Lamest Classics: The Infiniti J30

Every two weeks, Lamest Classics looks at the unremarkable cars that now meet the 25-year rule for classic-car tags in most U.S. states.

My brain is so stuck on COVID-19 that I’m having a tough time focusing on this week’s luxury Nissan alphabet soup, the Infiniti i30t. Wait. J30t. That’s it.

Luxury cars, in general, were a mystery to me for a while. It was a long time before I learned the meaning behind BMW’s alphanumeric car naming, but eventually, I figured out that it came in a series that designated the basic type of car. Nevermind that the numbers after the first don’t correspond to engine displacement anymore; suffice it to say if the last two are bigger, that means it’s faster. There might be some letter tacked on to the end for some special reason, but that’s not usually a big deal.

On the first number, though, BMWs are basically like an apartment building: a bigger first number means a bigger car. Mercedes does the same thing except for basement apartments, leading with letters instead of numbers, followed by numbers for how fast. Oh, and BMW borrowed that idea for their convertibles (Z) and SUVs (X). So much for consistency.

Acura, Cadillac, and Lincoln all started with proper names, and at some point switched to all letters (especially X), all with some rationale I still haven’t entirely figured out. Lincoln reversed course to plane and boat names before I could be bothered to understand its alphabet, and for that I am grateful.

Don’t ask me about the progression of Volvo or Saab, and for simplicity’s sake, I’m not even going to touch any of these companies’ various sporting divisions. I don’t want to steal the thunder of some postgrad wanting to base his marketing thesis on BMW’s use of the letter M.

Enthusiast magazines have to jump through some tiny, flaming hoops to refer to specific generations of these cars without creating a sentence that looks like a serial number. It’s a bigger disaster for the written word than the Merkur XR4Ti.

Infiniti’s Alphabet Soup is Somehow Worse

Nissan’s luxury brand never established the same cachet as its other Japanese counterparts. I was trying to think of which Infiniti I wanted to highlight for this series and I couldn’t think of literally any of them definitively.

I had a vague sense that some started with Q and there were some Ms that I thought were Sentra-based, but it turns out that those were actually called the G20 and that they’re completely unrelated to the G35 that followed and some other M cars came later that were actually a replacement for the J series and there were also SUVs with the letter X in them but it was always the second letter and the first letter could be one of four other things except one of them had a first letter that was the same as a sedan and oh god did they still use a lowercase letter at the end sometimes?

I think I need a refresher on Big O Notation to determine how many possible combinations of letters and numbers there have been in Infiniti’s history.

No wonder they simplified all their cars to Q[number] and the SUVs to QX[number]. It was just impossible to keep it all straight.

My point is… what’s my point again?

Nissan’s Luxury Spaceship Suppository

If you could find a J30t instead of the standard J30, you’d find slick features like four-wheel steering – a trendy piece of tech at the time. That’s on top of the standard VG30DE engine, which was shared with the base 300ZX sports car, and a standard 4-speed automatic transmission.

The J30 also has Infiniti’s trademark analog clock in the center of the dash, which was a classy rebuttal to the digital-dash excess of the ’80s. The multiplexed 7-segment displays of in-dash digital clocks had become the economy-car standard, after all, and you’re a person with discerning taste. The kind of person who owns a wind-up mechanical watch and refers to it as a timepiece, or even a chronometer.

You wouldn’t dare wear something so crass as a quartz wristwatch, and especially not one with a digital display. It doesn’t matter if the cheapest quartz watch is more accurate than any COSC standard or Rolex standard mechanical watches; you have exclusivity. You have cachet.

Your car’s clock might still be electric, but at least it’s got an analog dial, and that’s a big step above the plebeian Civic.

(Fun fact: Watch snobs don’t need to worry about getting sick. They’re already a disease.)

It’s probably possible to pull the twin-turbo version of that engine from the 300ZX along with a manual transmission and overcome all the packaging challenges to swap into this sedan. It could make a sweet sleeper. You might even call it a Q-ship, but except that Infiniti chose to badge its first car, the top-tier Q45, with that letter for that exact reason. So, sorry, Q’s taken.

Oh. By the way. The successor to the J30 was the I30 (pictured above). For their next car, they went backward in the alphabet. They even used a cursive I, which is practically an L already. Just do the L.

