It’s not often you get lobbed half way across the world to tour one of Japan’s most secretive car museums.
Well this lucky boy got to do exactly that with a company called Nissan. Surely you’ve heard of these guys by now – Australian Touring Car Championship driver Jim Richards famously drove one to victory at the Bathurst 1000 in 1992 before calling rowdy Ford and Holden fans “a pack of arseholes”.
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That car was the revered Japanese sports car lovingly known as ‘Godzilla’, and on this particular tour we got to meet all of its cousins and older siblings hidden away in Nissan’s impressive heritage museum – a place we’d consider the grand mecca of Japanese motoring and motorsports.
Enter The Garage
Taking a 4-hour bus ride out of Tokyo to the outskirts of Yokohama brought us to a non-descript building in a port area right next to an active Japanese naval base. We were warned not to take photos of the outside area and we duly obliged as there were deafening F-16 fighter jets circling overhead. Question one: Where the hell were we? Question two: Will I get shot for taking a selfie?
The former we got an answer to. This cloak and dagger/WWII-style tin shed was the Nissan Heritage Museum. A restoration and resting place for the company’s most iconic vehicles from vintage production cars right through to all out racing machines.
Wheels Of Past & Present
Inside the museum we were introduced to one particular Nissan designer who had a rich background in the company’s earliest racing programs. Le Mans, Super GT, Dakar Rally, you name it and this ‘Takumi’ has done it. He’s also the man charged with tracking down and restoring every single vintage Nissan ever made, using out-of-production Datsun stickers and original paints to bring publicly retrieved cars back to their former glory.
Number of fully restored Nissans sitting in the museum to date? 450. We were standing wall-to-wall with endless isles of the company’s most celebrated vehicles – think the original GT-R known as the KPGC10, the Fairlady 240Z, the iconic R89C, the R390 GT1 and Gran Turismo’s most famous GT-Rs – and you’re only just scratching the surface. We were shown through most of the cars and their history was painstakingly explained to us through an interpreter.
If this is how Japan commemorates their finest wheels, then consider us a new fan.
Luc Wiesman travelled to Japan as a guest of Nissan Australia