Curbside Classic: The Japanese Retro Re-Trial (2nd Witness) – Nissan March “Herbie”

Bailiff: All raise the roof. Honourable Judge James Tiberius Klein presiding.

Judge Klein: Be sweetened. As you know, I have been put in charge of all cases brought forth to this CCourt from now on. I have read the transcript of the previous day’s testimony, lackluster as it was. I hope you will bolster your case with more tangible evidence today, Mr Tatra. Please take it away. Now.

T87: Thank you, your Jimness. If it doesn’t harm the CCourt’s eyes too much, I would like us to consider today’s witness as a rare and hard to find opportunity to delve into another side of the JDM retro craze. Please state your production year, make and model for the record.

Herbie: I was originally born as a 2002-2010 Nissan March (otherwise known as Micra) K12, but I now go by the name Herbie.

T87: Herbie? How very strange.

Herbie: Well, I was made to look like the famous film star.

[ Above: 21st century JDM Nissan “Herbie”; below: 1963 VW Type 1 as Herbie in The Love Bug (1968)

T87: Hmmm… A Nissan March made to look like a VW Type 1… how in the name of Ferdinand Porsche did this happen?

Herbie: Fiberglass, mostly. And Beetle taillights.

T87: So you’re also a victim of the kit-makers we heard of yesterday?

Herbie: No, no. My fiberglass parts were fitted to my body with a great deal more care and consideration than that poor French Bus.

T87: Is that so? Please explain.

Herbie: I was hand-made and finished by a small dedicated team of enthusiasts at a small works in Niigata called Goodwood Park. They came up with the design and only do the work themselves. They are basically like an old-fashioned coachbuilder.

T87: So you’re unique?

Herbie: No, I’m not a one-off. I’m a proprietary design made by a single artesan and fully customized to the client’s specifications, both inside and out. As a high-quality bespoke vehicle, very few units are made – a handful per month at best. Think Aston Martin Zagato or Citroën DS Chapron.

T87: All I’m thinking right now is Mitsuoka…

Herbie: No, They have a whole range. Mistuoka are large-scale compared to Goodwood Park.

T87: I’m detecting a certain level of smugness beneath your rounded exterior.

Herbie: I’m sorry, was that a question?

T87: More of a rhetorical device to rile you up, but you seem unflappable. You want a question, then answer me this: Have you ever heard of the concept of intellectual propriety? Because I’m sure the folks over at Disney have.

Herbie: I’m an homage, a tip of the hat. I’m not pretending to be a cream-coloured Beetle with the number 53. And I think you’ll find that the name “Herbie” is not under any sort of copyright.

T87: Well, you’re technically correct, which we lawyers always say is the best kind of correct. What about Volkswagen?

Herbie: I make no claims on being a Volkswagen or using their logo, unlike some retro kit vans I could mention. Nor do I use my diminutive frame to ape a much larger and prestigious automobile, like Mitsuoka do with their Viewt. The utter disrespect these retro vehicles display to their sources of inspiration is nothing short of scandalous. It is they who should be in the dock today, not I.

Judge Klein: Now, Herbie-san, please refrain from using your witness stand as a bully pulpit. The vehicles you mentioned have been heard. You’re out of order.

Herbie: Out of order? YOU’RE out of order! This whole re-trial is out of order!

Judge Klein: That’s it! Enough of your lip. Any more out of you and I’ll give you a Fine Of A Lifetime for contempt.

Herbie: Ooh I’m scared! You think you’re better than me? I’m too exclusive to appear on your two-bit CCourt full of Camrys and US-market minivans!

Judge Klein: That’s ten days impoundment for you, then. Bailiffs! Please drive Herbie out of this CCourtroom. Mr Tatra, do you have anything to add before we adjourn?

T87: Thank you, your Beatitude. Well, that’s the craziest thing I’ve seen in a while. A common Nissan March thinking it became some sort of custom-built movie star just because it had a bit of glass-reinforced plastic surgery. Some cars really have deep personality issues. Perhaps some of that could be attributed to these aftermarket kits and customizers, but as we will see tomorrow, big-time carmakers are also guilty of some serious retro-related offences.


Related posts:


The (First) Japanese Retro Trial (Part 1Part 2Part 3), by T87