Picture the scene – in Technicolor: a casino on the Riviera, on a balmy mid-‘60s evening. The sharply-dressed stranger nonchalantly fishes a Dunhill lighter out of his left jacket pocket and lights his cigarette. The croupier addresses him: “You win again, monsieur.” A comtessa in a low-cut dress exclaims: “This is your night, signore!” Two tuxedoed gentlemen at the table nod; one of them asks: “May we have the pleasure of you name?” The stranger takes a drag and replies: ”The name is Cedric. Nissan Cedric.” The whole casino erupts in hysterics.
Nissan weren’t the only company (nor the first) to come up with improbable names for their cars, but they were quite adept at it. And in a way, it all started with Cedric – the name first appeared in 1960, alongside two other early attempts at Anglicization, namely Bluebird and Fairlady. Those two were dubious enough, but Cedric takes the cake.
The Cedric name originated from the reading list of Nissan CEO Katsuji Kawamata, much like the Fairlady had. Mr Kawamata read Little Lord Fauntleroy and figured the main protagonist’s moniker would be perfect to add a touch of Engrish class and literary sophistication to his company’s attempt at countering the almighty Toyota Crown and the redoubtable Prince Gloria.
Famously, Nissan figured out that 19th Century classics weren’t the best source for model names when they tried exporting the Cedric to Australia, circa 1962. A top Nissan representative was sent there to launch the new product and was met by a gaggle of giggling local journos, one of whom asked why the car was given a “poofy (homosexual) name” (whatever that means). The Nissan exec countered: “Are there a lot of homosexuals in this country?” The confused journalist replied: “Er, I suppose so, yes…”, to which the man from Nissan smiled and declared that therefore many cars would be sold. The logic was flawless, but the car a bit less so.
A few of these primordial Cedrics were also sent to the USA circa 1962, but failed to make any impact, perhaps for that reason and the fact that only limited 4-cyl. power was available. The first generation Cedric was, like its main competitors, a rather amateurish imitation of American styling, which was all the rage when it was created, but aged quickly. And unlike its competitors, it was a unibody from the get-go, so big changes were prohibited.
Born with stacked quads, the Cedric was refreshed with horizontal ones in 1962, sprouted a wagon version and eventually gained a high-end 6-cyl. Custom variant by 1964, trying to keep up with Toyota and Prince. But a completely new design was direly needed, and it only arrived in October 1965 with the Cedric 130.
Although they kept an in-house design department, Nissan saw wisdom in building links to European influences. At the time, that necessarily meant Italian, so they asked the best in the business: PininFarina. The Bluebird shed its dowdy 310 self into the classy 410 thanks to a dash of the old Farina magic, and so would the Cedric 130.
Some have cast doubt on this collaboration, though our esteemed and learned CColleague, Dottore Don Andreina, has written on the subject quite authoritatively. This is due to an alleged absence of the Cedric 130 from the design house’s official history. But there are clear elements we can point to, such as the side scallop, which adorned many a PF design of the era, such as the Cadillac Jacqueline or the Alfa Romeo Duetto Spider.
The rear end of the Cedric 130, at least in its earliest incarnation, also bears a rather Farina-esque appearance – especially in the taillights, which have a feel of Peugeot 504, even though the shape of the C-pillar and trunk, with those vestigial fins, seems unique. Perhaps the Nissan designers devised that area. The initial cars did not have that bright panel between the taillights. It seems Nissan designers added that during the first model year to make the higher-end cars stand out a bit more.
It wouldn’t be the first time a Farina design was blended with the in-house team’s effort. The aforementioned 504, for instance, was a clever blend of PF body and a face that actually came from the French side of the Alps. We can see that the 100% PininFarina proposal above looks like a weird blend of 504 and Cedric, instead of the trapezoid-shaped headlights that Paul Bouvot designed on the in-house prototype.
The clincher, as far as I’m concerned, is that smiling grille & oval eyes combo that Farina put on some of his mid-‘60s creations (e.g. Cadillac Jacqueline, Peugeot 204, BMC Landcrab), and that we also see on the Cedric and the 504 prototype.
Beyond styling, the Cedric 130 was very much a product of its time: coil-sprung IFS, leaf-sprung live rear, drum brakes all around and a three-speed manual gearbox as standard that must have looked mighty dated to Datsun’s budding European clientele. Things were slightly more interesting under the hood, at least.
