It may be a new year and all, but we still have to sift through the finds of 2020 – which were pretty plentiful, as far as I’m concerned. Let’s kick things off with this lovely Honda City. That’s an early first-generation model (still has the gawky fender mirrors), probably from 1982. The nameplate is still used, albeit in a different category.
Dust has well and truly settled on this early ‘90s Accord wagon, and air has left its tyres. But that interior looks like it was sat in only yesterday. Strange isn’t it? I found another one of these that month, but it will be featured in its own post, just as soon as I can get to it.
I also snapped another Mitsubishi Jeep 4-door wagon, not unlike this one, which I will write up. I’ve already found and posted one of these beauties in 2020, but the more the merrier.
More Mitsubishi oddity: a 1994-2000 FTO coupé – this one is a late model GPX, which means this FWD folly has a 200hp 2-litre V6, if you please.
This month’s madcap Mitsuoka moment: another K12 Viewt, by far the most common representative of the marque. Still makes for a nice photo or two, on a sunny morning.
At last, something a bit novel: an ɛ̃fini MS-9, sold only from 1991 to 1993. The Sentia was already badged as the 929 for export markets, but Mazda figured they needed one more clone to flesh out their ɛ̃fini (pronounced “Anfeenee,” I believe) brand, which along with Autozam and Eunos, was their lame attempt at making a Japanese Sloan ladder, along with the marketing of Fords and Citroëns. What were they on?
An interesting derelict duo: on the right, a late model first-generation (1989-93) Subaru Legacy wagon – probably the best Japanese sports wagon of the era.
On the right, a mid-‘80s Toyota Sprinter Trueno AE86 notchback. It seems these are less popular than the hatchback Levins, so it’s a welcome change from the mean. Speaking of which…
Here are this month’s hatchback AE86 Corolla Levins. This one was caught on an early morning, still bleary-eyed but about as pristine as these can get. And with an oh-so-appropriate license plate, to boot.
Almost identical, this other Levin AE86 was also very clean, if a little less obsessively detailed.
Distantly related though it may be in terms of design, the E90 Sprinter Carib is nonetheless part of the great confusing flustercuck of Corolla derivatives that appeared in the ‘80s.
The mighty V12 Century, in gloriously understated dark blue. I’m planning to do a long-form CC post about these, as I’ve now caught a number of unattended ones and was able to photograph them up close and personal. Just another one to add to the slate for 2021.
Just as mighty in its own way, this quad-eyed Land Cruiser looks a lot younger than its 30-plus years.
Finally found an early model (circa 2000) Crown S170 wagon that is not an “Athlete” series car. I like this grille better than the Athlete’s…
This 1985-88 MasterAce Surf hasn’t moved in a while – it doesn’t even have its license plates any more. A pure ‘80s vehicle through and through.
This month was a very good vintage for X70 Mark II wagons, made between 1984 and 1997. Not sure why, but I ran into three of the beasts, including one topped by a cat. Sheer purr-fection.
Two of those sported fender mirrors – almost de rigueur for big Japanese wagons of that era. But that was just an option, as the X70 Mark II arrived after the law changed in 1983.
Without the goofy fender mirrors, these old gals somehow lose some of their sense of occasion. Still a very nice car, but slightly more anonymous.
On the Nissan front, the Mark II and Crown van/wagon were met by the 1983-99 Cedric / Gloria Y30 van/wagon, which I’ve covered extensively already. But I keep finding them, and cannot help but capture them.
This one had its hubcaps taken off, gray paint and unadorned flanks, so it really looked workmanlike. Until you glanced inside, that is, where it is about as Brougham-tastic as anything.
This fully-loaded SGL wagon, on the other hand, displayed its gingerbread on the outside as well. The more of these I find (and there are quite a few about still), the more tempting they are.
I’m also quite besotted with the Pao. Two crossed my path this month – a rather tatty one (top pic) and a much cleaner example. In some ways, this would be a more reasonable ride in this tightly-packed metropolis than a Gloria wagon. Hmmm… Decisions, decisions…
On the other hand, there are these abominations. The 1999-2003 Nissan March (K11) Bolero was one of Nissan’s attempts at making a cut-rate Mitsuoka, I suppose. Looks like a Fiat 500 was date-raped by a Mercedes.
The K11 March is a fine-looking car if you leave its face alone. In this instance, the transformation took place on the roof. This variant is rare – as I understand it, it was only made for a couple model years (1997-98) and only for the JDM, though a few have since found their way to places like the UK.
