Nissan Laurel Buying Guide
Amongst all JDM car manufacturers, Nissan has the best variety of tuner cars to choose from. Options range from iconic sports cars such as the Nissan Skyline, a dearest among car enthusiasts, JDM lovers, and haters alike, to quick and fun coupes such as the Nissan 370Z. And Nissan has produced every single one better than its predecessor though everyone might have yet to approve of the recently unveiled Nissan GT-R. However, with ever-increasing JDM sports car prices, few buyers will go for them.
Some buyers prefer something unique that stands out from the crowd, and nobody will be creeping up to take photos in a parking spot. This is where JDM sedans, such as the Nissan Laurel, enter the conversation. But don’t let the four doors fool you. If built right, the Nissan Laurel is more than a grocery getter or a part-time school bus that you’ll underestimate and try to gap on the highway.
The Nissan Laurel is among a group of sportier Nissan Sedans that Nissan built to compete against Toyota’s vast array of sedans, such as the glorious Toyota Chaser and Mark II, which are equally good. Initially, it was built on the Nissan Skyline’s platform as a luxury version of the Skyline but was later produced independently, sharing the infamous RB engines with the Nissan Skyline. The RB engines in later generations make the Nissan Laurel highly desirable among tuners and drifters.
Would you buy a Nissan Laurel? In this guide, we’ll cover the pros of owning one and the cons and typical issues you should expect during ownership.
Pros and Cons
Value For Money
There’s little to the Nissan Laurel to classify it as a JDM luxury or VIP sedan, but it’s well-built on the exterior and interior. Being a sedan, cabin, and trunk spaces are large enough even for those long trips that require you to fill the trunk to the brim. The Nissan Laurel’s suspension might not be as good as the one in the Nissan Gloria, but ride comfort is okay for a car produced in the 20th century. The same case applies to the drive feel and handling. After all, most JDM cars have the same snags.
Luckily, most sellers don’t overprice, so when buying a Nissan Laurel, you get it for what it’s worth. Shipping or locally buying one will dent you at most $15,000 unless the car has extensive work done and some tasteful aesthetic and performance mods. If you’re patient enough, you might score a deal on a mint Nissan Laurel since it’s easy to get one locally for less than $5,000. But with other sedans such as the Nissan Skyline sedan in play, picking which one to get might be tricky regardless of the Nissan Laurel being cheaper.
Tons of Aftermarket Support
Any JDM car ownership journey has modifications planned, which are only possible if the car has sufficient aftermarket support. The Nissan Laurel has indirect aftermarket support as it shares powertrain and drivetrain components with the Nissan Skyline, Silvia, and Cefiro, some of the most common JDM cars on United States Soil. For example, the Laurel C33 shares chassis components with the R32 Skyline sedan and suspension parts with the S13 Silvia. Most JDM car manufacturers did this to minimize manufacturing, but they didn’t know it would come in handy for motorheads in the future.
Also, not necessarily related to aftermarket support, the Nissan Laurel is easy to work on, even for beginners, as it is uncomplicatedly built. Also, there are countless videos on YouTube and information on online forums and social media pages on how to work on RB engines. Such platforms also help in selecting which aftermarket parts to buy since information is from owners. Not all aftermarket manufacturers make durable and reliable parts.
Great Tuner Engines and Drift Platform
Buying a JDM car and failing to play around with the engine or trying to drift it almost feels like a crime. According to car enthusiasts, they were built for that, and the Nissan Laurel is no exception despite being a sedan. It might be one of the least luxurious Nissan sedans, but it has some of the best tuner options. All Nissan Laurels made after 1984 share RB engines with the Nissan Skyline; some even have VG engines mainly used in the Nissan Fairlady.
Two RB engine variants are available in the Nissan Laurel, the RB20 and RB25, in naturally aspirated and turbocharged forms, with earlier model years getting SOHC variants of the same engine. If there are several options, get a C32, C33, C34, or C35 Laurel with a 2.0-liter RB20DET or a 2.5-liter RB25DET. The 2.0-liter VG20ET is also a good engine, but it requires more work to make decent power.
