New car dealer John Trevisanutto has a vested interest in making sure the Nissans he sells and services are well-maintained.
There’s a decent chance he’ll end up buying them back from their owners and adding them to his growing personal car collection.
Thunder Bay, Ontario’s Trevisanutto owns 11 Nissans and Datsuns, including two cars he sold new out of his Half-Way Motors Ltd. dealership; and the second Datsun his father, John Sr., who started the dealership, ever sold, a 2000 roadster.
“It’s really nice when they come back,” he says. “But that  in particular—my heart was always in that car.”
Meeting customers Half-Way
The 2000 left Half-Way Motors – a then-Fiat-Jeep-Volvo dealer in then-Port Arthur, Ontario – in August 1968 in the care of a customer who’d ordered it based on a clipping from a magazine.
John Jr., who was in high school at the time, says the car and the Datsun brand generally had quite an effect on him.
“You’re pretty impressionable at 16,” he says. “And as soon as I could, I started working at my dad’s dealership, I just loved it — it was in my blood.”
By 23, John Jr. was working the showroom floor selling new Datsuns. He was forced into a more senior management role at Half-Way when, in 1984, his father passed away suddenly.
The next year, he bought back that 2000 roadster.
“I always kept track of that car,” Trevisanutto says, explaining how its original owner had traded it in after he earned one too many speeding tickets. (“150 horsepower [in a 950 kg] car was a lot back then,” he says.) It was once again sold and traded back, then sold to a friend before Trevisanutto bought it.
He still has the dealer’s original bill of sale for the roadster.
The 2000 marked the start of an addiction for Trevisanutto: Datsun-collecting.
Over the past five years, he’s amassed a total of 18 cars – seven of those are parts cars – he’s picked up either locally or via enthusiast-run used car sales website BringATrailer.com.
(He browses the site every morning, though he admits he probably shouldn’t, considering how he’s always tempted to buy the cars he finds there.)
Among them are a 1972 Datsun 510, the same model of car he raced at tracks around northern Ontario and the U.S. with friend Scott Bell in the ‘80s; a 1960 Datsun 1000 so pinched on power he doesn’t dare drive it on the highway; a like-new 1966 Patrol truck; and six Z sports cars from between 1972 and 1984. The early ‘70s vintages are his favourite.
If they’re not in the dealership showroom, they’re lined up on his lawn or, in the winter, in the massive
A few of them are currently undergoing restoration at Half-Way, including a 1959 pickup and a pair of 1960 Datsun Fairlady SPL212 roadsters, two of less than 300 ever made.
“I didn’t know this car existed until four or five years ago when I found one in Utah on BringATrailer.com,” he says of the Fairlady. “I looked up the history, I liked what I read, so I jumped in my truck, got my trailer, drove there and picked it up and drove back.”
The restoration is being completed with some new-old stock parts and pieces borrowed off of four other spare SPL212 cars Trevisanutto got from Les Canaday, the owner of California’s Classic Datsun Motorsports and the “guru of Datsuns.”
“They’ll be pretty much brand-new cars if we ever get ’em done. The frames and bodies are finished, but our collision shop at Half-Way is just too busy.”
Trevisanutto's Z collection reflected in the hubcap on his '68 2000 roadster. He prefers the Z models from the early 1970s, but admits even the modern iteration of the sports car line appeals to him.
And it just keeps growing
Once the Fairladies are finished, Trevisanutto’s set on expanding the pickup truck part of his collection, though he wouldn’t mind book-ending his Z-car collection with an addition or two, either.
“A clean ’71 would be a nice purchase,” Trevisanutto says. “And I’m missing a 300Z, but I’m waiting to find one with the twin turbos.” (He’d owned a lowered-and-boosted-and-Stillen-kitted one when he was younger.)
“It’s not about value to me, with any of these cars,” he says. “Because I grew up in the business, I have a relationship with them all.”
“Datsun’s been my life.”