The Truth About Cars » JDM http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 20 Oct 2014 11:00:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » JDM http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Question: What’s the Best Japanese Car Name Ever? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/question-whats-the-best-japanese-car-name-ever/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/question-whats-the-best-japanese-car-name-ever/#comments Mon, 23 Dec 2013 14:00:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=686970 As we all know, the Japanese car industry has produced some of the greatest cars ever made, from the Isuzu Statesman Deville to the Autozam AZ-1. And, of course, the Japanese have come up with some of the greatest car names ever. The Nissan Homy Elgrand. The Mitsubishi Debonair Royal AMG. The Mazda Bongo Friendee. […]

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QOTD-BongoFriendeeAs we all know, the Japanese car industry has produced some of the greatest cars ever made, from the Isuzu Statesman Deville to the Autozam AZ-1. And, of course, the Japanese have come up with some of the greatest car names ever. The Nissan Homy Elgrand. The Mitsubishi Debonair Royal AMG. The Mazda Bongo Friendee. So many to choose from!

Of course, my personal favorite is the Mazda Cosmo Big Run Genteel. I’m not sure if the Genteel was a separate model, or just an option package, but who cares? Genteel! So, what’s your favorite Japanese Car Name?

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Reminder: Win A ’99 Skyline GTR JDM Sales Book http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/reminder-win-a-99-skyline-gtr-jdm-sales-book/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/reminder-win-a-99-skyline-gtr-jdm-sales-book/#comments Tue, 26 Nov 2013 20:50:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=664602 With the original post that explains how you can win a hardcover sales brochure for the 1999 Nissan Skyline GTR now buried a couple of pages deep, I thought I would give you this reminder that the contest is still open and runs until Thanksgiving Day. Originally, I asked The Best & Brightest to look […]

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With the original post that explains how you can win a hardcover sales brochure for the 1999 Nissan Skyline GTR now buried a couple of pages deep, I thought I would give you this reminder that the contest is still open and runs until Thanksgiving Day. Originally, I asked The Best & Brightest to look through the last year’s worth of articles and share their favorites but have, upon reflection, decided that may be a barrier to entry to some of the people who have only recently joined our nonexclusive club. If you have been waiting to do less and win more, here’s your chance – respond to either this or that previous article and sometime on Thanksgiving Day I will throw your name in a hat with all the others and choose a winner. One entry per person, please.

As I mentioned in that earlier article, I received this book from one of my students who worked for Nissan when I was teaching English in Kyoto back in the day. It has remained safely on my book shelf ever since and is in perfect condition – no stuck together pages or dried out boogars. Based on a little research it seems that these books are rare on this side of the Pacific and the only one I found was being sold on Ebay for around $40.

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In Japanese Bondage: The Honda Freed Hybrid and the Mazda MPV http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/in-japanese-bondage-the-honda-freed-hybrid-and-the-mazda-mpv/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/in-japanese-bondage-the-honda-freed-hybrid-and-the-mazda-mpv/#comments Wed, 14 Aug 2013 16:21:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=499383 Yesterday, I took a look at the Mitsubishi Delica Space Gear and the Toyota Hi-Ace, the “size queens” of the Japanese market. Today, I decided to look at the odd men out, so to speak, those mini-vans that hit the sweet spot in the market and offer seven seats in a small or mid-sized package. […]

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2011_Honda_Freed_Spike_Hybrid_002_6105

Yesterday, I took a look at the Mitsubishi Delica Space Gear and the Toyota Hi-Ace, the “size queens” of the Japanese market. Today, I decided to look at the odd men out, so to speak, those mini-vans that hit the sweet spot in the market and offer seven seats in a small or mid-sized package. Sticking with that earlier theme, both of these are only available outside of the United States so, sorry, you can’t get them here. But it’s fun to see how other people live so let’s take a look.

As my young family has grown in size and number over the past few years, my in-laws have been absolutely wonderful. When we lived in Japan we saw one another frequently and even today, thought we are half a world away, my wife and her parents Skype at least once a week and we are blessed with their presence in our home usually two or three times per year. Last summer we decided to bless their home with our presence and the whole Kreutzer clan picked up and headed across the Pacific. In preparation for our arrival, my in-laws ran out and purchased a new seven seater and wisely, with an eye towards the fact that most of those seats would be empty most of the time, they went small and they went hybrid.

2008_Honda_Freed_02

The Honda Freed is a “compact seven seater” with sliding side doors that is similar in size and function to the Mazda 5 we get stateside. In person it bears a striking resemblance to the most recent incarnation of the Honda Fit, with a steeply sloping nose, a long curving windshield, and a rectangular back half that ends so abruptly it looks like it was cut with a knife. As a Star Trek nerd, the little Freed reminds me very much of one of the small shuttles used in The Next Generation from the outside and on the inside, if it is not overly spacious, it is at least futuristic.

