Fellow carspotter AVL sent me a pic of a rare Nissan he had captured in transit. I immediately got on the phone, ascertained its exact location, jumped in the car and was there within half an hour. Never done that before for a spotting, but this was no ordinary classic; it was a Cedric, it was a wagon and it was a very, very early example. Thankfully, it was still parked when I got there and now it’s here on CC.
I’ve written up the Cedric here, but a quick recap of it origins is in order. After licencing the Austin A50 as their senior car range, Nissan prepared their own effort. Launched in 1960, the 30-series Cedric was initially powered by a 1488 cc I4, which was soon joined by a 1883 cc I4. A van was introduced into the range, and a wagon followed. The bars in the cargo area in the brown example above show this to be a van version.
The 31-series Cedric was the 1962 update for the range. Externally, the stacked headlights were now placed side-by-side, making the car look wider. It was the first export Cedric, landing in 1963 in the US, where it was a sales disaster. It made its way to Australia with better results. This taxi, found at earlydatsun.com, bears a number plate from our state of Victoria. A quick glance at dimensions paints an interesting comparison with the bestselling EH Holden; The Cedric was longer (4511mm – EH, 4590 – Ced) but narrower (1727 – EH, 1690 – Ced). However, the Cedric taxi was not at all a common sight.
Our wagon is a Mark 3 WP31 made from September 1964 until September 1965. The grille is the telltale here, with the lower section featuring the four-by-three small vertical dividers. The numberplate is a recent issue, but it’s likely this example landed here new. It seems as if every car maker from that period had their own version of dull green.
The awkwardness of this shape is most apparent in profile; the outdated wraparound screen, the overly tall stance, and the rear wheels sitting too far forward. This was an early styling effort for Nissan, and the sum of the parts didn’t quite work. For me, the least successful visual feature is the rear wings extending far beyond the rear window plane.
This rear fender effect brings to mind the Studebaker range from the late 1950s. Using essentially the same cabins as the early ’50s Studes, the rear fenders were extended to meet the expectations of a public presented with increasingly larger models from the Big Three as the fifties progressed.
That’s not quite the case here. As you can see, the lower rear gate actually extends outward of the rear glass, but the visual result is nonetheless disconcerting – especially considering the Cedric wagon is longer than the sedan by 40 mm. For JDM anoraks, those amber lenses were a Mark 3 addition.
The rear-facing fold-down seat is the most significant difference between the wagon and the six-seater van. Not sure how much legroom there is, however.
On its upgrade in 1962, the Cedric was almost instantly redundant. The S40 series Crown, also launched in 1962, was far more modern in appearance. Designed to the squarer idiom emerging from the US, it was a generation ahead of the Cedric.
Nissan’s response was in the wings. Pininfarina was consulted and the next Cedric shape more than matched the Crown for modernity. The 130 series, launched in late 1965, was a surer footing for Nissan’s large car ambitions.
The origin of the Cedric name is not exactly clear. The official Nissan story is that the name was chosen from main character of the 1886 book ‘Little Lord Fauntleroy’, but others state it was from a character in ‘Ivanhoe’. Sir Walter Scott, who wrote ‘Ivanhoe’ in 1819, apparently derived the name from the even older Cerdic. Nissan’s head Katsuji Kawamata was thought to have named the Fairlady sports car after the musical ‘My Fair Lady’ and it appears these names were chosen to bring some English prestige to the models.
In 1969 the Cedric was renamed here in Australia as the Big Datsun Six. The naming system was subsequently changed to the ‘C’ models starting with 1971’s 240C and ending with the 300C of 1983.
It’s not a car I’m hoping to own, but was definitely worth chasing down for the photos. This one is clearly used and appreciated by its owner, if not obsessively preserved for posterity. Like the Dromana Drive-in Theatre celebrated on the bumper sticker, this is a wonderful survivor from another age.