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Concept Car of the Week: Nissan NX-21 (1983)

Fri, 01 Aug 2014

In the early 1980s, with the new millennium still seemingly an age away, Nissan Design America was tasked with imagining the family car of the future, while giving potential buyers a preview of the forthcoming N13 NX and EXA models. The resulting concept would be shown at the Tokyo motor show in 1983.

Given confidence by the increasing success and expanding global presence of Japanese cars, including the previous generation N12 NX, Nissan's designers, led by Tom Semple, decided that the NX-21 (for 21st century) was the answer.

In the mold of today's Audi A5 Sportback and BMW 4 Series Gran Coupé, the NX-21 is a four-seat coupé with easy access to the rear seats. However, unlike its modern successors, the Nissan's visual appeal is derived from a paired-down, industrial aesthetic.

Wedge-shaped front lamps, near-flat surfaces and partially covered rear wheels helped emphasize the car's efficient aerodynamics; the NX-21 had a drag coefficient of 0.25. At the rear, the short rear deck and slotted tail-lamps gave the best clue to the design of the Nissan NX launched the following year. As an aside, the EXA coupe was interesting as buyers could opt to exchange the tailgate for a shooting brake-style canopy, called the Sportbak, at dealers should they require extra luggage space.

Access to the car's interior was by one of two electrically-powered gullwing doors, which raised upwards and hinged in the middle so that despite their size, the doors could be opened in narrow spaces. The well-cushioned front seats also pivoted outwards to further improve the ease of ingress.

The steering wheel appeared to float, with a number of functions including the indicators located on the center boss, like a modern Ferrari 458. A high level IP included a rear-view projection screen, instead of a conventional mirror, mounted between digital gauges. The car also included warning instructions that were spoken to the driver.

Ensuring that the simple look of the exterior transferred inside, gear selection was via buttons mounted on the center console, which was also designed to appear to float between the front seats.

To improve passenger space, the NX-21 used a compact, rear-mounted two-shaft gas turbine with ceramic parts. Although it only developed 100bhp, the engine was selected more for its efficiency. According to Nissan, not only was it more efficient than equivalent diesels from the time, it could use gas, diesel, light oil, alcohol or kerosene as fuel. Fuel was injected into the engine using Nissan's Electronic Concentrated Control System (ECCS), which was later used on production models.

First seen 1983 Tokyo Motor Show
Length 4,520mm
Width 1,790mm
Height 1,280mm
Wheelbase 2,985mm
Weight 950kg
Engine Gas turbine, 100bhp

By Tom Phillips