Curbside Classic: 1975 Nissan Laurel (C130) SGX Coupé – Hog Bottom Is Top Dog

Usually, when it comes to ‘70s Nissan coupés, it’s all about Fairlady / 240Zs, Silvias and Skylines. They get all the plaudits and the rose-tinted glasses, despite questionable esthetics (the Silvia especially). But the real sleeper of the Nissan two-door catalogue has to be the C130 Laurel: same bones as the contemporary Skyline, half the awkwardness. And anything but a boar, despite its nickname.

The more one gets acquainted with laurels, the more attractive they become. I haven’t had much luck finding interesting ones so far, so here’s hoping this will be the one that turns the tide. No, I haven’t been resting on them (sorry, I had to), they’re just a bit less charismatic, as a nameplate, than others. Although I understand that, as far as old Laurels go, the second generation ones do have something of a following.

Our feature car was not exactly easy to capture, as evidenced by this picture. But this is the first one of these second-gen Laurels I’ve found (or even seen, as these weren’t exported much), so it warranted a little discreet trespassing. Nothing ventured, nothing posted.

The Nissan Laurel was launched in 1968 and sold exclusively by Nissan Motor Store dealerships. Just like the C10 Skyline, it was built at Prince’s Murayama plant and shared the Skyline’s drivetrain, but had a different body, designed by Nissan, that only came as a saloon or hardtop coupé. The first generation, known as C30, did not set any sales records, as it looked a bit too much like the Bluebird 510 for its own good. Nissan recognized this and subsequent Laurels were more like alternate-reality Skylines than overgrown Bluebirds.

In April 1972, the second generation Laurel (C130) was launched, about six months ahead of the Kenmari (C110) Skyline. The kinship with the Skyline is more evident here than in the C30, but the Laurel still managed to find its own niche. Just like the C30, the C130 Laurel only came in two variants: a four-door saloon or a hardtop coupé. The Skyline had a van/wagon through to the late ‘80s and always kept the coupé/saloon combo going, whereas the Laurel coupé never made it past the third generation (1977-80), after which the nameplate was chiefly represented by a hardtop (be it genuine or “pillared”) sedan. The Laurel ran out of road in 2003, as a result of the Renault merger, when the eighth generation came to a close.

Getting back to the subject at hand though, the C130 Laurel range was spread across four engines, at least seven trim levels and two body styles. The one that is seen in most brochures is the SGL, which might be equated, in the contemporary Ford vernacular, to a Ghia trim. Our CC is an SGX, the Sporty Spice of the bunch, fittingly enough.

Said SGX sported the 2-litre straight-6 in twin carb form, churning out 130hp. There was also a 2-litre and a 1.8 litre 4-cyl. for lower grades, but in late 1973 a 2.6 litre version of the six was added to headline the options list. That was augmented to a 2.8 on mid-’75, chiefly to comply with tighter emissions regulations. The higher-end Laurels had disc brakes all around to go with their all-independent suspension – overall, a pretty advanced package.

Advanced, yes. Tight, no. In the Japanese car connoisseur community, these Laurels are apparently called Butaketsu – literally “pig butt.” This was the era of the Toyota Kujira (“whale”) Crown too, so I guess this kind of nickname was in the zeitgeist. The wide (ha ha) adoption of Detroit-style Coke Bottle styling by Japanese carmakers in the late ‘60s gave their cars with an impression of bulk, compared to the Italian-tinged designs that came before. But in terms of actual measurements, strict regulations prevented Japanese automakers from going full sumo.

Here’s the putative porcine fundament in question. I’m quite partial to a slice of ham, and this is not an unattractive hind quarter. Somewhat Rubenesque perhaps, but surely the term “pig butt” is excessive here. And if anything, this looks much better than the C110 Skyline’s rather lame ”Surf line” rear fender. Guess I’ll have to write that one up fairly soon so we can contrast the two…

Plus, the Laurel’s awesomely styled C-pillar “ventiport,” which looks like it might actually be a proper vent (or possibly a hair drier), is there to help take attention away from that slightly plump derriere.

Our feature car, sadly, has been extensively modified to increase performance. These mods are pretty tame as far as the exterior goes, but the same cannot be said of the cabin, alas, down to the driver’s seat. One hopes this pig’s butt is now liable to fly, with all that stuff.

Here’s the brochure shot to make up for it, though our CC is a post-facelift car with a slightly revised dash, compared to this 1972-74 SGX interior. Anything would look better than the Mad Max nightmare currently crowding that Laurel’s dash. Di-Noc needs to breathe too!

With a smidgen under 350,000 units sold, the second generation Laurel outsold the first over two to one. This proved that the Laurel had found its niche and filled it, at least on the JDM. Nissan exported a few to a few far-flung places such as Benelux, Thailand and Chile as the Datsun 200L, usually with the 4-cyl. engine, but the model’s true target clientele was always the domestic one.

Judging by what I’ve seen and read on the Interwebs, this generation is feted as the nameplate’s greatest hit, particularly in this spicy, meaty SGX 2-litre twin carb guise. In Japan, you don’t pass the pork, it’s the pig’s butt that passes you.


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Car Show Outtakes: 1974 Datsun 200L Coupe – Laurel C130 Series, by Johannes Dutch