I give up. Go buy a stupid 1995 Infiniti. I don’t care which one, or what letters are on it. Nobody else does either.

This Infiniti gets a 3 on the Lamestain Index.

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28 responses to “Lamest Classics: The Infiniti J30”

  1. Smaglik Avatar

    You know, I always really liked the look of these. They really were different for the time. Of course, being a college student meant all I could do was look, but I still liked them, aver don’t think they’ve aged too poorly, even that center stack still looks purposeful and moderately attractive.

  2. Smaglik Avatar

    You know, I always really liked the look of these. They really were different for the time. Of course, being a college student meant all I could do was look, but I still liked them, aver don’t think they’ve aged too poorly, even that center stack still looks purposeful and moderately attractive.

  3. Maymar Avatar

    The naming is stupid, but Infiniti’s lineup circa 1993 wasn’t half-bad. You’ve got two decently sporty RWD sedans in the J30 and Q45 (OG, with no grille and the giant belt buckle logo), an the G20 was supposed to be an adept little handler, being related to the Nissan Almera(sp?), Which had touring car pedigree. Of course, it’d go downhill quickly until they brought out the G35.

    1. Rob Avatar

      The G20 was a great little handler, fun little European style sedan. I had a ‘95. Punchy too, no problems getting it really moving on my favorite stretches of highway. Got all the way to 125k miles with it. Practical too, I remember once getting THE primo parking up front at Stowe one day with my little G20 and roof rack, bc all the massive Earth-destroyer SUVs wouldn’t fit the small spaces.

      1.  Avatar

        The G20 is the Nissan Primera.

  4. Sjalabais Avatar

    The photos you found are just so…exquisite. I get that wanting to be luxurious is almost antithetical to offering something that stands on its own two feet, but there is one car that went down the same road, just multitudes worse:×1168/bmr-0902-656_rover_75_limo.jpg

    1. nanoop Avatar

      It really didn’t help that MG Rover went in administration while building these – highly motivated workers and a corporate philosophy that is into developing long-term customer value…

  5. 0A5599 Avatar

    A friend’s family had one when they came on the market. Back then, flip phones were still relatively new, and carried either by people who needed them, or who wanted to convey that impression to others. Everybody else got by with a bagphone, or a minibrick, or a hardwired car phone, if they didn’t have a quarter for a payphone.

    Anyway the car could be optioned with a Motorola flip phone that could be tethered to the car via a cable. It would charge the phone, and connect as a speakerphone. My friend’s family had a car with that option. Another feature of the tether was integration with the car alarm. If the alarm went off, and the phone was plugged in, it would call your home number (or whatever number you programmed) and play some alert that the alarm was going off. Of course, this required you to treat your expensive portable communication device as if it was an ordinary hard-wired phone, and leave a prime target of theft in the console, precisely where an auto burglar would look first.

    1. Smaglik Avatar

      When I fixed the seat twist in my E39, I found a flip phone under the driver’s seat (I had to pull the seat to do it). I’ll post a pic of it when I get home…it was quite amusing.

      1. Maymar Avatar

        I really hoped it would be a branded phone like Mercedes used to include in the center console for car phone capabilities, but it looks like that’s not the case?

    2. nanoop Avatar

      “a Motorola flip phone that could be tethered to the car via a cable” – wow, a long time since last time I heard “tethering” in context with an actual tether…

  6. Tomsk Avatar

    Another topping to sprinkle on the confusing nomenclature sundae: The J30 was known as the Nissan Leopard (technically Leopard J Ferie, short for the French phrase for “holiday” because Bubble Era Japanese product naming whimsy) in Japan, replacing the Nissan Leopard coupe that we got as the Infiniti M30, even though J comes before M in the alphabet…

    P.S.- The Leopard J Ferie was available with the second-gen Q45’s 4.1L V8, so a J41t could (Should?) have been a thing but wasn’t.

    P.P.S.- Anyone else find it odd how the J30 and first-gen Altima had pretty much the same basic round-and-saggy butts despite being completely different platforms?

  7. crank_case Avatar

    Honestly, I can’t hate it. Seems to be a lot of reach in this article about some naming hangup and I’m struggling to see anything that makes this a bad car.

    Also, the only reason the Merkur XR4ti could be regarded as a disaster name is that
    a) it wasn’t a Ford.
    b) XR badged Fords don’t have the same legendary Essex Chariot cultural status in the US.