RB in RB engines means “Race Bred”; from existing builds, “highly tunable” is an understatement. These engines can handle anything between 300 and 500 horsepower with stock internals. A complete engine rebuild with aftermarket supporting mods and under the hands of a good tuner will slingshot power figures to double what the engine can handle without having to rebuild the engine.
The Nissan Laurel has great tuner engines, but can it drift? Definitely. In the 1990s, it was one of Japan’s most popular drift sedans and still is today. Its rear-wheel-drive, the most basic requirement for a drift car, and some trim levels, especially those with a turbocharged engine, have an LSD from the factory which is perfect for grassroot drifting. For pro drifting, an aftermarket LSD should be on your list for priority mods.
Making a Nissan Laurel Look Good is Easy
In a list of the best-looking JDM sedans, the Nissan Laurel should be among the top ones. Older generation Laurel coupes have a distinct JDM classic car look. Most of the time, people will ask you what’s the car since they need to know what they’re looking at. Some will even confuse the car for an older Hakosuka Skyline, Cedric, or Gloria, but you can’t blame them since they look similar.
The boxier look that Nissan adopted from the fourth-gen Laurel might not be appealing, but a front lip and side skirts are all it takes to make anyone admire one. To spice it up, get the car repainted and swap the factory wheels with aftermarket ones. There are numerous show-built Laurels on the internet to draw inspiration from.
Exceptional Reliability and Durability
Whether a small Kei truck or a large SUV, JDM cars have proved reliable and durable time and again, and the Nissan Laurel is no exception. Without any mods or with minimal mods, it’s easy to run and maintain, as all that has to be done is fill up the gas tank and check fluid levels. Fuel and oil consumption might be higher than your average Nissan Altima, but it’s nothing to complain about for a car over 20 years old.
Insurance costs will be the same since the Nissan Laurel isn’t a high value and isn’t prone to theft compared to, for example, a Skyline R32 GT-R. How long will a Nissan Laurel last? When maintained accordingly, a Nissan Laurel will last for roughly 250,000 miles with minor repairs, provided you got it in pristine condition from the previous owner.
Not Fun to Drive When Stock
The Nissan Laurel might have a suspension setup similar to the Silvia and engine options similar to the Skyline, but driving will disappoint if you buy one with high expectations. Disappointment is expected when buying the Nissan Laurel and every JDM sedan since they are heavier and not precisely made for enthusiastic driving.
Most of them, including the Nissan Laurel, were made with an automatic transmission, which most JDM car buyers try as much as possible to avoid. On the bright side, swapping to a manual transmission isn’t difficult. For drifting, weight shedding is compulsory, along with other necessary mods such as changing to a drift suspension setup and improving engine cooling, wheels, and tires.
Poor Interior Build Quality
Nissan didn’t make the Laurel a luxury sedan, unlike the Cedric, Cima, Gloria, and President. It was among the cars they produced to curb the demand for transportation means in Japan; thus, manufacturing costs had to be kept as low as possible. Some generations were even made with a taxi trim level with the most basic features. Getting woolen or leather seats in the Nissan Laurel is rare, even in luxury trim levels such as Laurel Medalist. Most have fabric seats that tear and lose padding over time. It doesn’t matter whether you get them in good condition as they’ll wear out, which is expected with older cars. The floor mats, roof liner, and electronics such as the folding mirrors, AC controls, and gauge cluster lights might need replacement.
Nissan Laurel Common Issues
Rapid Timing Belt Wear and Tear
On owner forums and published or uploaded videos and content on the internet, one of the most common faults on RB engines, including the RB20 and RB25 engines in the Nissan Laurel, is timing belt failure. There are no causes, but replacing the timing belt between 3000 and 5000 miles is advisable. Heavily tuned engines need an aftermarket timing belt, and it will last less than 3000 miles if the car is hooned, but in a good way, regularly.
