Curbside Classic: 1971 Nissan Gloria (230) GL Saloon – Who Do We Think You Are?

This black beauty is an early model fourth generation Gloria. I don’t think we’ve had one of these on CC before and I’m not sure many of these were exported (as the Datsun 200C, 220C, 240C or 260C). Perhaps our antipodean readers have more familiarity with these cars, but I bet most of us (myself included) look at this and think: “What does this remind me of?”

Personally, I drew a blank at first, then I got whiffs of late ‘60s Euro-American styling, like some rejected Chrysler Europe prototype. You could say that about a several of the larger Japanese cars of the early ‘70s, but not all. Nothing looks like a S60 “Kujira” Crown or a Mazda AP Cosmo, for instance. But with Nissans, their styling oscillated between anycar-generic and outright weird.

Unlike the C110 Skyline, this fourth Gloria was the first generation to completely lose its Prince genes. This is a 100% Nissan design, shared with the Cedric (hence the 230 numeral, which follows on from the Cedric 130). Given how very strange some Nissans became in the ‘70s, this rather restrained Cedric / Gloria 230 may have been seen as a preferable outcome.

Under the skin, things were also quite middle-of-the-road. Suspension was about as traditional as it could be: double wishbones and coil springs in front and a leaf-sprung live axle in the back. The Cedric versions were available with a 92hp 2-litre OHV 4-cyl., but most cars (and all Glorias, it seems) came out with a 2-litre OHC 6-cyl. (the L20 engine – 115 or 125hp, depending on how many SU carbs were fitted); a 140hp 2.6 litre version was made available later, and some Cedrics destined for the taxi trade were also fitted with a 2-litre Diesel four.

Several manual transmissions were available, from a three-on-the-tree to a five-on-the-floor, with a three plus overdrive and a 4-speed in between. The 3-speed automatic, as well as the 5-speed manual, were reserved for the 2.6 litre version, so our feature car more likely has the 3- or 4-speed manual.

Here’s a better shot of the dash, courtesy of Nissan’s PR folks. That rounded square shape is pure early ‘70s. Compared to the hundred-button dashes of the late ‘80s, this is a pretty simple design, but everything needed is there, including A/C.

Our feature car is a higher trim GL, so even the rear passengers get power windows. There are also other things to play with, as we can just see at the bottom of the photo: two dials to control the radio’s volume and to scan for another station, as well as a cigar lighter. Good luck getting anything approaching that level of luxury in a 1971 European saloon costing half the price of a Jaguar XJ6 or a Benz W109.

The Nissan 230 came in four distinct body styles. The saloon and the hardtop coupé (top two pics) debuted in February 1971 in both Cedric and Gloria guises. Only the Cedric got a van/wagon (bottom right) – this is one of the few Glorias that had no long-roof in its lineup. In mid-1972, Nissan introduced a swanky four-door hardtop (bottom left) – a first for a Japanese car. The hardtops received composite headlights, while the saloon and wagon wore quads.

Our black Gloria GL saloon was made sometime between February 1971 and July 1972, as it has a hood ornament, and those disappeared pretty quickly. They were only used on Glorias, as the Cedric was marketed as a somewhat less luxurious car.

Another early car quirk: this Nissan did not originally have rear amber turn signals, but American-style red ones. The law changed and forced the Cedric / Gloria 230’s rear-end to be redesigned for this reason in mid-1972.

Now that we’ve gotten acquainted with the Nissan 230 a little better, the question remains: what other car do you seen in this Gloria? There is no right or wrong answer to that question. I mean, unless you’re seeing aspects of the VW Type 3 in the hoodline or shades of 1925 Packard in the fenders, of course, in which case new glasses or a better screen might be required prior to sharing your views with the wider web.

But still, this Gloria’s fairly generic and Detroitesque design does mean one can project a number of other designs onto it and make a case. However, you have to wonder what the folks who write Wikipedia entries are smoking: they claim that these Glorias’ front end looks like the 1967-68 Mercury Marquis.

That’ll be a nope from me. Not a hard nope, just an “I can do better” kind of nope.

Source: Koyapop’s library


I’d personally be more inclined towards the GM side of things. Like the Chevelle… Beyond the front end, too, for this one…

Source: Koyapop’s library


The Skylark has a similarly Glorious feel, especially around the headlights.

Source: Koyapop’s library


Or, even more starkly, the Vauxhall Victor. All these GM cars were 1967s, as the Nissan 230’s design would have been decided around this time and finalized by early 1969 at the latest. I sourced the three GM car photos from this website, a treasure trove of period photos taken in Japan, proving that there were all kinds of foreign cars sold here, even way back when.

Anyway, mix all three of these GM designs and you get something pretty close to a 1971 Gloria, to my eyes. I’m not getting any Ford or Mercury from this Nissan. Nor any Chrysler or AMC that would fit the timeline, either, though if we include MY 1969, then the Fuselage Mopars and the Ambassadors do have a certain foretaste of Gloria. The sorely missed Dottore Don “Cookie” Anderina wrote, in his usual perceptive way, that the Nissan 230 was a “harmonious amalgam of fuselage, cokebottle and Florida crease […] You can perhaps see other makes in this design, but none predominate.” On the nail, Don-sensei.

The profile is only slightly Coke-bottled: again, moderation and restraint must have been at the forefront of the designers’ preoccupations. With Nissans of this particular time, it really was a case of “Better safe than sorry,” so I for one am glad they decided to copy GM this time. Assuming they actually did that, which is not a stretch, but far from conclusively proven. But if you have any suggestions as to what other car might have inspired the Nissan 230’s design, do present your case in the comments section below.

The one Ford thing they did use for inspiration, it seems, were the emblems. The Cedric’s looks like a Continental’s crosshairs; for its part, the Gloria’s avian figure, though described as a stylized origami crane, has an uncanny resemblance to the Thunderbird logo. Must be some sort of coincidence.


Related post:


Automotive History: Nissan Cedric – When The Pupil Becomes A Master, by Don Andreina