CC Outtakes: T87’s Singles Collection (April 2020) – Part 2: Foreign Cars

For such a recently-departed maker, there are not many Saabs about the streets of Tokyo. Even later models than this one are rare sightings. Not sure how to explain that, but it’s my personal empirical observation. Looks showroom-fresh, as always. Well, almost always…

It’s not like Japan has anything against Swedish cars, judging by how frequently one sees older (as well as newer) Volvos. These are almost as common as the Mini, here. Unless I happen upon an Amazon or a P1800, I’m probably going to have to exclude this marque from my monthly update.

Much to my chagrin, I may have to also forego documenting the many W123s I’m seeing. They’re usually in superb nick and I really like them, but there are only so many new angles one can photograph these from…

Ditto the more recent American vans – they’re a weird sight in this context, but there are just too many around to keep track. Not sure why these (or their Dodge equivalent) seem so popular here.

Oldies are still goodies, though. At least, Yukon argue that.

I managed to catch a few interesting twofers this month. It’s always a pleasure to find a C3 Corvette – even if it’s a 1980-82 model and quite dusty, but even more so in the company of a Toyota Crown Athlete Estate. Must write one of those wagons up sometime – they’re not rare here yet, but they are getting on in years.

Another Japanese-American duo, but better matched this time: a 1st generation Chrysler 300C (one of the more common American cars seen in these parts) next to a late ‘90s Nissan Gloria Y33. I’m sure we’re all quite familiar with the former; a post on the latter is in the works. Seems somebody around here likes beefy RWD sedans.

Likewise, someone here likes turn-of-the-century FWD two-door exotics. The Mitsubishi Eclipse is LHD, which is unusual for the JDM – but then it was made in the US. Like the Peugeot 406, it was available with either a 4-cyl or a 3-litre V6.

I was a more partial to the 406 Coupé, as it was wearing what I consider to be the perfect colour (bleu de Byzance, or Byzantium blue) for this model. And it was the first one I’ve seen in Japan, which is pretty normal as Peugeot sold only 964 of these in Japan from 1998 to 2003.

While we’re on PSA products, I also found an interesting Citroën BX. This seems to be a 1989-93 “16S” (i.e. 16-valve), which has the same 1.9 litre 160hp engine as the Peugeot 405 Mi16. I read on French websites that quite a number of these relatively rare (and lively) BXs have been making their way to Japan, these past few years. For once, the Interwebs had it right.

One might also wonder how many pre-1968 VW Type 2s have made it over here as second-hand vehicles. They are just as iconic here as anywhere else, but I’m not sure many were sold new.

Anyway, a few 21st Century ameliorations, such as a proximity sensor on the rear end, can help maintain said icon in tip-top over-restored shape for the foreseeable future. Air-cooled, but not air-headed.

Bagging two classic T2s was good enough already, but the rear-engined gods chose this month to place a lovely early Type 3 Notchback along my path as well, just to make it a hat trick. Nice fog lamps on this one, too.

I’m sure all of you know the French-built MCC Smart, designed by Daimler-Benz. But did you know, unlike me, that they tried selling these as kei cars on the JDM from about 2002 to 2004? The track was narrowed a bit and the rear fenders were redesigned to fit the strict size criteria and only the 600cc 3-cyl. was available, but other than that it’s like any Smart two-seater.

Apparently though, it didn’t take. The Smart Fortwo K, as it is sometimes called, flopped in Japan – possibly because it was too expensive, or had no rear seat. Few foreign makers have ever dared entering that end of the JDM. It just didn’t seem like the Smart thing to do. More recent Smarts are seen on occasion, but with white (i.e. non-kei car) license plates.

And now for something completely different: the BRP Can Am Spyder RT, a Canadian three-wheeler. This vehicle was new to me, but they’ve been produced for over a decade now. I was initially intrigued by the Rotax badge on this thing. I only knew those to be aircraft engines, but apparently Rotax belongs to Bombardier Recreational Products, an independent offshoot of the plane-maker that makes Ski-Doo snowmobiles and things like this.

That third wheel doesn’t come cheap, either – a new Can Am Spyder will set you back US$ 15-25k. Love the spiky anti-pigeon saddle guards on this trike. I should get some of those and make them into a coat. Great for social distancing.

Speaking of which, here’s something for folks who really don’t want to disprove the adage that money can’t buy taste. That’s a double negative from me on the sky blue Ghost, then.

However, money can also buy an Aston Martin Vantage Volante V8. It’s no DB4, but it’s one of the better Aston designs of the current century, in my view.

For a less money than these fancy blue-blooded Englanders, you could get a modest Porsche 944, let it rot and turn it into the world’s biggest doorstop. Don’t know why anyone would do that, but there we have it.

Ah, I hear the familiar racket of the air-cooled flat-6. As bastardized as this classic shape got over the years, the soundtrack remained quite musical until pretty late. Made me look. Carrera 2? Snap!

I didn’t have to think too long and hard about photographing this one, either. My second Stroke-8 Benz encounter in Tokyo turned out to be another 6-cyl. saloon, but a pre-facelift model with column gearchange and, oddly enough, a white steering wheel. Pity about the colour.

It’s always nice to see an unfamiliar version of a well-known car. Over where I grew up, these were called Alfa Romeo 75, but this is a botox-bumper 1987-89 North American market Milano with the 2.5 litre V6 (never seen in Europe). Historically, it’s an important car: it’s the final iteration of the compact RWD Alfa Romeo saloon that essentially began in 1950 with the 1900 and the last they launched prior to being taken over by Fiat. Not the most graceful Italian design, though.

By contrast, and to end things on a graceful (and quite loud) note, the sweetest little Lancia ever made: the Fulvia coupé. I caught one in France over the Christmas holidays, so as far as I’m concerned, 2020 is something of a Lancia year, CC-wise.

Everything-else-wise, of course, 2020 is not going to be remembered very fondly – certainly not the first half of the year, anyway. Here’s hoping the second half brings pleasant surprises to counterbalance that.

Stay safe in the meantime, everyone.