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Concepts the world forgot: Nissan Testarossa/NSX (MID4)

31 May, 2017

Developed as Nissan’s answer to the Ferrari Testarossa, the Nissan MID4 — MID being an abbreviation for “Mid-Engine Four Wheel Drive” — takes a lot of creative license from the Italian sports car in the styling department.

But the real defining feature of this forgotten concept car was the technological developments which would alter feature on some of Nissan’s most loved cars; the four-wheel drive system — which distributed 33 per cent of power to the front, with the 67 percent remainder to the rear — was the predecessor to the ATTESA system found on on the R32 GT-R onwards. The MID4 was also the first car to feature Nissan’s four-wheel HICAS steering system that would later be found in cars ranging from Skylines and Fairlady Zs (300ZX) to models like the Cefiro (A31),Silvia (S13, S14, and S15), and 180SX.

Nissan engineers were chasing a full-blooded performance car that the public were lapping up at the time, and they chose to position the VG30DE heart directly behind the rear seats, where it would pump out 183kW through a manual box.

While technologically advanced for the time, not much was heard until 1987 where the MID4 evolved towards a more production-ready concept at the Tokyo Motor Show. Dubbed the Type II, the design had undergone huge styling changes, which some claim to be where the Honda NSX pulled inspiration from (which was introduced two years later at the 1989 Chicago Auto Show). It was now also left-hook, for some unknown reason. Perhaps Nissan intended to premiere it into the U.S market?

Aside from the cosmetic surgery, Nissan engineers shoehorned a VG30DETT into the rear to pump out an impressive 243kW for a 1400kg car. Only three were ever made, however, as Nissan didn’t deem it viable with concerns over the cost of production and it was axed — ironically, it turns out it would have been far cheaper to produce than that of its Porsche and Ferrari equivalents. 

Perhaps we’d be looking at a very different market if it were to have gone ahead …

1985 Nissan MID4

Engine: Nissan VG30DE, 2960cc, V6
Drivetrain: Five-speed manual, four-wheel drive
Suspension: HICAS steering, fully independent adjustable suspension
Debut: 1985 Frankfurt Motor Show
Power: 183kW

1987 Nissan MID4 Type II

Engine: Nissan VG30DETT, 2960cc, V6
Drivetrain: Five-speed manual, four-wheel drive
Suspension: HICAS steering, fully independent adjustable suspension
Debut: 1987 Tokyo Motor Show
Power: 243kW

Penny’s Pagoda – Mercedes Benz 230 SL

We scouted out a few different locations for photographing this car, but they all had one thing in common. At every stop, people could not help but come up and compliment owner Penny Webster on her stunning Horizon Blue Mercedes 230 SL.
There’s something about the ‘Pagoda’ Mercedes — so-called because the distinctive dipping curve of its roofline echoes that of the famous Eastern tiered temples — that encourages people to speak up.
Many classic cars attract a second look, but in most cases people keep their thoughts to themselves. It was striking how many people felt the need to express the warmth of their feelings about this car.
The expansive glass cockpit, the friendly, subtle lines, and its simple three-box shape seem to encourage openness among passers-by.

Motorsport Flashback – Kiwi rallying in the 1970s

Rallying arrived in New Zealand in 1973 like a tsunami. It had been only a few years since the sport was introduced here and shortly afterwards Heatway came on board as the sponsor to take rallying to a new level. The 1973 Heatway would be the longest and biggest yet, running in both islands with 120 drivers over eight days and covering some 5400 kilometres. The winner was 31-year-old Hannu Mikkola — a genuine Flying Finn who had been rallying since 1963 before putting any thoughts of a career on hold until he completed an economics degree. The likeable Finn became an instant hero to many attracted to this new motor sport thing. I was one of them.