joining the grille to the windshield. The twin part hood which opens in a winged manner had vents for heat dissipation from the engine helping it cool faster. The doors were simple and so were their locking mechanism. The fabric cover which shadowed the cabin went well with its lazy silhouette and looked good seen from any angle.

      Datsun 15 Phaeton Drophead Coupe 3
      1936 Datsun 15 Phaeton Drophead Coupe

      Some claim that the 15 was made to look more American; making business sense even at that time. Now again get the Datsun Go in front of your eyes and then you can join the dots to understand as to why the side of the Go has minimal contours, because simple was and is cool. Smeared to its rear was a spare wheel; for those uncalled for occasions.

      Inside the Datsun 15 Drophead Coupe, your eyes and brains didn’t have to work in tandem as they have to in present day cars with an army of buttons waiting to be pushed to do some action or the other. Back in those days, things were usefully simple. The slim and large three spoke steering wheel, basic info meters showing speed, oil and battery indicators pretty much made the front dashboard. What is truly admiring is the use of rich quality of wooden veneers nicely layered on the front dashboard. Take that all those niche cars who boast of things like these as a bespoke option.

      Datsun 15 Phaeton Drophead Coupe 1
      1936 Datsun 15 Phaeton Drophead Coupe

      Now what lies beneath that twin part hood is a 722cc petrol motor which made 16 Ps of power at 3600 rpm and 37 Nm of torque at 200 rpm. It reached a max speed of 80 km/h. It came with a simple three speed manual transmission with a rear wheel drive configuration. These numbers aren’t herculean as it happily satisfied the needs of an automobile in those days.

      What makes it RetroCool? When we are made to think of a 2-door coupe, our brains rally to churn out great numbers and insane acceleration figures to make it propel from earth to perhaps even space but the Datsun 15 sat in an opposite horizon with its simple yet elegant and timeless design, feel good interiors and a motor which could help shorten time taken to walk. Rewind your senses and imagine a modern day car which can be inspired by the 15, which would not make one sell houses to own, be a lifestyle offering and a car which would appeal to the soul than the materialistic side. Possible?

      Datsun 15 Phaeton Drophead Coupe 6
      Datsun 15 Phaeton Drophead Coupe 6



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