One of the great joys the upcoming Tokyo Motor Show is that we get to see what crazy names the Japanese manufacturers are giving their latest domestic market products.
Perhaps it’s because Japanese is such a beautifully complicated and nuanced language that is extremely difficult to translate into English accurately, but JDM cars, always named using the English alphabet, rarely carry a moniker that make sense and/or don’t sound ridiculous.
The Daihatsu Naked, for instance. Or the Nissan Big Thumb. Or the Toyota Noah. Or the Nissan Pao. Or the Nissan Moco. There’s a lot of Nissans.
My favourite, though, is the car you see here; another Nissan, the Nissan Leopard.
Now, an actual leopard is sleek and powerful, stealthy and fast, one of nature’s best ambush predators. The Leopard, on the other hand, is none of those things. Apart from stealthy, but only because because it’s so boring to look at.
First launched in 1980, the Leopard was a dull-as-ditchwater, biggish rear-wheel-drive saloon, a badge-engineered version of the Skyline/Laurel sold through mid-market Nissan Bluebird Store dealers (JDM car ranges are tiered, with several versions of the same car tailored to a certain price strata, each strata sold through a different dealer).
By using the name Leopard, Nissan was writing a cheque the car couldn’t cash. Which, if you ask me, is a bigger crime than simply being boring. Perhaps it sounds right to Japanese ears, but I doubt they missed the misnomer.
The Leopard was culled in 1999 as Nissan rationalised its range. Its current large saloons are called Fuga, Cima and Teana. Nope, me neither.
Incidentally, I consider the Mitsubishi Carisma a bigger misnomer, but since it was based on a Volvo and built in Holland, I don’t count it as Japanese.
By Only Motors