Welcome to the open air section of the Tokyo Natural History Museum, a.k.a one of the little side streets in my new neighbourhood. I recently unearthed this Gloria there and I thought this unfamiliar species from a known genus, though not exactly fossilized as yet, should be shared with the wider world at once. Nature and Science be damned, only one peer-reviewed publication can be trusted to reach one’s esteemed fellow scholars. It’s going to have to be CC.
This was not my first Gloria (see related posts at the end), nor will it be the last, but it’s my first Gloria wagon. It’s quite a peculiar one, too, as it clung to its Y30 platform even as the Cedric/Gloria saloon continued to evolve. Looks-wise, it was certainly a kind of living fossil back in the late ‘90s. Not that it could be compared to truly ancient creatures, such as the Beetle. More of a mammoth than a dinosaur? Let’s forego these dubious animalistic similes and focus on tusk at hand. For a regular production car, the Cedric/Gloria Wagon was definitely frozen in time.
That time was the early ‘80s, obviously. The Y30 Cedric/Gloria was launched in June 1983 with Nissan’s brand new OHC V6, which came in 2-litre (VG20E) and 3-litre (VG30E) form, with or without turbo. Other engines included a 2-litre 4-cyl. and a straight-6 (for LPG cars) and a 2.8 litre straight-6 Diesel.
This was the Gloria’s 7th generation and it came, as per usual, in three versions: a saloon, a hardtop sedan and a van/wagon. In 1985, all Y30s except the base/taxi-spec cars got a facelift, as seen on the hardtop sedan pictured above.
In 1987, the four-door cars moved on to the next gen platform, but the van/wagon stayed behind and therefore never got the new IRS premiered on the Y31. In fact, the Y30 van/wagon, also known as WY30, remained in production with very few changes until May 1999. The last units were sold by August, just as the new Y34 Cedric/Gloria was hitting the showrooms: by the end, the wagon was five generations behind the saloon.
So of course, when I happened upon this lavishly-appointed woodgrain-tastic vehicle, swathed in baroque chrome trinkets and styled like a late ‘70s Detroit pimpmobile, I thought it was a lot older than it turned out to be. One small legally-mandated detail that can help date these wagons is the presence of a third brake light, which was added in early 1994.
Our feature car proudly displays its V6 bona fides to the world – not such a feat, really, as the VG20E was the standard engine in this wagon. In fact, it became the only engine available by November 1995, when a few additional changes occurred, such as a driver-side airbag.
I could not manage a photo of our feature car’s interior, sad to say. But I did take a gander inside and this one did not have an airbag, so it has to be a 1994-95 model. It looked something like the above, taken from the 1994 Cedric brochure – the dash was the same brown colour and the automatic transmission shifter was on the floor. It wasn’t just the Gloria’s exterior that was stuck in the past.
Here’s another excerpt from this ’94 Cedric brochure, which proves that these wagons, although 10 years old by then, were still offered in the usual plethoric variety of grades. Although our feature car has door mirrors, one could also order Y30 Wagons with old-fashioned fender-mounted units. Base-spec models were identifiable by their quad headlamps and first-series-style turn signals.
These are the higher-spec Y30 Cedrics, plus a photo of a late-model Gloria-branded car. The woodgrain seen on our feature car is a period option, but it seems some higher-spec wagons had that woodgrain on the rear hatch as standard. That was probably done to encourage customers to tick the options list, just so the whole car could have that classy American style. Judging from Google image photos, quite a few folks went for the formica.
Decals aside, the considerable amount of brightwork on this car is what really catches the eye. The stand-up hood ornament, of course, is a prime example. But the headlamp “dingus” (© Daniel Stern), also called a headlamp monitor, is the one that fascinated me most. It’s a common feature on bigger conservatively-styled JDM cars such as the Toyota Crown or the Mitsubishi Debonair. The light emitted from said dingus is usually green, as it is in this case and was on our Crown Comfort.
Another adorable detail is the right D-pillar, where the radio antenna is located. On the other side – i.e. the curb side, in Japan – the rear window can be lowered to provide better access to the cargo area. They really thought of everything.
The very long career of the Y30 wagon is mirrored by that of its Toyota competitors. Yes, that’s plural: the X70 Mark II wagon (top pic), made from 1984 to 1997, was a direct opponent of the plainer Cedric/Gloria vans, whereas the higher-spec Y30s fought with the S130 Crown wagon (1987-99, bottom pic). Just like the Cedric and Crown Comfort taxis, the Cima against the Majesta, or the President versus the Century, this is yet another example of the never-ending tit-for-tat strategy that forced Toyota and Nissan to confront each other in every single niche of the JDM.
When I caught my first glimpse of this Gloria, from the rear, I initially thought it was a Toyota Mark II. To the untrained eye (and my eye is about as untrained as it gets with these cars), they look almost identical from that angle. The only giveaway is the Nissan’s single rear wiper, whereas the Toyotas went double or nothing on that score.
And that might be the Toyota wagons’ only advantage over its Nissan competitor. Face-wise, the more ornate Cedric/Gloria design wins hands down. And it’s a similar story for the interior, not to mention the fact that this is a deluxe V6-engined vehicle, whereas the Toyota was less elaborate and made do with a 4-cyl. (both being in the 2-litre category). The S130 Crown Wagon was the more direct Toyota equivalent, but its more rounded early ‘90s styling is less reptilian.
The only fly in the amber are the non-stock wheels, but other than that minor and easily remedied detail, I’m pretty taken by this little dinosaur. Why any JDM consumer might prefer the contemporary (and equally ancient) Buick “Regal” Estate Wagon or a long-roof Mercedes or Volvo when they could spend less Yen and get a Nissan loaded with toys and gingerbread is beyond me. The exotic appeal of foreign brands and the snobbism of LHD, I suppose. Nowadays, according to Japanese sources, the Y30 wagon has become something of an icon for enthusiasts. You couldn’t expect less from the country that gave us Godzilla.