Curbside Classic: 1986 Nissan Cedric (Y30) V-30 E Brougham – The C-Word Saloon

Cedric. They went for Cedric. Nobody made them do it. Toyota selected Crown, Prince picked Gloria, but in 1960, Nissan just aimed far towards left field and “Cedric” happened. The CEO of Nissan allegedly read the name a 19th Century children’s book and thought “That’s just the ticket for our new executive saloon!” If it had been a Lewis Carroll work, we could’ve had the Nissan Alice.

Crew cut. More conservative than a Swiss banker in a voting booth, more staid than your Quaker great-aunt, more serious than a tightrope walker on a windy day, the Cedric is about as square as they come. Straight-laced with seat doilies inside, almost caricaturally traditional on the outside, with that stand-up hood ornament and those fender mirrors, that Boxy McBoxface shape, and as much brightwork as possible – conservative inside, outside and, to a lesser extent, underneath. It is the antithesis of the avant-garde, but in a good way.

Competitive. This is the generation of Cedric/Gloria that ushered in a new VG-series OHC V6 engine, allegedly inspired by Nissan’s work with Alfa Romeo. Most wagons and lower-spec saloons got the V20E 2-litre, but our Cedric is a swanky Brougham with the fuel-injected V30E 3-litre, which provides 153hp to the rear axle, which on our car may well be endowed with Nissan’s famous “Super Sonic Suspension” (a.k.a adjustable damping). Nissan coupled this with a very plush interior and an options list worthy of a Mercedes S-Class. There was everything but a TV set – yet you could still tune in and listen to the television thanks to the digital radio. Comparable saloons from Toyota, Mazda, Mitsubishi and Honda were either not as well equipped, or not as well powered.

Nissan Cedric brochure excerpt, 1985


Chopped liver. Our feature car is not the top-of-the-line Turbo Brougham VIP, but it’s not too far from it. We’re looking at a pretty high-end automobile here, at least in term of comfort. Of course, there’s always better. The turbo versions did have 200hp to play with, so performance-oriented (and well off) folks would have gone for that. And the hardtop sedan versions were, of course, even more exclusive. But does that make our V30E Brougham saloon chopped liver? Certainly not. This is foie gras, just without the truffles.

Conquering. The Cedric nameplate may have been a tad on the silly side for export, so most places where the Nissan Y30 was marketed dispensed with it – except southeast Asia and the Middle East, where the Cedric name made a comeback (except Kuwait, strangely enough, who called it Gloria). In Australia and the UK, these were called 300C and came in saloon and wagon varieties. Versions sold by Nissan in China were called Prince, it seems. Locally-assembled CKDs were marketed as Yue Loong 830 in Taiwan (made until 1994); Mainland China got it as the 1990-98 Yunbao [Clouded Leopard] YB6470, albeit only as a wagon.

Coordinated. In 1983, for the last time ever, Nissan splurged on a new wagon, a new hardtop sedan and a new pillared saloon for the Cedric/Gloria platform. I’ve already regaled you with the tale of the Y30 wagon, which went on being made until 1999. The pillared saloon switched over to the Y31 platform, alongside the hardtop, in mid-1987, but then decided to stay there for a while. A long while, in fact – in livery car form, the Y31 lived until 2014, long after the other Cedrics had disappeared.

Cubic. Design-wise, this generation of Cedric/Gloria really hit peak cubism. Eminently of its time (or even of times slightly before it, let’s be honest), the Y30 is a symphonic ensemble of planes and (mostly) right angles. But thanks to its well-judged proportions, the result is still good-looking, over 35 years later. It certainly sticks out like a square thumb among present-day traffic.

Cushy. Velour button-tufted bench seats that would look right at home in a late ‘70s Chrysler, lace doilies galore, “leather” steering wheel with more buttons than a teenager’s face, tasteful plastic wood in the unlikeliest of places (that door handle, for instance?) – a Brougham indeed. The word does translate into Japanese very well. The only difference is that everything is 7/8th size, compared to Detroit products.

Corner pole. Nowadays, the majority of cars in Japan have an illuminated corner pole on the front left side, and I’ve seen a few that looked pretty elaborate. By which I mean there was something on the pole, like a small Pikachu or the car’s logo. It’s also the case here, in the shape of a form of the Nissan logo that I’m not familiar with. Never seen anything of the sort on such an old car, though. This is much more of a mid-’90s-onwards thing.

Classic. Although this Cedric was made at a time when (in my view) automotive design was in a rather sad state, it definitely wasn’t designed then, but circa 1979-80. And had it been launched in 1979, it would have looked fairly conservative even then. None of that makes it a classic, though. It is a classic by virtue of being a great blend of a staid pillared saloon smeared in over-the-top gingerbread. It’s both reserved and extravagant.

Convinced? It’s hard to process this much Brougham on an empty stomach, but on the right day and in the right light, even gray Cedric saloons can seem pretty tempting. And this one most definitely was. Superbly preserved, lavishly appointed, comically over-decorated and pleasantly different from the bloated angry-eyed minivans and top hat-shaped kei cars that constitute 90% of today’s traffic, it was impossible not to admire it, notwithstanding its name.

Cedric, buddy, you’re a winner.


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Curbside Classic: 1995 Nissan Gloria (Y30) Wagon – Nissanosaurus Rex, by T87