Those of us who appreciate the finer things in life sadly do not always have the means to afford them. One may desire a bottle of vintage wine, a trip to a tropical paradise or a lakefront property, but some of us have to settle – and settle hard. So we end up drinking beer, going to the swimming pool and living in a van down by the river. Likewise, there are Japanese folks who dream of owning a Rolls-Royce. And if they haven’t got the coin, Mitsuoka has a solution.
That solution, since 1996, bears the uncanny moniker of “Galue” and has gone through many a generation. And we have seen some (most?) of those over the past few years, but let’s go back to the very first, the one that started the whole rigmarole. Mitsuoka’s Silver Ghost, if you will.
The value proposition of the first-gen Galue is, compared to the blue-blooded Brit it seeks to emulate, quite striking – and at least as striking as its appearance. But if, as Dolly Parton justly said, it “takes a lot of money to look this cheap,” Mitsuoka conversely proved that it can be relatively economical to look expensive.
One key factor is to keep the whole gussying-up budget for, well, the gussying up side of things. The oily bits need not be too dear or exclusive – certainly, no massive exotic engine or onerous unit body tooling should ever be factored in, as that will drive costs up very quickly. Mitsuoka’s cunning plan was to take a Nissan Crew (1993-2009), a reasonably-sized and sensibly-motorized low-cost four-door with a live axle and a spacious rear seat typically used by driving schools and taxi companies, dress it up with as much gingerbread as possible and, Bob’s your uncle, you have a car that sort of looks, to the untrained (and very near-sighted) eye at least, like a million bucks. Or a million pounds, whichever is greater when you’re reading this.
The key to the Galue’s design philosophy is excellence in excess. Mitsuoka don’t manufacture much of the car, really, but what they do add is very carefully made (by hand, in fact) and always designed to impress through the copious use of chrome and other neoclassic / retro tropes.
Given that the price of the Galue – well above that of the Crew it was based on, but several times less than an actual Roller – and Mitsuoka’s ability to cater to most of their clientele’s whims, no two Galues are said to be alike, particularly inside.
This one, besides being very well cared for, obviously had a very enthusiastic buyer who ticked a great many boxes on the options list: I can’t say I’ve seen all that many of these, but this is the first one that has leather upholstery and plastiwood veneer.
No expense was spared: these are Mitsuoka-branded wire wheels – a rarely seen (and doubtless pretty costly) item that definitely gives the car a certain je-ne-sais-quoi. Actually, I do sais quoi: makes it look like a Jag. Which doesn’t really work if you’re going for the R-R look, but it’s English and high-end, so squinting from a distance, in a way and if we must, it sort of works.
All that was needed to complete the faux-Royce illusion was to replace the Mitsuoka star sitting atop the grille with something a little more spiritually ecstatic. Something that would look the part when viewed from the driver’s perspective, at least.
From the front and up close though, the “Frying Lady” looks like the knock-off it clearly is. But then, the Galue has to be appreciated as a whole, not examined in too close detail. That tends to ruin the effect.
What I cannot ascertain is the engine sitting behind that grandiose radiator shell. The overwhelming majority of the 50,000-plus Nissan Crews that were produced over a decade and a half were taxis powered by an LPG 2-litre 4-cyl., but there was a civilian version of the Crew with more engine options, offered until 2002, that would have been used as the base for the Galue. Beside the LPG engine, one could order a 2.8 litre Diesel six and the famous 2-litre RB 6-cyl. also used on the Skyline.
It’s doubtful that the person who specified wire wheels and leather seats and went to the additional trouble of fitting a Rollsesque mascot on his prized possession would go for the Diesel, but, just like there might be someone out there who will figure this is a genuine luxury car, anything is possible.