A photo for Sunday – 1982 Nissan Cherry

There used to be a lot more of these sorts of cars in Denmark a decade ago.

1982 Nissan Cherry
1982 Nissan Cherry

Now they are rarer but here is a running and non-museum quality daily driver. I find such cars a puzzle as they are so unrelentingly charmless. What is about the car that means the driver keeps it going when a 12 year old Focus or 14 year old Polo can be had for about two weeks wages?

As a new option, the Cherry offered more kit than similarly priced European cars and the promise of reliability and easy driving. Apart from that, the car promised little fun dynamically and even less appeal than the Escort which itself had little visual interest. This car is as close as you can get to the engineering minimum of straight lines and almost flat surfaces. Any character that is there resides in the precise angles of the profiles and the radius of the edges. Perhaps stung by criticism of their heavily decorated 70s cars, the Japanese went to the other extreme and stripped everything away.

And the front three quarter. No surprises at all.
And the front three quarter. No surprises at all.

This is Wikipedia’s intelligence on the topic, to save you the effort: “The Cherry name was still used in Europe on the model N12, an angular, three or five door hatchback design. In Europe the Cherry was sold as a with 988cc 50PS, 1270cc 60PS or 1488cc 69PS petrol engines. Later a high performance turbo version of the 1488cc Cherry became available. It was larger than earlier versions of the Cherry, with the new Micra taking its place in the supermini sector on its launch in 1983, leaving the Cherry to compete in Europe against the new-popular hatchback designs like the Ford Escort and Volkswagen Golf, while the Sunny gave buyers a traditional saloon and estate option.”

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

14 thoughts on “A photo for Sunday – 1982 Nissan Cherry”

  1. I am sure, i will never find the answer to the question, what Alfa Romeo was convincing that this is the right body to create the Alfa Romeo Arna out of this japanese beauty…

  2. One idea is that they wanted some insight on Japanese quality control. Also, at this time their range was a bit antique so the Arna was in the same way as Triumph\Honda a way to launch some new metal.

    1. But why did they choose the Cherry – a car nearly at the same size of the Alfa 33, which starts his career at the same time with the Arna.
      Would it be much more logical to produce an italianized Nissan Micra? A car that could fill the gap of a small car below the Alfa 33? And a car with the right size foritalian cities. A Micra with a refined suspension and some nice engines would not be a too bad idea, maybe.

  3. These cars are like toothbrushes. Useful to have but not something to keep running a moment past their intended service life, not unless you are prepared to drench it in Dinitrol and drive only during summer.

  4. In this sector of car ownership lurk the curmudgeonly and the individual, they’d sooner chew live wasps than be one of the herd in a Focus or Polo (that they can’t fix with a screwdriver and pliers when it goes wrong).
    The service life of these cars is staggering, so long as you keep the tin worm at bay they’ll soldier on for decades, partly because they can be fixed with a basic set of tools and some common sense, and partly because the few goodies they did have were simple.
    There’s a very good reason they don’t make them like this any more, they last too long if cared for.

    1. Good answer – ownership of these is deeply particular to the person. It’s beyond statistical analysis.
      Re: the 33/Arna. I hadn’t spotted that. The only defense I can muster is that the 33 was based on the Alfasud and therefore just another retread. Still, it doesn’t answer why Alfa didn’t choose the Micra. First, plainly Alfa’s management was inept and second, perhaps AR didn’t want to go into a sector where Fiat dominated. It’s a great story though – full of imponderables and idiocies.

    2. Judd. The old Japanese way seemed rather decent. As you say, at heart these cars would go on and on so, if you bought one secondhand, or just chose to hang on to it for years, you wouldn’t be disappointed. However, although they looked perfectly respectable (if not actually stunning) when new, they seemed to have a finite aesthetic life of 5 years. Somehow all the materials seemed to suddenly age and the car looked horribly dowdly, screaming “change me for the next model!”

      The odd thing is that, hugely unappealing as the car’s styling seemed, it obviously was styled, if only to look like a 1979 Astra. The rear roofline cuts into headroom presumably because the designer wanted a ‘fastback’ look.