2012-Honda-Freed-Hybrid-Interior-design

The Freed offers three rows of seating with each of the back two rows slightly elevated in a way that makes the vehicle’s cabin appear to have stadium seating. The third row is even with the rear wheels and my guess is that this arrangement was necessary to fit atop them, but the effect is generally nice and gives the rear passengers a chance to look over the front seats and catch a glimpse out the windshield. I understand that there are second row captain’s chairs available, if they can be called that, but my in-law’s car was outfitted with a three person bench seat. The back row is cramped and only offers space for two. Because the rear seat is so far aft, there is no additional cargo space and no place for a fold-flat seats. To allow space for cargo, the rear seat is split in two allowing each side can be folded and then swing up into a position where they block the rear quarter windows. Personally, I don’t like this arrangement.

I don’t spend a lot of time in Hondas these days so stop me if you already familiar with the two level dash the Freed mounts. It is an odd looking piece at first, but it fits in well with the car’s overall styling. The top of the dash incorporates the instrument bezel and a place for the car’s navigation system while beneath its rounded leading edge a second almost flat shelf comes out and provides space for the climate controls and the gear shift. It is, I think, a little odd but quite refreshing given that the alternative would have simply been a flat panel with a glove box.

hondaFreedhybrid dash

Although I had the opportunity to ride in the Freed on the expressway, where it seemed to do just fine, I did not get to take the wheel until we were safe at home in Kyoto and then my trips were mostly confined to the local area. Around town it was a competent little car that handled the city streets well and accelerated without any kind of drama whenever I hit the gas. All in all, not bad.

But not all of the hybrid systems were so seamless. In order to save gas, at lengthy stoplights the engine would shut itself off if I held my foot on the brake too long and, of course, when the engine turned off so did the air conditioning. That’s a problem on a hot summer day so I began to use the hand brake to hold my position in order to keep the engine running and the air conditioning pumping. Not horrible, but annoying. The other “eco” effect I noticed was how the car acted while coasting. It seemed to me that whenever I took my foot off the gas they car would begin to slow more rapidly than a normal, non-hybrid car might and it the overall effect was that the car seemed as though it was especially heavy for some reason. That said, the effect was predictable and never caused any issues while driving even if I never quite acclimated to it entirely.

I generally liked the Freed well enough but I think there are a lot of other cars on the market I would probably go to before I actually purchased one. With four adults and three children in the cabin, the little car was quite cramped and with all the seats in action there was virtually no space for any kind of luggage. Even without the grandparents, the car was still crowded with my wife and me up front, two kids in the middle and another in the third row. To facilitate a trip to the grocery store we would have to fold up one of the rearmost seats, and I really hate the way they fold up where they block a window and create a possible problem should they somehow, say in the event of a side impact, come loose and fall onto any body parts that might end up in that space in an accident.

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I like the idea of a smaller mini-van, but I think we need to acknowledge that larger families need larger size vehicles. In my in-law’s case, the Freed makes a great deal of sense as it offers good economy in a small, easy to drive package while having the extra seats for those times my wife and kids decide to head home for the summer. For daily use, however, about the smallest I would be willing to buy for my own family is another van we can’t get here in the States, the new Mazda MPV.

In the interest of full disclosure, I want to start this part of the article by stating right up front that I owned a 2002 JDM Mazda MPV with the 2.3 liter 4 cylinder for the entire three years we lived in Okinawa. Prior to purchasing it, my wife and I spent some time in the then brand new 2006 MPV and I was quite taken by it. It was that experience that sent me to my local Mazda dealer to seek out a used version and it was my inner cheapskate that caused me to end up purchasing a slightly used 2002 for a fraction of the price the redesign was fetching. Regardless of the fact that the design was already “day old bread,” I loved that van and sold it to family when I left just so I could see it when we go home.

2002 mpv

It’s funny how the mind works, because when I was in Japan my MPV seemed like a reasonably large, reasonably well powered vehicle. Back in the United States, however, I soon saw just how small the MPV actually is when compared to other vans and the especially so when compared to the even more giant SUVs that prowl this side of the Pacific. Even so, the earlier generation of MPVs did well in the United States, but I will note that to help satiate the American’s desire for more of everything the smaller 4 cylinder was not available here and only V6 MPVs were sold on our shores.

mazda_mpv_front

The 2006 MPV I drove, and yes I know that Mazda still sold MPVs in the USA in 2006 and so I want to stress here that the US got the old version while the Japanese stopped selling that design domestically in 2005, was a handsome, long nosed, low profile vehicle that appeared more like a tall station wagon than a typical mini-van. They came in two flavors, both 2.3 liter four cylinders, one turbo charged, the other not and had any number of features that were typical at the time but, as one commenter who lives in Hong Kong rather astutely pointed out when I mentioned the JDM MPV in some remarks a week or two ago, lack a lot of the more modern electronic and interconnectivity features found in many of the newest vans. Our Canadian enthusiasts, who waxed rhapsodic about the previous model’s four wheel drive capability, will be thrilled to know that the current redesign also features both front and four wheel drive versions.

As those of you who have them in your cars probably know, the Mazda 2.3 liter is a smooth running little engine that does pretty well on the road. The extra weight of the MPV and a load full of passengers does affect the engine, however, and there are times when I found myself working the engine harder than I would normally like. In general, it was serviceable on the highway but I would have enjoyed trying the turbo. Around town, as with virtually all Japanese minivans, the engine was more than sufficient.

