What Would You Do To Turn Jealousy’s Grin?

We are back to Jutland’s E-Z Biler for this one. This is a very rare beast indeed, a 2.8 litre diesel Nissan Laurel. Did I just see a unicorn among those parked cars?

1984 Nissan Laurel 2.8 diesel

Can you believe I actually got to open the doors of this car and sit inside? I sat in the driver’s seat and I plomped myself down in the back too, noticing that there wasn’t a whole lot of legroom for a car so big. I also noticed the remarkably clean condition of the remarkable expanse of remarkable tufted beige velour upholstery. Was I happy about this?

A bit less than I´d hoped. It might seem perverse to say this but the fact all these rare and unusual cars are gathered under one roof diminishes the pleasure of seeing them. The most normal thing is to

1985 Nissan Laurel interior

stumble across a car like this when going about the daily routine. You walk down the street, reading the badges:

Aygo, Astra, Mazda, Up,

Aygo, Audi, Focus,  Up,

207, Astra, Up.

Alfa, Focus, Aygo, Karl,

Mito, Aygo, Lancer, Lexus,

Up, Aygo, Laurel…


You stop in your tracks and breathe out an expletive when you see a rarity such as this car. A Laurel? Not on my street.

A chance encounter has the power of serendipity. It feels like seeing the Holy Grail being carried by a Yeti, Elvis and Lord Lucan. It’s a rare car, you say, amazed. It happened to me today when I saw a real life late-model Cortina smoking up to the rail station only to drift off before I had a chance to give it a close look.

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I could probably go and a see a Cortina if I cared to look in the used-car ads but I’d rather see one by chance.

By the same token, the Laurel was one odd car packed in amongst the very many odd cars on sale at this dealer. And furthermore I knew it was there because I sometimes look at the dealer’s inventory. So, if I wasn’t unhappy I certainly did not get the same unalloyed thrill of seeing such a car by the side of the road on my way to collect something from the post-office. In this case, I expected to see the car so the delight attained did not reach the heights I’d have reached had this been seen while popping out for milk.

I may even forget I have seen this car whereas the chance sighting of an early Fiat 131 seen in Geneva around 2008 will forever remain embossed in my memory alongside a suddent, transfixing encounter with a Talbot Solara in Copenhagen in 2002 (the last time I ever saw one**)

1984 Nissan Laurel interior, rear: source

So, yes, here we are inside an unlocked, one-owner, m.y. 1984 Nissan Laurel. It has just 42,000 km on the clock and a diesel 2.8 litre straight six engine. They want 12,000 for the car which is quite in line with the 10,000 asked for a similar car in Austria (two-owners, with 100,000 km). A vendor in Germany wants 7,000 for a 1985 Laurel with 136,000 km. And finally another German seller wants 12,000 for an 1985, also with 100,000 km on the clock. So, as John Coates would say, those prices are very firm to fruity.

Might I ask, is there something up (and going up) with the prices of recent classics?  I am pretty sure five years ago such a car was not worth more than 2000, give or take? Is it dawning on people that if you want a car with an ashtray you can’t buy one new any more?

(** I noticed decent Solaras now cost thousands of euros to buy. Imagine, a car as drab as a Solara commanding more than a grand?)

Author: richard herriott

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

48 thoughts on “What Would You Do To Turn Jealousy’s Grin?”

  1. It’s hard to fathom why anyone would spend €12k for the Laurel. It looks to be in immaculate condition and, one assumes, it has been well cared for and garaged during its 34 years life. It’s low mileage is, however, a double-edged sword: 1,200km a year is possibly good news if it was used on average once a week for a journey of 24km, but bad news if it was used daily for very short trips. On the other hand, if it has been laid up for an extended period, then it will require recommissioning and there will be many components that have deteriorated and will require replacement (if you can find them).

    Once you have recommissioned it, what you do with it? Use it as a daily driver and it will probably depreciate rapidly as it loses the unique attraction of its immaculate condition. It’s probably far too mundane to become a museum exhibit*. One has to hope that an enthusiast is attracted to it and uses it for dry-weather Sunday afternoon drives and historic car meetings with felliw enthusiasts.

    * That said I would find it every bit as interesting as most of the exotica that usually usually feature in motor museums, but I might be a bit odd in that regard!

    1. No, not at all. I would have a museum of these kinds of cars as well if I was a curator. We get onto the topic of what a good and interesting car museum would be like. For me it´s the chance to see cars that you don´t see very much or are much discussed.

