A View To The East

Casting a covetous gaze, Miles across the ocean. Japan-wards.

(c) autoexpert

Global warming, derisory interest rates, carbon footprints and theatrical leaders – our concerns may skirt those borders but we choose to look beyond them. Further to our recent gaze Eastwards, I have been looking into just what is available from our Japanese cousins, purely for research purposes, you understand.

Several different car club members of my acquaintance have purchased a car from Japan. A Mercedes C180 whose specification resembles nothing to what one buys in Europe, rust-free Lancias, and MX-5s bought on the basis of originality. That’s a pretty wide range of types and pricing. But all were purchased here in the UK, meaning that someone else did the importation and paperwork.  

Should you wish to purchase direct, TCV is a site that can provide a One-stop Shop for all your grey-importation needs. Trade Car View have a camel as their logo, ‘symbolising transportation’ and have been operating for fifteen years.

As importing anything can be expensive, time consuming, legally fraught and complicated, why go to all that bother? Well, where else could you get any of these? And some people are more daring, more trusting, more astute or just plain bonkers than others. Warning: some of these images viewers may find offensive. Or not as the case maybe.

This is the Mitsuoka Orochi. It is though, isn’t it? Made in 2009 and according to their own website available with a 3.3 litre gasoline engine and hues of Gold Pearl and fuya-oh, a purple tinge. With this one in black to ‘emphasise the styling‘ you would certainly make a statement wherever you turned up – the library perhaps.

Mitsuoka are by their very nature are “committed to making cars through aesthetics and individualism, a fine notion indeed. Ranging from something that’s melted to Rolls Royce attempts that have missed the boat, they do make something unique. Looks that only their mother can appreciate, or a cry for help perhaps.

Remaining unique but for wholeheartedly more subtle reasons, why not sample a Toyota Brevis. With a frontal appearance similar to an original Škoda Octavia, the back end is more Honda Accord, circa 1995. Or a Lexus LS 430 – in two-thirds scale. Three litre, automatic and look at the price. Individuality (of sorts) for peanuts and no-one else will have one. Assured one-upmanship, misguided pub bragging rights, or double-takes in the car park?

We couldn’t possibly remain in our Eastern ways without considering a Kei car, those of microscopic proportions for the tightly squeezed Japanese town and city centre living. This Mitsubishi Town Box does exactly what it says on the (ahem…) tin; a 660cc in-line three, automatic, leather seats, every conceivable extra and a non-smokers car which is something rare one thinks for Japan. The few programs I’ve seen about the place seem to advertise tobacco at every available opportunity. But it is a box on wheels. There’s little else to add, pleasingly modern in looks.

So, moving on, but the distance is small, to the Honda Thats. Suppressing the childish desire to add anything more to the name, this final run out of this Kei car isn’t too shabby. Rear wheel drive, 51 horsepower taking the 820Kg Thats to 86 mph top speed and plenty of wriggle room inside, revealing the genius of internal engineering. For twelve years of age, add in the complexities of Kei car dimensions and the Japanese really have got these cars nailed. 

To Nissan and the Rasheen Forza, a full-time 4WD, four speed automatic. No bones, it’s an odd looker; there’s some Suzuki at the front, mated with some Lada and the ubiquitous Land Rover thrown in for good measure. Looking back twenty years, 1300Kg powered by a 2-litre developing 140 hp and a more than modest 132 foot pounds of torque meant reasonable acceleration and mid twenties for the mpg. Other versions of the Rasheen omitted the headlight cowl for an even more rectangular and therefore Niva front. 

Now how could we conclude without mentioning the very car that inspired this piece? Step forward TCV’s elder statesmen, the Toyota Celsior hailing from 1992 and a slightly more recent but virtually identical Ssangyong Chairman, a whippersnapper from only twelve years ago. Yes, I know this is a Korean car but bear with me. The Lexus needs no introduction but this handsome beast looks perfectly at home on the quayside now as it would have done when brand new nearly thirty years ago. 

The Korean charge may look familiar. This is a Chairman W, for World Class, though production ceased in 2017 in order to focus on SUV production, ending twenty years of Chairman cars. Initially based on the Mercedes W124, sales were few. Using S-Class W220 styling cues, gearboxes and engines from Stuttgart, this 3.6 litre Majesty S version is quite the steal. Also sold in China under the Roewe brand, should you take the plunge, you could have it serviced at a Daewoo garage. Ah…

Should none of these eastern delicacies tickle your fancy, TCV (other websites are available) can offer trucks, buses and even fire engines for the more discerning purchaser. You pays your money and you wait a long time for a container ship to appear. Get the nitty gritty sorted and your ageing Japanese jalopy should see you happily motoring on for years. Though the car supermarket down the road does have a nice Subaru BR-Z at a decent whack… decisions, decisions.

Author: Andrew Miles

Beyond hope there lie dreams; after those, custard creams?

9 thoughts on “A View To The East”

  1. Good morning, Andrew, and thank you for bringing us an eclectic selection of JDM cars to brighten up our Sunday morning. I’m particularly taken with the Toyota Brevis, a rather handsome “shrunk in the wash” Mercedes-Benz W140 S-Class:

    I like the fact that it appears to be slightly taller than the typical mid-size saloon, which gives it a slightly formal appearance. Dare I suggest that it might have made a good Lancia?

    The breadth of Toyota’s range over the years is just extradordinary: what micro-niche was the Brevis intended to fill that the Avensis, or its Lexus equivalent couldn’t?

    Alternatively, imagine the fun you could have if you owned a Honda Thats?

    “I drive a Honda Thats.”

    “That’s What?”

    “That’s what it’s called.”

    “What’s it called?”

    “Thats.”

    “What?”

    Hours of fun!

  2. None of the cars in this cars are particularly interesting to me, with the possible exception of the Honda, but the names ‘Town Box, Thats and Chairman’ are pure gold.

  3. That Toyota has a inline six, and is built on a RWD platform. I’m interested 🙂

  4. Thank you for alerting me to the Brevis. I have a lot of time for formal saloons of this type. Its rampant unsexiness is what makes it so appealing. You can tell that it´s really a very enjoyable car to own and drive around in, but it´s a purely personal relationship not something done for show. It appeals to the heart via the head.
    The interior is in the mode of Lancia as so safe-it´s-awkward. I´d be disappointed in that as a Lancia interior in one way and in another like it because it was so resolutely indifferent to what people think of as a modern interior.
    You can tell I am being wilfully contrary. Anyway, charming car.

    1. Aha! I thought highlighting the Brevis and mentioning Lancia might bring you out of hiding, Richard.

      I know it’s not the Japanese way of doing business, but imagine what Toyota might have done with Alfa Romeo and Lancia had it bought FCA.

  5. I’ve been intrigued by this car I saw on an importer’s website recently:

    1. The Nissan Stagea was, according to Wikipedia a RWD or AWD estate built in two generations from 1996 to 2007. Laurent’s photo is of the 2004 second generation model. It was Nissan’ s challenger to the Subaru Legacy. Here’s its rear three-quarter aspect:

      Very Volvo V70 XC looking. I really like it.

    2. I thought Volvo as well, but also Mitsubishi. There were Lancer and Galant estates around the same time. I tried to find the one it reminded me of, but they actually all look quite different. I think it’s something in the rear lights of the 2003 Lancer (CS0).

  6. This is a very interesting article indeed. I wonder if, living in a LHD market with probably more restrictive regulations for imported vehicles, it would be possible to buy vehicles from Japan. They have a lot of brave designs (and technologies as well) that never made it to Europe. They only seem to serve conservative customers here.

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