Incredibly, four different 2-litre engines were available on the early models. There were two 6-cyl.: the 1973cc OHV (known as the J20) was dependable and good for 100hp. It was essentially a reverse-engineered Austin 4-cyl. B-Series, but with two extra cylinders. Atop of the range, the Special Six received the new 1998cc OHC L20, initially churning out 123hp with two carbs (soon demoted to 115hp), or 105hp in single-carb form.
It seems the L20 6-cyl., which eventually became available in a 2.3 litre variant, was a rushed effort to catch up with Prince, whose advance in OHC engines was envied by Nissan. The L20/L23 ended up being a thirsty, noisy and lackluster mess. That engine and the OHV J20 were both replaced by the L20A for 1970, which was the better-born L18 4-cyl. with a couple extra cylinders. Said L20A was available in 2.4 litre form as well – the biggest engine ever on the Cedric 130 – for 1970-71. (Well, it was the biggest engine available to the public: some special police cruisers were made with the President’s 4-litre V8.)
Our well-worn feature car, as far as I can tell, has the 1982cc petrol 4-cyl. (that would be the H20, in Nissan codespeak), which made do with 92hp, unless you went for the taxi-oriented LPG version, which only managed 80hp. For its part, the 1991cc Diesel four, a.k.a SD20, only provided 60hp. On the JDM, 4-cyl. cars were cheaper and thus pretty common. Export markets usually got the 6-cyl. models as a default.
Speaking of exports, this Cedric was the one that really took sail. All it needed was a Datsun badge and a new name, which was usually related to its displacement. So several bits of Europe, Asia, Africa, the Pacific and South America received contingents of the big Datsun 2000 / 2300 (or even 2400), though the more exotic destinations were usually granted their anonymized Cedrics only from 1967.
Early cars are thus pretty rare outside of Japan, for the Cedric 130 got a taillift in early ’67 (bottom left pic), followed by an extensive facelift (and further butt surgery, as seen on the right-hand pics in the composite above) the following year. It’s pretty obvious that these touch-ups were entirely made by Nissan’s in-house designers: the return of a certain Detroit-tinged look was evident, a harbinger of ill-shaped things to come. The wagon / van version, which was the only body variant, followed along right till the end of the Cedric 130, which came in February 1971.
The successor car, known as the Cedric 230, introduced more body variants (hardtop sedan, coupé) and started merging the Cedric and Gloria nameplates into a single entity – a recipe that would last decades. The Cedrics (and Glorias) of the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s all have their merits, as I’ve been documenting since I started writing for this site, practically. But I’m genuinely happier to have found this 130 than any other Cedric I’ve bagged thus far. Why? Well, it’s the only one of the lot with a sharp Italian suit, for one thing.
And for another, it’s also the one that really set the template for the breed, with those three distinct 2-litre sixes (try, try again!), flawed though most of them were. The first-gen Cedric was really a 4-cyl. model, though a few Custom Sixes were made, but those had a 2.8 litre H-series engine that had an even shorter career than the two (OHV and OHC) 2-litre 6-cyl. mills that replaced it. Still, I imagine it must be easier to find parts for a 4-cyl. car like this one nowadays…
Outside Japan, it’s difficult to understand how important the Cedric name has been since the ‘60s. That silly name is still stuck on the rear end of a significant proportion of taxis here, as well as a diminishing but still important population of private cars. The place just wouldn’t be the same without Cedrics, whereas the rest of the world probably has no trouble living without remembering the Datsun 2000. That is the legacy of this generation of Cedrics: a departure from a world where the CEO, on a whim, could pick out ridiculous names for his company’s products, to a world in which that function is the purview of an entire marketing department. The results are identical, but the process is much more tedious. Progress, in other words.
Cohort Sighting: Datsun 2400 Super Six – A Glorious Nissan Cedric By Any Other Name, by PN
Automotive History: Nissan Cedric – When The Pupil Becomes A Master, by Don Andreina
Pretty nice car compared to the JDM cars I remember in the USA during the 1970s. Maybe this was the car they should have sold in the USA instead of the B210.
My family had a B210. A good car it was but never a looker to me.