  2. One for the man who HAS to be different? Perhaps we shall soon see one as the favoured transport of a grumpy, old school TV detective who will have no truck with electronics? No, probably not…

    1. Isn´t there a detective on BBC1 who drives a Volvo 240? I saw an ad for it when I was perusing some UK printed media a little time after Christmas.

  3. I believe the detective in question is Luther. I’ve not seen the latest series but in previous episodes indeed a 240 can occasionally be seen transporting him around London’s environs.

    1. Old cars seem to be a frequent trope for TV detectives. From the German “Tatort” series, there are at least three I remember instantly. Borowski from Kiel used to drive a brown(ish) Passat from the mid-eighties, which he “shot dead” after it broke down in one episode. It was replaced by a red Volvo 740 afterwards. Then there was Kopper from Ludwigshafen, who had a lovely Fiat 130 saloon (he was depicted as being half German, half Italian). Apparently, the film car was destroyed in his last episode where he had an accident in it. The production company was citicised a lot about this, as they used an actual, restored and functioning vehicle for this. Furthermore, there is Murot who in some episodes is seen in an NSU RO80.
      But a Laurel? I couldn’t imagine this, at least not in Germany.

  4. As for curating a “mundane museum of motors” can I suggest a summertime jaunt to the festival of the Unexceptional or its other name being the Concors de la Ordinaire? Held near to Silverstone track, you can see mark 1 Stilo’s and Cavaliers along with Metro’s, Maestro ‘s, and virtually anything “mundane “ you can think of. For mundane, read more rare than supercars but FAR more interesting to the likes of the DTW fraternity. It really is all about the beautifully forgotten and not so pristine examples of cars we remember from our youth. Best of all, the show is free to attend and everyone seems quite friendly and open to discussion on how they own or run a mandate motor.
    And Richard, if you do start up a museum, will you do discounts for the DTW massive?

  5. I’m reminded that the first car I ever hired was a Solara. It was an interesting experience as I had to hand it back to have the automatic choke (remember them?) adjusted without any great success. Also, the power steering had reverse self centring. Go anywhere near lock and the wheel would go the rest of the way itself and stay there until you hauled it away again. Interesting times.

    1. I remember both – but not from a Solara. My AX had an electronic choke, carburettor and catalyst combination – delightful. It worked most of the time, though, and I was able to kind of fix it by taking out the engine fault warning light bulb. The kind of power steering you described could also be found in the Volvo 240. I was quite startled when I first experienced this ‘feature’ on a narrow mountain road…

  6. Wow – I have just been browsing EZ Biler’s stock list – what a fabulously eclectic mix of cars. A Renault 12TS, Renault 30, Volvo 780, Morris Marina Coupe, Opel Kadett coupes and a 1966 Datsun Bluebird amongst many others. I don’t suppose I have ever come across a garage with those vehicles on offer together before.

    1. Me too. They have rarities like Ford’s first RS models which are not what one would have thought – they were fwd Taunuses. Not that surprisingly the two examples on sale are the Danish equivalent of POA.
      E-Z Biler’s list of brugte biler is now my favourite site. For today anyway.

  7. It seemed Nissan was selling a Spring buccolic dream with their names at the time: Laurel, Cherry, Sunny, March, Prairie, Bluebird.

    1. There’s even a game hiding in plain sight. In the main picture of the article there’s a car on the top right hand corner I can’t identify….yet. We see a glimpse of a two-tone blue/silver car. Iam only playing this game if there’s a Scorpio/Granada to win btw.

    2. Good morning NRJ. That’s too easy: it’s a Datsun Cherry Coupé

      That very distinctive C-pillar is a dead giveaway.

    3. Good Morning Daniel. Well done. There isn’t a Scorpio/Granada to win in this contest so I decided to let other, less fortunate people, win this time around. Still, congratulations are in order I suppose.

    4. Thank you for your fulsome felicitations, NRJ. As one of life’s less fortunates, I am grateful for any scraps of acknowledgement…

  8. Much to my own astonishment, I´ve done some research on the Laurel because I wanted to know how it was viwed at the time. You won´t be all that amazed to find reviews are thin on the floor but Autocropley covered this model in late 1979. eBay are sending me a copy and I am now the proud, proud owner of a 1981 brochure. I just can´t wait to see how this fine car was viewed at the time, can you?

