Nissan’s Wild MID4, MID4-II Mid-Engine Concepts
The car above might look like a discontinued design study for the Acura NSX, or perhaps an unlicensed BMW M1 / Ferrari Testarossa mashup, but it’s actually the second of two intriguing concept cars. focus on performance that could have sent Nissan on a very different halo. trajectory of the car. The MID4-II, as the white car is called, has a cleaner and more modern look than its predecessor, the MID4 of the mid-1980s. But both were more than mere concepts, seriously considered for production and prior to the possible Acura NSX. And they’re worth knowing if you want to know why the Z car evolved the way it did.
Jumping to the end before the start, MID4s proved to be dead ends. Nissan’s performance future has evolved on several fronts: the affordable Silvia / 240SX, the 300ZX which adopted the engine from the MID4, and the all-wheel-drive Skyline GT-Rs known as the Godzillas. There isn’t much open space in this constellation for a mid-engined sports car, but at least the VG30DETT engine became the screaming heart of the Z32 300ZX with twin turbocharging and a four-wheel steering system explored. on the MID4-II turned into the HICAS system used on the R32 Skyline GT-R. So, something good came out of the exercise, even though no mid-engined Nissan has.
Things could have turned out differently. As our man Angus MacKenzie recounts, when the original MID4 debuted at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1985, its futuristic shape and advanced all-wheel drive system had a huge impact. What was most impressive, however, was that he was ready to go. Nissan pitched it as a concept, but it was fully fleshed out and usable, practically dealer ready. Its AWD system presaged the ATTESA system of the GT-R, as did its all-wheel steering. It featured a more modest engine: a naturally aspirated four-cam VG30DE that debuted in this concept and would eventually power the non-turbo 300ZX and various Nissan sedans.
Up front, the original MID4 is a bit generic. There’s a hint of Porsche 944, hint of Toyota MR2, and hint of Lotus Esprit. But the rear styling is wild. Large solid flying buttresses with small vents shade a giant rear window and a small straight rear window. A bluff tail is adorned with louvered vents, with a large embossed “NISSAN” between two surprisingly discreet tail lights. The louvers continue below, into the lower rear bumper. From the rear, it looks like its wheels fold up underneath before lifting up to hover above the road, like a Blade runner.
His successor took things to the next level. The styling, as noted above, is more reminiscent of the NSX. But the restyling smoothes and lengthens the rest of the car as well. Like the regular MID4, the MID4-II gets much more interesting from behind. The taillights are the first thing to stand out, everyone’s looking like the 1995-1996 “zenki” Silvia / 240SX, a single continuous shape with a heckblende between the two taillight housings. Look at the trunk lid and observe the huge quadrilateral power bulge, something like the unusual hood scoop on an Iso Grifo, but more over the top and in a different place. Overall, it’s softer and yet more muscular, far more of a product of the coming 1990s than a last sigh of 1980s design.
And that twin-turbocharged, intercooled V6 brought in the heat: 325 horsepower. Sounds good in what appears to be a reasonably sized package with advanced traction and handling technologies. The point is, as MacKenzie relates, it has been said that the MID4-II is not fun to drive. In addition, the Z32 was already in development and was progressing steadily into production. In twin-turbo form, the Z32 300ZX would be great to drive. The MID4-II was no longer needed and the 300ZX took its place as one of the company’s two performance halo cars.
Meanwhile, the NSX was fun to drive as well, with development input from none other than Ayrton Senna, and it put Acura on the map as a force to be reckoned with. Nissan made the right call? We will never know.