Nissan AD-1 Mid-engine coupe nearly a decade ahead of its time


The debut of the Nissan GT-R at the Tokyo show was the biggest car news of 2007: advanced all-wheel drive system, Porsche 911 Turbo-level dynamics – and all for the price of an ordinary Carrera in not the richest configuration. Since then, the Internet has been abuzz with arguments about which sports car is better – German or Japanese. And in fact this dispute could have a longer history, if Nissan had the courage to turn the concept car AD-1 into a production car – then the Porsche 914 would have a very hard time.

If the 1973 fuel crisis was a blow to the U.S. auto industry, then for the Japanese, to some extent, a gift of fate. It was in the 1970s that Japanese cars, led by the Honda Civic, began to conquer the New World. Bright, compact, economical – new models with the brand Made in Japan appeared in America faster than cats in the yards in the spring. And they were a huge success. Nissan models were not an exception. For the first time the Japanese automobile giant showed its cars in the States in 1959 – but then, still under the banner of Datsun.

Before leaving for the ocean, each novelty (not only Nissan’s) passed an obligatory ritual – inspections at the Tokyo Motor Show. After all, if a car is met without enthusiasm in the homeland, it certainly will not shoot in the little-known market. Now it is difficult to tell if the concept AD-1 was created with an eye on America or it was a JDM-creation, but if its serial embodiment had reached the States, it could have all chances for success.

At least for the reason that ideologically the car is very close to Pontiac Fiero (which appeared 8 years later) and Toyota MR2 (appeared 9 years later). And these cars sold well in America. However, the AD-1 had only one appearance – at the 1975 Tokyo Motor Show, after which it disappeared from the radar forever.

AD-1 (AD – from Advanced Design) was the first, but not the last concept car in the AD line – after it, in 1977, there was the sedan AD-2, somewhat similar to the Aston Martin Lagonda. As to the middle-engine configuration, the company Nissan experimented with it more than once: there were concepts like Mid4, about which we told earlier, and racing cars – for example Leman’s R390. But it did not come to serial sports cars. Certainly, if not to add minivan Serena to sports cars.

But it was worth to risk – at least with AD-1. As journalists of those years confessed, the car made an impression of a product ready for manufacture: any conceptual excesses and super technologies, well thought-out ergonomics – in general, one could take it directly to a dealer center. For example, the interior of AD-1 was quite traditional for that time: strict torpedo, bucket seats in Japanese style – neat and functional.

The harmony of style and function was observed in the exterior: a pleasing to the eye silhouette with sad headlights and hidden door handles (like the Renault cars of those years) was perfected in the wind tunnel, due to which the drag coefficient was outstanding even by modern standards 0.26. As at BMW of the previous generation.

At that, massive bumpers made of colorized rubber were used at the front and rear. And that’s another reason to think that the AD-1 was to be reborn as a production car for the American market – after all, since 1971, the so-called “Standard No. 215” began to operate in the States, which forced automakers to use bumpers capable of fully absorbing impacts at speeds up to 5 miles per hour. And in fact, most of the cars that the Japanese built for the local market in those years came with classic chrome bumpers.

But AD-1 had few chrome elements – mirrors, glass facings… Speaking of glasses: for better visibility and visual resemblance to the visor of racing helmet, the front roof pillars were made as thin as possible. At first sight it may seem that they are not present at all, but they are. At the same time, engineers had to install massive rear stiffeners to not affect the rigidity of the body – so the rear struts are wide enough. But in terms of design, such decision, perhaps, is even for the best.

Technically, the concept AD-1 was a greatly modified chassis of Nissan Cherry. The engine was mounted behind the passenger seats and combined with a five-speed manual transmission, which sent the torque to the rear axle. Since the radiator was located at the front of the car, just behind the bumper, the designers did not have to puzzle over how to nicely blend the side air intakes into the clean sides of the body. The heat from the running engine was taken away through the gills on the hood.

The engine itself by the standards of 1975 was progressive – the overhead valve four-cylinder 1.4 liter A14 was equipped with electronic injection system, which favorably affected not only the power, but also fuel economy

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