    1. Alan Cesar Avatar
      Alan Cesar

      But are you inspired by it? Would you consider the J30 a notable classic car? One of the previous Lamest Classics was the Toyota Tercel, which is absolutely not a terrible car. Hate is not a requirement for lameness.

      Part of what makes the Infiniti unremarkable is that there’s no longevity to the name. It’s just meaningless alphanumerics that were used briefly, then disappeared.

      1. crank_case Avatar

        Still kind of a weak line of reasoning – there’s loads of Japanese and non Japanese cars with short lived and meaningless nameplates. I mean it’s an old car, it’s likely a nice thing to cruise round in, I could see myself picking one up at 30 years old if they’re reasonable money. It’s no more or less interesting than some utterly pedestrian Mercedes W123 that has no issue being accepted as “classic”. If it wasn’t sold in the US and you only knew it as a Nissan Leopard, ye’d probably be drooling over it. 😉

        1. Alan Cesar Avatar
          Alan Cesar

          “No more or less pedestrian than a W123.”

          That’s exactly the point. 🙂

  8. salguod Avatar

    The Infiniti branding sort of followed the Mercedes model. Letter for the series, numbers for displacement. Then there’s the two very different models that start with G.

    Back in the early 2000s when I was at Design Central, one of the project leads drove a G20 and the business development person drove a J30. The G20 owner was very lax on maintenance but that fancy Sentra just kept going. I have no idea how well maintained the J30 was, but it was always broken.

  9. wunno sev Avatar
    wunno sev

    when I was a kid i remember thinking these were really cool, and letting my uncle who was buying an I30 know as much, though I did acknowledge that the I30 was bigger. I still think they’re cool, but one would need a lot of work for me to want it, eg a manual swap or the Q’s V8, no lame beige paints, the late projector headlights, a decent suspension, etc.

    my first car was a 97 Maxima, effectively a less-optioned I30, and it was actually great. but it could never have the offbeat style of the J30.

  10. smartalec Avatar

    In Japan and NZ this was known as the Leopard and could also be had with a 4.1 V8 VH41DE

  11. Terry Avatar

    Where can I find parts

    1. Jon Avatar

      I have been a fan of these for a long time, and have spare parts available if interested.

    2. Jon Avatar

      Email me at I have a small horde of parts, let me know what you are looking for.

  12. John Leon Avatar
    John Leon

    Where can I get high performance aftermarket parts for the 94 J30 T?

  13. Franco Avatar

    What in the fuck did i just read

  14. Abby Avatar

    I bought an early model J30 just after they came to market – it was a light green-gray color with a sun/moon roof and the coolest vehicle in town. Driving was a daily delight and I have to add, it was never in the shop in the 3 years I drove it all over Florida on business trips. I traded it in for a magnificent soft gold-colored Q45 in ’97 when I needed something bigger. It was a true luxury vehicle to my way of thingking and strangers often offered unsolicited ‘Nice car’ comments as there weren’t many on the road with the classic Q45 body style. It gave me years of very reliable driving and I loved both of these Infiniti offerings – they each felt unique and special. I’d love to have one or the other in the garage right now! There is, however, a 2000 Buick Parklane with buttery leather bench seating bearing a whopping 69K miles, and a 10th gen 2001 Honda Accord EX sedan, sporting scratch-free original paint and a well-maintained interior. It carries 100,006 miles like it’s made of mint – it keeps going and going and … what can I say? I’m a fortunate daughter-of-a-gun.

    1. Abby Avatar

      Just saw a HUGE TYPO above – My second Infiniti was the QX4 — not the Q45 as stated – loved that van(ishing) wonder. I still think it was the best ‘Q’ body style out of all the subsequent van models. GAB

  15. Alex K. Avatar

    For some reason, seeing one of these in pearl white with a beige interior used to evoke images of some blonde-ish lady in her 50s wearing a fur coat and sipping on a Starbucks cup. That said, I like the look of these and my very first car was a 1994 black on black J30 which, while probably a fine car when made in 1994, was pretty beat up and neglected by the time I got it and is pretty much the reason I know how to work on cars. I spent a lot of time scrapig parts off of junked J30s at a local junkyard to keep mine running on my broke college student budget. Still, I absolutely loved the perceived image of driving around local office parks in my import luxury car with black leather seats.