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You’re a perv if you know them all

Never before seen Nissans

01/12/2013 10:41 | Comments: 

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Former car restorer, damper designer, rotary-engine guru and also an automotive engineer, but generally doesn’t talk much about his former activities. András is our mag’s Leatherman tool: when there’s a project no-one would poke with a stick, he’s the one usually assigned to carry it through. When he’s in Hungary, he works 16 hours daily, then every once in a while he disappears from the horizon. Last time he’s been seen in Auckland… Has a huge garage, lives with a girlfriend.

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Rarely seen classics and to die for vintages exhibited at the freak show celebrating the 80 years of Nissan

As there was a news blackout, taking photos was not allowed. I still chucked my camera in my backpack, you never know in Japan. You get a hai meaning ‘yes’ as an answer to any question you ask, but I still haven’t got a clue how they say ‘no’ in Japanese. When a negative answer is inevitable, you see a face expressing apology and shame, as if Shinkansen was just about to run over the family dog. Their command of English leaves a lot to be desired, as a result of which you sometimes find yourself in surprising situations. So I took the camera.

I wasn’t aware of this, but Nissan is the oldest Japanese car brand. This was the event celebrating its 80th birthday, Carlos Ghosn, the CEO had prepared a speech, and yes, they unveiled something that we were not allowed to talk about at the time. The party wasn’t organized for journalists, we were only invited as we happened to be in Japan anyway. Nissan had exhibited a number of vintage cars from the history of the 80 year-old company, which we were allowed to take pictures of. See? I told you.

I was greeted by a winking LADA by the entrance. No, of course not, it was a Sunny ’66, but the two bear a striking resemblance from the front, even their emblems are similar. From the back it could be mistaken for a Fiat, too, but a different model. Its data sheet revealed that 56 horses have been crammed into its tiny 1000cc engine, moving the delicate, hardly 650 kg body in an interesting way. I don’t know if this B10 series has ever been exported, I certainly haven’t seen any live.

The ’59 Bluebird next to it was a similarly rare sight. According to the information sheet, it was the fastest compact car of its time with an end speed of 120 km/h. I can’t argue with this right now, but I have a feeling that some other brand had launched a small car with less than 55 HP by then. I may be wrong. Anyhow, it’s a strange creature. It takes after the Peugeot 404 in the front, just look at its slightly imbecile features, but then again many cars had a Trabant face back then.

This 1964 Cedric Special carried the Olympic torch to the Summer Olympic Games held in Tokyo in 1964. It still had the supporting structure looking like a cam stand on the back seat and the sticker on its side. The designers at Nissan had obviously been inspired by American design, and in keeping with the reduced dimensions of the US standard, merely replaced the V8 by an in-line six instead. 

The proto-Patrol was the love child of the Land Rover and the Willy’s jeep. I would never have guessed what it was, not even if I had been threatened by sword-wielding samurais. It must have been pretty randy with its 145 HP, 4-litre, in-line six, although at 1.7 tons it’s somewhat overweight. This was the first really nicely restored car I saw. The previous three had only been sorted out half-heartedly, and the Cedric might have been preserved in its original state.

Just as the adorable R380. It looks like a badass race car and bears plenty of marks of use. It’s a tiny two-seater with a 2-litre, 220 HP engine, but in 1967 that was enough to break a number of speed records, which was exactly what this second series car was used for.

This thingie with the Fulvia nose is a 1966 Silvia – even their names rhyme. From the side it looks a lot more modern, though, like some Bertone design. The inside is typically Italian, too, the classic flick switches on the centre console are wonderful. The 1.6, 90 HP, four-cylinder engine was pretty good back then, especially as the car weighed less than a ton.

Next to it, a Fairlady SPL 213, red inside and out. Shame on you if you didn’t know what to make of the pretty little convertible at first. The next Fairlady was a Z, a 240ZG to be precise, but the poor thing looks so awkward that I refuse to show you a picture of it here. Pervs, please take a look at it in the picture gallery. Can any of you tell whether its fender flares are factory-made? I’d say they are not.

The star of the evening was a Datsun 14 roadster, the first mass produced Nissan from 1935. If I was properly educated on pre-world war models, I could possibly tell what it looks like most, but the majority of the cars with separate fenders look the same to me.

The row of the Skylines was interesting. The first in line was a perverted beast, the four-door R32. This model was introduced in 1989, after 16 sad GT-R-less years. This one is still fitted with an in-line six-cylinder with 180 HP.

Its forebear, the brown model looks much more awkward in comparison. It was supposed to look like a muscle car, but it’s too narrow, the proportions are wrong. The weakest part of the design is the fender in the back. This car requires a flared wheel arch. I’d still take it, though.

The most desirable of them all was still the Prince Skyline 2000GT. It doesn’t get mentioned much anymore, but here’s where its name originates from: when Nissan bought the Prince, along with it they bought the Skyline and the whole concept, too. It only has 125 HP, but that was really something considering it was an in-line six 2-litre. Achieving that took three Weber carburettors, which is piquant for a Japanese car to say the least, but I don’t care. This is still the car I’d choose of the whole lot to take home with me if I could. With its pointed wheel covers, four headlamps, and the almost 50 year-old double round lights at the back it’s cuter than any other GT-R.

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