Nissan Cedric C331 1978

Not long ago, we told you about the sixth generation of the Nissan Cedric. At that time, it seemed like we had mentioned almost everything about that model. But today, we have the opportunity to admire the body shape of an earlier car – the Cedric 331 in a hardtop body.

First of all, what do these numbers, 331, mean? Y30 is the first model to receive a designation that starts with “Y”. Prior to this, all Cedrics were exclusively numbered, with two digits for the first car and three digits for subsequent ones. The 330 is the fourth car in the family, produced from 1975 to 1979. This body received a recognizable design and some atypical details, but let’s talk about everything in order.

So, in the domestic market, this newly minted competitor to the Toyota Crown and Mazda Luce was called either Gloria or Cedric. The differences were cosmetic: the radiator grille and headlights, but it sold better that way. We are not surprised by these renaming wonders; it was quite common among Japanese marketers of that time. However, in external markets, primarily the United States (as evident from the shape of the car), the vehicle was sold under the name Datsun 200C/220C/260C/280C. The numerical index reflected the engine displacement and was not something new, but it additionally showed which trim level you could afford. Germans still use this marketing tactic successfully today – it still works.

Externally, the car has a prestigious and monumental appearance. Look at that massive hood! Yes, the radiator grille may not look big, but with the chrome-trimmed headlights (on some models) and the massive chrome bumper, it looks very good. This design is influenced by the Americans, to whom this design owes its roots.

At the rear of the car, what sets this body apart from its predecessors and successors begins. A fairly inclined rear slope of the roof forms a huge rear glass, through which an incredible amount of light should enter. And it’s not just for show, as the rear side windows are much smaller than they should be in similar cars. The lower glass line in the rear rises, as if emphasizing the musculature that this car should have around the rear fenders. This approach is good when, due to excessive power, it is necessary to fit wide tires at the back and puff up the rear arches. I’m sure you understand what I mean.
The taillights are also made in the popular style of that time – individual vertical rectangular segments housed in a single unit, each responsible for different functions and having the corresponding color. The sections themselves are also separated by chrome, which increased the overall length of the taillight but continued the trend of the massive fillet part.

Why all of this for a business-class sedan? Firstly, it’s all about image! As one advertisement once declared, “thirst is nothing, image is everything.” And the Cedric of this generation stood out in that aspect. If we’re being honest, it’s perhaps the most unique generation. In October 1977, the millionth Cedric rolled off the assembly line! And that’s, I hasten to remind you, within just 17 years of the model’s existence. But that’s not all.

For powertrain options, there were seven engines that could be installed. However, there were no V6 engines – only inline-six and modest inline-four engines. There were four gasoline engines with displacements of 2.0, 2.4, 2.6, and 2.8 liters, two diesel engines at 2.2 liters and an unusual engine for the time, the H20 – a two-liter, four-cylinder engine capable of running on liquefied petroleum gas from the factory. The Japanese made a concerted effort to reduce harmful emissions, so such experiments were encouraged by the government. These cars, along with the diesel variants, were popular among taxi drivers and further impacted the sales of the Crown. In 1976, the company even upgraded all their engines to reduce exhaust emissions. The improved lineup was called Nissan NAPS, which you can see on the trunk lid badge.

The interior of the car is a showcase of luxury and elegance, with fewer traditional Japanese nuances. In this sense, the abundance of metal accents in the upholstery added a sense of innovation and a nearly unique style to the car. Seats and door trim in leather? What strange tastes the owner must have, as velour doesn’t heat up as much in the sun. The Mustang-inspired steering wheel (a similar design was also used in the Fairlady, for example) emphasized the driver-centric nature of the car. Of course, there was state-of-the-art equipment, depending on the trim level. If you were willing to pay, rear passengers even had the ability to control the radio. In addition to taxi and personal transportation, you could find yourself in this car if you either worked in the police force or became the object of their interest – these cars were also procured for the needs of law enforcement.

The task was simple but partially achievable: to create a business-class car for the young. The world was changing and so were the consumer habits of the Japanese – that’s how Nissan’s bosses reasoned. And overall, they guessed right, considering that the Skyline C110 and C210, produced at the time, had a distinctly sporty character. However, the updated car, with the index 430, brought the design and orientation of the model back to its roots – but that’s a whole different story.

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