A Page to share my personal passion for unique Japanese Vehicles
Cars of NIHON

 

 
 
 
We didn't know how lucky we were..in the 1960's.. ....

Australia and New Zealand was the primary export destination for some of the best cars produced in Japan until the very end of the 1960's 

Japanese made cars first entered the Australian market around 1957 and were considered a curiosity.  At that time Nissan/Datsun offered quite a well developed four cylinder range of commercial and passenger vehicles, and despite very strong anti japanese sentiments immediately sold well.

                            Nissan CEDRIC 1961

The first Japanese car I can recall seeing was in about 1961 or 1962. As a 6 or 7 year old walking to school( as kids did once) I regularly passed by a large new and impressive vehicle parked on the verge... a Nissan Cedric !

Its design was easy on the eye and was competitive with the locally manufactured GM Holden model, it also had tinted glass...something not seen here before..and a short lived luxury carried over by Toyota on the CROWN range. I think the Government probably banned tinting...I can only recall Holdens with a bit of tint in the 1967 HR model. Japanese cars also came with heaters, pushbutton radios and even electric arials..  

In those more basic times a trickle of often weird pioneer vehicles from Japan came on the market and began to be seen on the roads..the Hino Contessa, Toyopet Corona and the rear engined Mazda 360 were examples of that exotic fringe. 

Nissans were miles ahead from their Japanese competitors here and presented their Cedric and Bluebird range into the market, as very substantial and creditable mainstream cars which were seriously challenging the status quo.  They were supported by ISUZU.. who marketed their Bellet sedan, a very good looking and well developed car, that soon became a common sight on the roads here in the 1960's.


                Prince Gloria 2L or 2.5L six cylinder 1961 - 1966

Prince Motor Company marketed some great cars here as well.  The 1500 sedan and Skyline models, and the very stylish and beautiful full size 6 cylinder Prince GLORIA

The spade fronted Toyota Corona, and the Crown sedan and wagon of 1965 was the start of the rise and rise of Toyota here, followed by the Corolla in 1967. Toyota built a plant here and offered their cars to the market with the price advantage of local assembly from about 1965..very far sighted. These cars were mainly competing with VW and Australian built Austin, Morris and Wolseley products produced by BMC in Sydney.  Luckily for BMC they just happened to turn out two very creditable vehicles in the 850 Mini and 1100 sedan and later the Austin 1800 in time to survive the Japanese.. When those vehicles became mechanically dated...the company expired like a collapsing super nova...creating the curiosity that is the Leyland P76 in their ultimate dying spasm.

Why did we see these significant cars here in Australia ? To understand the importance of Australia and export strategy, a few figures are telling: in 1965, Toyota sold 17,300 vehicles in Australia, by far its strongest world export market. This is to be compared with 8,900 units in the USA.  Japan were selling 2 cars in Australia to every 1 sold into North America in the mid 1960's and THE STEERING WHEEL WAS ON THE SAME SIDE !   This makes it clear why some very special limited production Japanese vehicles were made available here.

 

My great interest in Japanese cars probably started when I was about 11 years old in 1966 during those peak times, when I was introduced to a new Prince Skyline GTB, that had been recently purchased by a friend of my fathers.



What a beast that PRINCE SKYLINE was ! I loved the chunky look of it.  The 99litre fuel tank was located in the boot and to access the filler cap and refuel, required opening the the boot lid.  On top of the tank was a label instructing how much benzene had to be mixed with the old leaded super grade petrol of  97-98 octane. In those times and right into the 70's one or two servos had a pump for pure benzene...easy to tell the cars using it as they had most of the paint missing on the rear quarter panel under the filler caps. 

Under the bonnet was a long straight six,lifted from the Gloria, possibly a  reverse engineered version of the mercedes OHC 220 "finny". Most of the underbonnet space was filled with a continuous row of  Weber 40DCOE  carbies.... I couldn't believe anything could sound so good as that GTB Skyline too!    They had a five speed box and limited slip diff  and a little plate fixed to the firewall hand stamped with the  hp of the engine. More information on Prince Skylines on this link

This automotive technology was pretty radical for mid 60's Australia.

This particular car was set up for rally work, and had been modified with a straight through exhaust and all the Halda gear inside. The owner sadly died about 15 years ago in a gyrocopter accident and I don't know what happened to the car....  The original owners of these cars would possibly be in their 80's now...

Prince Skylines appeared here in large numbers in the mid 60's.  I vividly recall seeing a very long line of  brand new GTB's and GTA's on display outside a dealers here in Adelaide. I had the impression that there was an unlimited supply available.

It is only in later years that I discovered what a very special car they were..... that 500 GTB's only were built.... to homologate the model for competitive touring car racing in Japan..This was to be the first Japanese made car that had a real chance of challenging european made vehicles in national touring car events..... ..These Skylines were not production cars, but probably hand built..and I imagine sold at a loss.

The majority of the 500 homologation cars were exported to Australia and New Zealand... no where else.     This was the story for many of the most precious Japanese vehicles of the 60's. We were very fortunate to get the very best of the Japanese vehicles in those times. In later years Prince Skylines would come up for sale as curiosities, often fitted with Holden 6cylinder 161 cu inch engines when the originals had expired. 

