1 Automaker Was Renamed to Honor Royalty
Nissan is a globally well-known brand. However, some of the Japanese automaker’s most famous cars weren’t Nissan models when they first came out. Back in 1966, a regal Japanese brand called the Prince Motor Company was absorbed into Nissan and, along with it, a few iconic cars. However, even the Prince Motor Company wasn’t that automaker’s original name. Here’s the story behind its name change.
What is the Prince Motor Company?
According to Nissan Global, the Prince Motor Company has a complicated history with multiple names in its past. It all started in 1924 when the Ishikawahima Shipyards started producing aircraft. It primarily produced training aircraft for the Japanese military. The military took control of the company in 1936 and renamed it the Tachikawa Aircraft Company, named after the city where the factory resided.
Tachikawa would continue building aircraft for the Japanese military through World War II. After the war, Tachikawa merged with the Nakaima aircraft company to create Fuji Sangyo. This was when the company started building cars. Because of import restrictions on oil, it made EVs, including the Tama. It was popular enough to be spun off into the Tama Motor Company in 1952.
Why did the Tama Motor Company change its name?
This is when royalty enters the story. On Nov. 10, 1952, Akihito had his formal Coming-of-Age ceremony and formal inauguration as the crown prince of Japan at the Tokyo Imperial Palace. Akihito was the heir apparent of the Chrysanthemum Throne, the world’s oldest continuing hereditary monarchy, and is still in power today.
Ahikito’s investiture as crown prince was such a big deal in Japan that Fuji capitalized on the event. According to Morning Weekly, the Tama Motor Company officially changed its name to the Prince Motor Company that month. However, the name change didn’t last long. In 1954, the Prince Motor Company merged with Fuji Precision Industries, and the name Prince Motor Company disappeared. Yet, the name was revived in 1961.
Prince Ahikito himself was gifted a couple of Prince cars over the years. He got a Prince Sedan in 1954, and the first Gloria ever built was presented to him as a wedding gift in 1959.
Famous Prince models
The most famous model to Americans is the Prince Skyline. The Skyline came out in 1957 while the “Prince” name was on hiatus, but it came back during the Skyline’s first generation. It was initially intended to be a luxury car, but it didn’t take long for the Skyline name to be associated with performance. It became a Nissan when Prince and Nissan merged in 1966. The first Skyline GTR came out in 1969, and the rest is automotive history.
One could also argue that the Nissan Z has some lineage to the Prince Motor Company. The Z Series was first produced in 1969, likely with some of the engineers from Prince behind the Skyline and the R380 race car.
Another popular Prince model was the Gloria. The original Gloria was meant to be an even more luxurious version of the Skyline. The Gloria would be the basis of the emperor’s limo for many years before being replaced by the Toyota Crown. Here in the U.S., we got the final generation of the Nissan Gloria in the form of the Infiniti M of the mid-2000s.