Mazda_MPV_interior1.preview

Inside, the MPV was a good combination of “get the job done” practicality and pure class. I liked that the gear selector was not on the dash next to the wheel but was located below it on a small protruding console on the lower part of the dash. Above that, the climate controls were prominent and intuitive and, topping the center stack and tucked neatly between a pair of vents, was the navigation/audio screen. In front of the driver, in a blatant display of Mazda’s Zoom-Zoom philosophy, back lit analog gauges included a large, easy to read tachometer alongside a matching speedometer. There are several seating options available and they run from the totally practical cloth covered three row bench to the highest-end full leather recliners you can get. There is no doubt in my mind that the MPV’s primary mission is to move people in comfort and style and that utility, which is still present thanks to a fold-flat rear seat and the well in the floor that swallowing that seat necessitates, comes in a close second.

mpv seats

On the road, the current MPV is not as easy to drive as many of the larger, taller JDM vans currently on the market. Because it is has a longer nose, the driver sits well behind the front wheels and the overall driving dynamic is quite car-like. Also, thanks to a lower greenhouse, the windows too are slightly smaller than the enormous ones available on more typical high-end JDM people movers like the Elgrand and the Alphard and that makes it slightly more difficult to see out of. Handling and the ride is good and the driving experience is reminiscent of a large, full size luxury car. I like it.

The MPV is all about compromise and, unlike many compromises I have been forced to make during my life, the trade-offs made in its design do not end up giving away all the good in favor of all the bad. The design offers seven seats and sliding doors with the handling dynamics of a large car. It gives up overall height, which is bad because it limits the driver’s view but also good because it eliminates the sail area that sends most mini-vans skittering across the freeway on gusty days. It sits the driver further back in the cabin than most vans, which I think makes it more difficult to drive in tight situations but gives an added sense of comfort and control. I think the MPV would do wonderfully on the American market and I would purchase one in a heartbeat.

It’s a shame we don’t get either of these wonderful people movers stateside. They both strike a perfect balance by being big on the inside and small on the outside and, in doing so, are exactly what a mini-van is supposed to be. To wrap up, both of these mighty minis are decent vehicles that would probably draw people into showrooms in the United States, but only one, the Mazda MPV, would make my short list of mini-vans. If only they were sold here. If only…

mazda_mpv_back

Thomas M Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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Look What I Found!: A JDM R34 Nissan Skyline in Detroit http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/look-what-i-found-a-jdm-r34-nissan-skyline-in-detroit/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/look-what-i-found-a-jdm-r34-nissan-skyline-in-detroit/#comments Tue, 25 Jun 2013 17:05:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=493278 People that don’t live in the Detroit area often assume that car shows and similar events in the region are all focused on American iron and Detroit muscle. The fact is that car guys in Detroit are pretty much like car guys everywhere and most can appreciate all automotive excellence. That’s true within the auto […]

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People that don’t live in the Detroit area often assume that car shows and similar events in the region are all focused on American iron and Detroit muscle. The fact is that car guys in Detroit are pretty much like car guys everywhere and most can appreciate all automotive excellence. That’s true within the auto industry as well. Engineers and designers working for GM, Ford and Chrysler have respect for the work of their colleagues both across town and across the oceans. The earliest expression of Cadillac’s brand identifying “Art & Science” styling theme was the Evoq roadster concept, designed by Kip Wasenko, now retired from GM Design. The first time that I met Kip was when I pulled up next to his Ferrari Dino on north Woodward a few days before the Woodward Dream Cruise.

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Still, like the Suzuka winning tiny little Honda S800, found literally right in the middle of Ford country in Dearborn, now and then you still see a foreign car that you don’t expect to see tooling around the Motor City. To be frank, a “R34” 1999 Japanese domestic market Nissan Skyline GT-R would probably stand out just about anyplace in America, not just in Detroit and not just because it has the steering wheel on the wrong side. The R34 GT-R was never imported to the United States, so it caught my eye when I saw one on display at the 2013 Eyes On Design car show. EoD is held every Fathers’ Day on the grounds of the Eleanor and Edsel Ford estate just north of Grosse Pointe. The show benefits a local vision institute and it’s put on and judged by members of the automotive design community. This year, one of the featured categories at the show was “Tuner Cars”, a phrase often associated with imported car fans, so the presence of two JDM Skylines, this ’99 and a white ’97 from Ontario didn’t really surprise me. When I got around to the back of the Skyline, though, and saw that it had current Michigan license plates, I was intrigued. There is a reason why we don’t see a lot of JDM cars in America – they’re not legal.

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The federal government’s rules have been relaxed a little bit, now allowing the importation of foreign cars that do not meet current U.S. safety and emissions standards providing that they’re at least 25 years old but that exemption obviously does not apply to 1999 model year cars, made only 14 years ago. I asked the owner, Daniel Maczan, how he managed to get it registered. He told me that when he bought it, the Skyline GT-R had already been ‘federalized’, that is brought up to EPA and DOT standards, by a company called Motorex.