    1. Oh, yes please, Richard, I’m looking forward to it!

      I really like reading car reviews and tests from the 70’s and 80’s. (Vauxpedia.net reproduces many on Vauxhall/Opel cars, including comparative tests with their European and Japanese competitors.) They tend to be more earnest, technical and factual than their present day equivalents. Car Magazine’s Giant Tests were always entertaining, and from an era when the magazine was interested in the sort of cars most of its readership could actually afford. Happy days! (apart from three-day weeks, oil crises, strikes, terrible fashion, casual racism and prejudice and discrimination, of course…)

    2. Super – there´s one signed up already. The magazine arrives in a few days.

      I just wondered. Is there any mileage in the idea of a car conference, with lectures and panel debates? Instead of an article, people could run up a power-point slide show and talk about a topic in a slightly formal way. Or is that something people just wouldn´t be able to cope with?

    3. Dear Professor Herriott. I have received the prospectus for your upcoming conference and studied it thoroughly. Please may I enrol for the lectures on ‘Colours and patterns of velour upholstery through the decades’ and ‘Hubcaps and wheel trims 1980-1999’? Many thanks.

    4. Dear Mr Tebby: Thank you for your interest in the conference. It is not about lectures so much as presentations by different participants. The theme this year will be …. what? Anyone care to write a 50-word call for papers?
      The formula is something like “The 2019 DTW Car Conference invites papers on the topic of X. Since blah blah blah and blah blah blah it would be interesting to consider contributions on and around the topic of x, y and z. Participants might wish to discuss etc etc and etc and even etc. Deadline for submision of abstracts is August 1 and full manuscripts by September 14. The conference will takes place at the Hotel Der Achtermann, Goslar, Germany.”

    5. I wonder if I would be let in. People might think I will turn the conference into a circus. People are wrong.

    6. @Adrian. It’s a shame we won’t see each other. I took ‘Ashtray style and mechanisms before the war on tobacco’. I’m a bit wary though as Richard conducts the class inside an Opel Senator while smoking cigars.

  9. I’m so up for this and already have my presentation all ready to go!

    It’s entitled “Convex to Concave: the mystery of the Escort Mk4 front wing profile”

    It’s a detailed exposé of how Ford subtly changed the profile of the front wing above the bodyside crease when it revised the Escort Mk3 into the Mk4 The earlier model had a simple convex profile from door to headlamp. On the later one, the profile changes from convex to concave as it moves forward. Why? What is the significance of this subtle design flourish? We need to know.

    I have a 57-slide PowerPoint presentation, which take about 90 minutes to deliver.

    Can’t wait!

    1. Daniel: did you somehow slide out of an original placement at art school and into your current line of work by means of some huge error? I have MA students who would not know what you were talking about. Abstract accepted but please cut it down to 50 slides. You have an hour.

    2. Hi Daniel,

      Didn’t the Sierra’s front wing have this mix of convex and concave ?

    3. Otherwise the Citroën XM has to be the poster girl for convex/concave surfacing.

    4. About that front wing: I believe the intent was to “force” the shadow to stay clear of the crease. (Deleted: long section on angular difference). The Audi 80 uses this forcing method on a small scale, the Suzuki Ignis has it too and the rather horrible Audi Q2 has “forced” reflections all over it, in fact the car´s main characterstic. I liked the effect on the Ford, Suzuki and Audi 80 because it is used with restraint. On the Q2 is it´s all over the car making it look as if the car is carved from porcelain. I feel I might wish to write this up at greater length so I will not say any more about it.

    5. Hi Richard, at the risk of scooping my own presentation(!) I  did think that it was indeed something to do with the way light played on the wing and bonnet.  Rather than have a very slight bodyside crease suddenly change into a much sharper one as it rounded the front corner to meet the leading edge of the bonnet, the concave profile allowed the angle of the crease to increase progresively as it approached the front corner, easing its transition into the leading edge of the bonnet.

      On the Escort Mk3, the bodyside crease simply faded out as it approached the front corner.  Instead, it was the much sharper crease at the top of the wing that wrapped around to transition into the leading edge of the bonnet. 

      On the Mk4 it is the wing top crease that fades out instead. I actually prefer the purity of the Mk3 treatment, but still admire the skill with which the Mk4 has been resolved.

      This sort of thoughtful detail absolutely fascinates me.  It’s where good designers really earn their keep and often makes the difference between a very pleasing design and and a jarring one.

