Curbside Classic: 1981 Nissan Gloria (430) SDL Turbo Hardtop – Madam Gloria Will See You Now

In my recent quest to discover the wild world of JDM cars in their natural habitat, there are times when I hesitate to take certain photos. I’ve lived in Asia for eight years now and certain cars look so familiar to me that I forget how exotic they might appear to other eyes on other continents. Is this just a Camry with a weird grille? Have I seen this boring-looking ‘90s shitbox elsewhere under another name? Will I fall asleep writing this up? It’s not always clear. In this case though, there was no hesitation. Yummy JDM goodness, thy name is Nissan Gloria 430.

Nissan’s 430 platform was introduced in June 1979 under two nameplates – Cedric and Gloria. It sounds like a retired couple living a few houses down your street, but that’s what big Nissans were called for eons. Mister Cedric was Nissan through and through, born in 1960 with the company’s first unit body. Miss Gloria, née Prince in 1959, was boxing in the same category, i.e. the larger 2-litre-ish domestic saloons / wagons that was dominated by the Toyota Crown. As we saw recently, though it’s been mentioned before, Gloria and Cedric got hitched up in 1966 – Gloria took her husband’s name, as tradition dictated at the time. By the time the Nissan 230 appeared in 1971 (i.e. the 3rd generation Cedric and 4th generation Gloria), the happy couple were virtually indistinguishable.

This was the plan all along. After 1971, the only difference between Cedric and Gloria was in small details – a busier grille here, different taillights there. True to gender norms of the era (and country), Cedric played the breadwinner part, with fewer frills and some export sales in Europe, Australia and Asia, usually under the pseudonym of Datsun 280C. Gloria was all about glamour and stayed home. Some say she was more sporty-like, but I don’t know that this was fundamentally true, at least with this 430 platform. Seems like marketing more than anything else, but that would change a bit in later generations.

Flavours of Nissan 430 — top: Gloria saloon; middle: Gloria wagon; bottom: Cedric hardtop sedan


Both 430 models were available as a saloon, hardtop sedan (a proper one, sans B-pillar) and wagon with multiple levels of trim (the above is just a sampler), and on the JDM both shared a 2-litre OHC straight-6 as their basic petrol engine, though a 2.8 was also available and some taxis / fleet cars were ordered with a 2-litre 4-cyl. Diesels came as a 2.2 litre 4-cyl. or a 2.8 litre 6-cyl. and transmission to the live rear axle was a 4-speed manual, with optional 5-speed, or via a 3- or 4-speed automatic.

Our Gloria of the day has the floor-mounted 5-speed manual, which stands to reason, as it’s a Turbo SLG. This was the first Japanese-made turbo engine, producing a very decent 143 hp. It was also fitted to the Laurel, the Skyline, the Fairlady Z and the new Leopard. It was also the final throes of the old Datsun straight-6: the next generation Gloria/Cedric Y30 inaugurated the start of the V6 era for Nissan.

It’s a pity that this Gloria is not the top-of-the-line Brougham, but this interior already seems quite Broughamy as is. The rear passengers even have their own cigarette lighter on that cutesy formica consolette. The buttons are for the radio, because you’ll want some nice tunes to go with that soothing smoke. Maybe they should have dubbed it Gloria 420. All in all, an impressively well-kitted car for the early ‘80s.

Design is a very subjective topic, but I hope you’ll agree with me that, not unlike its Nissan 330 predecessor, this hardtop (or its quasi-identical Cedric “spouse”) is the Nissan 430’s best iteration. The front end is decent enough, though a bit on the bland side. Personally, it’s that rear end that really gets my juices flowing, as well it should. The standard saloon and the wagon pale in comparison to the hardtop’s wraparound rear window and this edgy behind. You don’t point at it, it points at you.

Cars like these are starting to get some attention after many years of neglect, if Japanese car mags are anything to go by. I hope this survivor, soon to celebrate its 40th anniversary, will get the fix up it deserves. Thanks again for your grace in posing for these pictures, Madam Gloria. I’ll leave you my contact details, just in case…