Is there anything more plain-vanilla than a silver B12 Sunny/Sentra saloon? This one is a real time-warp, too.
This R31 Skyline wagon is a contemporary to the B12 Sunny, it just has about 150% more personality.
We’ve already seen the Gloria version of the Y31 hardtop (and in a far more stock condition than this), but still, these genuine hardtops are not as common as all that any more.
Funny how Japanese customizers work, sometimes. That interior is void of the usual doilies and has a few mods here and there, but keeping it in shades of gray like that seems like a wasted opportunity. Go wild, dude! Pastel blue leatherette with fluorescent piping, or red polka dots on purple velvet, I say.
Ye Olde Sunny Pickups of the month – this one was a well-worn worker, clearly…
Followed by a nicely restored one, parked next to a Mustang, a.k.a the only US-made Ford that does any sizable business abroad these days, as far as I can tell.
Last Nissan in store for now: a very tired mid-‘80s Caravan of the “SGL Silk Road” variety, i.e. the deluxe version.
Well, when I said “last Nissan in store”… there was also this place I passed by one day. I did a double take: what was that staring at me from inside the shop?
Why, it was an ancient Nissan Patrol, living out its retirement years as a display case. And with that crucifix, it kind of doubled up as an altar, too.
It was mission impossible to take photos of the car underneath all that stuff, but fun trying. There were a bunch of old tools on one side and various things on the other, including model cars. Not sure how they squeezed this Patrol into the building, but it’s done patrolling.
That was pretty rich, so let’s keep it small and sweet for the finale – by which I mean, a couple Daihatsus. This is an L500 Mira (1994-98) TR-XX Avanzat R, the first kei car featuring a turbocharged 4-cyl. 16-valve engine. Something of a pocket rocket, in other words.
Similarly, this Charade Turbo was a small revolution when Daihatsu launched it in 1983: in some markets, it was the first small and affordable turbocharged car. The 1-litre 3-cyl. churned out a very respectable 80hp.
The Charade is no longer registered, but right next to it, sporting the same two-tone colour scheme, was this Suzuki Hustler. If turbocharged, this kei car has a 63hp 3-cyl., so it’s a bit tamer than the Daihatsu, but not a million miles from it.
Just a couple extras that didn’t fit anywhere to see us off. This is a sort of integrated sidecar of unknown make and model. Looked pretty alien on the street – I caught sight of it as the owner was parking it.
Finally, this old Honda CN250 Fusion – the most iconic Japanese scooter, and still being made even though the design is 35 years old – really caught my eye. I had never imagined that woodgrain sides would ever work on a two-wheeler, but on this, it kinda does!
See you tomorrow for the foreign cars.
It’s funny — I’ve always thought of that generation 929/Sentia as a bit of an odd-proportioned, bloated, amorphous blob (in contrast to its predecessor, which was overly conventional and consequently completely anonymous). But your photos of this example you found have me coming around a bit. I think it’s for a few reasons; it’s in a nice dark color (which hides some of its portliness), the BBS wheels are a tasteful touch, and you didn’t take a side profile shot, which to me emphasizes its awkwardness more than any other angle.
Maybe I need to give the 929 another chance: if I ever see one on the road again (which is no sure thing, given that I’ve only seen two in the last five years), I’ll give it a closer look.
In the original PR pics, I recall thinking “Hey, this looks like a better Jag than the one actually on sale”, but the real deal was too skinny and oddly bulged and lost my interest pretty quickly. Like you, though, if I saw one again like this one now, I might have to reconsider.
These are one of the rare oddities that weren’t all that successful in the marketplace but I think they are gorgeous. It’s a very unique take that really wasn’t copied much, and they have such flowing lines with presence. Yeah it’s narrow, it’s Japanese. The BBS wheels, an obsession on JDM cars around this time, cure that ill.
That Honda City shot looks like it could have been TAKEN in 1982, there’s nothing to suggest otherwise, and the neon reflecting off the side is the icing on the cake. It just needs a rollerskater in pink short shorts with leg warmers and a ponytail to complete it.
Somehow though it’s starting to appear that Japan (Japan!) has more surviving Dinoc-wood sided wagons than the US does.
The Pao, as desirable as it ever was, seems to be becoming ever more so as time goes on. There’s something about it that just gets better with age. Maybe it’s that it’s actually aging now instead of being new and just looking that way.
But as for my pick of the pics, I’m torn between that Nissan Silk Road van and the Charade Turbo. So different but both so appealing. Somehow.
Looks like a broad consensus as regards the Pao. I agree with Pikesta below: they should bring it back. Meta retro, here we come!
