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You’d be forgiven if you don’t associate the Nissan brand with royalty, but it has a regal past that might surprise you. One Nissan model had a 40-year production run in Japan, and the very first unit was gifted to a Japanese regent. It was the first Nissan Gloria, although originally the Prince Gloria when it came out in 1959.

What is the Nissan Gloria?

According to Cars Directory, the Nissan Gloria was the Japanese brand’s flagship luxury car for four decades. It all started as a more upscale version of the Skyline, which of course, became an iconic performance car in GT-R guise, and is still in production today.

Before it was the Nissan Gloria, it was the Prince Gloria. The Prince Motor Company originates as an aircraft manufacturer specializing in military planes for the Empire of Japan. It started making cars — including the Tama EV — in 1946, and it merged with Nissan in 1966.

The Prince Gloria debuted at the 1958 Tokyo Motor Show and began production in 1959. Prince borrowed heavy inspiration from the Chevy Bel Air in designing the first Gloria. Some luxurious features that set it apart from the Skyline included a standard clock, a radio with two speakers, and fancier, comfier seats.

The Prince Gloria became the Nissan Gloria in 1966 and would go on to see 11 generations. Starting with the fourth generation of the early 1970s, it became closely related to the more affordable and less sporty Nissan Cedric. The Gloria was later replaced by the Nissan Fuga in 2004, which was the basis for the Infiniti Q70 in the U.S.

A royal gift to the emperor of Japan

Japanese Emperor Akihito (L) and Empress Michiko (R) arriving at Ujiyamada Station to visit Jingu shrine
Japanese Emperor Akihito (L) and Empress Michiko (R) | ISSEI KATO/AFP via Getty Images

The Prince Motor Companies showed the world that the Gloria was a serious luxury car by giving the first one to Crown Prince Akihito in 1959 as a wedding gift. Fun fact; that wedding was the first imperial wedding to be televised in Japan, with about 15 million people watching.

This gift wasn’t just a publicity stunt. Prince was the official vehicle supplier for the Imperial family at the time. The automaker also gifted a Prince Sedan (the predecessor of the Skyline) to the Crown Prince in 1954.

Akihito must have liked his Prince Gloria. He rode in a Nissan limousine for decades as Crown Prince and Emperor. Nissan also designed and built the Prince Royal specifically for Japan’s royal family. This car is also connected to the Gloria, based on the A30 generation, which looked much like a Ford Galaxie. Nissan produced five Prince Royal models; four limos and one hearse. It was the first Japanese car to be the emperor’s official transportation.

This V8-powered limo featured the Imperial Standard on the top of the grille, the Imperial Seal of Japan instead of license plates, rear coach doors, wool rear seats, double pane glass for extra security, and a telephone for the emperor to speak to the driver. The Nissan Prince Royal remained in service until 2006, when the Toyota Century Royal replaced it.

We don’t know whether Nissan will ever return to royalty. However, the Gloria is an interesting part of Japanese automotive history.

Related What’s the Official Transport of the Japanese Imperial Family?

What’s the Official Transport of the Japanese Imperial Family?