Nissan made a brougham? Of course they did, and it was glorious
It’s probably one of the most used cliches in the history of cliches, but oftentimes, especially in the automotive realm, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Many people are of the impression that brougham-style luxury is solely an American idea. While it’s true that the level of opulence and comfort that’s associated with brougham did originate in Detroit, automakers from other lands took notice and decided to give it a try.
Japan—the land that brought us the Camry and Accord, the Corolla and the Civic, cars associated with efficiency and quality—was quite enamored with luxury in its home market. Many a Japanese executive preferred an “executive class” sedan, one that placed passenger comfort above all else.
Here in North America, until the likes of Lexus, Acura, and Infiniti came along, the most luxurious offerings from Japan were the Toyota Cressida, the Nissan Maxima, and to a lesser extent, the Mazda 929 and Mitsubishi Sigma. All of these were nicely appointed, comfortable and reasonably luxurious, but the Japanese Domestic Market demanded more. Cars like the Toyota Century, Mazda Cosmo, and Nissan Gloria offered the size, luxury, and prestige that Japanese executives demanded.
Over at Nissan, if you wanted the best, you bought the brougham. The Nissan Gloria Brougham was the top trim of of this large sedan.
The Gloria nameplate goes back to 1959 and was actually a Prince model. Prince was a small Japanese car manufacturer that eventually merged with Nissan in 1966.
The Gloria always had styling cues that were influenced by American cars and a modicum of luxury inside. I say “modicum” because compared to its American counterparts, the luxury was modest. This would change by the late ’70s, when the Gloria Brougham was introduced for 1977.
As the 1980s began, the luxury increased for the Gloria. Nissan even partnered with golf legend Jack Nicklaus to offer a designer edition of the Gloria. And here you were thinking that Lincoln had the market cornered on Jack Nicklaus models!
Our featured car is a 1991 Gloria Brougham, the last year for the eighth generation. Powered by a 3.0-liter DOHC turbo V-6 mated to an electronically-controlled four-speed automatic, forward motion was more than adequate for its time.
Inside, one is greeted with comfortable cloth seating (many Japanese executives preferred cloth over leather because it made the interior quieter), a host of power assists, and room to stretch out. Because many Japanese executives also preferred to be driven, rear seat comfort is a priority. Auxiliary controls for the radio and climate control are located in the fold-down armrest. There are even curtains for the back window for an extra measure of privacy. Outside, Brougham nomenclature is prominently displayed on the trunk lid and wheel center caps. A stand-up hood ornament, with a stylized version of a Japanese paper crane, leads the way.
Compared to some of the Gloria’s competitors, namely the Toyota Crown, the Gloria Brougham wasn’t the ultimate standard, but it was still a fine luxury sedan. Sure, compared to say, a contemporary Lincoln Town Car or Cadillac Sedan DeVille, it was a bit lacking in size, but this car was never intended for the North American market. Ironically, though, we eventually did get a version of the Gloria in the form of the short-lived Infiniti M45.
The moral of our story? Brougham style and luxury may be best known as an American idea, but it was never exclusive to our market.