Datsun’s Return

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.

Quisp Versus Quake

As a kid I was an afficionado of breakfast cereals. I liked sugary cereals, and two of my favorites were Quisp and Quake. Both were made of the same orange-colored stuff that also was used to make Cap’n Crunch, but their consistencies were different in a critical way. Quisp, which had a space alien guy as a mascot, was a saucer shaped cereal that would quickly turn into mush when splashed with milk. When it got soggy, you could put the milk-saturated cereal on your tongue and push your tongue against the roof of your mouth, and the milk would squirt out before you swallowed. Quake, on the other hand, had some kind of miner guy as the mascot and was a rock-hard nugget — so hard that, when you ate it, the jagged edges of the cereal would lacerate the roof of your mouth and leave traces of that orange substance embedded there, where you could taste it for hours.

The debate about whether Quisp was better than Quake was unending, like the Beatles versus the Stones, or the Munsters versus the Addams Family. I preferred Quake — and the Beatles, and the Addams Family. At some point Quake was pulled from the market entirely, possibly because of the laceration factor. That was a dark day in the Webner household.

I found this Quisp and Quake ad on Youtube: