Curbside Classic: 1996 Nissan Cedric (Y31) Brougham L – Just A Little More

Following from yesterday’s Volvo S90 Royal, here is the JDM equivalent of the stretched Swede. This Cedric Brougham L is comparable in almost every respect with the Volvo: same ‘90s era, similar amount of extra wheelbase, same engine capacity. It’s even pretty close in terms of esthestics. I mean, if you saw this at the end of a dark alley on a foggy winter evening, you might think it was a 960 saloon. Until you caught the fender mirrors and a few other oddities, of course.

Although we have seen several flavours of this Y31 generation before, a quick recap may not be overkill, as it is a tad complex. The Cedric / Gloria Y31 bowed in 1987 as a formal saloon and a hardtop sedan, sold alongside the famously eternal Y30 wagon. The performance-oriented Y31 hardtop, which was the last genuine one bearing the Cedric / Gloria names, lasted until 1991 and got replaced by the Y32. The Y31 hardtop was also the basis for the Cima, which was slotted just below the President in Nissan’s range.

But at the same time, the Y31 platform was used for lower-end cars. The standard saloon carried on after 1991 with a pretty extensive facelift and ended up taking the role of Nissan’s default taxi and livery car, a role that it fulfilled with remarkably few changes until 2014.

In the platform’s early years, the Y31 saloon was given the full Autech treatment and stretched to within an inch of madness as the Royal Limousine. These could be kitted out to an obscenely high standard and reach ¥13m – well over the price commanded by Nissan’s official flagship, the President. By the early ‘90s though, Autech switched to the new President for making their swanky limousines, as we’ve seen on CC not too long ago.

This actually left some folks demanding some sort of middle ground, i.e. somewhere between the gargantuan (and hugely expensive) Royal Limousine and the rather anonymous Y31 livery car. Nissan obliged with the Brougham L and Brougham L VIP: an extra 15cm in rear passenger space, available in your choice of Gloria or Cedric emblems (until the Gloria was retired in 1999), and complete with an incredible list of optional extras to turn your LWB taxicab into a true mini-limousine.

Some of these were ordered in super-basic spec and used as taxis, but our feature car is privately-owned. There are still quite a few folks who employ a chauffeur in Tokyo. Those who have a lot of money will usually ride in a Rolls, a Maybach or a Century, and a surprising number have now opted for super-deluxe minivans such as the Toyota Alphard, the Nissan Elgrand or the Mitsubishi Delica.

This minivan mania is a truly sad development of the past decade or so, but there are a few older cars that are evidently used as chauffeured saloons still roaming about – anything from Toyota Crowns, older Jaguars, Mercedes or Volvos and even Mitsuokas. This LWB Nissan Y31 saloon, a car that is perfectly suited for this type of usage, has most probably been professionally driven for the past 25-odd years.

But then these are pretty much bulletproof. The standard wheelbase versions and their taxi derivatives usually made do with a 2-litre engine (many using LPG), for tax purposes, but the added length in this car means it’s too long to fit in that tax bracket and therefore comes with the prestigious VG30E 3-litre V6, albeit the SOHC version providing only 160hp. Still, what it lacks in performance is made up in durability.

Another key difference with the common-or-garden Cedric Y31 taxi is the suspension: our feature car was given the same semi-trailing arm IRS seen in the Y31 hardtops, whereas the standard-wheelbase commercial car made do with the Y30 wagon’s live axle. Well, at least the extra money spent in purchasing one of these extended saloons went to substantive improvements, not just gingerbread and circuses.

The velour upholstery is so typically Japanese – but the absence of white doilies is a tad unusual. Unlike yesterday’s Volvo, I was not able to capture the rear seat in this car, as someone ticked the box for side curtains, and they were close pretty thoroughly. So I have no idea quite how swanky it is back there, but the lack of TV other telecommunications aerials means this one is probably not decked out like a limo. I guess if it had been an all-options version, they would have ponied up the extra dosh for the VIP trim anyway.

Not that this particular car would have been all that inexpensive. I’m not sure how much these retailed for back in the late ‘90s, but given how rare they seem to be, they likely didn’t come cheap. The hood ornament is specific to these cars: it’s not the pseudo Continental crosshairs that we see on this Cedric’s hubcaps or on the grille, it’s the Autech logo. In Nissan-speak, that means exclusivity and top-notch quality.

So was is worth it? Probably, yes – as long as the model was relatively current. But by the early 2000s, when Renault’s bean-counters started their shock therapy on a moribund Nissan, attention was shifted to the Fuga VIP as Nissan’s default backseat-driving plutocrat-mobile. I’m not 100% sure when Autech quit making the Brougham L, but logically, that must have taken place sometime in the early 2000s.

Nor could I uncover any estimate of how many of these were made. Civilian Y31 saloons, which are invariably 20-plus years old by now, are not that rare here. This LWB version though seems like a properly rare automobile, alongside the extra-long Royal Limousine. I have yet to find one of those, which would complete my Y31 collection. This platform birthed a surprising number of variants, and the stretched Autech ones are obviously the rarest – certainly nowadays, there aren’t too many of those left. Forget those expensive Bentleys and massive Mercedes-Maybachs: the truly exclusive peasant-crusher is a LWB Nissan taxi.


Related posts (by yours truly):


Curbside Classic: 2002 Nissan Y31 Cedric Brougham – So Square It’s Hip

Junkyard Classics: Toyota Crown Comfort & Nissan Cedric – JDM Taxi Graveyard

Curbside Classic: 1990 Nissan Gloria (Y31) Gran Turismo SV – In Excelsis Deo

Curbside Classic: 1988 Nissan Gloria Cima (FPY31) Type II Limited – An Infinitely Better Version Of The Infiniti Beta Version