  5. Sean, yes its not a pleasing shape now but passed muster at the time as near enough fashionable, a bit like flares…and boy haven’t there been some car fashion blunders over the years, though at least they looked fairly individual make wise which is now sadly not the case.

    I wonder if the interiors aged quickly because people often bought these cars for their dependability, we know many were neglected mechanically and i wonder if similar neglect and hard use contributed to the interiors going shabby too quickly, be interesting to know if the same materials were used in other markets where maybe the cars were more basic models so more could be spent on tougher (not prettier) materials to balance costs out.

    When you think back to 1982 and what the typical mass produced small car looked like, either coupe style hatchback even if in a shape crying desperately for a rear door and not a virtually pointless little bootlid, few would be classed as timeless or elegant.
    Though arguably the Cherry in question looks quirky enough to now be ‘interesting’ due to its rarity or anti current fashion if nothing else.

    That coupe shape still finds itself foisted onto cars where it shouldn’t, glaring monstrosities like BMW’s X6, you have to ask why in the name of sanity?

    My own W124 coupe is a lesson in form over function, shorter than the saloon and estate, most of that space stolen from the rear legroom, yes its a 4 seater but if you have the front seats back you could not wedge even the most starved urchin’s legs in the gap left, whilst headroom in the lowered roof is laughable in the front unless you lower the seat to the floor and look like some wannabe gangsta child squatting on the floor like some scene’s demand, let alone the rear, yet its widely tipped for classic status.

    Funny old thing car fashion, especially difficult in 3 door models which over the years and many makers have had an ungainly look (Focus/Astra), if the Cherry above had doors half as long again as those fitted it would have looked a lot better, and been horrid to live with just as many 3 door and convertible versions of modern cars are for getting in and out of….ever tried to enter and exit a Pug 307cc in a restricted space, Houdini would have struggled.

  6. Judd. It’s a half-heated idea of mine to get a dialogue going about the way ‘we’ (car enthusiasts) choose our cars which, of course, defines how ‘they’ (manufacturers) design them. Only every time I bring it up, everyone ignores it! Ride quality, rear legroom, headroom, etc, often get conveniently ignored by the enthusiastic driver when choosing a car. That’s fine if its a Lotus Elise, but I suspect that often the same selfishness gets applied to family car choice. I’d hate to be a short (or very tall) kid sitting in the back of many contemporary cars. Maybe if I liked cars, I might forgive my parent’s choice, but if I didn’t (which is the majority of kids) I’d think they were rather selfish. Not that I always practice what I preach, of course – I even once squeezed my then 80 year old Mum into the back of my Citroen SM and we spent an hilarious 10 minutes extricating her in a supermarket car park.

    1. Well, if Richard doesn’t mind us nicking this space for a moment, yes i’d like an article on designs and the whys and wherefores..

      I think modern car design is primarily based on image and sporty (they’re not) looks, with a rather odd fashion blip to produce the diabolically ugly and call it the new chic…eg Fiat 500L.

      I haven’t got the slightest attraction or desire for modern car designs, you couldn’t pay me enough to own one, not just for the looks but the increasing amount of electronics i neither want nor need, and the massive size modern cars have reached without proportionate increases in interior room.

      Then there’s visibility, with horizontal arrow-slit windows, blacked out behind the driver for that all important aggressive look and even less all round visibility…which i don’t mind so long as the door mirrors compensate, but increasingly they too are fashion accessories and utterly useless except as make up mirrors…Insignia a case in point..

      Bling and rather too camp lights, that you just know will cost a fortune to replace, even the fitting of a bulb a major operation instead of a two minute curse under the bonnet.

      Interiors increasingly gloomy, roof lines ever lower whilst waist lines rise, most unpleasant to be in, three door hatchbacks with darkened port hole rear side windows must be horrible to be shoe horned into the back seat.

      Ridiculously long and thick doors, especially on modern 3 door models, entry and exit difficult at the best of times, contortionists job in a normal car park space.

      Turning circles of supertanker standards exacerbating the visibility problems.

