I love old concept cars because it’s fun to look at the crazy ways designers and engineers imagined our future. Very rarely, however, do automakers glimpse into the world of tomorrow and actually get it right. But that’s basically what Nissan did in 1983 with the NRV-II concept. It’s just like the cars we drive today—normal, boring and full of screens.
I found out about this car recently when I was perusing Nissan’s weirdly exhaustive media page, which includes hi-res photos of their cars, concepts and auto show debuts stretching back to the 1960s, including a bunch of weird and forgotten stuff from Japan. If you’re looking for a rabbit hole to fall down while you waste time at work today, it’s got you covered.
Anyway, by all accounts the NRV-II looks like any other normal-ass boring sedan from that era. It’s boxy and pretty anonymous, although I definitely dig those ridiculous wheels. There’s nothing especially futuristic about it—on the outside.
But it’s what’s underneath the skin that’s really interesting, and surprisingly ahead of the curve. The name stands for Research Vehicle, and maybe that’s why it seems more down to earth than your average concept.
First off, it has automatic headlights that switch on or off depending on the time of day, and rain-sensitive windshield wipers. All pretty common fare on cars today.
And inside! It’s a shockingly prescient ‘80s vision of the future, very much like we have in our cars today. You have buttons on the steering wheel that operate the cruise control and radio. And there’s a big ol’ center touch screen with an array of functions, including GPS mapping. The dashboard isn’t too far off what you could have in many ‘80s cars, and that didn’t really take off after the decade ended, but we are sort of seeing a comeback now with digital gauges.
There’s also cruise control that uses radar to warn you when you get too close to the car in front of you, and if need be it automatically slows the car down to a safer distance. Again, ahead of the curve, and accurate.
There’s more from the cathode ray screen and its various functions. Like I said, it operates by touch, but probably not as smoothly as the ones on today’s cars (and even many of those aren’t great.)
Here’s a video I found that explains more of what the NRV-II could do. It’s from an Australian TV news report, and it gives a good rundown of all the car’s crazy features. Oh yeah, it also had a microphone and 26 different voice commands for various functions. It even seems to understand English too, kind of.
It also had a few features that didn’t make it into production at any point, like windows made of lightweight plastic instead of glass.
But otherwise, this Nissan research vehicle is almost exactly like most cars we have today: it’s normal, it’s boring, it’s full of screens and GPS and radar cruise control and voice commands, and buttons everywhere. It doesn’t have gull-wing doors or a pod design or wings or a billion horsepower engine. It’s just a regular-ass car, but designed with 1980s tech.
Also it ran on methanol, just like every car does today too. They NAILED it here.