Nissan Laurel SJC-32 Hardtop 1988

When any merger occurs, both sides lose something and gain something. For example, merging with a really fast car gains you a happy smile, but loses you money in your bank account due to fuel consumption, for instance. Or merging with a bottle of good ale gains you taste but loses you the ability to drive. Or merging Nissan with Renault increases profit but results in an Almera G15. But let’s start from the beginning.
In 1968, the Japanese at Nissan, following a scheme we already know well, decided that the Bluebird 510 and Cedric 130 weren’t enough; they needed to fill a niche between them. Thus, the Nissan Laurel was born, a representative of the business class for those who didn’t need overly large dimensions. The model was decided to be assembled at the facilities of the Prince Motor Company, which had been absorbed by Nissan. The symbolism of this will be understood later.

The C32, which you can see in the photos, is the fifth generation of the Laurel. It was produced from 1984 to 1989 under its own name and even lasted until ’93 under the name Crew – specifically for taxi needs as an alternative to Toyota’s Mark 2. For consumers, besides the mentioned Mark, it also competed with the Toyota Cresta and Honda Vigor. Traditionally for those years, you could choose between a sedan or a hardtop body.
This car shares similarities with the Skyline model of those years and it’s not by chance: one of the leading developers was Osama Ito, who had previously worked on the Skyline R31-32. The platform was also borrowed from the Skyline for standardization. The exterior, of course, is imbued with American tendencies: a massive chrome radiator grille, fairly modest headlights, squared-off shapes. The car is undoubtedly conservative, albeit not of gigantic proportions like its “big brother,” the President.

The car was sold for export and was the last Laurel that could officially be bought outside Japan: from 1989, export of this model was permanently discontinued, remaining solely for the needs of the domestic market. So, the later C33 is purely JDM as it is. In Europe, instead of it, the Maxima appeared – a modern business class with front-wheel drive, a larger engine and a lower transmission tunnel – there’s no longer a driveshaft.
In many ways, this not-so-surprising at first glance Japanese car was innovative. It was the first to feature electrically retractable side mirrors. Also, it introduced the Super Sonic Suspension – an active suspension from Nissan, subsequently installed on “top-of-the-line” models. But most importantly, it was the first to feature engines from the legendary RB series.

Of course, it wasn’t immediately the RB26DETT that you might have thought of. Every engine installed in sports cars or just “hot” versions has some basic relative on which they refine the connecting rod-piston assembly, cylinder head work and so on. So, the first harbinger of the new era of Nissan’s most sports-ready engines (not counting modern times) was the RB20. A straight-six, like its descendants, it was heavier than the 4-cylinder engines and partly located behind the car’s “base,” but with proper maintenance and absence of overheating (common to straight-sixes), it could be an engine that lasts a million miles.

Also available were no less famous engines like the CA18, familiar to us from early Silvias, the LD28 diesel and the V6 with a turbocharger, designated VG20. A good set for the business class, and with the possibility of installing both manual (4-5 speeds) and automatic (3-4 speeds) transmissions. The powertrain lineup was all well and good, but…
But in 1987, a facelift occurred – the car acquired new large bumpers, an updated radiator grille and a new range of engines. Now available was the fully fledged predecessor of the GT-R engine – the RB20DET! 6 cylinders, 24 valves, 2 liters of displacement and a single turbocharger – a recipe ready to give you 175 horsepower at its peak. Quite a good result for that time.
This particular car is equipped with the diesel engine RD28, which also resulted from the update of the LD28. Essentially a relative of the RB, but with a different type of fuel. Power output is 94 horsepower, which might not seem impressive, but torque of 177 Nm is available as low as 2400 rpm! A true locomotive of its time, beloved by those who appreciate diesel engines.

The interior is in the best Japanese style. Everything is square, there aren’t too many control organs, but they look strict and concise. The shape of the steering wheel isn’t too conventional: although it has 4 spokes, they are positioned at right angles to each other. The handbrake lever is suspiciously close to the driver – it clearly hints at something, as the Laurel, naturally, is equipped with rear-wheel drive. Plush seats, as usual, say “no, we don’t need any lateral support.” But they are comfortable.

So, where does the story about mergers I mentioned fit in? The 5th generation, although not the final one, didn’t extend the model’s life much. In 2003, after another 3 generations following the Renault-Nissan merger, the big bosses decided to abandon the Laurel in favor of the Teana. The decision was dictated by the spirit of the new times, the change in car layout ideologies (rear-wheel drive was already dead). Well, kings die, but new kings arise and someday, many years later, we’ll write about our beloved Maxima and Almera G15 with such sentimentality. But that’s not certain.

The material was worked on by: