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All posts for the month February, 2008

This little gem arrived in the post today all the way from China. This is the first 1/43 scale die-cast I have seen of this subject, the ALSI model Prince Skyline. This one is a 1959 Skyline and is marked as being made by Norev on the base. Therein lies a mystery. I would have presumed that this was part of the Hachette Fujingaho Car Collection as Norev make all the models in that series, however this Skyline doesn’t appear on the list of models which makes me wonder what other models may exist in that series but are not listed. Anyone know? The model itself is really good with plenty of fine details and a nice paint finish. Norev have even made the effort to model the Skyline’s de Dion rear suspension, although it’s not exactly correct, it has to be said. A nice addition to my collection of 1/43 models anyway, and another step towards having a model of each generation of Skyline!

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Over the years, Nissan has had several agreements and with other car manufacturers but one of the most important to the company’s development was their deal with Austin of England in the 1950’s. All Japanese motor manufacturers were looking towards British cars at that time as their designs were better suited to Japans narrow roads and post war lack of materials and fuel than American cars. Several other companies eventually had tie-ups with European manufacturers, most notably Hino who assembled Renault 4CV’s and Isuzu who built the Hillman Minx. The Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) who had been formed in 1949 had placed severe restrictions on overseas imports and on foreign investment to help rebuild Japan’s manufacturing after the war. These limitations meant that for foreign manufacturers, the only way to get their cars into the Japanese market was to have some kind of tie-up with a Japanese manufacturer.

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To most people the name Skyline conjures up images of high horsepower GT-R’s but the reality is that most Skylines are quite mundane four door family cars, often with automatic transmissions and relatively small capacity engines. The four door saloon has been the mainstay of the Skyline range right since it’s birth under the Prince Motor Company in 1957. Back in those days the Skyline only came as a sedate four door sedan, a situation that was to remain until the introduction of the C10 hardtop coupe in 1970. The names Skyline and Gloria belonged solely to Prince Motor Company until their merger with Nissan in 1966, after which the car rose to fame most notably in Nissan Skyline GT-R guise and the Gloria went on to become a ‘badge engineered’ Cedric.

As you can imagine, early Prince Skylines are very rare these days, particularly those early models from the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. The first model to come out was the ALSI which featured plenty of ornate chrome-work and pronounced tail fins just like it’s contemporaries rolling off production lines in Detroit. This was followed by an updated BLSI model which featured even more lavish detailing and dual headlights. These early Skylines saw export to a few European counties and around 600 were even shipped to the United States in 1960. Another country to receive a number of early Skylines was New Zealand and that’s where this particular 1962 Skyline 1900 Deluxe resides, in the South island town of Rakaia under the care of enthusiast Steve Harkness.

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In part 1 last month, I covered what plastic model kits were available of the first generation Violet, the 710 series. This time I’ll cover the later models, specifically the A10 series as sadly there don’t appear to be any models at all of either the T11 or T12 that came after. There is precious little to choose from in 1/24 scale with really only one basic kits existing which was made by Fujimi. It did come in a number of guises though, both as an Auster and as a Violet. The Auster version was released twice, the later issue being the black Auster multi coupe which comes with some pretty ugly Dome Zero style wheels. This is the only one of this series that I have personally owned and I am sad to report that it’s really not very good. The general proportions are okay and it is a reasonably accurate model in that respect but the actually molding is quite poor quality, with many of the body lines barely visible. I suspect this is because by the time this kit was issued the original tooling was probably getting rather worn.

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This little treat dropped though my letterbox recently, courtesy of my friend Alan T (thankyou!) and really is a must have for any keen early Sunny owners. The Sunny Owners Bible comes from Japanese publishers Studio Tac Creative (ISBN 978-4-88393-251-1) and as you might expect is completely in Japanese, however this is less of an issue than you might imagine as you will see later. The book starts with a number of features cars, all in colour, from B10’s through to B310’s with a fairly strong emphasis on the B110 line and the Sunny Truck in particular. It then goes on to give general maintenance tips for cleaning and caring for your beloved Sunny before launching into another chapter of feature cars, again all in colour but this time in more detail. The following section brings the main focus of the publication with a series of technical articles covering everything from general mechanical maintenance to repainting the engine bay to lowering suspension and installing dual side draught carbs. These articles are very thoroughly illustrated, to the point where the Japanese text is no longer a barrier to understanding the gist of the subject.

