For Sale in Switzerland – Japanese Rarities

Japanese cars from the eighties and even before have more or less disappeared from our streets. 

A 1979 Datsun Sunny for sale
A 1979 Datsun Sunny for sale

Nobody seems to care for giving them collectors’ item status, except for some exotic sports cars maybe. All the bigger was my excitement when I discovered two Japanese everyday cars on dealers’ lots recently. The first example is a 1979 Datsun Sunny estate in a very nice pale metallic green, typical for this time. 
The car seems to be in good shape, apart from a slightly bent front bumper there are no obvious dents and scratches, and no rust is visible (I didn’t crawl under the car, though). The paint is probably not the first one. The seller claims 66,000 km and the possibility of a ‘veteran’ registration – which in Switzerland means that everything has to be original and in good, restored condition. The way it’s formulated lets me think that this status will not be achievable without a little work. The car is yours for 5,000 CHF (negotiable).

A bit less shiny than the body are the interior parts. The seats are a nice light-caramel colour and have thick velour upholstery. The driver seat might be quite worn, as it has an ugly cover, the rest seems OK and not too affected by sunlight. The boot carpet is scrap, though, and the random selection of objects scattered on it does the sales prospect no favour. Why doesn’t a seller invest two minutes and cleans this mess? At least the plastic bag is an item of nostalgic value; I remember those from my childhood, coming from a local fashion store.

Some odd trim items can be found on this car, for example the extra piece of rubbing strip on the fuel flap or the inconsistent badges – I wonder if the one saying ‘Nissan’ in a non-matching typeface is a later addition. The ones on the side are just as I remember them from the eighties: chrome flaked off and showing ugly beige-ish plastic.

When I researched this car, I had the impression that it looks quite stately and large on pictures. How small it is to today’s standards, with its tiny wheels, narrow track and 234 cm wheelbase, becomes obvious when seen next to some Octavias.

Later on, I discovered this gem:

Flat paint, but otherwise good bodywork
Flat paint, but otherwise good bodywork

This Toyota Corona Mark II clearly shows the traces of 47 summers. It’s standing on a car dealer’s parking lot just ten kilometres from my home. There are no informations displayed, so I’m not even sure if it’s really for sale. At first I was astonished to see the ‘1969’ numberplate, but I found out that Toyotas were actually imported to Switzerland from 1967 on. Most other European countries only saw them in 1970 or 1971. I think I still remember these cars with the characteristic front design from when they were new(ish) – that is, maybe eight or ten years old.

A very distinctive frontal treatment
A very distinctive frontal treatment

The example here seems complete and without damage on the bodywork, but it has suffered a lot from the sunlight. The paint is dull and flat and starts cracking in places. The interior is in comparable condition, with the parts beneath the rear windshield in worst shape, obviously.

While I thought back then that Japanese cars are quirky and ugly, I can now appreciate that this one is actually quite nicely made. The shapes are fluid and rather distinctive. Nice details enhance this Mark II and put it a class above the standard Corona which is also slightly smaller. Chrome trim is abundant and sometimes done in unusual ways, as in the little grille behind the side windows or the headlight surrounds, both showing a peculiar, rough surface finish.

Trim details with unusual surfaces
Trim details with unusual surfaces

I must say I have fallen a bit in love with these two survivors, and I truly hope they find their enthusiasts who continue to take good care of them. Anyone here interested in a Swiss shopping trip?

8 thoughts on “For Sale in Switzerland – Japanese Rarities”

  1. Simon: thanks for that fieldwork. The Sunny is five times more expensive than it is worth. Even rare as it is it lacks anything to make it worth bothering at that price. Perhaps the vendor knows this car has one buyer and she or he is a 5000 CHF kind of person.
    The Corona has a really well done c-pillar and boot. The chamfer around the rear lamp shows great care to give
    ond impression that the metal has some depth. The grille and lights are meticulous. What must have confounded viewers in the period was the rich Italo-American flavour. This car is worth restoring and would be a real eye-catcher.

    1. I still hope the Sunny gets its buyer – who hopefully uses his negotiation skills. Such a car is probably positioned outside the market and its pricing. It’s highly unlikely to find a second example in this condition in the whole country, probably even far beyond that. Apart that, you’re probably right that the Sunny isn’t really an interesting or fun car. Driving it might be dreary. I read that its biggest achievement over the previous generation was its live axle now having coil springs.

      The Corona’s front design is intriguing. The grille surrounding looks very rectilinear, strict even. Astonishingly, the protruding front corner turns into a quite soft bump if viewed from the side or a little bit behind. At first sight, the straight lines are at odds with the rest of the car (the C-pillar and boot, for example), but it’s also what makes the design interesting. By the way, the front is also mirrored by the very straight bar at the rear containing the lamps.

  2. Apart from my Cube, a Honda Civic I’ve moved around the car park at work a few times and (really trying hard now) a Bedford Midi and a Rover 216, I’ve never driven a Japanese car in all my many years. Certainly my prejudice against them in the distant past would have been such that I only ever once considered buying one, and that was a minicab style Cressida which I alighted on solely because it was the worst car I could think of (I was going through a dark period at the time).

    But not now. That Corona (the model, if not that example, since cracked vinyl upholstery is a massive turn-off for me) looks rather fine – certainly more exotic to my eyes that those nostalgic staples of the mass market such as Cortinas and Marinas- and I’m already re-asessing the Cressida. Of course, they would have to take second place behind an S60 Toyota Crown, which I’d be fighting other DTW folk over for possession of the keys.

    1. The upholstery is really a major issue here. I reckon it’s beyond saving. I’d have taken a few interior shots, but the sunlight was so bright and the windows reflecting that it was impossible to do. The vinyl is so bad, it’s even difficult to guess its original colour. It must have been something like light to mid-grey or beige. Likewise the paint. It’s a pity, as everything is (or seems, to my eye) original and should be conserved rather than restored with fresh everything to a ‘better-than-new’ condition.
      Had I the budget, space and time for another ‘project’ car, I’d probably fall for my first Japanese acquisition here.

  3. As discussed elsewhere, admire the chamfered rear light recesses, and compare them with screwed onto the surface items of, say, a Mark 2 Cortina.

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