After returning from a lengthy trip to India in the late 70's and in need of cash I picked up a job apple picking work in the Adelaide Hills. Every morning I was fortunate to be given a ride up to the orchards by a fellow picker who had a very original GTB Skyline in a much loved but fairly worn condition.. The journey involved a lengthy steep climb on twisty single lane roads with lots of gear changes..BLISS. The GTB was totally in its element.  That was as close as I got to one for a good while. The last pristine example I saw was from a deceased estate sale here in Adelaide about 1994. The car was in similar condition to the New Zealand car pictured above..a one owner vehicle with the original four digit numerical SA plates and had been locked away unused for years.It was re exported back to Japan. I did have a look at one for sale about 1997 with a Datsun 280C engine in it..but it was pretty rough and more of a project than I could handle at the time... I'd just bought a house that had been empty for 20years and was trying hard to survive in it.. My fascination with Skylines did not end there.. and I have owned about 7 mid 80's Japanese domestic market HR31 Coupe's over the years, plus a couple of later R33's...see my latest Hr31 Coupe further down this page.

This shovel nose1969 Corona RT recently turned up in a scrap yard in Japan...

Japan inc.showered Australia with the most amazing vehicles during the decade of 60's. This came to an end post 1970 with only one or two exceptions...maybe the Honda 9 coupe and the Mazda R100coupes of the very early 70'..certainly no more high performance Skylines until the R32 GTR was available locally 25 years later in 1990. 

From then Australia generally only received the lowest order engines, and the most basic of models, often a year or two later than other export markets. Most of the good stuff never left Japan in later years..hence my delight in seeking out from the Japanese market the interesting models that we missed out on. 

We did get 240Z's in abundance..but the twin cam version of the Z's never made it here. ( well not until the later grey import  200ZR) It certainly would have in small number in  the 60's if it had been around.

I'm sure that this was well planned by Japan inc. and not coincidence.They had proven the point, they made outstanding vehicles. These coupes were sold here in very small numbers.

"Mechanically speaking, popular sports cars that debuted around 45 years ago — such as the Prince Skyline series and Toyota 2000GTs — came from the efforts of engineers who, unlike today, had no Computer Aided Design (CAD) system to help them when they were creating those models.

The first-generation pioneers of Japanese car manufacturing were originally engineers for Nakajima Hikoki, which supplied many of Japan's aircraft during World War II. But when Japan lost the war in 1945, those engineers found themselves jobless, and many turned to car-making at the Prince Motor Company, which was bought up by Nissan in 1966. Soon, Japanese cars began to lead the nation's postwar economic expansion and helped crystallize Japan's reputation in the world as an industrial superpower" 

 

 


                                          TOYOTA 2000 GT

 Around 1967/68  there were TWO Toyota 2000 GT's seen in my area of Adelaide. One would often be parked outside the local shops....  this was a pale yellow example, I can't recall the colour of the second, which I saw only a couple of times..may have been red. One was sold recently in Adelaide.. must have been one the cars I saw back in the 60's.

Of the 351 cars made the great majority were right hand drive.only 62 went to the U.S.A. . They are one of the rarest collector vehicles in the world now. 2 liter, twin cam six cylinder engine with 3 twin-choke carburetors and a 5-speed transmission the GT 'redlines' at 7000rpm, producing speeds of 70 mph in 2nd; 100 in 3rd; and just below 140 mph in top end. 

 


                           MAZDA COSMO 110S

Another local car was a stunning gleaming white MAZDA Cosmo rotary that arrived around 1967. It was located about 300metres from our house and stayed with its original owner well into the 70's. It was looking pretty weird by then style wise. There were others in Adelaide.

Mazda only made 1,400 of these cars..reportedly at the rate of one a day.

I would think Australia and NZ probably received quite a few of that number.

 


                                                   DATSUN SILVIA 1966

  I only ever saw the one Silvia in Adelaide, same colour as the one in the photograph. It was owned by the proprietor of a Datsun dealership.. Carig Motors

It was beautiful in the day..  its still beautiful now. 

 



                                  HONDA 1300 COUPE "91971    

Australia and NZ were the main export market for this car..right hand drive only. Just over a 1,000 came here.... This was to be the end of our dream run of truly great and unique vehicles soley exported to Oceania. Air cooled, dry sumped with large heavily finned oil tank out front and oil cooler. Gearbox pressure lubricated.Very early cars (1970) were badged S,  most were badged Deluxe. As an owner of a 9S and a 7 ( single carb)Deluxe..I recall that the S versions had a much lighter exhaust manifold heater assembly than the Deluxe version.  Adelaide alone had three times as many Coupe 9's than the whole USA...9 sold in Adelaide and 3 in the USA. The coupe 7 was a reasonably common car..on the road here. Derived from Honda 99 and 77 sedans...that never left Japan. I estimate about 80 1300Coupe 9's were sold Australia wide. My recollection is that most local wrecking yards had a rolled 7 or 9 Coupe on offer in the mid 1970's.Very few survive,


