Curbside Classic: 1974 Nissan Cedric (230) GL Hardtop Saloon – The Streets Of San Fran-Tokyo

Like many in my age cohort, I was raised on a steady diet of ‘70s/‘80s American TV shows. I’m talking Dukes of Hazzard, Charlie’s Angels, Hawaii Five-O, The Fall Guy and the like. They showed these (dubbed in French) on the half-dozen TV channels we had back then well into the ‘90s. There were no real domestically-produced equivalents, or too few to fill the airtime. So whenever I see a mid-‘70s American sedan, wah-wah rhythm guitar starts playing in my head.

What, you’re saying this isn’t an American car? Well, it’s sure trying as hard as it can to look like one. I wonder if Japanese TV had to import action/cop shows from the States as well, back in the day. Or maybe they did film “The Six Hundred Trillion Yen Man” and “Mission: Impossiburu” but never exported it, unlike their many animés, which French TV fed us in high doses as well.

This Cedric 230 Hardtop would be a perfect villain car for a ‘70s TV cop show, with those distinctive taillights, that chrome-covered schnozz and that slightly sinister overall demeanour, particularly when clad in classy (and classic) black.

This could never be the cop car, as those would have be the standard pillared saloon, not the 4-door hardtop. No, this sleek Coke-bottley 4-door hardtop has a real TV baddie vibe. I love it.

Four body variants were available for the Nissan 230, the 4-door hardtop having joined the range in the summer of 1972, just over a year after the rest of the range. The lead character in the series would have driven the hardtop coupé with a white vinyl top like this one, I reckon. Something a little sportier than the hoi-polloi sedan, and with enough colour contrast to be identifiable by every viewer. Just ask Aaron Spelling about why he picked that striped red Torino for Starsky & Hutch. Aside from the product placement element, I mean.

Since we’ve met the Gloria-badged pillared saloon version, as well as the Datsun-badged (i.e. export) wagon, there’s no point in going through the model history in too much detail here. Suffice to say that, from a JDM perspective, this 230 generation is chiefly remembered as the one where the Gloria and Cedric became the same car.

Our Cedric here has a 2-litre straight-6 L20 engine under the hood – just the single carb version, producing a modest 115hp and is here mated to a 4-speed manual. This GL trim was the middle of the range for the 2-litre cars, but there were much higher grades available with the 2.6 litre engine. Those cost a lot more in yearly tax though, as was always the way in Japan with vehicles over the 2000cc limit.

Everything chassis-related was as conservative as it could be, but that was one of the Cedric’s big selling points – as was the car’s relatively subdued looks, oversized taillights notwithstanding. Toyota were finding out that going a bit overboard on styling, as they had done with their Kujira Crown, was not a great idea for this market segment.

The detailing in these 230 Cedrics is something else. In America, you had dog-dish hubcaps. This is more the ramen bowl school of wheel design. Deep dish, Tokyo style.

Fine attempt at integrating the model’s logo within the name script, here. It would also make for an excellent title card for the putative ‘70s TV show I was pondering at the start of this post. I can just imagine the adverts. “You got thrills at Ironside, you got chills at Kojak. This season, the must-see drama is… CEDRIC.”

You can find a bunch of those old TV shows on YouTube nowadays, and I have tried going down memory lane a few times. But aside from the music, the cars and (sometimes) the actors, they’re not the compelling television I remember from my youth. Shows like The Sopranos and The Wire have turned most older police dramas into Scooby-Doo episodes, essentially. I find the sole exception is Columbo, doubtless because it’s formulaic and slow on purpose, as opposed to in hindsight.

I suppose the Cedric itself is also quite formulaic and slow (the 2.6 litre ones excepted), so it would make for a perfect ‘70s TV show. I can hear the guitar going waka-waka-waka, as well as fast-paced bongos and a wailing horn section from here.

Oh, but this week’s episode is already wrapping up! Did we shoehorn all the obligatory tropes and clichés in? Driving through alleys full of empty pallets and containers? Scantily-clad blondes? Three minutes of exposition dialog in an office setting? Sober actors pretending to be high or drunk and high or drunk actors trying to play straight? Just need a good old Dutch angle to tick all the boxes… There we go. Roll credits!


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Curbside Classic: 1971 Nissan Gloria (230) GL Saloon – Who Do We Think You Are?, by T87

Curbside Classic: 1971 Datsun 240C (Cedric/Gloria) – Japanese American Luxury., by Rich Baron