Posted by Chris Wold
What does it take to be unique? In this industry of constant customization it seems like going above and beyond with the highest horsepower numbers, the rarest JDM part, or the most uncommon RHD cars has become common place. Private builders, shops and part companies all battle one another in a dizzying whirlwind of transformation to create the extraordinary. Sometimes, though, being one of a kind just happens.
Enter the Nissan Laurel. Debuting in Japan in 1968 as a midsized sedan for the upper middle class, the Laurel fell between the Datsun Bluebird 510 and the upscale Nissan Cedric. In 1972 the two door hard top version became available, and with its pillar-less fastback design and large hindquarters, it was nicknamed Butaketsu in Japanese, which affectionately means “Pigs Butt”. Combine the looks of a lengthened Datsun 510 body; add sweeping creases over the wheel wells on the powerful looking posterior and throw in an arrow straight body line traversing the flanks of the car and you get the Laurel, a vehicle that looks to be in motion even when standing still. Because of its coupe styling, independent four wheel suspension and the C130 (1972 – 1975) Laurel quickly became popular among the Bosozoku of Japan (speed gangs), who used it to molest the stretch of newly opened passage between Tokyo and Nagoya known as the Tomei Expressway. During the 70′s and beyond it was not uncommon to see the Laurel tearing down the expressway, battling with its arch nemesis the Toyota Mark II Corona
None of this really mattered to Rory Baldrey though. He wasn’t trying to be unique, or turn heads, or acquire a piece of Nissan history that’s rarer in the US than steak tartare. Rory had fallen in love with the looks of early era Skylines, and when he first saw the shape of the C130 Laurel he knew he had to bring one of the Nippon masterpieces stateside. “I loved the early era American domestic looks, coupled with the Japanese engineering,” Baldrey says, “Above all though; the lines on the car are just beautiful.”
After endlessly searching Japanese auction sites, he located a 1976 Laurel SGX in Yokahama. These cars are hard to find in decent shape even in Japan, so after getting the thumbs up from a contact from Nagoya who drove out and inspected the car, no time was wasted purchasing the SGX through Japanese Yahoo. After a container ship voyage to Long Beach California, the fiasco of classic vehicle importation documents and a truck drive up to Idaho, the Laurel had ended its several thousand mile and over three decade long journey as Rorys new ride.
Having been a mechanic and vehicle customizer by trade, Rory was right at home performing some light restoration and modification work to the Laurel. Wanting to keep things as true to the original JDM Bosozuke style as possible, he only added a set of custom metal side skirts, custom carbon fiber fender flares and black suede paint to the exterior, and opted to keep the front air dam, front mount oil cooler and rear spoiler from the former owner. As if the stance from the stretched 50 series tires on the 14″ SSR MK1 wheels wasn’t aggressive enough, a custom suspension setup using a specialized coil spring shock combo in the rear and fabricated coil overs in the front was used to give the Laurel an even more antagonizing stance. The interior remained untouched, and is believed to be all original except for a few JDM goodies like seat covers and an acrylic shift knob with a yellow fly fishing fly cast in the center. After adding a Koyo aluminum radiator, and fabricating a custom exhaust to bolt to the JDM header, it was time to cruise one of the best examples of classic modified Japanese iron the US has ever seen.
Occasionally, being unique and impressive is just a byproduct of chasing a dream, and not the primary goal. Whatever the motivations were, having this one of a kind vehicle scraping US pavement is a welcome side affect of one man’s pursuit of vehicular ideals.
1976 Nissan Laurel SGX
Owned by: Rory Baldrey
From: Boise, Idaho
Fast Car Facts: Only Known Laurel in the United States, Purchased in Yokahama, Japan off of Japanese Yahoo Auction Site, Shipped to US through Long Beach, CA on Open Deck Vessel, Won Best RHD Vehicle at the Japanese Classic Car Show in 2007, Featured on Japanese Nostalgic Car Magazine’s Website Homepage.
L20 2.0 Inline 6 Cylinder Factory Fuel Injected Motor
Rear Coil Springs / Shocks
|Original Factory Specs for C130 Laurel (2nd Generation 1972 – 1976)
Story by: Ryan Jeppesen