Curbside Classic: 1994 Nissan Laurel (C34) Medalist 25 – Personality Not Included

I’ll wager this post will not break the Internet. A relatively obscure JDM-only ‘90s Nissan four-door will probably attract very few CComments – likely fewer than ten, maybe under five. What’s there to add about the C34 Laurel, even if this is the first time you’re reading about it? It’s not like these cars were all that riveting, to be entirely frank, so this kind of circumspection is, if not warranted, certainly understandable. But in my defense, I’m not out there looking for the blandest of all JDM sedans: that’s what is out there.

It can’t all be Subaru 360s, Toyota 2000GTs and rotary-powered Mazdas, can it? Most old Japanese cars I find happen to be rather middle-of-the-road coupés and saloons because those were bought by people who valued them (and kept them on the road all these years), as opposed to classic kei cars, city cars or just basic family runabouts, which tend to have shorter lifespans for a variety of reasons.

So there are easily ten 30-plus-year-old Toyota Crowns, Supras or Mark IIs for every RWD Corolla (not counting the AE86 Levin/Trueno, of course), or ten classic Skylines, Fairlady Zs or Cedric/Glorias for every moldy Cherry found in the back of the fridge. Not that it would necessarily be all that exciting to find a moldy Cherry, but it is a bit tiresome to look at the same class of JDM car nearly every time, be it as a reader or a writer.

So what about this Laurel then? Well, it Is (and was) a tough sell, because it’s essentially a Skyline chassis dressed to look like a Gloria hardtop, so although it may seem as if we’ve already seen it several times before, we actually haven’t. As a matter of fact, these Laurels are relatively rare, especially unmolested ones like this. Because they are mechanically identical to Skylines but less sought-after, many of them are being butchered by boy-racers and crashed into highway barriers and cherry blossom trees all over the country. Or were shipped over ten years ago to places like Kamchatka, Samoa or New Zealand (am I right, Scott-san and Bryce-san?), no longer to be seen in their native land.

The C34 Laurel took over from the extremely successful C33 in January 1993, by which time the market for higher-end hardtop saloons was in crisis, mirroring the economic situation. Yet because it had been planned during a time of plenty, the C34 still offered a lot of luxury and only came with “RB” 6-cyl. power, unlike previous generations, which always kept a 4-cyl. for the base models.

1995 Nissan Laurel brochure excerpts

The inline-sixes were the same as the ones offered on the R33 Skyline: a 2-litre, a 2.5 litre with or without turbo and a 2.8 litre Diesel. Basically, the C34 Laurel range was divided into two broad categories: the sporty “Club S” type and the deluxe “Medalist” kind. Our feature car has the naturally-aspirated RB25 providing 180hp to the rear wheels via a 4-speed auto – all quite standard for the times in this segment.

Only the Medalist breed was decorated with this hood ornament, which makes this Nissan look like an alternate-reality Lexus. Oddly prescient (coincidental, even?), as the Laurels have sported this emblem since 1989. Good thing that Toyota kept their luxury brand out of the JDM for the first couple of decades – and never bothered with this sort of bling for the Lexus anyway.

Standard-issue JDM mid-‘90s luxury can be found inside: grey dash, “wood” veneer on the console, mouse-fur velour upholstery, obligatory white doilies on the seatbacks – this is what passed for a colourful cabin in those days. Kodachrome and Technicolor need not apply.

For a so-called hardtop though, the C34 Laurel provided decent amounts headroom and legroom for its rear occupants. But given the size of that transmission hump, it’s a strict four-seater, unless the fifth passenger can be persuaded to leave their legs in the trunk.

The C33 sold about 345,000 units from 1989 to 1993, whereas the C34 Laurel managed just over 175,000 when production stopped in June 1997. Aside from the economic downturn, one reason behind this dramatic difference in sales was that the C34 was “over-sized” – i.e. it exceeded the Japanese government’s size limit for the lower tax band, in a deliberate but ill-fated attempt to take the nameplate upmarket. It’s therefore not a very common sight compared to either its predecessor or the C35 that followed it. Still doesn’t make it all that exciting, though, does it?

This is the reality of CC hunting in Japan: a lot of relatively dull, if usually unfamiliar, higher-end “hardtop” saloons in meticulously-preserved condition. At least, this one wasn’t painted in the obligatory white or dark grey. Let us yawn together and move on. Makes the complete clunkers, tiny microcars and whacky ‘60s and ‘70s finds all the more outstanding.


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Curbside Classic: 1990 Nissan Laurel (C33) – The Last True Hardtop Sedan, by T87

Curbside Classic: 2001 Nissan Laurel (C35) Medalist – Wreath Havoc, by T87