Among the several documents that make up The Carchive, the Japanese Domestic Market volumes are among those that I revisit the most often. It all comes down to the ‘forbidden fruit’ nature of so many Far Eastern cars – just like even the most prosaic of North American cars, you just don’t see them on British roads.
I took myself out to Japan a decade ago for the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show and, needless to say, ended up comfortably exceeding my Cathay Pacific baggage allowance on the way home, having amassed a handsome assortment of JDM brochures. In addition to those, I invested ¥1,200 on this, the 420-page 2007 Japanese Motor Vehicles Guidebook, and it’s one of my favourite publications of all time.
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The Japanese Motor Vehicle Guidebook is just that. It chronicles every Japanese-produced motor vehicle on the market in a given year, and then goes into staggering levels of detail in a plump data section. Of course, the text is Japanese throughout, with just a handful of bylines standing out in English, but somehow its impenetrable nature just makes it more exotic.
Minicars are something of a Japanese speciality, and make up the greater part of vehicles listed in the book. There’s a far broader choice in Japan than elsewhere in the world, and the majority are little known outside their home country.
Japanese minicars are designed and built in such variety as to suit every possible taste. Like venturing into cell company store and gazing at the massed ranks of smartphones, it’s hard to conceive of just why so many different models are necessary. Of course, many are actually very closely related – it’s amazing just how far a different bonnet, front and rear clip or interior treatment can go to give one car several separate identities.
The European influence isn’t hard to spot, though. Note the Toyota Sienta, with its clear Fiat Multipla overtones. Like the latter, it’s an MPV, albeit a rather smaller model which somehow squeezes three rows of seats in rather than the Italian car’s two.
It’s the gems further up the car hierarchy that really appeal, though. Not the Camry, obviously, the Toyota Century. This ferociously expensive, V12 powered car is wilfully dated in its appearance, inside and out. But when I closely inspected it in the flesh, it’s the very epitome of thorough, robust, up-to-the-minute engineering. It’s wholly unpretentious – no Lexus badges here – and sells to people who want excellence without flashiness. Its appearance has changed little in fifty years of production, and it’s one of my very favourite cars of all time. I actually have a full brochure for the Century, and I’ll share it in a future Carchive instalment.
Of course, this isn’t a Japanese Car Guide Book, this is about Vehicles. Bring on the trucks.
There are several glossy pages of lorries from Hino, Isuzu, Mitsubishi Fuso, Nissan and Toyota, and the data section covers everything from the lightest to the heaviest lorries on the market. It’s slightly disappointing, though, that the biggest Isuzu Giga engine listed herein is the mere six-cylinder, 15-litre model. Neither the 8-cylinder 24.3-litre nor the staggering 10-cylinder 30.3-litre models made it to the cut.
One of my biggest grumbles in life is that I only have this 2007 issue. What I wouldn’t give for its equivalent from 1997, or better still 1987, isn’t worth having. I have searched eBay to no avail, and wouldn’t know where to start in sourcing further examples of the breed from Japan. I’d be pretty keen to head back out to Tokyo for the 2017 show – my only visit was one of the most bewildering automotive experiences of my life so far.
(All images Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2017. Copyright remains property of JAMA er, I think. If you’re reading this and would love to help me with further issues of this publication, I’ll be your best mate for ever)