I love a good FTO. Shame about the horrible blue wheels.
That MS-9 is surely ridiculously rare now, since it sold horribly even when new. Probably still more common than the elusive MS-8 though. Mazda’s multi-brand sales plan was decided in the late-80s and banked on the economy continuing to boom. They saw themselves replicating Toyota’s and Nissan’s multi-channel successes. Of course, it was a disaster. JDM articles widely recognise the original Demio, a hit straight out of the gate, as the car that saved them from certain collapse.
That white blob Serena next to/behind the first Y30 Gloria wagon brings back memories! My parents had a red one until an Isuzu Trooper rear-ended it in 2002 (they’d not set their handbrake and rolled downhill into it).
Yup the March Cabriolet is indeed pretty rare, and definitely much better than any of the dance-named retro-classic-faced Marches of the same time period.
That doorway’s pretty big, so I’d guess the Patrol was reversed/pushed in when the place was mostly empty. Such a shame for it to be coated in so much stuff and hidden away, but at least it affords some level of preservation.
I’ve always loved that generation of Mira TR-XX Avanzato, that colour scheme does seem a bit much now. Also, another 90s Serena haunting me next to it.
I agree with Jim though, the Caravan Silk Road and the Charade Turbo are both so completely of their time and both so appealing in their own ways, though I guess the patina might have something to do with the romanticised idea that goes with it.
Once again, these Singles Collections are probably my favourite series on this site. Thank you so much!
Wow! My favourite regular CC feature. Somehow I’d forgotten it was that time of the month again! As always, I’ll pass it on to my mates.
If I commented on everything comment-worthy, my reply would be rivalling your feature for length. Just when I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on JDM cars, you find some I was totally unaware of, and you do it every month. That weird enclosed sidecar-thingy! And a scooter with woodgrain! You know what confused me the most? That Sentra/Sunny. We never got that in Australia (Pulsar instead here) and it looks so generic-’90ish-Japanese-car at first I thought it was some kind of Isuzu.
Those FTOs are strange little beasts; I’ve seen one or two on the roads here. The sound of that little V6! CC-in-scale has way too many of these to show – Century? FTO? AE86? Subaru wagon? – but that first-gen City grabbed my attention. Here’s one I did for the 24-hour-build challenge on FB last year.
Terrific finds, and as usual, several that are completely new to me. Just a few random comments:
That Mitsubishi FTO coupe looks like an automotive equivalent of a platypus… borrowing random design elements from different cars. To me, it looks like it has the front of Pontiac Sunfire, the mid-section of a Hyundai Tiburon and the rear of a 1999-2002 Mercury Cougar.
That Subaru Legacy wagon is probably my favorite Subaru.
I’m drooling over that Century – my favorite Centurys are those that are not painted black.
I’ll echo Jim’s comment above that the Silk Road Caravan is completely fascinating. Maybe much of that fascination is due to the Silk Road name, which is probably more alluring than the actual van itself.
I never knew there had been a Charade Turbo. Somehow I’ve gotten through life without realizing that fact. And the quintessential ’80s “Turbo” badging looks hilarious on this car.
I love the Honda Country Squire scooter. Not called that, I know, but it should be.
“Honda Country Squire” – love it!
Eric wins the Internet
Your comment on the FTO’s borrowed elements is quite interesting, as the FTO predates everything you mention. Does that mean it was influential?
It’s funny, I realized that as I was writing the comment. But not being familiar with the FTO, those three “borrowed cars” just stuck out at me when I first saw the pictures, so I decided to go with it. Maybe the FTO was influential!
The Pao also just keeps growing on me. A true modern classic.
The City is a little gem. And that woody wagon looks like a Fairmont Squire that’s been hitting the steroids a bit.
The City’s a gem to drive too. Only 1.2 litres of torquey Honda-ness, but no weight. Delightful fun, and ultra-practical with it.
Also a gem to own, for my mate anyway, who drove it with vigour for years and years to nearly 280K miles.
Thanks for a great read and terrific photos, feels like I’m walking the streets of Tokyo myself. It’s time to put the Pao back into production, an electric version maybe. It really is timeless, rather than retro. This is car as tool-for-life. I’d like to get my hands on the 16V Mira kei car, back in the early 90’s Car mag had a thing for crazy powerful kei cars, not sure if they just lost interest or the cars went away. Lately Car is far too Bentley’d up for my taste..but I cant let go. Not sure what that’s about.
