When I was a kid, Datsun was one of the Japanese carmakers that seemed to suddenly burst onto the scene and sell a lot of cars.
It produced models like the Datsun 280ZX, a cool-looking, reasonably priced sports car that was popular with many of the guys in my age group. Then, one day, “Datsun” was gone — forever (we were told) replaced by “Nissan.” For years, Nissan did whatever it could to try to erase the name Datsun from the collective consciousness of the American consumer.
Now, more than 30 years later, Nissan has decided to reintroduce the Datsun name. Nissan wants to offer a low-cost line of cars. However, it doesn’t want to call them Nissans because that might impair the Nissan brand. So, “Datsun” is being exhumed from the graveyard of familiar brand names, and low-cost Datsun cars will be sold in Russia, Indonesia, and India beginning in 2014.
How many products that once were popular but have fallen into obscurity are still available to the general public? Do they still sell Brylcreen, Bufferin, and Blatz beer — just to focus on the Bs? And if a name that has been consciously discarded and scrubbed from human memory, like Datsun, can be revived, could we see a resurgence of other discarded, gone-but-not-quite-forgotten brands? We’ll know when we start to see Burma Shave signs, RainTree soft drinks in the supermarket, Quake cereal in the breakfast food aisle, BBFs (short for the clumsy, vintage ’50s moniker Burger Boy Food-o-Rama) on Columbus street corners, and chintzy commercials for the Veg-o-Matic back on late night cable TV.