By on December 7, 2020

We’ve covered the second album of Infiniti’s ill-fated Q45 flagship previously, in a stunningly clean example from 1998. However, the first generation is much harder to find; they just didn’t have the longevity or caring ownership profile of the Lexus LS 400. But someone in Japan maintained this one, and it’s been imported to the US just for you.

It’s time for blue-green, grille-free luxury.

Today is the first of two parts on the Q45 since there’s a considerable amount of information to cover. Introduced in late 1989 as a 1990 model, the Infiniti brand was launched the same time as Lexus, and a few years behind Acura. At launch the brand had two models on offer: the flagship full-size Q45, and the much smaller (but still expensive) M30 coupe and convertible. Naturally, most of the eyes were on the Q45.

The Q45 was a short wheelbase version of Nissan’s JDM flagship, the President. A conservative choice in Japan, the President of 1989 was the same basic car Nissan sold since 1965, though to their credit it was revised slightly in 1973. Nissan needed a new President and knew Lexus was on its way with big new product. The company took two birds one stone approach, and Infiniti was born. The new President was shortened by six inches, given a new front and rear clip, and reworked for the American market. The project also served to create a smaller, less expensive President that Nissan could sell later in Japan, the President JS (1993 onward). The President’s rework into the Q45 was substantial, however, and Infiniti didn’t want to follow any typical large car tropes.

Thus, Infiniti sought to redefine the Modern Luxury Sedan with Q45. Rather than the floaty boat and S-Class copy approach Toyota took with the Lexus LS, Infiniti leaned more into a more BMW mindset. Then they added additional sportiness and subtracted traditional luxury car cues. There was no proud grille, no hood ornament, no wood trim, and no ruching of leather. Instead, the Q45’s nose was completely without adornment and featured only headlamps and a flat cloisonné badge with intricate floral detailing behind the Infiniti logo.

Inside, would-be customers found an interior designed with assistance from Italian furniture maker Poltrona Frau. Surfaces were padded, the leather seats were covered in taut hides and provided firm support, and colors contrasted between seats, dashboard, and floor mats. It was a lot for American consumers to take in, assuming they could see the car. But that’s for next time.

In Part II, we’ll discuss the technological side of this Rare Ride, and see how making such bold moves went for the flagship of Nissan’s new luxury brand.

[Images: seller]

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46 Comments on “Rare Rides: The Original Infiniti, a Q45 From 1991 (Part I)...”


  • avatar
    SSJeep

    I love the original Q45. I owned one many years ago, and it was a luxury muscle car made in Japan. By modern standards they aren’t fast, but back in the 90s they could hold their own. Over time, some problems reared their heads – the active suspension (if equipped) was prone to failure and ended up being an almost $10k repair.

    And, they didn’t have any cupholders – hopefully you cover that in part II!

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Yes!

  • avatar
    Fred

    The TV commercials were different as well https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUN3-JhjQaQ

  • avatar
    JMII

    No grille? Compared today’s Lexus and BMW models its shocking how far we’ve swung in the opposite direction design wise.

  • avatar
    toronado

    I was a freshman in college and worked at the Nissan plant in Sryrna TN parking cars when these arrived. I could not believe these cars were real, so clean and so fast.The power tilt and telescope steering wheel was like something out of the Jetsons. While I liked the M30 it did not inspire awe like this car did.

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    I still see 90’s & 00’s Q45s up on Craigslist, usually needing several repairs, for a grand or two. I’ve been tempted.

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    I don’t remember this vintage of Infiniti. It is visually appealing.

  • avatar
    cbrworm

    I test drove one of these when they were introduced. It (and the LS400) appeared to have been built on a foreign planet compared to everything else available at that time. Just the right mix of sewing machine smoothness and solid handling. Smoother than the revered Mercedes that shifted like a truck and had hard bouncy seats. Quieter and smoother than the BMW, albeit, maybe a bit too quiet.

    Every piece felt like it was made for just this one car. There were no random number pads, or blank buttons. All the dashboard lighting was perfectly legible at night. The font on the Q45 instruments was kind of odd, but it was easy to read.

    If nothing else, this car and the LS400 made everyone else up their game.

    If it weren’t for the cam chain issues, these may have held up much better over time than they did. But, the LS400 was the truly revolutionary car, which was built to a higher standard, as evidenced by the number of them still on the road with not much more than steering rack, alternator and radiator repairs.

    • 0 avatar
      C5 is Alive

      Your impressions mirror my first time behind the wheel of an LS400, but the Q45 always felt to me like a slightly heftier Maxima. Of course it was FAR more than that (and even that comparison was more complimentary then than it would be now) but everything that was sublime about the Lexus was merely serviceable in the Infiniti.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        One of my great regrets is no seat time in a Q45. The only two I’ve ever seen in person were an early example in the junkyard (missing seats), and a second generation one parked probably 7-10 years ago.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    @Corey:

    Have you checked out the website for the dealer that’s selling this Q45? It’s a freakin’ JDM Rare Ride goldmine!

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    An intriguing car. Love the styling, very refined, subtle. These really didn’t seem to get the TLC that LS400s got, they went to hooptie-ville on a direct course, sadly. I saw my first ever Nissan Cedric a month ago, it was a 1991 (verrry unexpected here). In some ways the styling is similar to the Q45, but the Cedric seems so pared-down as to be the absolute simplest form of a three-box car.

    • 0 avatar

      We did cover a 91 Gloria before, the Cedric’s more dressed up sister.

      https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2018/03/rare-rides-1991-nissan-gloria-brougham-turbocharged-luxury/

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Yeah, these and the Y32 Cedric/Gloria (in Brougham trim) and Cima all had similar smoothed box styling.

      Cedric:
      https://cdn.dealeraccelerate.com/duncan/1/1062/24445/1920×1440/1993-nissan-cedric

      Gloria:
      https://cdn.dealeraccelerate.com/duncan/2/1252/60450/1920×1440/1992-nissan-gloria-brougham-vip

      Cima:
      https://cdn.dealeraccelerate.com/duncan/2/657/36908/1920×1440/1992-nissan-cima-type-i

  • avatar
    jberger

    I owned a 90 and a 91, I still miss these cars.
    The Q45 was a much better driver’s car than the LS, but reliability issues killed the Q45 and by the time Nissan sorted out the issues, they had lost their way on what they wanted the brand to be.

    The cam guides and tranny issues doomed the resale on these. I think I ended up with 3 transmissions in the 90. They did finally release a fix, I think in late 92, but the damage was already done for most of the original owners.

    They remapped the shift to start in 1st gear and added a new tranny cooler system to keep from burning the fluid. After those changes, the tranny issues were gone.

    The cam guide issue grenaded those 90-92 models that survived the transmission issues and as a result, not many of them survived. Nissan used plastic guides for the timing chain that were prone to cracking apart, the broken pieces would get jammed into the guides and cause the motor to jump time with disastrous results.

    They did release an all metal cam guide for replacement, but the shop labor was extremely expensive and often turned down by owners who would dump the cars before the warranty expired.

    I really enjoyed both of mine, even with the upkeep, and once the problems were sorted out, they were very reliable, but the first 100k was not for the faint of heart.

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    This my original dream car. I had the pleasure of driving it twice, once the year it came out and back in I want to say 2005. I loved everything about them and it was the reason for my Infiniti love that I had for so many years. I even liked the last gen alot as well. I wanted one so badly however by the time I got to a stage in life that I could afford it I could not find one in good enough condition. They are ran into the ground. They are still my favorite sedans of all time. I hate what Nissan had done to Infiniti now.

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