Curbside Classic: 2002 Nissan Y31 Cedric Brougham – So Square It’s Hip

Nissan_Cedric1

It would be interesting to hear a Japanese person say “Cedric Brougham”. It is even more interesting to hear their idea of what a Brougham is. This is (I think) the last Japanese-made Brougham – even when it came out in 1991, it must have looked a bit dated. But perhaps this was the intention.

Cerdic_rear

The Japanese love to adopt new foreign fads, but in doing so, they make them very Japanese and transform them beyond recognition. For instance, when the Americans “opened up” Japan for trade in the 1860s, they introduced the Japanese to beef. Nobody was eating beef in Japan in those days – an ancient taboo in many parts of Asia. Now, we have wagyu and kobe varieties of that most un-oriental of meats. They took it, ran with it, made it theirs and created something new. The same thing happened with trains, whisky, pastry, Buddhism, animation, uniforms and industry, among other things.

Nissan_Cedric2

So when faced with America’s infatuation with “Broughams” (a term that is impossible to translate into any known language), Japanese automakers studied what the Big Three were using to define the package and translated it into their car culture.

Cedric_GrilleCedric_logo20161016_124314

Gaudy chrome grille with stand-up hood ornament – check. Plush interior with full carpeting and soft seats – check. Fat upright C-pillar with model’s logo and (possibly) padded vinyl roof – check. Writing the word “Brougham” in mock-18th century longhand script on the rear of the car – check.

1981 Nissan Cedric 280 E. What happened to you, man? You used to be cool...

1981 Nissan Cedric 280 E. What happened to you, man? You used to be cool…

 

The vinyl roof never made it to this Nissan, but it did invade Japan in the ‘70s. Thankfully, doing “Broughams” was just a side-line for Japanese automakers. Their bread-and-butter (or rather rice-and-fish) were smaller cars and mini kei cars. By the late ‘80s, most big Japanese cars had lost the American-tinged style of the previous decade. Even Americans weren’t that keen on American cars any more by that point anyways. Nissan Cedrics of the period were kind of cool hardtop sedans with large engines.

nissan_crew

But Toyota and Nissan, the Coke and Pepsi of the Japanese car industry, both realized that their bigger cars were getting too big and complicated for a key demographic: taxis. The taxi trade wanted a big car with a small engine, lots of room, a low retail price and simple mechanicals. Toyota would ultimately respond with the Crown Comfort. Nissan just decontented the Y31 Cedric and launched the Crew.

1988-91 Nissan Cedric Y31 hard-top sedan: our feature car's direct ancestor.

1988-91 Nissan Cedric Y31 hard-top sedan: our feature car’s direct ancestor.

The Cedric nameplate lived on in several forms, not unlike the Toyota Crown which begat a whole family of cars. The Nissan Cedric Y31 “hardtop” was discontinued in 1991 to be replaced by the new Y32 model. This Cedric line continued until 2005 (Y34).

1998_nissan-cedric-catalog

The Y31 became a conservative alternative to the new Cedrics. It was a squared-up car with 2- or 3-litre V6 power, but also with several levels of trim – from “Cedric” plain and simple to Custom, Super Custom, Classic SV, Brougham and VIP Brougham. Our car is the Brougham, and therefore a high-level trim, but not the super-duper DeLuxe long wheelbase VIP.

nissan_y31_cadric-teito-cordial

I’m a little hazy on some of the details for this car, as all the good info out there on the Internets is in Japanese. But it seems this car would be a pre-2005 facelift model, judging by the hood ornament. I picked 2002 as the model year because I like palindromes (and the other palindrome year, 1991, was the car’s launch year…)

It also seems that Nissan stopped making this car. I went to Japan a few months ago, and can report that it is still very much in taxi use, as it replaced the Nissan Crew (discontinued in 2009 and getting scarce in the streets of Tokyo now) as the only RWD alternative to the ubiquitous Toyota Crown.

 

Nissan_Cedric_Back

I found this one in my township (read: district) of Rangoon. The streets are filled with JDM imports here, so a few of these roam the roads of Myanmar.  This car was probably never a taxi. It was likely a fleet car for a big company or municipality. These cars are near worthless in Japan nowadays. The Japanese government has put a very aggressive cash-for-clunkers programme in place, which practically forces people to buy new cars every five years or so. The old cars are usually exported throughout the Asia-Pacific region at extremely competitive prices. This contributed to Samoa switching to left-hand traffic in 2009. Some Y31 Cedrics were exported in LHD to China and Russia in the ‘90s.

20161016_124553

In Myanmar, people drive on the right. But because most cars are Japanese (either JDM or Thai-made models), about 90% of cars are RHD, as is the case here. A real boon for road safety. Seems you could also order these with a column shifter, which I did see a few times in taxis around Japan. Not much point to it though, as there is no bench seat, unlike the older Crowns I remember taking in Hong Kong.

The last Nippon-made Brougham seems to have been put to rest in late 2014. It was probably time for it to go. It will remain a fairly common sight in the streets and roads of Asia and Russia for some years, but it is already sorely missed.

 

In depth Cedric History at CC:

Nissan Cedric – When The Pupil Becomes The Master   by D. Andreina