Nice collection again, I had one of those early Legacys sporty? not in the least 1.8 NA engine and automatic it struggled to get out of its own way while using fuel like a healthy V8 nice enough to drive if you werent in a hurry the 2.2 with turbo went better but used even more fuel,
Wow a G60 Patrol not full of rust now thats a rare find, that was about their only downfall and of course you could get them with biodegradable diff heads two were available weak and strong.
I havent seen any Sentias for a while, yet there were a few about not that long ago what ever kills them has found most that were imported, same with FTOs they were common not long ago who ever was buying these has obviously moved on to other stuff
Honda Citys are quite prized now over here especially the turbo model and the ragtop but are getting hard to find
Legacy a sport wagon? Not if they were anything like what we got in the US – they weren’t sport and could hardly get out of their own way.
No, the Japanese GT had a 200hp 2.0 twin cam, as opposed to the USA GT that had a 165hp 2.2 single cam. Pretty decent for back in the day, and they were very easy to get a stock more out of, making them pretty popular for the boys back in the day.
Surprised to see the Corolla with pop up headlights in Japan. I thought that was for the North American market only.
And the gray wagon with brown interior is just kinda odd.
In Japan there was (until the late 90’s) always twins, the Corolla and the Sprinter. They were sold in separate sales channels, had the same platform and almost everything was the same, except differences to the front and rear (lamps, grille, bumpers etc). In the E80 series the pop-up headlights were on the Sprinter Trueno, and the fixed headlamps were on the Corolla Levin. They were both available as either 2-door coupe or 3-door liftback.
Years ago, I had a drive of the identical Nissan van, sadly here just an Urvan. I didn’t know I’d been on a Silk Road, as it felt more Camel Track, really, but one learns anew.
The Urvan is the right name, mind, if one took it to be a contraction of Er-Yuk, which it certainly was. Like so many Japanese vans of then, it had 5 on the column that may as well have been on Mars for the ease in locating them, let alone the fact that the alleged ninth passenger in the middle front of the SGL had to be one who could endure a punch in their nuts every time I did locate a lower gear.
Honestly, with the Approxo-Steer steering, the Wave-A-Wand gear-guess-bag and the Lane-Swapper Stability Pack, it’s amazing anything ever got delivered, let alone living passengers.
Still, it must said that this one in Tokyo is remarkably well-preserved, right down to the Lower Rust-Stain Pack that they had new.
Wonderful collection Tatra. Not sure which is my favorite, but I don’t get tired of the Cedric / Gloria wagons. Those Daihutsus look like they’d be a hoot when running. And the Nissan Caravan looks like it would be right at home on a remote part of the Silk Road.
Always an absolute treat, and as someone else said, too much to comment on.
However, my pick of the bunch is that glorious MasterAce Surf. There isn’t anything I don’t love about it!
Some great shots here.I really love those MitsuJeeps
The more pictures of Nissan Gloria wagons you post Tatra, the more I want to own one. Excellent shots as always!
The best part for me is getting reminded of the JDM names of cars that were quite common (in some cases still are) in the States under other, less interesting names. The MasterAce Surf is a far more memorable moniker than plain Toyota Van, ditto the Sprinter Carib and Levin or Sprinter Trueno vs Corolla AllTrac or GTS. Even Sunny seems nicer, not to mention longer lasting, than the variety of alphanumeric then Sentra names used here.
T87: Any idea what that little green wagon (below the big Cadillac) is in the Patrol shop? It looks like a 1/43 scale diecast from 1960s Japan – maybe Model Pet # 21 Toyota Masterline? If you didn’t buy it for your collection, I would sure like it in mine.
Yes, that’s what that was — Toyota Crown Masterline, probably a 60s original… I didn’t buy it, my collection doesn’t need expanding!
I’ve always been intrigued by Mitsubishi’s FTO. Unlike the Galant based Eclipse, this was on the lighter Mirage platform. That 200 PS MIVEC 2.0 V6 was a LOT of power back then for a car that size, and I’d love to know how the two would compare (FTO GPX vs. Eclipse GS-T). The styling is admittedly unique and to taste, but I do like it. My concern would be space, however, as the same era Eclipse had nothing for a back seat and this looked even smaller.
As I understood it the Eclipse was based on a Chrysler platform, but with Mitsubishi engines. The FTO, meanwhile is definitely the same platform as the Galant (7th generation). The size of the FTO is pretty much the same as the Eclipse, and yes, still very little room in the back, a 4-seater in name only.
I’d just have to ask how much for the Patrol to see their reaction. The doorway does look more than wide enough to get it through once everything is out of the way, and off course off of it.