Curbside Classic: 1971 Datsun 240C (Cedric/Gloria) – Japanese American Luxury.

Luxury, all under the same roof; this time in the house of Nissan. Feel tired of your lowly Datsun 1200? How about this svelte Datsun 240C (3rd gen. Cedric/Gloria), in full station wagon goodness, with some classy options on top? Go ahead, appease those bourgeois longings, all while enjoying Nissan’s reliable-yet-conservative engineering qualities.

By the early 70’s Nissan had asserted its presence around foreign markets as the ‘sophisticate’ Japanese make, thanks to inroads accomplished by the Roadster and Bluebird (510) models. In non-developed countries, Nissan successfully transplanted their JDM ‘upscale’ ascending ladder; luxury at accessible prices, all under the same brand. It worked, at least for a while.

Not that the Cedric/Gloria platform was that sophisticate, but did that ever stop Lee Iacocca? Or Nissan in this case? What the model offered were known qualities in more quantities: more room, more cylinders, more power, and more broughamy goodies. And all with Nissan dependability, which was no small thing at the time.

Meanwhile, in Japan these upmarket offerings benefitted from import quotas, allowing local makes to get up to speed on how to build real cars. It worked, although there were limits as to how far up the ladder a make could go. Prior to the 90’s – before luxury-devoted makes took hold of the world – there was a place for ‘upscale’ Nissans, Toyotas, and Mazdas. Like many, I longed for that 90’s BMW or Lexus, but something got lost in the process. The lack of an Opel or Fiat executive class offering makes for a duller automotive landscape.

Cedric’s have appeared at CC quite a few times. Don Andreina gave much thought to this Cedric’s Detroit influenced design. While in past (and future) instances Nissan’s Detroit-Love made for regrettable results, on the Cedric the final product possessed a pleasing understated elegance. Meanwhile, Tatra87 has pondered some on the Cedric’s peculiar naming and its engrish qualities. Indeed, Nissan had a penchant for awful, impossible to import, model monikers: Cherry, Fairlady, Auster (really?), Violet… the list goes on. Unlike Toyota which took great care in positioning the Corolla and Corona internationally, Nissan went about it haphazardly, with each model inhabiting multiple naming dimensions.

(Toyota, one could argue, was a bit of a pioneer on sticking to and creating model brands).


Naming issues aside, this Cedric’s generation actually trumped Toyota’s Crown (which was suffering a brief interlude with adventurous styling) in the Japanese sales charts. A reprieve that must have given some hope to Nissan execs, as the Cedric/Gloria was product of the Nissan-Prince merger of 1966. It must have briefly seem as if Nissan could recoup its place as Japan’s premier maker thanks to the recently gobbled up acquisition. After all, the car was the result of gene mixing into one model what used to be the competing Nissan Cedric and Prince Gloria lines.

This post’s Cedric (2014 sales ad here) came out of the sales lot with quite a few goods: A/C, front disc brakes, manual transmission, L-type 6 cylinder engine, key activated electric rear window, and rear facing foldable seat. Aside that manual tranny, all rather American. No Di-Noc yet, but it would soon be coming.

About that electric rear window, didn’t know about it when I took these shots a couple of years ago. Too bad, as we’re missing a good close up of the key mechanism -on the driver’s side rear fender- that activates it. According to the 2014 sales ad everything was still in working order. If true, it speaks volumes for that renowned Japanese-engineered reliability. That said, the ad also mentions ‘some rust,’ though some of those panels seem to have more than ‘some’ rust.

Before WWII Nissan’s sales model tended mainly to corporate and government needs, which was where real money was to be found in early 20th century Japan. In postwar years the company -to its eventual detriment- still kept a keen interest on this business model, striking on some unusual deals. Seibu Keisatsu, or “Western Police” is a late 70’s Japan TV cop show, where the Daimon Police Force fights Tokyo’s underworld with an endless supply of Cedric/Glorias.

Nissan’s upscale darlings are hurtled, thrown, rolled over, smashed, crashed, mangled and blown up in manners that Plymouth Furys are only too familiar with. Det. Harry Callahan would’ve winced in approval (Above clip here). According to internet sources the show wrecked over 4,000 vehicles, and destroyed somewhere close to 320 buildings (sets?). Sounds like a future CCTV entry, if I can ever get a DVD copy with subtitles, or even poor voiceover. (Don’t get your hopes up).

Of course, we know that in the US there were LTD-limits as to how far a purveyor of peasantry vehicles could aspire to. After some efforts by Nissan and Toyota to get US buyers to line up for their broughamy mid-sizers, both makes eventually took a different branding approach. It’s a matter covered elsewhere at CC. Meanwhile, one last look at the Datsun 240C, which I rather like, especially considering how daunting Nissan’s styling was about to turn.

More on the Cedric/Gloria:

Automotive History: Nissan Cedrid – When the Pupil Becomes the Master, by Don Andreina.

Automotive History: Toyota S60/S70 Crown – Thunderwhale, by Don Andreina.