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Yes, yet another big box of JDM goodness has arrived from the east and the decision has already been made… the contents are most definitely going on my 160J SSS. I have looked at a few different rims including the Star Sharks that arrived a few days ago and nothing looks as good as these by a mile …the ornate design suits the car perfectly in my opinion. They are River Side Riverge and are my favourite wheels ever so I was very happy to get hold of a set. The rims themselves were pretty sorry looking when they turned up. The original gold paint had been painted over with white and two of them had been completely painted again in silver… over the white and all the baked on brake dust! Happily the paint washed off fairly easily with some paint thinners which left behind the original gold which is in surprisingly good condition. A quick rub with some 400 grit brings them up really well as you can see below…

There isn’t a lot of corrosion on the rims so they will polish up nicely, although two of them have quite bad rust on the steel inserts where the wheel nuts seat. Hopefully I’ll get away with just refacing them. I should have a second pair of Riverge on the way shortly which are half an inch wider which will be better for the rear. Now I finally have the perfect rims for my 160J, I am itching the get on with doing the body repairs and get it re-painted! Until I can get it into the workshop I’ll just have to content myself with re-working the suspension for a healthy drop. Watch this space!

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Sharks!

There’s no better way of brightening my day that the arrival of a gigantic box with Japanese shipping labels attached. It can only mean one thing.. WHEELS! Yes, another set of JDM goodness arrived today in the form of a set of 14 inch SSR Star Sharks which I bought off of Yahoo! Japan Auctions back in December last year. It’s always a bit of a gamble buying rims as you can never be 100% certain if they will be straight and free from corrosion, even if the pictures in the auction look good. Luckily Japanese sellers are more honest than most and so far purchases from japan have all worked out well and these Star Sharks are no exception. There’s some very minor specs of corrosion here and there but they are otherwise in great shape with only one tiny ding in the lip of one rim…small enough to not be easily seen. And as an added bonus they came complete with the original centre caps. They could do with some fresh paint and bolts but are quite usable as is. Now… to figure out what to put them on… 710SSS? 510? Hmmm…..

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Recently I picked up a stack of old Japanese motor magazines from the early 1970’s which are fascinating even though I unfortunately can’t read a word. I always find it far more interesting to look at period publications than modern magazines with a retro or vintage bias. Whilst the cars may look the same whether in a contemporary magazine or not, the one thing the modern publications don’t have is the wealth of advertising from back in the day. As with car magazines everywhere, the Japanese magazines from the early 1970’s are packed full of adverts for everything from cars to wheels and tyres to stereos. I’ll probably post up a selection of adverts from Japanese magazines for wheels and accessories soon (like the RS Watanabe ad below) but for now check out this selection of adverts for Japanese cars. The first seven are from 1970 and the rest from 1974 with the exception of the Daihatsu Max 4 ad which is from 1972. So whats the pick of the bunch for me, and the car I’d most like to own? The Daihatsu Max hardtop of course!….

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I’m finally back out in the workshop getting back into repairing my 1976 Honda Civic, having just got over a couple of weeks of illness, preceded by some urgent maintenance on one of the car storage buildings. As usual it’s welding that’s the number one job to be done, such is the rusty nature of old Japanese cars. I have a love/hate relationship with welding. I really enjoy the sense of satisfaction from effecting some proper repairs on previously rotten bodywork but the process itself can be rather unpleasant at times. To make the job a little easier, I try to make sure I have all the equipment I might need on hand, working on the theory that the more dedicated tools you have the easier the job becomes. So recently I added a couple of new pieces of equipment to my arsenal in the form of an electronic welding mask and a cordless angle grinder.

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