Again with the Gloria?! Yep. Third time in one week. Isn’t CC-spotting a strange thing? Only one post, authored by Paul back in 2011, featured this long-lived nameplate before three different Glorias appeared in front of yours truly in quick succession last month, seemingly beseeching me to feature them on our beloved website. How could I resist? I may be a rear-engined and air-cooled contrarian, but under my streamlined carcass, I still have a heart.
So here’s the third Gloria of the year. It’s by no means the least and probably not the last, as I’m hoping to Pokemon the lot of them while I’m prowling the highways and byways of Honshu. Having covered a fair amount of the Gloria’s history in my previous two posts (here and here), as well as Don “Call Me Cedric” Andreina’s authoritative piece on the 1965-71 Cedric 130 and very recent magnum opus on the 1975-79 Cedric 330, I reckon we can skip ahead to the mid-‘80s.
After the Cedric/Gloria 430 (1979-83), Nissan changed the twin models’ numbering system to a more Toyota-like alphanumeric. Thus the 1983-87 Cedric/Gloria Y30 happened, a model noteworthy for switching from the old straight-6 to the first series-made Japanese V6.
When the Y31 premiered in late 1987, still powered by a V6, but now had a new multi-link IRS, except for the lowest-grade models that stuck with the live axle. For the first time, the revamped range did not include a new wagon. Instead, the previous generation Cedric/Gloria Y30 wagon was merely facelifted and allowed to continue on alongside the Y31. Interestingly, the next generation Y32 (1991-95) only came in hardtop guise, with the facelifted live axle Y31 saloon carrying on at its side, mainly for fleet sales. The Y30 wagon was only retired in 1999; the taxi-like Cedric Y31 saloon was produced until 2014, long after the Gloria name had vanished from Nissan’s JDM range.
It is said that the Gloria was marketed as more of a sports sedan than the Cedric, but as far as I can tell, for the Y31 platform, both nameplates were using the same trim designations (Standard, Custom, Super Custom, Classic, Classic SV, Gran Turismo, and Brougham VIP) and engines (2- and 3-litre petrol V6s, a 2.5 and a 2.7 litre 4-cyl. Diesel, a 2.8 litre straight-6 Diesel, a couple of 2-litre LPGs – in straight-4 or straight-6 form) on the Japanese Domestic Market.
In June 1988, the Gran Turismo was launched (the SV version being the highest grade) on the Y31 hardtops, both Cedric and Gloria. It was a success, as it managed to attract much younger buyers than the more expensive Brougham or the more conservative Classic SV. Plus, these were still the boom times for the Japanese bubble economy, so Nissan Prince stores were shifting these at quite a pace.
Both the Y31 Cedric and Gloria came in saloon and hardtop variants. (Coupés based on this platform were called Nissan Leopard, so we’ll leave those aside for another post, if and when I catch one.) Aside from minor details such as taillights and grilles, it seems the only real difference was that the Cedric was the only one of the two lines that could be ordered as the Autech stretch limousine.
Nissan added further complexity by launching a third nameplate in January 1988. The new Cima was based on the Cedric/Gloria Y31, but had distinct styling and was only available as a hardtop sedan with the 3-litre V6. This was done to counter arch-rival Toyota’s upcoming V8-powered S130 Crown, soon to become the Majesta.
So what about this Gran Turismo version, then? It had the 2-litre V6 found on less prestigious Glorias, but this one had twin cams and a turbo, providing 210 hp, compared to the base Cedric/Gloria’s 123 hp. That’s quite a sizable amount of extra cavalry under the hood. Your options for transmitting said cavalry to the rear wheels was either a 5-speed manual or a 4-speed auto.
Visually, the sporty Y31 could be singled out thanks to its reduced bumpers, which is definitely to its credit. Our Gloria was festooned with the T-Bird-like emblem it always had, but eschewed the stand-up hood ornament found on the 3-litre Broughams and the Cima – also a plus point, in my view. This was probably a conscious effort on Nissan’s part to make the car appear more European, something more akin to BMW or Alfa Romeo.
The big difference between the Nissan and European sports saloons is that the Gloria is a true hardtop. No ifs, no buts, no B-pillars, no window frames – just the roof, please. The level of sophistication and gadgetry inside these was very advanced, certainly compared to European cars, although the GPS in this one is a blatant 21st century add-on. Oh, and the lace doilies. Gotta have those in your grandparent’s young person’s sporty hardtop, right kids?
Yeah, the seat doilies are really not necessary in a car like this. In those staid Cedric taxis, I can understand, but this Gloria feels a bit, well, straight-laced. This is a very Japanese paradox, one that is immediately obvious to any foreigner who experiences the culture, be it automotive or otherwise. There is a yin-yang of extreme adulation for everything that’s new and hi-tech, coupled with a deep reverence for conservative and traditional values, all rolled into a deliciously strange makisushi.
Speaking of deliciously strange, I expect the wheels on this baby will not have escaped your notorious perspicacity. These are not the ones this car had when it came off the assembly line. These came off a Y31 Cedric Brougham, judging by the emblem. I can only surmise that the owner of this car thought they looked better.
And seeing the “proper” hubcaps on this factory photo, I can’t say I disagree. If the factory Gran Turismo SV wheels had been a bit more in keeping with the rest of the car, perhaps the Cedric Brougham wheels would have looked out of place, but these original ones are, indeed, rather ghastly. Well played, Mr Gloria owner. Extra brownie point for tacking the word Brougham onto this great car. But fair is fair, minus one brownie point for getting the Cedric one instead of the Gloria (inset).
To top it off, this 30-year old black beauty was 100% mint (ok, 99% because hubcaps). Not a trace of rust – or even wear and tear, not a chip on the paintwork, not a single warped piece of trim. It was as if some space-time anomaly had caused it to be transported directly from a 1990 Nissan showroom to this 2019 parking lot, amusingly adjacent to a Toyopet Store. Worm holes have a sense of humour, it seems.
Somebody really loves this Gloria, and I see their point. Unlike many of its fussier JDM rivals, including some of the other flavours of Y31, it is not overly done. There are no badges on the sides, the chrome accents are not applied with a trowel and the interior seems remarkably restrained. There isn’t much room for criticism on this one. Just hold the lace and that’s pretty much it.
Thing is, I really shouldn’t like this Gloria. It was made during what I’ve always considered to be the worst era of automobile styling and by a manufacturer that I do not rate very highly at the best of times. I admit that I much prefer the 430 Gloria or the PininFarina-styled Cedric 130 on looks alone, but I’m sure this generation makes for a far superior better car in many ways. Besides, its redeeming features, including the genuine hardtop, the tasteful detailing and the small-yet-punchy V6, far outweigh the slightly bland styling that I associate with the era.
Dear Gloria, O Gloria, please forgive me. I have seen the light. The Y31 has now become part of my dream garage, in the sparsely populated ‘80s section. I hope that by spreading the word, I might convert a few of you to worship this vehicle as I now do. And if you don’t, that’s fine too. More for the rest of us.