This part might be quite long, so I want to put out a disclosure. My story is the TRUTH. It is what I personally experienced; and I’m not trying to back up any rumors, so to speak. With that said, on with the story.
Driving around in Japan, is quite expensive. Gas is expensive, traffic eats up more of it (not to mention “spirited driving” ), you pay for tolls everywhere you go, and parking is at a premium. Just driving to Tokyo from Yokota AB alone involves getting on the Chuo Expressway for Y600, then Y700 for the Shuto Expressway, and then parking fees when you get there. That’s one way!!! So driving all around Japan to find my car was expensive in itself.
I started using CarSensor.net and Yahoo Auctions Japan to help with my search, but it still involved driving out to see the car. Just to get to Rubber Soul was about an hour and a half and almost the same for FLEX Auto. At least S20 (Garage Ishizaka) was local, just out the main gate, left on Route 16 and then right on Route 5; just on the right behind the Chysler/Jeep dealer, (Yes, a Chrysler/Jeep dealer). S20 however never had any cars for sale. I never asked why but they worked on them and restored them. I still remember seeing a bare chassis hardtop sitting on a jig without a hint of rust and a few cars hiding under covers in the back warehouse. For me Garage Ishizaka were more a source for advice and minor repairs.
Anyway, a car I found on CarSensor seemed hopeful. It was a ’71 silver HT “GT-R look” in Ginza, but there were several others people to check out the car as well, and it wasn’t quite polished enough. By this time, this was probably, oh I don’t know, the 15th car I’ve seen in person. It was very difficult to find the car I wanted. I didn’t think I was being too picky, but there was always something not right.
All I wanted was a fairly rust free example with a decent body and paint, at least an L28 engine upgrade (with triple carbs, any make), GT-R rear fenders conversion/, and A/C…I know A/C was a long shot but hell, I was moving back to Las Vegas, so I made it a priority. Yeah I know, I know…good luck finding all of that in one car, but It did pay off in the end, sort of .
I found a car in the Gunma Prefecture, yes I know, home of the fabled Takumi and his Tofu delivery special Hachiroku. I can’t make this stuff up guys. And it just so happens it was at a shop close Mt. Haruna, (the real name of Mt Akina, you Initial D nerds, myself included ). Seems they purposely changed the name in the famous manga as to not draw attention to it. From what I understand its covered with speed bumps now. BTW, there really are a lot of grasslands out there.
This was going to be a long drive, about 2-3 hours plus, maybe even 4, it was an area I’d never been to, so I had my friend Chris Conley go out there with me. I set up an appointment and we were off. After getting lost a few times and a few stops for coffee, snacks and gas, we found Garage Kutsumi. It looked like a small gated compoundin the middle of some farmland. It had a large traditional style home with several roll-up door, garage type buildings adjacent to it There was a long overhang with a few completed cars covered in plastic and in the middle of all the buildings…cars. So many I can’t remember really, all in different levels of repair and all different types. Some are Bozozoku, vintage VIP, K-class, and nostalgic beauties. The whole lot of Kyusha cool. We rang the doorbell and out comes a very short, very old man to let us in. We tell him we are here to see the Hakosuka and he immediately takes us in.
We approach the first garage that holds what we were waiting for, an Almond White, 1972 Skyline GT, with most of the aesthetic GT-R upgrades completed. The paint is clean and fresh, the interior needs help, and the wheels are different from the ad, staggered Longchamp XR4’s.
We also discover in the same garage a red 4dr Hakosuka with a race track ready 3L engine complete with Weber carbs, a mint old school VIP Nissan Cedric sitting on some chrome 5 star Cragers, 2 or 3 pimped out Bozo bikes and several trophies against the wall. We are then asked to enter a small office, filled with old school racing posters, magazines, collectables and parts.
The older man offers us some tea and asks us to wait. What was about to happen was, well… what happened.
Now I had heard of the rumors. The rumors that certain people in Japan do not like the idea of their precious Hakosuka leaving the their country. That the Hakosuka belongs to Japan. I never believed them. Why would I, the Japanese are extremely polite from all of my encounters. I did have a lingering feeling, after all the Skyline was never really offered to the outside their market. Then a phone rings, the old man answers it and then hurries Chris and I to step outside and wait. He then runs around to an electronic gate in the back and bows steeply as it opens. A black fleet of vehicles enters quickly and stops abruptly, kicking up a large cloud of dust in front of the main building . The first car is a complete VIP treatment Y50 Cima (or President); 4 guys step out and one runs to the second vehicle to open the rear door; a black Cadillac Escalade EXT, sitting on extremely large machine finish, chrome lipped wheels. Three people total exit this car. The third car is a black Y33 Nissan Cedric, also VIP Style to the nine’s, and four more guys step out. Twelve guys total if you include the old man. On my side, 2 “Gaijin” asking questions about an old Skyline.
We are now “accompanied” by what can only be what I would assume them to be. The man that opened the door to the Escalade tells me that he will translate whatever “the boss” needs to ask me. I look this guy up and down. “The boss” is very tall and has a square jaw. He has the largest most perfect pompadour I’ve ever seen, oversize gold-rimmed Ray-Ban Aviators and a menthol cigarette dangling from the edge of his mouth. He’s wearing a dark brown-orange leather jacket with a high collar and a silk leopard print shirt with a collar over it that’s even higher. He’s also wearing alligator skin pants with a long silver chain dangling from the back pocket and brown and white ostridge skin Air Force One’s. The rest of his “crew” has equally outrageous hairstyles and all are similarly dressed but not as loud. “He” looks at me up and down, stops to look up at the sky he tells the translator a question to ask me. The translator asks: “Why do you want to buy this car?” Simultaneously “the Boss” snorts, looks over his glasses and says “Hmm?”. I simply, but cautiously answer “Hakosuka, ichiban; neh?” and give a thumb’s up . (Loosly translated: “The Hakosuka is Number 1, isn’t it?”). He replies “Soda…” followed by a long pause. Chris and I are looking at each other shrugging our shoulders and the long pause ends with “the boss” conferring with his “crew”. He then asks a few more “yes or no answer” type questions.
After what seemed like eternity, the 3 black cars leave with a trail of dust behind them. “The boss” leaves one man behind with the old man to for a “test ride” in the Hako, and to strike a deal with me on the price. He explained to me that the A/C did not work and that if I wanted the Watanabes that were in the picture that it would be no problem. He took me to another smaller garage with an S30 hiding in it and showed me the Wat’s stacked up in the corner to show that they were all in good nick. We came to a decision on the price and the deal was made. I let them know that I needed a few day to get tha cash altogether (as I suspected this would be a cash only deal) and they in turn would prep her, switch out the wheels, clean her up, and get all the paperwork together.
We were then escorted out waved our good-by’s, and drove off. Me and Chris were silent at first and then giddy as school girls talking about what just happened. It was straight out of the movies. It is a strange that has certainly left a mark on me I will never forget.
I didnt take any pictures that day, but I did when I picker her up! Stay tuned for my next entry: Part 6: Delivery