      Huge wheels with elastic band tyres, compounded by concrete springs, cost a fortune in those replacements worth buying, and apart from better cornering on billiard smooth roads make the increasingly third world roads of our towns horrible to travel on.

      Modern cars arn’t designed for me, nor my wife, but then we’re in a time warp car wise of 90’s designs if not manufacture, little designed after the 90’s interests either of us.

      I’m happiest in an old auto Landcruiser, no image (not either of us care a jot what anyone thinks of us), tough simple durable comfortable, easy peasy to drive.

      I used to take my old mum out and about in her last years in my previous 70 series Landcruiser, just kept a caravan step in the boot to aid her getting up and down from the thing after her hip job… looked quite out of place in the disabled bay at the supermarket when i took her shopping.

      My wife’s like a puppy with two tails in her auto Outback, quiet fast and extremely sure footed in the wet and cheap to run thanks to LPG, she chucks the dogs in the back, grand daughter in the baby seat and cos its old and cost pennies doesn’t worry two hoots when another modern oversized person opens their modern oversized door and puts yet another dent in it, nor when they scrape yet another bumper because they can’t park for toffee the cars they bought that are much too big for them to cope with.

      If you asked me for a suggestion of which car would be the best all round bet for the average person, i’d say a Subaru Outback could well be the only car you’d ever need, Forester if you want slightly smaller.

  7. An interesting topic, Sean, which is also one of my favourites. Clearly, I feel very similar as you do. Only, I’m not sure if it’s really the enthusiast’s choice that is guilty here. I rather tend to think that today we have a lack of choice, thus being forced to choose things we don’t even want.

    Your point about kids in the back of cars, for instance. Of course, for a family, I could buy any kind of MPV and be fine off with room and visibility for my kids. Some of them might even have a decent ride and/or be fun to drive. But what if I’d rather want a nice estate with better balanced handling which isn’t cramped inside and has tiny windows? Difficult.

    Or the ride quality. You get that when you have the money to spend for a large car. But what about things like for example my Citroën GS? It’s 4.10 m and 900 kg, with superbly soft, yet light-footed ride and steering, and at the same time wery safe to drive and able to corner well, in spite of the narrow tyres. What compact car do I get today that doesn’t have the same hard(ish) ride on its torsion beam axle chassis?

    What has made choices disappear? I think it’s standardising / cost cutting on one hand, but also the influence of a motoring press that measures everything in terms of sportyness and aggressivity. An interesting discussion, indeed.

  8. Judd. I think you’ve covered many of my gripes about the cliches of contemporary design. ‘Privacy’ glass (what right do you have to privacy, you are on the public road?) glass in the rear side windows always seems particularly clumsy, breaking the continuity of the side view. Except in the prospect of my greater likelihood of survival in the case of an accident, and better fuel consumption, I agree that there’s little that a modern car offers me that I actually need. As I’ve got older, I’m conscious I don’t want to get into a reactionary rut where nothing new is any good, but it’s not like that really, but, for me, the motor industry has lost itself by putting function low down the list and pandering to silly fantasies..

    Simon. Yes, I agree that motoring journalists are probably far more influential than ordinary punters. But, although some journos might be self-indulgent and immature and treat each road-test as a chance to hoon around, we could be more generous and think that maybe they just have the wrong idea of their readership. Just because, if asked, 99.7% of the male population would say that they are enthusiastic drivers and watch re-runs of Top Gear at least 8 times a week, magazines build up an image that their readers want hard, mean cars. Really, they don’t, they just don’t realise it and a good journalist would understand this.

  9. Since writing this the car has disappeared from its usual parking space. This is worrying. I may not see another like it for a very long time. We don´t have easy access to the vehicle registration system so I can´t find out how many remain in Denmark. Today I saw a flat-blue Ford Cortina estate, evidently a daily driver. It had Ford wheels but from a Mondeo, perhaps and the inevitable jersey cloth seat covers that always, always crease in the direction of the driver´s movement into the car. It was not a special car but a definitely a daily driver. I didn´t know they were sold in flat blue.

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