Back in the late ’70s and early ’80s, Toyota and Nissan were locked in a bitter battle to sell America big luxury sedans filled with futuristic electronics and powered by powerful six-cylinder engines. Toyota has the Cressida (a close cousin of the Supra), while Nissan has the Datsun 810 (a close cousin of the Z-Car). As the 1980s wore on, the Datsun 810 became the Nissan Maxima, and the Cressida got wiser (ie, less fun) every year. This is a second-generation Maxima recently spotted at a Colorado self-service yard.

The Maxima name started as an 810 trim-level name and then became a separate model name before Datsun became Nissan in North America.

For the 1985 model year, the Maxima switched from rear- to front-wheel drive, and its inline-six L-series engine became a VG-series V6. It was a slightly detuned version of the 3.0 used in the 300ZX of the same year, rated at 157 horsepower.

In 1988, the base Maxima was still available with a five-speed manual transmission, but American sedan buyers had long since disliked three-pedal cars. This one has a four-speed automatic transmission.

In Japan at the time (and to some extent, today), high-quality cloth seats were considered more luxurious than slippery, hot and noisy leather seats. You can get leather in a 1988 Maxima (which, in my opinion, ruins it in the process), but it costs $785 more (or $2,022 in 2022 dollars).

Life wasn’t worth living without seven-band graphic equalizers and cassette recorders with faux brushed stainless steel surfaces in 1988, when pop music was at its all-time high. Naturally, Nissan’s voice warning system is fully functional in this car, although the system has gone solid and no longer uses a small phonograph record to talk to you.

Like Ford back then (and Ford today), Nissan offered a digital keypad lock system.

The odometer only shows 86,540 miles, which is very low for a 34-year-old luxury sedan. Note the dual mechanical trip counters.

The SECU-RITY light illustrates one of the pitfalls of Japanese to English translation.

MSRP for the automatic-equipped 1988 Maxima starts at $16,949, but I suspect this is the $17,949 SE model. In today’s dollars, those prices are $43,656 and $46,232, respectively. The Cressida cost $20,250 ($52,159) that year; it had one less horse under the hood, but done Has rear wheel drive. Meanwhile, you can pick up a new Pontiac 6000 STE and its satisfyingly sophisticated electronics for $18,699 ($48,164).

There is some rust, nothing fatal. I suspect the car broke down a year or two ago and sat there waiting for a fix, which never came.

For luxury and performance, you have to sacrifice value. Nissan refuses to accept it!

In its homeland, the car was known as the Bluebird Maxima.

In the second year, Maxima became bigger and rounder.

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