Failure to change the changing belt in any Nissan with an RB engine might lead to valve failure as they don’t open and close simultaneously. Piston rod bending follows suit as the piston heads hit the closed valve leading to catastrophic engine failure, and an engine rebuild is the only solution. To prevent valve failure and bent piston rods, the early signs of timing belt failure you should watch out for are misfires, trouble starting the engine, and loss of power, especially at high RPMS.
Oil System Issues
High oil consumption in older JDM cars is something every owner is accustomed to, and they’ll remember to mention it to every new JDM car buyer. However, some oil issues are relative to specific cars with similar engines. In Nissans with RB engines, in this case, the Nissan Laurel, the entire oil system can be as painful as a splinter in the fingernail. Issues range from overheating to poor oil control, leaks, starvation, and oil pump failure. Overheating mainly happens in Laurels purposely built for track use or driven in hotter areas. Installing an oil cooler, regularly checking the oil level and refilling if low, and using high-quality oil should eliminate overheating.
Poor oil control, starvation, and oil pump failure are common in Nissan Laurels made before 1995 since it’s claimed that Nissan fixed the issue between 1992 and 1994 in all their cars with RB engines. The leading and only cause for the three issues is that the oil pump is driven by a flat section welded on the crankshaft, commonly known as the crank collar.
In earlier models, the crank collar is short; thus, it wears out quicker due to friction and doesn’t reach the oil pump deeming it useless. Or it wears out unevenly, causing damage to the oil pump drive gear. When either happens, the engine is deprived of oil and heats up. Nissan fixed this by increasing the size of the crank collar. If you have a Laurel with an early model year RB engine, an easy fix is to get a slightly larger collar machined onto the crankshaft.
How do you fix it? Replacing the OEM fuel pump with a mass-flowing one is highly recommended for RB engines pushing massive horsepower figures. Also, some aftermarket parts manufacturers have crankshafts that lock to the oil pump, reducing friction, but both have to be ordered together. It’s self-explanatory how expensive that is.
Overhauling the engine oil system is the best option if there are still issues after reworking the collar and replacing the oil pump. Some modifications improve oil circulation, such as fitting an external oil return hose to the cylinder head from the sump prevents an internal oil leak in the cylinder head. Even so, trying to fix oil issues based on solutions on the internet is a gamble, so you should ensure you know the source of the problem or involve an expert if it needs clarification.
Ignition System Issues
Ignition system issues are common in most Nissan engines, including the VG V6 engines, as they use a coil-on-plug ignition system. Also, the ignition coil and wiring harnesses are located on the lower part of the engine, which is hotter than any other part of the engine bay. Thus the heat from the engine causes them to crack and loosen the terminals. Early signs of ignition system failure include hard starts, misfires, loss of power, decreasing fuel economy, and the engine light keeps flashing.
Replacing the OEM ignition system should fix the misfires and loss of power, but only if you replace all ignition coils and wiring harnesses. Also, replacing the spark plugs might go a long way, especially if the engine has experienced oil leaks and oil surge issues.
Factory Suspension Bushes Failure
When buying any old car, be it a JDM car or a muscle car, some issues, such as suspension bushings failure, are expected. This is due to normal wear and tear and old age, as not all parts are meant to last throughout the car’s lifetime. Early signs of faulty suspension bushings on the Nissan Laurel include noises when driving over bumps, potholes, and rough roads, stiffness or weak steering, and when braking.
If the bushings are too far gone, you’ll notice uneven tire wear and a lot of wheel curbing if you have low-profile wheels. Front suspension bushes wear out quicker than rear suspension bushes. Yet, it’s best to replace all of them, especially in high-mileage Laurels. Or the bushes have never been replaced since the car rolled out of the manufacturing plant.
The Nissan Laurel is among the few JDM cars unaffected by increasing JDM car prices. Demand is low, and it gets little attention in the car community. If you are in the market for a Nissan Laurel, expect to pay roughly $13,000 for one if it has a turbocharged RB20 or RB25 engine. Units with Naturally aspirated or older engines, such as the 2.0-liter VG20ET, sell for approximately $10,000. Depending on the spec and model year, some even go for less than $6,000.