That means that the blue Skyline is not just a rare car, it’s a rare car with a story, a somewhat notorious story. Motorex eventually flamed out financially and while it was circling the drain they managed to ship cars that had never passed testing, ultimately resulting in the Feds seizing and crushing some highly desirable and collectible GT-Rs. The early Motorex imported cars were apparently kosher so the Feds allowed them to be grandfathered in and they can still be legally registered and driven, but in the wake of the Motorex scandal, no other R34 Skylines have been federalized. I like unusual cars and I’ll walk past a half dozen ’69 Camaros to see a single AMC Gremlin, but I don’t think you can get much more unique than a barely legal right hand drive Japanese hot rod at a Detroit car show.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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My Fantasy Life Laid Bare Part II: International Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/my-fantasy-life-laid-bare-part-ii-international-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/my-fantasy-life-laid-bare-part-ii-international-edition/#comments Fri, 22 Mar 2013 16:19:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=481859 Yesterday I shared with you dear, reader, one of my favorite games, the $5000 Craigslist Fantasy Challenge and you responded with a lot of great cars. Today I thought I would step it up just one more notch and introduce you to that game’s Japanese cousin – the “Goo Game.” Won’t you come and pray […]

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Somebody Say I look like an old woman?

Yesterday I shared with you dear, reader, one of my favorite games, the $5000 Craigslist Fantasy Challenge and you responded with a lot of great cars. Today I thought I would step it up just one more notch and introduce you to that game’s Japanese cousin – the “Goo Game.” Won’t you come and pray with me?

On an internet filled with NSFW Japanese websites, it seems odd that one called “Goo-net.com” would be dedicated exclusively to cars, but trust me on this it really is. I have used Goo-net for years to peruse the JDM market and to wrap my head around the prices and the kinds of cars for sale there. Once upon a time you needed to have some ability with the language to be able to navigate the site, something that prevented most non-Japanese speakers from doing anything more than looking at photos, but now, thanks to the advent of the Google translate button, your need for years of study has been erased. Simply follow the link, translate the site and start exploring.

http://www.goo-net.com/index.html

A few things you will need to know to better understand the site. First, the Japanese dating system is a little different from our own. Each Emperor selects the name of his era at the beginning of his reign. The current “Heisei” era began in 1989 and cars marked as H1=1989, H2=1990, H3=1991, etc. The prior era, “Showa” ran from 1926 to Emperor Hirohito’s passing in 1989. Therefore, “S” dated cars have higher numbers. For simplicity’s sake I usually think abut them backwards, so S63=1988, S62=1987, S3=1986, etc.

Exchange rates are complicated so let’s forego any price limits. Just find something cool for us to look at! However, anyone looking to do a serious calculation of a car’s price may want to note whether or not a car has a current “shaken” inspection. Some cars list “with inspection” meaning that the shaken is not current and that the dealer will include it in the price. Some listings show “without inspection” meaning that will be on your own dime, and some only show a number H25.8 meaning that the inspection expires in August of H25 (2013). Whether or not a car has a shaken will affect the price and on older cars the cost of repairs may be significant. You will note that there is a “price on car” and then a “total price.” This total price includes the inspection and any service the car actually needs. Pay close attention to this, fellow bargain shoppers!

That’s it. There are no rules this time, let’s have some fun and find some cool cars to look at.

Here are three to begin:

1969 Nissan Datsun Fairlady SRL311
68K Kilometers
Price – 287.8 million yen or about $30,000 USD
Located in Saitama Prefecture

The state of the body is in very good condition with no corrosion. I do not think what you are after more than 40 years. Development status as well, is easy to ride hand car is contained meticulously. For information on the development of future, please contact us.

What can I say? This is a classic that I would love to own.

2008 Mazda MPV 23T 4WD FSB monitor P backdoor AFS side SRS
48K Kilometers
Price 226 Million yen – about $24,000 USD
Located in Nagoya

Please let me inherit a new car warranty (5 years from the time of new car registration). Subject to the warranty at dealers across the country by the new car warranty can be inherited. In addition, we have our own guarantees with a maximum of two years from the time of car delivery.

I love this new generation of Mazda MPV mini-vans. This one has it all and if I was going back to Japan to stay this, or something very close to it, would be in my driveway. I think it is an absolute pity that Mazda USA doesn’t sell these in the USA.

1988 Toyota Soarer 2.0GT-L twin turbo
129K Kilometers
Price 28 Million yen – about $3200 US Dollars
Location, Osaka

No ad text.

This is another one of “those cars” that should have got sold in the USA. It is a real personal luxury coupe that I would love to drive. The power train in the same one I had in my Supra so I know it isn’t really going to be a race car, but it would be a good cruiser and have enough poop to run on the highway.

So there you have it, there are a lot of nooks and crannies on this huge website. Check it out and show us what you are able to come up with. Dot’s forget that over there in Bizarro World, their domestics are our imports and vice versa.

I hope you have a great time and find something interesting for us!

