Home » Rear-Wheel-Drive Japanese Wagons: 1984 Nissan/Datsun Maxima vs 1982 Toyota Cressida

Rear-Wheel-Drive Japanese Wagons: 1984 Nissan/Datsun Maxima vs 1982 Toyota Cressida

Sbsd 4 17 2023

Good morning! On today’s thrilling episode of Shitbox Showdown, we’re traveling to Washington State to look at two rear-drive Japanese station wagons from days past. But first, on Friday I showed you two old V8s in very different packages; let’s see which one you chose:

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Looks like Frank the Fury takes the win. I’m not surprised; that’s a really cool car. And I couldn’t help thinking this weekend that “Frank Fury” would make a great private eye name.

Anyway, moving on: Today’s contestants are from different makers, but the similarities are so striking you can’t help wondering who was looking over whose shoulder. They even look similar. But the devil’s in the details, as they say, so let’s take a closer look at them and see which one you’d rather have.

1984 Nissan/Datsun Maxima – $2,500

Maxima1Engine/drivetrain: 2.4 liter overhead cam inline 6, four-speed automatic, RWD


Location: Bremerton, WA

Odometer reading: 400,000 miles (though the engine is supposedly newer)

Runs/drives? Yep!

Changing a company name is always a tricky thing. Nissan began its American operations under its Datsun name (which, I never realized, came first), but in 1983 decided to drop the Datsun branding and tell the US market that “The Name Is Nissan.” For at least a couple of years, the cars carried both badges, to help consumers get used to the Nissan name.



This Maxima traces its roots back to the Datsun 810, a larger and more upscale car than Nissan’s other offerings. It’s powered by a fuel-injected 2.4 liter version of Nissan’s L-series inline six, more famously used in the Z cars. Here it powers the rear wheels through a four-speed automatic. The seller says this engine was recently replaced; the car itself is reported to have 400,000 miles on it, but the engine is lower mileage. How much lower, they don’t say.


The car itself looks to be in good shape, at least on the outside. We aren’t given any photos inside. It’s rust-free, which itself is impressive for a Japanese car of this vintage. These early RWD Maximas are getting scarce, especially in wagon form, even here on the west coast.


The automatic is a bit of a letdown, of course, but I bet you could swap in a manual if you really wanted. Maybe out of a rusted-out Datsun pickup?


1982 Toyota Cressida – $3,000


Engine/drivetrain: 2.8 liter overhead cam inline 6, three-speed automatic, RWD

Location: Plymouth, WA

Odometer reading: 220,000 kilometers

Runs/drives? Sure does!


Playing Chevy to Nissan’s Ford is the Toyota Cressida, which stayed rear-wheel-drive long after Nissan’s Maxima switched to front-wheel-drive. As far as I know, it’s the only Toyota model named for a Shakespearean character, though the Cressida name was never used in its native Japan. There, it was simply the Toyota Mark II.


Like the Nissan, this Toyota wagon shares its engine with a sports car, in this case Toyota’s Supra (or rather, Celica Supra in this car’s day). The 5M-E inline six not exactly the fire-breather it would become, especially when backed by a three-speed automatic as this one is. But then, this car is made for the suburbs, not the race track.


This Cressida is a Canadian model, with 220,000 kilometers on the clock, or about 137,000 miles, just nicely broken-in for a Toyota, actually. It runs and drives well, but it needs new tires, and the passenger’s side window doesn’t roll down. It has air conditioning, but of course it “needs to be recharged.” You know how that goes.



It’s in awfully nice shape, based on the photos. Again, it’s rust-free, and the blue velour interior looks nice and clean. It even has a set of those silly roof racks that our weekend warrior, Rob, loves so much.

Well, there you have it: two long-roofed, rear-drive, straight-six Japanese survivors. Both need a little tidying up, but both run and drive. Either one would be a hit at Cars & Coffee, but they’re also practical and reliable enough to use on more than special occasions. Which one is the one for you?

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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11 months ago

I gotta choose the Maxima, if only for nostalgia.
Mom had a sedan as a company car, an ’84,
and learning to drive in that was the BOMB.

Slightly darker blue than shown, matching interior,
FANTASTIC Japanese electronics for stereo and other stuff
for the time, and that laughable ‘warning’ system:
*DING* Lights are on!
*DING* Fuel level is low!
*DING* Left door is ajar!
*DING* Battery is low!

But Datsun/Nissan went for ‘luxe’ in it, and it somehow delivered
at the time, especially as compared to domestic malaise.

As a highschooler, that car was awesome.
It looked great, played well with more expensive livery,
impressed when I gathered my prom date from her parents,
and had a strong V-6 to toss it around a bit if desired.

I later learned that a plastic panel and two screws secured the
stereos into that model, and several subsequent junkyard
Maximas lost their stereos to my profit as a result.

11 months ago

Actually, they’re BOTH very appealing. Either one would get the nod if it had a manual, but failing that, I guess I’d probably lean towards the Toyota just ’cause of the lower miles, even though the Maxima looks (and presumably) drives better. 🙂

11 months ago

Datsun Nissan Maxima for the win! I find the early 80s angle stylings looking good on this long-roof with nice large glass windows. Would make cool cruiser or a decent sleeper as well.

Peter Nagy
Peter Nagy
11 months ago

My dad had a maroon Maxima wagon in the next generation. It was the closest he ever came to a luxury car. It had a really nice light grey velour interior.
I remember it talked to you in addition to a warning chime, and it had a seductive female voice with a hint of a Japanese accent. Pubescent me loved it when dad forgot to turn the lights off before he took the key out. “Ding. LRights are on. Ding. LRights are on.” Ah, memories.

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