In the long story of the Gloria, the late ‘90s were probably the most interesting for a number of reasons. As we’ve seen before, the Gloria wagon stayed in production alongside the saloons for a long while, but was kind of frozen in time. The four-door hardtop, on the other hand, continued to evolve until the wagon and the four-door looked like they were made by two different companies.
Having recently uncovered another late model Gloria Y30 wagon, albeit sans woodgrained flanks, I thought it would be interesting to see it in conjunction with the hardtop sedan that lived alongside it in the Nissan Prince showrooms of the late ‘90s.
So let’s start with the hardtop. In June 1995, the 9th generation Cedric / Gloria Y33 was launched. By this point, the big RWD Nissan was a well-known quantity on the JDM, with its proven V6 engines (2- to 3-litres), multilink IRS and superb build quality. However, the Japanese economy was now in a rut, which only got worse when the southeast Asian bubble burst in 1997. Consequently, this generation did not set any production records.
Our first feature car is the 3-litre turbo Ultima – i.e. the sporty one. Everything is relative: it does have a turbocharger and the new all-alloy DOHC V6 engine, lovingly referred to as the VQ30DET, does provide 270 PS (266hp), but it’s still a 1.5 kiloton four-door car and the only available transmission was the 4-speed automatic, as opposed to the 5-speed auto seen on the Y32.
Aside from the new VQ engine, the only real novelty for the Y33 range was the fielding of an AWD version, from mid-1997, available only with the 2.5 litre straight-6 RB engine found on the Skyline. Smoking lounge devotees could also get the 2.8 litre Diesel straight-6, but most of those went abroad.
The above is the sensible Brougham sister to our wasabi Ultima feature car. For the first time in a very long time, Glorias were made in LHD as Nissan tried peddling them on the Middle-Eastern markets. Some were also exported to places like Singapore and Hong Kong, though those were badged as “Nissan Brougham VIP” rather than Cedric or Gloria. “Brougham” was a Nissan trademark on the JDM.
As per JDM tradition, the Y33 was given a slight mid-life refresh in 1997. Our Y33 Gloria is a post-facelift model, with somewhat angrier eyes for the turbo cars and revised taillamps. But by June 1999, the game was up and the Y34 succeeded it, as was always the way. Well, for the hardtops, anyhow.
Because as far as other Cedric / Gloria models were concerned, the keyword was “durability.” The pillared saloon (which Nissan dubbed “Sedan”) was derived from the Y31 platform, launched in 1987. When the hardtop switched to the Y32 platform in 1991, the saloon was merely given a thorough facelift and became the standard Nissan livery car, a position it kept until 2014 with precious few changes.
Until to 2002, the Y31 Sedan, badged as either Cedric of Gloria, was also part of Nissan’s JDM range for the marque’s more conservative clients. Here’s a Cedric Brougham version I caught recently, externally identical in nearly all respects (fender mirrors included) to the Y31 taxis still prowling the streets of Japan in significant numbers.
And as we’ve seen not too long ago, the Cedric / Gloria wagon kept the Y30 platform alive throughout the ‘90s, that one dating back to 1983. The Y30 wagon outlasted the Y33 hardtop by a couple months in 1999. Our white hardtop thus had two companion cars – a conservative taxi and an ancient wagon – that looked (and were) from a completely different decade, yet outlived it. That’s Japanese ancestor worship for you.
Because the wagon was three whole generations removed from the hardtop, there were few if any shared components between the two. The Y30 wagon and the Y31 saloon both used the 2- and 3-litre V6s of their (older) generation, with a single overhead cam. They also kept a live rear axle and their respective interior appointments pretty much intact.
The Y33 hardtop’s interior, far from being stuck in the ‘80s, looks completely contemporary. It would not look out of place in a late ‘90s German product and certainly seems to have weathered the past couple of decades with aplomb. Nissan were in dire straits when this car came off the assembly line. It seems that build quality and fit and finish were not at issue – at least for their top-of-the-range models.
Perhaps the fact that Nissan used three platforms for their three variants of Cedric / Gloria was a hint of what they were doing wrong. Too many different cars, particularly on the JDM – and not necessarily the kind of cars that customers were crazy about. Nissan’s share of domestic sales steadily went down from the mid-‘80s and throughout the ‘90s. The same thing happened abroad: in the US, in southeast Asia and in Europe, Nissan lost ground. Management remained aloof as inefficiencies piled up and debt ballooned. The Japanese government organized a bailout, but what was really needed was a complete overhaul, possibly via a deal with a foreign company. Ford passed, as did Daimler. Finally, a deal was signed with Renault. Without that, Nissan might not have seen the present century.
This brush with bankruptcy makes dinosaurs like these Glorias all the more interesting – they are symptomatic of a company that was coasting its way to an early grave, a Deadly Sin of sorts. Which does not make them bad cars: it seems the wagons were also very decently-made, just like the other Cedric / Glorias in the range. Judging by the few I’ve seen around, they have a strong fan-base and have kept a pretty high value on the second-hand market.
And just like the Y33 hardtop, this Y30 wagon was given a few off-catalogue extras. Those wire wheels were just too kitsch in and of themselves, but the random nonsense Engrish added on top of it all made this Gloria all the more irresistible. Just Kent help but smile. Since 1984.
So if you were transported back to a Nissan Prince dealership circa 1998, which Gloria would you go for? They all have their good points. The Y31 saloon is nigh unbreakable and classy, in a chauffeur-driven sort of way. The Y30 wagon has that classic faux-American Japanese ‘80s look – shown here without plastiwood trim, but one could get that if needed.
Or would you fall for the sophisticated turbocharged highway cruiser that is the Y33 hardtop? I know the wagon is hard to resist, but this one has Mercedes levels of quality and Skyline-like performance. A pretty attractive package, if you can stand the slightly bland styling.
More Gloria posts (by T87):