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Shakken Up: How A Little American Persistance And One Little, Old Japanese Man Beat The System http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/shakken-up-how-a-little-american-persistance-and-one-little-old-japanese-man-beat-the-system/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/shakken-up-how-a-little-american-persistance-and-one-little-old-japanese-man-beat-the-system/#comments Mon, 04 Mar 2013 10:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=479631 Wherever I am in the world I will always be a typical American man. Despite a lot of the stereotypes that spring to mind when I say that, I learned a long time ago that it isn’t a bad thing. I was raised right and I have solid values. When seats are limited I will […]

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My 1986 JDM Twin Turbo Supra

Wherever I am in the world I will always be a typical American man. Despite a lot of the stereotypes that spring to mind when I say that, I learned a long time ago that it isn’t a bad thing. I was raised right and I have solid values. When seats are limited I will stand so my elders can sit. I always hold the door open for ladies, and I keep plugging away no matter how hopeless the situation might seem. There are a few things here and there that can cause problems once in a while, too. For example, I won’t be deliberately insulted, I need my personal space and, of course, I feel like I am loser if I don’t have my own set of wheels.

Don’t leave home without it

Owning a car in Japan is a bad idea for most people. To begin with, getting a driver’s license costs thousands of dollars and involves and extensive training program. Then there is the cost of the car, insurance, gasoline and tolls to consider. Also, unless you are fortunate to own a place to park, you will have to pay rent on a parking space and, of course, anywhere you go you will pay to park, too. Then there are the costs of oil, tires, repairs, even car washes to consider. Let’s not forget taxes and, of course, the great terror that is the vehicle inspection system known as the Shakken.

The Shakken system began in the post World War II era when the few cars remaining on the roads were generally old and unsafe. Shakken’s stated purpose has always been to ensure that all vehicles meet certain safety requirements, but it is also generally acknowledged that the policy has helped to ensure consistent sales of new vehicles as people seek to replace cars that they believe will fail the test. The guidelines are stringent, and without the correct inspection sticker affixed at the top of your windshield, where it is easily spotted, your car cannot be legally driven. There is little tolerance for lawbreakers.

Of course, when I purchased a 14 year old Toyota Supra, everyone thought I was nuts. In general, the Japanese do not buy used cars outside of a dealership, and person-to-person sales among strangers are almost unheard of. For the most part, the Japanese trade-in their cars when they purchase new ones or they sell them to companies like “Gulliver” that buy old cars for a pittance and then take them to auction. Cars that are worthy are bought by dealers, marked up considerably and then resold in-country. Cars that are unworthy are sold to exporters and eventually end up in places like Australia, Russia or parts of the third world. From my friends’ perspective, a car as old as my Supra was not worthy and should have been on its way to the southern hemisphere, preferably as scrap, instead of sitting in a Kyoto parking spot.

My 1986 JDM Twin Turbo Supra

The whole thing was quite a scandal and everyone, it seemed, had an opinion. Two buddies, Matsuda and Taka, were especially critical of my purchase. Self styled car guys, they began to speak ill of the Supra the moment it arrived. Never mind the fact that it was a Toyota that had less than 50,000 kilometers on the clock. In their minds, simply because of its age, the car was in grave condition. Unfortunately for them, they made the mistake of spouting off and insulting my intelligence in front of my girlfriend, who, in typical Japanese fashion, believed everything they said. I, of course, in typical American fashion, ended our friendship right there on the street. So much for fair weather friends.

It wasn’t like I had paid a lot anyway. I had purchased the car from the Japanese wife of a New Zealander for roughly $600. The car didn’t have a mark on it, the engine was spotless, it sounded good, drove flawlessly and it even had about 8 months of shakken left on it. I figured that even if it somehow failed the dreaded inspection, I would have a cool car at my disposal for the better part of a year at nominal cost, and so it really didn’t matter. But then, of course, I got attached to my little car, and as the dreaded day drew nigh, I decided to ask around.

The women at my office were worse than useless, they were misinformed. They told horrible tales about the inspection process, about what would happen if the car couldn’t pass, and how certified repair shops would use the process against me. No matter how small the trouble, the women told me, the mechanics would insist upon costly repairs before releasing the car. They told me that there was no way a car that old would ever pass, and that I had been a fool for buying it in the first place. They even told me that I would end up paying to recycle it. There was the air of plausibility about what they said, but even so, I wasn’t going to give up without a fight.

Another shot of my 1986 JDM Twin Turbo Supra

In addition to my workmates, I also solicited the opinions of my students, some of whom, it turns out, were much better informed. For the most part, I learned, the average Japanese man took his car back to where he bought it for the shakken. Upon buying a brand new car, another inspection is not needed for three years. After that, inspections are required every two years, and a typical dealer, I was told, pretty much rubber stamps the next two inspections so long as they have had a hand in maintaining the car. Therefore, most cars are about 7 years old the first time they really go under the microscope and, like most Americans, the average Japanese person is ready for a new car after 7 years whether they actually need one or not. The car is traded in, and the process starts anew.

