x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

My Car: Datsun Bluebird rules the roost

Mubarak Al Mansouri has a soft spot for the Nissan brand, and his 1973 Datsun is the epitome of his love affair.

Mubarak Al Mansouri is so impressed with the work that the previous owner carried out on his Datsun Bluebird SSS that he intends to show his car at UAE motoring meets. Silvia Razgova / The National
Mubarak Al Mansouri is so impressed with the work that the previous owner carried out on his Datsun Bluebird SSS that he intends to show his car at UAE motoring meets. Silvia Razgova / The National

Car enthusiasts come in all shapes and sizes but it's not every day you stumble across one that has an interest as keen as Mubarak Al Mansouri.

And not just keen, but as specific as the 35-year-old HR professional from Abu Dhabi. You see, Al Mansouri has a passion for nothing but Nissans.

He admits that it started as a child, when he could be found devouring car magazines, and progressed into his formative teenage years, when his thirst for knowledge only grew.

"At high school and during my teenage years I started getting into more of the technical and historic side of cars and began to understand how car brands developed and it gave me a good knowledge and appreciation of vehicles," he says.

Fast-forward a few years and Al Mansouri is now the proud owner of several Nissans and Datsuns, the name used for Nissan in many countries worldwide until the Japanese marque rebranded in the mid-1980s.

"I like and own a lot of Nissan cars. I have a Nissan GTR, the new one, I have a 1968 Datsun pickup - my family used to have pickups when I was young - and I used to have a Nissan Sunny, or Sentra as it was known, when I was studying," he explains. "I also have a Nissan GTIR, which I use only for the track. Aside from Nissan, I also have a 1983 Range Rover classic and Volkswagen Beetle from 1971; I have a lot of cars."

But ranking highly in this significant list is his 1973 Datsun Bluebird SSS, which, he says, basically chose him. "There were several models that I'd seen but this one, I found in the US and it just stood out," he says. "I liked the boxy look, but it's fast and has a heritage in racing - it was ideal."

Al Mansouri acquired the Bluebird, which only has 972 miles (1,564km) on its clock after a rebuild, from an American by the name of Kevin Koford, who is equally as enthused as Al Mansouri is about Nissans.

"I have to mention him. He's a Nissan/Datsun enthusiast, like me, and he sold me the car after he built it up 10 years ago," he says. "Koford only wanted to sell it to someone with the same passion as he has, so I was the guy. I have great respect for the way in which he restored this car. I like the way he thinks because I think the same way.

"He sold it to me pretty much as is but I did make some changes to improve performance. I added a secret switch so that when I go racing, I flick it and it changes the character of the car, adds special fuel and generally enhances performance.

"I call this car a sleeper as people think it might go slow but when they see it, it definitely goes fast. It also handles really well, gripping through the corners and the suspension is stiffened. The tyre angles are also slightly different from each other, so it has a good stance."

A quick glance may indeed lead you to believe the car is a "sleeper" but delving under the bonnet reveals a wolf in sheep's clothing, as Al Mansouri explains. "This is one of the 10 best preserved Datsuns in the world - built from the ground up, it's restored, it's modified, it's an all-Nissan KE24 DET engine, a 2.4L, which produces 285hp daily while, with the switch on, it goes to 380hp. It could go to 500hp but, for safety reasons, I had it detuned.

"In the US, South Africa and some other countries they use this as a track car. Datsun won the Trans-Am championships twice in a row in 1971 and 1972 against muscle cars such as Mustang, Camaros, you name it. But it was phased out due to changes in emissions."

So the car's got pedigree, but Al Mansouri reveals that his particular Bluebird is also a champion, a tradition he aims to continue here in the UAE.

"My Bluebird has won many awards in various competitions it was entered into by the previous owner in the US - best colour, best engine and best-looking Datsun," he says. "I intend to show the car here in the UAE and I'd be sad if it didn't win any awards - at least a clean car award although I wouldn't be surprised if it won for performance, looks and best of class. But, for me, the big prize is that I own it and it's a worthy car."

Certainly its looks are popular on the evidence of its first outing in Abu Dhabi, to the licensing department. "I've only had it out and about a few times and I've had a lot of response to it. When I took it to get registered, just coming out there was a lot of people stopping, 'is it for sale, is it for sale?' they'd ask, and I'd say, 'it's impossible'. I mean, if you had this car, would you sell it? I don't think so."

So it's definitely not for sale, but that doesn't mean Al Mansouri isn't going to keep it in tip-top condition. "From my point of view, I just want to keep this car as is. Nothing's perfect but I will try to make it as perfect as possible."