Thursday, September 24, 2015

Car-filled first day in Japan

Other than the F1 race, I purposely made no plans and had zero expectations for the rest of my trip. If I do something, great. If I do nothing, that's fine too. I left it up to fate.

I woke up early so I decided to walk around my hotel. It's next to my childhood home but the area has developed so much, it is hardly recognizable. I walked by a garage with this Lotus and 240Z. Thanks to Rchen, I learned that these cars are actually for rent!

I continued strolling and spotted another Z, this time the unpopular 260 version. It was a bit rough but still neat to see.

From afar, I saw this Century parked in front of a Starbucks. I did not get closer because the chauffeur was sitting in the driver's seat and I felt weird about gawking.

My car nut cousin took today off from work to hang out. I knew he had a Cayenne and coveted a 911. Imagine my surprise when he showed up in this 993 Carrera S.

Note the 993 license plate. Tres cool.

Truth be told, it was a bit absurd to ride in it through narrow Chinatown streets. But it was fun nonetheless.

Everything is stock, save for the custom made exhaust. It was loud, throaty, and bordering on obnoxious. He got a good deal on the car a couple years ago because the odometer stopped for about nine months. Anal retentive Japanese potential buyers were wary of the issue, but my cousin pored over the maintenance records and the mileage did not look out of whack. It's a 1997 and currently has 32,000 km on the clock. Since buying it two years ago, its value has doubled. I really dig the original cassette deck.

We went to the nearby Nissan engine museum. By coincidence, we bumped into a schoolteacher that my cousin knew and we got to go on a guided tour of the engine factory with a bunch of third graders. Five engines are assembled there. Unfortunately, cameras were not allowed inside.

Here is a V12 from a Nissan Group C racer.

This V8 powered Emperor Hirohito's rides for 40 years.

Every factory visitor gets these specialty Nissan Leaf Tomica models.

After the museum, we drove to the Nissan HQ/flagship dealership across town. Street parking does not exist so we got to ride in a car elevator in a garage.

The only classic cars on display at the showroom were this Skyline...

...and this Cedric Turbo Brougham.

The dealership store had everything, from diecast models to Nismo racing suits to Red Bull gear.

A man who worked there offered my cousin a test drive in a GT-R, so why not? I rode in the back. The transmission shifted/slammed HARD every time. My cuz took it up to 85 kph on the busy city streets, which was borderline menace-to-society dangerous.

Also available for test drives, this Nismo Leaf.

It was lunch time, which meant finding another parking space. Here, the Carrera S is on a turntable before it enters another elevator. Space is at such a premium here.

After lunch, we visited a Porsche, a BMW, and a Mini dealership. They were not particularly noteworthy. On the way home, I saw two young hipster women in this slammed GMC truck. I guess if you want to be ironic in Japan, you drive a V8 American truck.

Finally, we ended the day by going to a model shop. It's open only on weekends, but my cousin, being a good customer, had the owner open it for us today. It's not any ordinary shop. In addition to kits you can buy and assemble at home, the owner can build a car for you.

My cousin is having the owner build him this Porsche 917. The kit alone is around $200 and the labor to build it is between $1,000 to $1,500. It takes about two to three months to complete. The assembler is a craftsman and is a stickler for detail. He studies period photos and makes sure every detail is perfect. At today's consultation, he explained to my cousin the correct color for the frame and how he is going to widen the kit's front grill because he wanted to make it absolutely accurate in scale.


Ripituc said...

Great report for the start of your amazing trip. Keep these coming. How do the Japanese react to you taking photos of their cars and garages?

mtc said...

Good stuff. Does the whale-tailed, wide-bodied 993S turn heads over there? Or do people largely ignore it?

Maxichamp said...

@Ripituc: I still feel uncomfortable taking pictures of cars in public here. That's why the photos are not in focus. I try to take them as quickly as possible.

Maxichamp said...

@mtc: I think people notice it only because it is so loud.

Peter Secor said...

I like the wheels on the 260Z. Does the model builder backwards engineer the specs from pictures or does he have the original specs to work from?

Maxichamp said...

@Peter: Good question. It looks like he just goes off of the pictures. I also learned from him that year-on-year Ferrari F1 cars have slightly different shades of red. And he'll match the exact shade!

Sanchez said...

Japan is no.1 country to visit on my wishlist. It seems like a parallel world.
Love 993. Is fuel, maintenance and tax in Japan for such car is much more expensive compared to usual cars?
I would love to see your cousin's collection. And would like to know if this diecast shop has any 1:18 scale models?

Maxichamp said...

@Sanchez: I may be biased, but the culture is fascinating. Very traditional Eastern but with also very Western.

I did not see any 1/18 scale cars there. He sells a few 1/43 models made in China. All the kits are 1/12 or 1/24.

Ed Kim said...

Nissan HQ is really something, isn't it? I was there a year ago. You're lucky - I didn't see any classic Nissans when I was there.

Your trip is off to a strong start. I can't wait to see what else you see...

Ed Kim said...

By the way, that radio in the mom's old 1996 Mercedes-Benz C-Class (and a ton of other Mercedes-Benz vehicles of the time) had that exact same radio! I didn't realize the two Swabian automakers were sharing the same audio supplier.

Lukas said...

This is a little embarrassing, but I quite like that Cedric. Would swap the wheels though.

Edvin said...

Very cool stuff, keep it coming! Especially that scale model built to order -stuff is fascinating and a bit nuts at the same time! Your cousin seems like an interesting guy.

Anonymous said...

Really excellent. I'm so jealous. Can't wait to go in a few years. Your cousin's car is pretty much my ideal Porsche, sounds like he really scored.

Zackswheels said...

A most excellent day! I love that turbo Cedric. Did you see any Saab 900 kits in that shop?

Maxichamp said...

@Zachswheels: I did not see any Saabs, in kit form or in real life. Sorry, buddy.