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

I’m not sure why, but I’ve been seeing quite a few Mk2 Golfs lately. Not more often than Beetles, of course, but still. These are getting on in years now. How do the Japanese VW connoisseurs even find these mint examples? This one, being LHD, might have been imported somewhat recently – though with the Japanese “LHD snobs” ordering their cars new with the steering wheel on the wrong side, who knows.

And if brown’s not your colour, how about a red one in RHD guise? Cool-looking neighbour, too.

On the rear-engine front, one noteworthy find this summer was this pre-1968 Transporter. You can’t beat that classic angry unibrow look. It’s particularly popular in this country: two-tone Japanese vehicles of all sizes regularly sport this frontal feature frown.

I’m always at a loss as to what these are called, exactly. Transporter, T3, Vanagon? This one was badged as Caravelle, which reminds me more of old French jets. Or Renaults. Very nicely preserved example in any case.

Another W123 long-roof. I see so many saloons that I’ve decided to omit them from these posts, but the wagons are still able to make the cut. I saw (but haven’t yet caught) a very nice coupé as well on more than one occasion around my neighbourhood.

This early model (pre-1995) Mercedes R129 hardtop is also a frequent visitor, parading its three-pointed star corner pole.

Saabs are rare here, it’s always something of an occasion to see one. There may be some later ones about, but they look so anonymous to me that I often don’t notice them as Saabs. The late ‘90s ones such as this 9-3 cabriolet were the last of the breed to look distinctive, in my opinion.

This was a disappointing month for French cars, sad to say. Only managed a fuzzy shot of a Renault Super 5 – Gandini’s reinvention of the R5 / Le Car for the late ‘80s.

But for some reason, there were Minis everywhere I looked. It was like that British invasion thing all over again.

Literally a lot of Minis. This was a specialist shop in Hokkaido. Even way up there, they have a dedicated following. This place even had a Moke in the back, but I didn’t manage to capture it.

Not sure if this is a Mini front end grafted to something else, a local modification or a congenital malformation.

I originally caught this exact Rover 600 in-motion a couple months back, but I hadn’t captured its front end. Then I happened upon its lair. Strange to see a glorified Honda made in the UK and sold back to Japan, but then the Brits were always very good at badge-engineering.

I’m almost surprised I haven’t run into more of these here. I had to go all the way to Hokkaido to finally catch one. But talk about iconic! This FX4 cab is so veddy British and precious, they kept the GB plates and built a pedestal or it. Not keen about the colour, though.

Ditto for this Bentley Turbo R – yellow is rarely a good hue for cars, but for a big brute like this, it’s downright dreadful.

One the other hand, olive green fits this 1994-96 Range Rover perfectly. It somehow looks even better than if it had come out of Solihull only yesterday.

This is the first Rolls Cullinan I’ve had time to really look at in the flesh and I must say I find it much better-looking than the rest of their current range. The massive chunky styling that Rolls-Royce have adopted since the early naughties can only really work on a vehicle that calls for massive chunky styling – an SUV. It just took them about 15 years to pull the trigger. Baby steps.

Onwards to the Detroiters. There were plenty over the summer, starting with this adorable Dodge Tradesman 100 van. More mid-‘70s than a pair of bell-bottoms.

Turns out this was a good season for old Dodges. I caught three, though one of them deserves (and shall be hopefully granted) its own post. This Durango was sure nice too. It must look like a boring appliance those of you on the other side of the Pacific, but over here it’s a rare sight – one I hadn’t set eyes upon in many years. As I photographed it, it struck me that this is a rather good-looking SUV. Words I never thought I’d write.

While we’re on the subject of unlikely SUVs, a bunch of old Ford Broncos were sighted this summer around Japan. Can’t quite explain it. It started with these two representatives of the 1st-gen, seen here frolicking about in Tokyo traffic.

One wet evening in the town of Otaru, near Sapporo, I happened upon a 5th-generation (1991-96) Bronco. Less interesting perhaps, but uncommon in these parts for sure.

Certainly less common than the older Broncos are in Tokyo, apparently…

I snapped this one in late August. According to the license plate, I’d hazard a guess that it could be a ’71. Very nicely restored, with that signature V8 burble… I can’t say I wasn’t moved.

I guess calling this an American car is borderline insulting, but it does say Chrysler on both ends. I have seen the Lancia-badged version in Japan on at least one occasion as well. No idea why that would be. FCA is a mysterious multinational, isn’t it?

To make up for that, here’s a couple of fine pure-bred USDA-approved Chevys, starting with this 1970 Nova. Not necessarily my cuppa, but a welcome change from kei cars and hybrids.

There are many Astro vans around Japan, but the gargantuan G-series Chevrolet Van is much less common. I’m far from being an expert on these, but this looks like a high-end late model (1992-96), complete with bullet-hole stickers.

I have a theory about Maserati Quattroportes: only the odd-numbered ones are any good. The second one was a bland rebodied Citroën SM, the fourth was a stretched Biturbo and the current sixth is, to me, a flavourless Benz S-Class clone. By contrast, the first QP was Fruatastic and cutting edge, the huge QP III was the only good thing De Tomaso ever did when he ran the place and the fifth, as seen above, was a sleek, yet characterful beauty. I don’t usually like “new” cars, but there are exceptions.

Hey, the cheapest Ferrari ever! It’s also the only prancing horse I’ve ever had the honour to board, back when I was a teenager. Even back then, Mondials were known to be a rather limp kind of penis substitute, but hey, it made the right noises and that gated gearchange looked the part.

I came upon a colourful trio of trikes in Hokkaido. I didn’t catch what the make and model was for this first one, but it clearly wasn’t what the other two were.

Those were Harleys, of course. I haven’t seen so many H-Ds as in Japan – they really like big bikes here. Trikes are nowhere near as popular, so catching all of these in one go was a cool occasion.

Finally, a bit like yesterday’s bus restaurant, here’s the Airstream café. Because this is a special two-month recap of every CC I’ve managed to catch during the summer months, there will be a special-edition part three, so see you again tomorrow.