That Time Nissan Copied the French

I went to a French car festival recently and it got me thinking about the Nissan Z.

Z31 interior - cross reference with the below!

Citroens from the 70s/80s had a few common traits. They often had single spoke steering wheels - though that spoke could point out at any crazy angle, from straight down to off on the side somewhere. And they had those freaky “PRN Satellite” control pods to either side of the steering wheel, intended to ensure important controls were within reach of the driver without him/her having to leave the wheel. These can be seen on the Citroen DS, BX/CX, SM, XM - all those dear spaceships.

Citroen BX interior

But Nissan did it too. My old Z31 300ZX had the same controls near the steering wheel, and while the wheel isn’t quite a single-spoke, it’s not the conventional 3-spoker! It’s got that wide open area, a full 300 degrees.

The Z32s all had conventional steering wheels (which got hideously bloated once the airbags came out), but retained the frog-style pod controls. I remember when I had mine, once or twice I got asked if it was “supposed to be that way” - such a question is usually a good sign your car is French.

Ignore the goddam ricer bullshit - notice the pods either side of the wheel, the relatively spartan center console. It’s just the radio in there.

Very strange. These things didn’t carry through to today, I’d call them typical French quirks rather than meaningful innovation - the sort of thing I wouldn’t expect the Japanese to emulate. But there we have it.

Edit: The Nissan EXA (Pulsar NX to you Americans I think) had it too! I knew this but I had forgotten.


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