Prince Gloria sounds a bit off too, lol. To be fair, I wouldn’t have the slightest idea what to name a car in Japanese, though
Prince Glorias were assembled in New Zealand, they were moderately popular but most have gone now victims of neglect rust and lack of interest/ parts.
Prince motor company products began here in 57/58 with the Sky series .
Now that you mention it, Prince (male) Gloria (female) does sound a bit odd. Prince Valiant would have worked well, but that name was already taken. 🙂
Prince Glorias were around in Australia in the sixties, though not common. I passed one on the way to school each day; even as a kid I thought it was a lovely looking car. The smaller Skylines were commoner though.
An interesting article, as always from you.
Seeing the first picture I immediately thought of the resemblance to the Austin 3 Litre. Surprised you did not put a front end pic of that here, as the Cedric surely was the main styling source for it. Except the 3 Litre is a bit uglier.
It simply screams “Pininfarina”. But of course all automakers had the right to make changes to PF’s proposals, and perhaps there were some minor ones here.
Not surprisingly, given its stylistic provenance, I’m a big fan of these. And the basic design held up well with that facelift. That’s the proof of good design bones to start with.
I love it. As soon as I saw the front 3/4 view I was thinking Peugeot 504 and then shortly thereafter that’s where the text went too. Fabulous and it may even be better looking somewhat scruffy as it is here.
Did you notice the little silver dot on the estate’s left rear fender underneath the side cargo windows?
That is for rolling down the side window as to access the cargo area without lifting up the taillgate. The right rear window is fixed.
We got the Datsun 2000 for a brief while here in South Africa, only the facelifted version with the rectangular rear lights. As a kid I really got the Italian styling influence. Here is an advert from the May ’68 edition of Car Magazine, our local mag, still going strong. By ’69 it was gone from the price lists, and there was a gap until the 260C came along, another Cedric I believe.
Needs vanity plate ENTRTNR.
The silly name didnt help in Aussie it was mostly the four banger engine, there the rivals on price size and features had a six the Holden Special(needs?) and Ford Falcon Super Pursuit( it could catch most bicycles) but The Cedric name was kept on cars by Nissan for decades.
Neat looking car, with, to me, some Triumph 2000 (Michelotti) overtones, somehow. The front also has an Austin 3 litre (big Landcrab, 4 headlighst) glow.
The 1960 car, however, looks something Rootes did for Vauxhall, if you know what I mean
Superminx bonnet and fender tops.
…with a Victor F windscreen and A50 Cambridge lower sides and wheel arches. And maybe just a hint of Rover P5 for the rear screen pillar?
Those 1960 cars actually stacked up reasonably well against the Holden of the time. Much the same shape and size, perhaps a little bit more conservative and a bit more powerful than the Holden’s 2.2 litre six (wouldn’t be hard; it was a hangover from the forties). These first Cedrics were incredibly well equipped; if I remember right they all came with tinted glass – great idea for Australia. But in 1960 Japanese products were a bit of a gamble; they didn’t have the name for quality products yet, and there was still a lot of ill-feeling from the war still.
I remember seeing one on a northern Victorian farm junkheap back in the early nineties, dark blue with blue (broken) glass, Even rusty and dented, it still looked a classy product.
Of course that early body dated horribly, with its high sides and fins. The Pininfarina design took Nissan from being a step behind to a step ahead of the rest. It was quite distinctive in sixties Australia. They were never as common here as the Toyota Crown, but you really noticed them on the road. Interesting to hear about the engines; if they reverse-engineered the BMC B-series to make their first six, that would make it much the same (in theory) as BMC Australia’s 2433cc “Blue Streak” six used in the Austin Freeway and Wolseley 24/80 – but that didn’t come on line until 1962. Wonder how similar they really are?
I’m not sure how much a cultural thing it may be, but I don’t understand the distaste for names like Cedric, Gloria, Fairlady, Sunny, Laurel, Violet, etc. It’s whimsical in a way a strongly recovering economy would I’d assume want to present itself? Nissan 2000 works better? Apparently, so I’ve been told, alphanumeric is equally reviled in this day and age, so?
I like the looks of these .