What To Look For When Buying a Nissan Laurel
Like buying any other car, test driving, inspecting the car’s overall condition, and verifying documents should be done before negotiations. But with a Nissan Laurel, you have to go that extra mile and check for dents on the body panels and rust, which is not new to JDM cars.
Finding body parts for the Nissan Laurel can be a pain in the neck which is the main reason you should try buying one with such. But if the dents are fixable, try negotiating with the buyer to lower the asking price. Common rust spots in the Nissan Laurel include underneath the floor mats, strut towers, and door jambs. Check underneath the car, especially on suspension components, behind-the-wheel wells, and the frame.
RB engines might be reliable and durable but can crumble if mods are done poorly. Always inspect the quality of the work done and the parts installed. Sellers will provide a mod list that should help judge the quality of the components installed from reviews online or basic knowledge if you are conversant with aftermarket parts.
Which Nissan Laurel model year and spec should you get? Get one with an RB20DET or RB25DET, provided it’s not an eighth-gen, as no manual transmission option was offered in the C35 Laurel. The medalist and Club S trims are rare and have some sportier and luxurious features such as high-quality fabric seats, a sunroof, a wing, and wider than base spec trim levels.
- Toyota Chaser (Buying Guide)
- Nissan Cedric (Buying Guide)
- Nissan Gloria (Buying Guide)
- Toyota Mark II (Buying Guide)
- Toyota Celsior (Buying Guide)
- Toyota Altezza (Buying Guide)
Models and Specifications
1968-1972 Nissan Laurel (C30)
Nissan commissioned the production of the first-gen Laurel in 1968 as a more affordable option to the Nissan Cedric and Gloria, but it sat higher than the Nissan Bluebird/Datsun 510. Although all cars from the same year have a similar appearance, the Laurel was built as a coupe or sedan based on the third-gen Nissan Skyline C10 with longer and wider body dimensions since it was a passenger car. The Nissan Laurel C30 competed against other economy sedans, such as the Mazda Luce. It did better than its competitors due to its larger G-series 1.8-liter and 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines, which send power to the rear wheels via a 3-speed automatic or 4-speed manual transmission.
1972-1977 Nissan Laurel (C130)
Nicknamed the Butaketsu in Japan due to its rounder rear end resembling a pig’s butt, the second-gen Nissan Laurel was unveiled in 1972. The only significant changes over the C30 Laurel are mechanical, as the C130 Laurel sedan got a leaf spring rear suspension and a rear beam axle to avoid sagging under load. Also, Nissan added an L-series 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine and 3 L-series inline-six engines, a 2.0-liter, 2.6-liter, and 2.8-liter. The four-cylinder engine used the old 3-speed automatic or 4-speed manual transmission, while a 5-speed manual transmission was made optional for Laurels with the inline-six engines.
1977-1980 Nissan Laurel (C230)
Nissan maintained production of the Laurel as a sedan and coupe for the third generation, but they changed the front and rear ends designs. They also introduced a hardtop design for both body styles, eliminating the B-pillar, thus giving the car a classier look with open windows. The Laurel C230’s front end has a larger boxier grille with the headlights surrounds merged into the front fenders. Engine options remained similar to the C130 Laurel, but new 4-cylinder G-series engines replaced G-series engines. Also, due to Japanese tax regulations affecting cars with larger engines, the 2.6-liter inline six engine was replaced by a 2.4-liter. Transmission options in the C230 include a 3-speed automatic and a 4/5-speed manual.
1980-1984 Nissan Laurel (C31)
The C31 Laurel sedan takes after the boxier hardtop design of the C230 sedan but with a more modern design. It doesn’t have dual headlights, and the turn signal lights are integrated into the rectangular headlights. Two extra turn signals are also mounted lower on the front bumper increasing visibility for oncoming cars. 1980 saw the first turbocharged Nissan Laurel with a 2.0-liter inline-six engine (L20ET), reserved for high-spec units. Local buyers in Japan who wanted to avoid high taxes could opt for a Z-series or C-series 1.8-liter or a 2.0-liter Z-series 4-cylinder engine. Other engine options were 2.0-liter, 2.4-liter, 2.7-liter, and 2.8-liter inline-six engines. A new 4-speed automatic transmission was added to supplement the 3-speed automatic, 4-speed, and 5-speed manual transmissions.
