Nissan's Heritage Collection Is Still Meant To Be Driven

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Jay Leno checks out some classic Datsuns in Tennessee.

Think of automotive heritage and you're likely to think of brands like Mercedes-Benz, Alfa Romeo, and Jaguar – automakers with deep, rich, vibrant histories. But it's not just the Europeans that have back catalogs. So does Nissan, for example, which dates back to 1928 (and even earlier). That's the subject of this latest episode of Jay Leno's Garage, and it's a must-see for fans of Japanese motors.

For this special segment, Leno left his usual stomping ground in Southern California and visited the Nissan Heritage Collection, housed at the company's North American headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee.

The extensive US heritage collection encompasses hundreds of classic Nissans, Datsuns, and Infinitis, stretching all the way back to 1937. And boy, are there some rolling treasures among them: a handful of Fairlady Zs, of course, but much more besides. Like a very rare 1970 Datsun 1600 roadster with just 764 miles on it. Or the unlikely highlight of Jay's visit: a 1960 Datsun 1200 sedan that's about as humble as humble gets. Its 1.2-liter engine produces all of 48 horsepower, the front axle is a solid-beam, and the brakes are drums at all four corners. Basic transportation, this one is.

The guardian of the collection – product development manager Dave Bishop – was even kind enough to let Jay take that early precursor of today's Sentra out on the road. And in the process, aptly shows that Nissan's classic stable is not made up of coddled garage queens, but completely functional pieces of automotive history that can still be driven like they were meant to be driven.

Now we highly doubt that Nissan would let "the rest of us" do the same. But while you're watching the 20-minute clip, we'll be looking at flights to Nashville.

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