Simply follow the easy instructions

Once in a while, there are people like myself who have purchased a car outside of the dealer network. People in my situation usually end up taking their car to an independent shop and, as the women at my school had said, most of these shops will go over the car with a fine tooth comb. The result is usually a pretty stiff bill and, as a foreigner, I was especially ripe for the picking. But then, one of my oldest students, a Mr. Hanaoka, a retired engineer in his 70s who spent most of his free time drinking heavily and studying English, told me about another little known option, the “user shakken.” Amazingly, in a land where there isn’t much DIY, there is a DIY inspection.

Following Hanaoka-san’s instructions, I went to the Kyoto DMV and collected the paperwork. While I was there, the helpful clerk sat me down in front of a video that explained the entire process. Then I was sent home to complete my own inspection. Although it was all in Japanese, the documents were well illustrated, and I was able to go through it at my own pace. Although there were some parts of the form I did not fully understand, the inspection was not complicated. I measured tire tread depth, checked all the lights, looked for leaks, etc and found that, as expected, the car was in generally good condition.

I did, however, uncover a leaky shock absorber and a burned out driving light. The light was an easy fix, but the shock was more problematic, there was no real way to fix it myself and unless I was damn clever they were going to see the dark stain of shock oil under the car at the inspection station. Fortunately I am damn clever.

The day I took the car to the inspection station it was raining like hell. I rolled up to the main office and took my paperwork, as complete as I could get it, inside. After waiting in line I approached the counter hoping for a little help to complete some of the informational blocks at the top of the form and was pleasantly surprised to find that for a fee of around $5 that the clerk would actually do everything. I paid my money and ten minutes later took my car around back to the inspection station.

Click here to view the embedded video.

The inspection station was set up like an assembly line and I was required to drive the car from station to station. There was a brake test where I put the car up onto a set of rollers followed by speedometer test on the same machine where I was required to run the car up to 45 kmh. There was an underside inspection station where I sat in the car while a guy underneath tapped about ten spots with a hammer and, thanks to the wet weather, failed to notice my dripping shock absorber. There was a headlight test where a set of robotic cameras examined the front of my car to make sure everything was working within proper specs, a horn test, a brake light and blinker test and an emissions test. It was all quite efficient and I don’t think the entire process took more than 30 minutes.

As I recall, the total cost was around $450. Some of that was for the inspection fee, some for vehicle taxes, and another large part of it was for some kind of insurance that would pay for any public property I might damage in an accident. The whole thing was quick and painless and after weeks of consternation and worry, I was highly satisfied when I was awarded a new two-year sticker without a single hitch. I drove home in triumph.

Wherever I am in the world I will always be a typical American man and, despite a lot of the stereotypes that spring to mind when I say that, I learned a long time ago that it isn’t a bad thing. I was raised right and I have solid values. I keep plugging away no matter how hopeless the situation might seem and sometimes that can pay big dividends. I remember the people who helped me, too. Today, many years later, when I have the opportunity to raise a glass, I often find myself thinking about those days and of Mr. Hanaoka. He was a man who knew how to get things done, and when the whole system is stacked against you, you need a guy like that on your side.

Mr. Hanaoka at one of our school parties. Even though he was older than every other student, he never missed a single party.

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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If A Suzuki Grand Vitara Gets A Facelift, Does Anyone Care? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/if-a-suzuki-grand-vitara-gets-a-facelift-does-anyone-care/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/if-a-suzuki-grand-vitara-gets-a-facelift-does-anyone-care/#comments Fri, 13 Jul 2012 15:53:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=452622 The Suzuki Grand Vitara was the second worst-selling small SUV in America last month, with 419 sold. The only competitor that fared worse was the now-dead Mazda Tribute, which sold 1 unit (ostensibly a remainder car). It’s not often that one hears about a facelift for a vehicle that they totally forgot was even on […]

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The Suzuki Grand Vitara was the second worst-selling small SUV in America last month, with 419 sold. The only competitor that fared worse was the now-dead Mazda Tribute, which sold 1 unit (ostensibly a remainder car).

It’s not often that one hears about a facelift for a vehicle that they totally forgot was even on sale, but for 2013, the Suzuki Grand Vitara will be getting a revised look.

The worst part about it is that the Grand Vitara doesn’t look half bad. A look at the spec sheet reveals a $19,649 RWD manual version(!) in addition to the usual 4WD. Too bad for Suzuki that there’s just so many good cars worthy of consumer dollars out there, compelling reasons for buying a Grand Vitara don’t really exist.

P.S. Can anyone answer what the purpose of the fender mirror is?