The Cedric is a very charming car, thanks for posting this. About the names, it might be an Anglo-Saxon thing to find names funny. I come from Ireland which is almost monolingua and we are affected by British culture, naturally. This monolingual culture sets up an expectation that there is a language norm and other languages are deviations. As I say I grew up with this and accepted it. I would enjoy jokes about oddly named Japanese cars like the Bongo Friendee or Picnic. By pure good luck I was able to leave the Anglophone world and learned Germand and Danish (I am not very good at these) and *by accident* or unintentionallly stopped finding funny words funny. What had happened was that my sense of “normal” went out the door.
What this has to do with Cedric here is that I don´t view the name through an English lens. Now the name has been explained it´s even less funny. If I can make a point here it´s to remind readers that there is no normal in language. I like the Nissan Cedric name now – it´s characterful, as is the lovely car it is attached too.
The Nissan Cedric was sold in Canada for 1964 – 103½” wheelbase, 6 passenger, 4 cyl,,115.29-cid and 95 bhp. It went for C$2895. Styling had a touch of 1964 Studebaker sedan.
Grew up in Winnipeg and Gladstone Motors on Portage Avenue at Victor Street handled the Cedric only tor 1964 and the Datsun starting in 1964 and into the 1980’s.
Gladstone Motors handled used cars only prior to 1963, and then handled the Checker for 1963. I can remember walking down the back lane behind Gladstone Motors one day around 1965 and seeing a few Checkers and Cedrics tucked to the side of the lot. All were well-used and Gladstone was probably hanging onto them for parts.
Speaking of luxury cars and Fauntleroy:
Cedric sounds very nice in Spanish, i don`t know why it isn`t for English languaged culture.
Anyway i have something important to quote :
it was an error when they dropped definitely the name of Datsun for Nissan .
Nissan voice is unappealing for latino languages . Those were the years when Datsun were as popular as Toyota . The day the Company removed the sound “datsun” for the current “nissan” yes the Nissan corp lost a wide margin of customers .
Think it`s still no late to label the glorious Datsun brand again .
I thought the Cedric name came from the name of British Engineer who set up the Austin 7 production that Nissan built under licence in the 1920’s ?
Thank you, always wondered where the Cedric car name originated.
Much later I had a Datsun 710 (Violet) with the L18 engine. It was slow especially with automatic but it got me through 4 undergraduate years as commuter student up in Vermont. Easy to work on it was actually good choice for me back then.
I remember the first time seeing one was on the big screen in the James Bond film “You Only Live Twice” with it parked on a Tokyo side street. I was confident it was a Peugeot 504, though it didn’t occur to me that the Peugeot model wouldn’t be available until the following year.
Indeed, to the ears of an American (and most other English-speakers) “Cedric” does sound peculiar for the name of a car. That being said, (and I am not going to quote the Bard), one must recognize that in 1960 when the first cars hit the market, the world wasn’t so “small”, International, and interconnected as today. The only common “foreign” / ethnic food in the US was spaghetti, essentially! All that mattered initially was if the name was attractive to buyer’s in Japan. But of course, it was lost in translation once Nissan sought export markets with this car, but of course, various export cars would undergo a name change prior to landing on foreign shores. Even the General learned this lesson with sales of the Nova in Spanish-speaking markets. Think of how GM was vetting model names in the early 2000s with the launch of the Buick LaCrosse in Canada. Rolls-Royce was considering “Silver Mist” for the model that was introduced as “Silver Shadow” in 1965 due to the translation of “mist” as “manure” in German. I do like the response of the Nissan exec to the snarky reporter during the car introduction in Australia! That’s pretty damn funny!!!
I’ve only recently ‘discovered’ the Pininfarina-Nissans and find them rather wonderful things.
I was familiar with the 1970s mock-Detroit models and their sometimes hilarious names: Cherry, Sunny, Violet, Bluebird…
The latter isn’t intrinsically funny but it reminds me of the B. Kliban cartoon ‘The bluebird of happiness long absent from his life, Karl was visited by the chicken of depression’.
I think English personal names are a bit dubious because they fall into and out of fashion. No-one’s been named Cedric over here for centuries. Of course, it eventually just becomes a model name and loses its connection.
I wonder how other great-sounding model names (usually feminine) sound to Romance speakers? Arabella, Isabella, Aurelia, Flavia, Flaminia, etc?