      Bugger! I now need to come up with another presentation…

    6. This was for an old Clio II btw, insured at the minimum level because full coverage is not worth it so these expenses are not covered.

    7. I found the title for my presentation. It will be called ‘The sadness in my father’s Passat and how I cracked the formula for automotive success”. I’ll admit, it is very hard to get past the first 3 sentences. But I’am hoping this conference thing will never get pulled off or that something will happen to the planet before then.

    8. My hopes were not in vain, something did happen to the planet. The conference/presentation is definitely cancelled #Virus

    9. And just as we were all doing so well avoiding mention of the elephant currently in every room, NRJ. Still you enabled us to become reacquainted with this wonderfully esoteric chain of comments, so well done!

    1. You can really find anything on Ebay. Unbelievable but I bought a car bonnet on Ebay 2 weeks ago ! Something I honestly thought would never occur even though I’m a regular Ebay customer. I didn’t even know people sold car bonnets in there.

      What happened was that I had a small crash and had to replace bonnet, front bumper and headlights but the colour is not very common and I didn’t find any bonnet of the same colour in all the places around me. I had been looking for these things for about 3 days when it suddenly occured to me to check on Ebay but I had no hopes whatsoever of finding it there. And lo and behold, there was a second-hand bonnet of the same colour. Same price as the garages in my area but with 15 euro delivery fee which was worth it because it saved me painting myself or getting a garage to paint it. the delivery was estimated as 1 to 2 weeks and I received it 30 hours later from the other side of the country ! It came at home in a big flat carton. Unreal. I bought the bumper in white in a garage and spray painted it myself with the original car paint…..bought on ebay too.

  10. Datsun Laurel’s “European design” to Renault Clio body repairs: this post has wandered around like a drunk at a disco. It’s what makes DTW brilliant!

    1. The “European design” concept is worth interrogating. I´ve overlooked it.
      My neighbour has bought a Xantia sill on eBay and is welding it himself. I bought some pocket digital cameras on eBay as well (prices are very firm to plangent, in Coates-speak).

  11. Hi, NRJ. Yes, you’re right, the upper wing profile on the Sierra was concave just ahead of the door mirror, with a subtle crease intended to extend the line of the DLO forward (and take some visual height out of the front wing?) This crease simply faded out as it went forward:

    The Sierra was a nice piece of design, IMHO, especially in post-facelift form with smaller radius curves in the corners of the side glasses, which sharpened it up nicely. It was a shame the mechanicals underpinning it were so unsophisticated, mainly carried over from the Mk4 Cortina/Taunus.

    1. That´s the facelifted one which has the Scorpio-esque nose. Isn´t the original one purer?
      The sculpting of the wing is well done and I still like the car.
      Why did they dump the Sierra name? Mondeo is fine but “Sierra” has a nice ring to it.

    2. Hi Richard, the original was certainly purer and more distinctive, but the large radius curves made the body sides look rather heavy and the car a bit under-wheeled, especially in lower trim versions:

      I still like it, though.

      The change was quite subtle, if expensive, but made a big difference and markedly reduced resistance to the “jellymould” shape.

      Sierra did have a nice ring to it but, as I understand it, the name was dropped because Ford wanted to signal a break with its (increasingly unfashionable?) RWD layout. It was probably the right decision, given what a dynamically excellent car the first Mondeo was.

    3. My understanding of the reasoning behind the name change was the fact that the Mondeo was intended to be a ‘world car’ and that Ford either couldn’t licence the Sierra name to be used in the US market, or that it was already ‘owned’ by a rival manufacturer (in that market). Perhaps one of our North American readers could confirm or deny this?

    4. Hi Eóin. The Sierra Name belongs to GM in the US and is used on GMC pick-ups. That said, the Mondeo name was never used in the US. If I recall correctly, US versions of the first Mondeo were branded Ford Contour and Mercury Mystique. The current version is, of course, sold as the Ford Fusion, just to confuse matters further.

    5. Yes I agree, it was quite distinctive I think. It made quite a splash at the time with its unusual rounded forms.

    6. I remember too that Ford explained the Mondeo name by saying that it was now a world car sold pretty much everywhere and this wa implied in the new name.

      I really liked Ford’s European names at the time: Escort, Orion (one of my favourite ever), Sierra, Scorpio. I never liked the name Capri for some reasons but then again I have no recollection of the car then.

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