 

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Possibly the Greatest Badge Engineering Feat In History: Isuzu Statesman Deville! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/possibly-the-greatest-badge-engineering-feat-in-history-isuzu-statesman-deville/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/possibly-the-greatest-badge-engineering-feat-in-history-isuzu-statesman-deville/#comments Fri, 10 Feb 2012 14:00:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=430165 Last week, I had never heard of the Isuzu Statesman Deville. Then, my fellow LeMons Supreme Court Justice suggested that I do a quick internet search for the name of this fine Detroito-Australo-Japanese luxury sedan… and my life changed forever. Dave at Bellett.net (a site devoted to the strangely non-Opel-based Isuzu Bellett) has written up […]

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Last week, I had never heard of the Isuzu Statesman Deville. Then, my fellow LeMons Supreme Court Justice suggested that I do a quick internet search for the name of this fine Detroito-Australo-Japanese luxury sedan… and my life changed forever.
Dave at Bellett.net (a site devoted to the strangely non-Opel-based Isuzu Bellett) has written up what I believe to be the definitive history of the Statesman Deville, and I suggest that you read every word.
The Isuzu Statesman Deville was essentially a rebadged Statesman HQ Deville (Statesman was a separate GM-Australia marque, being to Holden as Eunos was to Mazda), complete with vaguely Cadillac-ish emblems and the look of an alternate-universe ’70 Chevy Impala. Now, I’d have gone for the Toyota Century over this car, were I a wealthy Japanese car shopper in the early 1970s… but it would have been a tough decision. Let us now bask in the healing rays of this fine example of Pointless Yet Amazing Badge Engineering, brought to us by The General.

Isuzu Statesman Deville 3 - Picture courtesy of Bellett.net Isuzu Statesman Deville 1 - Picture courtesy of Bellett.net Isuzu Statesman Deville 2 - Picture courtesy of Bellett.net Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Adventures In Marketing: Mr. Tredia! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/adventures-in-marketing-mr-tredia/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/adventures-in-marketing-mr-tredia/#comments Tue, 18 Oct 2011 19:00:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=415106 So there’s this gaijin with one-piece injection-molded plastic hair, like Ken, and he’s firing up the Tredia in some Delysidic maze. Then he sees these, uh, geese… My Cordia/Tredia obsession has reached an alarming level, which means I’m scouring the Internetz for ads for the nearly-extinct-in-North-America Mitsubishis. This one, for the Japanese-market ’82 Tredia, features […]

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So there’s this gaijin with one-piece injection-molded plastic hair, like Ken, and he’s firing up the Tredia in some Delysidic maze. Then he sees these, uh, geese

My Cordia/Tredia obsession has reached an alarming level, which means I’m scouring the Internetz for ads for the nearly-extinct-in-North-America Mitsubishis. This one, for the Japanese-market ’82 Tredia, features “Mr. Tredia.” Where Mr. Tredia goes, that’s where happiness grows; it’s sort of like the Edison Lighthouse song, only with abducted children and geese laying eggs in Mr. Tredia’s car. What does it all mean? It means I need to start shopping for a clean Tredia, of course!

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The New 2012 Camry (Japanese Spec) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/the-new-2012-camry-japanese-spec/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/the-new-2012-camry-japanese-spec/#comments Mon, 05 Sep 2011 15:51:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=410297 Today, the 7th generation Camry was shown to the Japanese press in Tokyo. It was weeks after the new Camry had been shown in the U:S. and tested by the creme de la TTAC. Actually, it feels like Japan was the last country to get a Camry launch. And honestly, the country deserves short shrift: […]

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Today, the 7th generation Camry was shown to the Japanese press in Tokyo. It was weeks after the new Camry had been shown in the U:S. and tested by the creme de la TTAC. Actually, it feels like Japan was the last country to get a Camry launch. And honestly, the country deserves short shrift: Less than one percent of the total worldwide Camry production (692,000 in 2010) is sold in Japan. With 14 million made up to date, the Camry is one of the world’s best selling cars, and the Japanese snub their noses at it. More than half of the production goes to the U.S., 22 percent are sold in China, the rest of the world takes the rest.

Frank Greve who had flogged manufacturer largesse with journalists would love Japanese car launches, especially those by Toyota. No business class flights to Scotland, no private planes to Sicily, no free iPads. The only thing you get for free at Toyota is an invitation and a bottle of water when it’s hot. They don’t need freebies: The A-list of the media, from the Nikkei to Dow Jones, from Reuters to NHK shows up, they report what they see and usually hit “send” before the event is over.

Today’s launch was a masterpiece of essentialism. It took place in a drab meeting room of the Japan Auto Manufacturers Association. Test drives?

Forget it: There was exactly one black Camry parked next to the building, and it wasn’t available for driving. Honestly, I like these frugal events. They are real press conferences, not a sales show.

And we could clear up something that had vexed the Best and Brightest for a while: The was a rumor going around that the U.S. would get a different Camry that “the Asians.” Let’s have a look, at least as far as a part of Asia is concerned that is called Japan.

From the front: Not so much difference:

From the side: Not so much difference.

Under the hood: Whoa. All new Camry models for the Japan market are propelled by the Toyota Hybrid System (THS) II. It uses a newly developed 2.5-liter Atkinson engine (2AR-FXE) with reduction gear. Hybrids account for 14 percent of all regular cars sold in Japan, so Toyota offers the Camry in Japan as hybrid only.

This is its battery.

“The Camry doesn’t sell as much here as it does in the States, so we decided to focus on fuel economy,” deputy chief engineer Keiichi Yoneda explained. The car gets 26.5 km/l under the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) test cycle and 23.4 km/l under the JC08 test cycle. That would be 62.3 mpg and 55 mpg respectively – definitely non-EPA. Still, the JDM Camry is basically the USDM Camry Hybrid.

