The Nissan Maxima is a full-size car manufactured by Nissan, marketed as the "four-door sports car". The Maxima debuted in July 1976 as an upscale version of the Bluebird and was spun into its own line in 1981, having been made continuously since then. Most pre-2004 Maximas were built in Oppama, Japan, until the current North American Maximas started being assembled in Smyrna, Tennessee. The Maxima models are also known as Nissan Cefiro or Nissan Laurel in various markets.
The Maxima model line began with the Nissan Bluebird Maxima, which was available in the US as the Datsun 810 from February 1977. It was powered by two versions of the SOHC L-series I6 engine, a 2.0 L displacement for the Japanese market and a 2.4 L (as found in the Datsun 240Z) for the US market. The Bluebird Maxima used a carburetor for the base model and fuel injection for the sporty version. The 2.0 L engine was good for 122 PS JIS (90 kW), while the bigger American engine could reach 125 hp SAE (93 kW). The sporty version channeled power through a four speed manual transmission. These cars were rear-wheel drive and had a semi-trailing arm rear suspension. The station wagon variant had the rear live axle for load carrying reasons.
The 2-door coupe version was introduced in 1979 along with an exterior refresh, and was available in the Maxima lineup in the Datsun 810 only. The new Datsun 280ZX shared the 810's chassis, though the 810 was not available with that car's larger 2.8 L engine.
The first car to wear the Maxima name was introduced in 1981. It was essentially a Japanese-market Bluebird 910 with a 3.9 in (99 mm) longer nose to accommodate the I6 engine. The car was offered as the 810 Deluxe or 810 Maxima that first year, and all 810s became Maximas for 1982. In 1984, the last year of the first generation Maxima, American Datsuns began carrying the "Nissan" badge as well (only 1984 Nissans have both "Nissan" and "Datsun" on the back of the car). Toyota responded to the introduction of the Maxima by giving the Toyota Mark II a more upmarket sibling, the Cressida.
The second generation retained the same base engine as the previous Datsun 810 and Datsun 240Z. It was also available with the LD28 OHC 2.8L I6 Diesel engine (available in the US from mid-1981 through 1983) with either 5 speed manual or automatic transmission.
Some of the power steering pumps were sourced from General Motors' Saginaw Gear division, while others were sources from Atsugi. This was the second Nissan to use US-sourced parts besides the Borg-Warner T-5 transmission used in the 82-89 Nissan ZX Turbos.
One interesting fact about this car is its phonograph-based voice warning system. Warnings like those for a door being open, etc. would be relayed through the mini phonograph and played for the driver to hear. A common thing to hear would be, "door is open, key is in ignition." 1981 models were the first 'talking car' sold in the US and offered only one voice warning, a female voice reminding the driver to "Please turn off the lights".
In the fall of 1984, the first front-wheel drive Maxima (based on the Bluebird U11) was introduced. This Maxima was available with a 154 hp (119 kW) 3.0 L VG30E V6 engine and a 4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual transmission. In Japan a smaller 2-litre version of this engine was fitted. These engines were shared with the 300ZX/Fairlady and the Japanese market Nissan Cedric /Gloria, and was the first V6 engine to be mass-produced in Japan. The second generation was assigned compact status in the US market. This was the last generation to be available as a station wagon, a version which had been offered since the Datsun 810 days.
In late 1986, the 1987 Maxima was introduced with a freshened exterior and interior. Automatic shoulder belts were now found on both the 1987 sedan and wagons built after February 1987. Luxury amenities were offered on both the "base" GL, later renamed GXE and SE trim levels. Such features for the GL/GXE included digital touch entry system on the driver and passenger side door panel, power windows, locks, antenna, power seats, remote trunk release, voice warning system, optional leather seating, an optional Electronics Pkg (a sedan exclusive, it included a digital instruments and a trip computer) and an optional power sunroof (sunroof was standard on Maxima wagons). 15" alloy wheels are standard for the Maxima. An exclusive option for 1988 was the Sonar Suspension System -which was part of the Electronics Pkg- replacing the trip computer that was previously offered. This feature used sonar waves to monitor the road conditions ahead and adjusted the shocks accordingly for the most controlled ride. 1988 was also the year that the previously standard digital touch system offered on the GXE sedan became part of the 'Electronics Package' option as well. The SE (and some GXEs) offered dual power seats, a five-speed manual transmission, three-way shock adjust suspension, front and rear windshield defroster, and a factory-installed security system. The SE also has a small rear spoiler, all-wheel disc brakes, black side rear view mirrors, and body molding (GXE got body-color side rear-view mirrors and matching body molding). Again, the Maxima's prime competitor was the similarly specified Toyota Cressida, which remained rear wheel drive. The Maxima provided a combination of luxury and sporty features while the Cressida was generally seen as being softer and more luxurious.
The Japanese market "Bluebird Maxima" received a four-door hardtop bodywork and a two-litre V6 engine (with an available turbocharger). Neither the pillared sedan nor the station wagon bodywork were available there.