I was lucky enough to buy a Coupe 9  in about 1980. The car was the first Coupe 9 sold  in Adelaide...I think it was a  September 1970 build... It was originally owned by a director of the local Honda Dealer..Carcycle Ltd. I remember it well at Carcycle as I would take my mothers N600 sedan there for servicing, the 9 Coupe would always be parked there in a dark corner..its wide chromies glinting, and me drooling over it 

It was a beautiful metallic darkish green, with big factory chrome rims and factory tint glass. I purchased it for $800 from some jerk ( about $4,000 equivalent now) in a very sad state only 9 years after my first encounters. . It had been literally abandoned in an unfinished swimming pool excavation in a suburban backyard. half up to its hubs in water and mud..the yard fence was completely lined with weird cars like Citroens, an early rear engine Mazda etc, all parked side by side, backs to the fence.. The house had been sold to a neighbour and he was selling the cars. There was also a pyramid about 6 ft high of gutted rotary Mazda engine cases in there somewhere....a common sight in those days no doubt.

The Honda had been off the road for some years.( it was incredible that it was only 9 or 10 years old then and more or less junked) I think it had 45,000miles on the clock. The brakes no longer worked as the master cylinder had corroded and being unique to the vehicle, was a problem, The tyres had perished and exhaust system rotted out. Worse of all it had suffered a horrible $20 paint job in silver just blown straight over the top coat... and that was peeling off everywhere like leprosy. The chromies were stuffed from being half underwater.  The stylish interior was still just like new..about the only redeemable feature. You hear stories like this all the time ..weirdos that spend heaps buying some automotive gem and then just absolutely trashing it. I thought the previous owner had done an unmatched job of that personally. Naturally at that time I had a mortgage and the responsibility of a newly born daughter, so had practically no resources to improve it. Luckily I met an enthusiast, Ian, who had purchased the spares held by the importing agents and every used 1300 Coupe he could get his hands on. With his help I kept it running for few years and later sold it on to him. The last true HONDA .. 

The Coupes did have a few issues. Cam chains were strong HyVo type but tended to stretch and flop around because of their extreme length,  jumping the cam sprocket and sometimes doing a bit of damage to internals resulting in  severe oil leaks.. They were available with a/c which was a pretty stupid idea, as I think the compressor was driven by the camshaft via a pulley on the end..ensuring maximum load on the camchain.      If they were looked after by the owner, and kept away from mechanics, they would last very well despite their complexity and unique engineering. The last car to be designed by Mr Honda himself..and he was no engineering fool. ...Air cooled, They did seem to get alarmingly hot when driven in Australian summer heat. My 9 coupe had previous repair to the head..it appeared to have half melted at some time, but I don't know the full story.  Parts were super expensive.... about the price of the equivalent weight in gold was a good comparison.

 GO To "Nostalgic Car" Japan..click on ikon

  Cars of NIHON

  

Note that a full range of new original makers spares for most 80's japanese vehicles can be reliably purchased by mail order from AMAYAMA trading Co, Japan.

  

Nissan Be-1   August 1987

 

Nissan Be1

  Based on the 1961 996cc Mk1 MINI COOPER

  Actual size is about 40% larger than original Mini

  5 speed..  3,000 manual cars built

 

   ← Click image to enter the Be-1 page

 

 

                                                                                                           Nissan Skyline HR31    March 1988

 

 


                                               My Nissan Skyline 1988

                        View the  video of this car on full screen

RB 20DET 5 Speed 

   well cared for and original HR31 in unmarked white,

ECCS series RB20DET motor.

 

 

← Click on the photo to enter my SKYLINE page



The interior is fresh, showing no signs of  wear, abuse or neglect, and has had a non smoking owner

The exterior is unmarked. It is obvious this HR31 has never been through the usual string of abusive youthful owners. I am a particular fan of the "razor edge" styling of the 80's Skylines..and you get plenty of that in the HR 31

118,000kms on the clock.. To drive, it is everything a good  RB 20DET Skyline should be.....

The 1988 model is the basis used for both the 800 GTS-R models produced by Nissan, and the 200 AUTECH produced HR31's..  


  

 

♥ARCHIVE♥

5 Valve Levins: Apex GT and BZG

                                                           Note.. I think that is no longer possible to import this model AE101  as there are no SEVs licensed to comply these cars..check sevs 

 

click to enter my Levin page

    LEVIN APEX GT

                                                                

                                                                                   Nissan 200 ZR "Fairlady"

Japan only.... Fitted with DOHC 24 Valve turbo engine of Skyline origins. Made in standard and short wheelbase. This one is standard length. Made with auto or 5speed and fairly basic..no abs etc .Much stronger than Skyline with bigger wheels, 5 stud,big LSD diff and better suspension. One face lift over the production run. Used older version (NICS type) of  intercooled Skyline motor up to 2 years after it was extinct and replaced with ECCS type in every other Nissan.. ( I have no idea why) This unmodified car of mine appeared to have had more power than a Skyline..used to pop and rumble on the overrun.  Definately something different about these engines..could be cams, could be my imagination ? Nobody seems to have any answers to the ZR riddle....

..long gone to Melbourne.