1990 Infiniti M30
1990 Infiniti M30
1990 Infiniti M30
In 1989, before Infiniti showed its first car, before there were Infiniti dealers, there were rocks. Rocks, water, rocks and water, a budding stem, trees. Thirty years ago, Infiniti’s first advertising campaign presented the brand as a philosophy of sorts, and instead of cars, the ads featured scenes of nature and natural beauty. That changed when the cars officially arrived, but that’s how the brand defined itself early on and stood apart from its competitor, Lexus.
Infiniti launched with two cars: the rebadged Nissan Leopard, dubbed the M30, and the Q45. The M30 was an existing Japan-domestic-market (JDM) coupe. Aside from rear-wheel drive, the only other noteworthy parts of it were its by-then-dated angular styling that came straight out of the Apple II era. It wasn’t the least bit interesting and already a few years old when it arrived stateside. It had 160 horsepower and only came with a four-speed automatic. Infiniti would go on to make a convertible version of it, and, from what I remember, most were painted pearlescent white.
The Infiniti M30 was a 2-door coupe based on the Japanese market Nissan Leopard (chassis code F31). It was launched alongside the flagship Q45 in 1989 for the 1990 model year, and was intended as a stopgap until the later introduction of the G20 and J30 sedans.
The Infiniti M30 was powered by a 3.0 liter SOHC V6, and 4-speed automatic transmission. Standard equipment included a driver’s airbag, anti-lock brakes, an anti-theft security system with an engine immobilizer, Nissan Sonar Suspension II, and leather upholstery. Other standard equipment included a 4 speaker Nissan-Bose audio system with a cassette player and an electric mast antenna, automatic climate control, cruise control, a power moonroof, power windows, power locks, and power mirrors. Infiniti emphasized comfort and luxury, as well as simplicity. Although dealerships offered an in-car cellular telephone and in-dash CD player as accessories, the M30 had no factory options.
A convertible was introduced for the 1991 model year. All convertibles originated as coupe models, and were shipped to California and converted by American Sunroof Corporation (ASC). The electric canvas top featured fully automatic push-button operation. Unlike the coupe, the M30 convertibles utilized manual climate controls, and a standard Active Sound audio system. The convertible model was never officially sold in Japan, and was exclusive to the US market, although convertibles have been imported to Japan in the last few years by collectors.
The M30 was discontinued after the 1992 model year following a production run of approximately 17,000 cars. It was replaced in the Infiniti lineup by the J30 sedan, which used a DOHC V6, and was based on the Japanese market Nissan Leopard J. Ferie (chassis code Y32).
For the 1991 model year, the cable-type speedometer became electric, instrument cluster typeface changed to match that of the Q45, and fuel and coolant temperature gauges were switched. The driver’s and passenger’s side door keyhole and interior dome light would illuminate upon pulling the outer door handle while the vehicle was locked. Selective door lock logic allowed unlocking of the passenger door from the driver’s keyhole by turning the key twice.
All 1992 models gained the addition of a central locking switch next to the Sonar Suspension II selector, and the intake plenum cover changed to display the Infiniti logo, rather than the Nissan logo and the “V6 3000” script on 1990 and 1991 cars.
Power came from Nissan’s 3.0 VG30E V6, which produced 162 hp (121 kW; 164 PS) at 6000 rpm, and 180 lb⋅ft (244 N⋅m) of torque at 3500 rpm. All M30s were equipped with a Jatco RE4R01A 4-speed automatic transmission. The differential was a Nissan open R200 unit. Although most Nissan Leopards were equipped with a DOHC V6, offered in 2.0 liter, 3.0 liter, naturally aspirated, and turbocharged forms, the M30 was only offered with the SOHC VG30E. Although it was a smooth powertrain, which Infiniti touted in its brochures for the M30, the 3,302 lb (1,498 kg) coupe and convertible were generally received as overweight and underpowered. Infiniti marketed the car as a luxury sports coupe, and its relatively low power output, combined with the absence of a manual transmission, hampered its performance and sporting image.
Like the Nissan Maxima, the M30 was equipped with Nissan’s Sonar Suspension II. Using a sonar sensor mounted underneath the front bumper that scanned the road surface ahead of the vehicle, it would instantly change damping based on varying road surfaces, using individual actuators on each shock absorber. A center console-mounted switch allowed drivers to choose between Comfort (soft) and Sport (firm) suspension modes.
The M30 has a small cult following, similar to that of the Nissan Leopard F31 built in Japan. The car shares many similarities with more successful and capable Nissan sports cars, such as the 240SX, 300ZX and early-generation Skylines. As such, more powerful engines, manual transmissions, suspensions and limited slip differentials from these cars can be swapped into the M30 to create a much more capable car. In both the U.S. and Japan, the M30/Leopard has been used for drifting. This is more so in America based on the drifting trend. The Nissan Leopard as well as Infiniti M30 are highly prized in Japan.
Drifting with an M30 was an idea started in 2003 on the Fresh Alloy forums.At the time, drifting was starting to catch on in the North America. One of the most popular platforms was the S13 Nissan 240SX, and enthusiasts wanted to find a different platform that would take similar parts, but would also be rigid, and different enough to stand out from other drift cars. The interest in drifting began with an article from Option and Drift Tengoku, of L-Evolution/Locc-on. It demonstrated the possibilities of the F31 chassis as a drifting platform.
In Japan, drifting is not routinely performed with the F31 chassis. There are a few track cars with mild tuning, but are still street legal. Many JDM Leopard owners focus on maintaining the Nissan Leopard and Infiniti M30, as they have become somewhat of a classic car. The scarcity of parts (due to Nissan discontinuing production) and rise in Shaken (tax) and inspection have given many people a reason to not pursue an F31.
It is generally regarded among M30 enthusiasts that the downgraded powertrain, weak suspension, and lack of factory options was a mistake on Infiniti’s part, and perhaps to blame for the lackluster sales. The M30 was a Japanese car designed for the Japanese market. When it came to America, there was very little change in the F31 platform, such as interior room, and ergonomics. The M30 used a left-hand drive version of the angular dashboard from the R31 generation Nissan Skyline, rather than the rounded Kouki dashboard in the 1989-1992 Leopard.