1984-1989 Nissan Laurel (C32)
Like its predecessor, Nissan produced the C32 Laurel as a sedan preserving the coupe body variant for the Nissan Leopard. If you find a resemblance between the fifth-gen Laurel and the R32 Skyline, it’s because both cars were designed by the same person, Osamu Ito. But there are more similarities besides the looks. The C32 Laurel has the same RB20 engine as the R32 Skyline in SOHC naturally aspirated (RB20E) and DOHC turbocharged (RB20DET) variants. Other new engines introduced in 1984 include a 3.0-liter V6 and a 2.0-liter turbocharged V6. Transmission options remain similar to the C31 Laurel except for the 3-speed automatic and 4-speed manual.
1989-1993 Nissan Laurel (C33)
When Nissan introduced RB engines in the Laurel, sales increased, and they decided to proceed with it for the sixth generation. Four RB engines are available in the C33 Laurel compared to two in the C32, the RB20E, RB20DE, RB25DE, and RB25DET. Base spec variants have a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine which buyers could opt for to avoid Japanese high road taxes. The sixth-gen Laurel would become the last generation that Nissan sold with a 5-speed manual transmission, as only diesel engine variants got a manual transmission from 1993.
1993-1997 Nissan Laurel (C34)
In 1993, Nissan dropped the hardtop sedan design due to strict crash safety laws in Japan that required cars to have a B-pillar. Updated road laws and regulations also deemed the C34 Laurel a large sedan translating to high road taxes for buyers. This reduced local sales, although the Nissan Laurel was still selling well in export markets, including the United States. All non-RB engines were discontinued in the C34 Laurel, but no new RB engines were introduced, to the disappointment of enthusiasts who expected the RB26. Only the diesel engine was sold with a manual transmission, and petrol engine variants come with a 4-speed or 5-speed automatic.
1997-2002 Nissan Laurel (C35)
The last generation laurel, C35, was introduced to the Japanese market in 1997, retaining the same engine options in the C34 except for the SOHC RB20E. The diesel engine variant wasn’t sold with a manual transmission like the previous generations for reasons only Nissan knows. In 2003, the Laurel badge was wiped off Nissan’s production lines, but it was hinted earlier due to decreasing sales, and Nissan had reduced the number of trim levels when producing the C35 Laurel.
You get four-cylinder G-series, C-series, Z-series, and L-series inline-six engines on older laurels. And RB engines on newer generations manufactured from 1984. The most sought-after engines in the Nissan Laurel include the RB20DE, RB20DET, RB25DE, and RB25DET.
You only get two RB engine variants in a Nissan Laurel. These are the RB20 and RB25 in naturally aspirated and turbocharged variants. So no, the Nissan Laurel doesn’t have an RB26 engine.
Nissan Laurel prices start at around $5,000 and can go up to $15,000 for a stock unit. But if the seller has put some money into it, expect to pay more than $15,000. But before buying, ensure the car is priced according to market value, not on the worth of mods installed and work done.
The Nissan Laurel has better engine options considering Nissan used RB engines from 1984 until the end of production, and the first-gen Cefiro, A31, comes with RB engines. Also, the Nissan Laurel is better built than the Cefiro.
No, the Nissan Laurel isn’t a Skyline, but some generations share chassis, engine, transmission, and suspensions. For example, the C32 Laurel is built on the Skyline R32 sedan’s chassis and has the same RB20 and RB25 engines used in the Skyline.
Yes. Importing any Nissan Laurel model year into the United States is legal. 2022 saw the C33 Laurel become legal for import but only for units manufactured in 1997.
How to Import a Nissan Laurel
Read our Ultimate Guide on How to Import a Car from Japan