There is one thing Americans won’t get, and that’s Made in Japan Camrys. Most U.S. Camrys are made in Kentucky. However, in the past a few Japan-made Camrys found their way stateside. This will stop, as it was announced at the press conference.

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Roger Moore Gets 10,000 Pounds of Turbo Boost In His ’82 Corona GT http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/02/roger-moore-gets-10000-pounds-of-turbo-boost-in-his-82-corona-gt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/02/roger-moore-gets-10000-pounds-of-turbo-boost-in-his-82-corona-gt/#comments Tue, 15 Feb 2011 18:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=383971 American car ads of the early 1980s came up short in several departments: Burning rubber, jet-engine-grade turbocharger sound, and blatantly sped-up film that made the cars appear to be going 300 MPH. Oh, and they also lacked James Bond! Since my very first set of wheels was a 50-buck ’69 Corona sedan, I have a […]

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American car ads of the early 1980s came up short in several departments: Burning rubber, jet-engine-grade turbocharger sound, and blatantly sped-up film that made the cars appear to be going 300 MPH. Oh, and they also lacked James Bond!

Since my very first set of wheels was a 50-buck ’69 Corona sedan, I have a soft spot for the not-so-sporty rear-drive Toyota sedans. Not-so-sporty in North America, that is; 1982 car shoppers could still buy a new Corona— in theory, though almost never in practice— but the versions we got were hopelessly stodgy, more suited for the regional sales manager of a faltering plumbing-supply company than, say, a Yakuza enforcer in a $10,000 Italian suit. Not so in Japan, where you could buy a mean-looking Corona GT coupe with “TWIN CAM TURBO” in bright orange letters on the steering wheel and ten billion whistling horsepower under the hood. Well, maybe not quite ten billion horsepower; with the 3T-GTE, Roger Moore was getting 160 PS (about 157 HP) when he leadfooted it out of the TWIN CAM TURBO 18-wheeler in search of baddies. That’s still plenty of power for the time, especially in a 2,500-pound car.

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Adventures In Global TV Marketing: The Citroën AX http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/02/adventures-in-global-tv-marketing-the-citroen-ax/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/02/adventures-in-global-tv-marketing-the-citroen-ax/#comments Thu, 10 Feb 2011 20:30:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=383508 Sure, Internet video is mostly about dental-fetish porn (particularly the very stimulating “spit sink” subgenre), but when the novocaine wears off and the last vinyl-clad hygienist has put aside her last stainless-steel scraper, you’re ready to explore the other great thing about Internet video… old television ads for the Citroën AX. The AX had quite […]

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Sure, Internet video is mostly about dental-fetish porn (particularly the very stimulating “spit sink” subgenre), but when the novocaine wears off and the last vinyl-clad hygienist has put aside her last stainless-steel scraper, you’re ready to explore the other great thing about Internet video… old television ads for the Citroën AX. The AX had quite a run, being built for model years 1986 through 2000 (counting the Proton-built version, the Tiara), and— who knows?— its tooling may yet be brought back into action in some out-of-the-way corner of the world.


Since assembling this collection of Citroën ads a couple years back, I’ve associated the AX with this early French-market ad showing a woman using the Great Wall of China as an exclusive highway for her AX. She catches some serious air, then stops short when a couple of ancient Long March veterans express their revolutionary approval. Down with the Four Olds!


Continuing the “revolutionary Asian locale” theme, Citroën then headed to Tibet, where an AX shows its off-road prowess on the way to a visit with a holy man. No doubt the Chinese government wasn’t so happy about this one, but Citroën sales in China didn’t amount to much in the late 1980s.


As the AX matured and a GT model came out, French-market advertisers decided they’d head over to New York City— like China, a place not known for street-driven AXs— and show off the car’s ability to get through madhouse traffic. In fact, the AX GT can squeeze through traffic even faster than a super-hip bike messenger with a willingness to ride down stairways and over the roofs of gridlocked cars.


In Spain, potential AX buyers must have focus-grouped as being fascinated by the American Southwest, because we’ve got a Harley-riding thug stalking a beautiful, AX-driving young woman from a desert greasy spoon to a railroad crossing. I won’t give away the surprise ending, which apparently is meant to show that the AX is practical as well as sexy, but it sure looks like the start of a made-for-TV serial-killer drama to me.


Citroën UK’s marketers decided to go with cuteness for this 1992 advert; a cartoon cupid’s arrows can’t catch the nimble AX and melt the cold, cold heart of the protagonist’s female companion. Thwarted! But wait! The AX itself gets the job done, and the camera fades to black as the couple prepares to make with the bouncy-bouncy on the road shoulder. Yes, the AX makes a man a real bull on the springs, if I may rip off a Bukowski-ism; it’s the Frenchness that does it. Hey, wait a minute, isn’t that car left-hand drive?


Mazda’s short-lived Eunos brand sold the AX in Japan for a few years in the early 90s, and the JDM-car-ad requirements of jaunty music, sexy foreign woman, and macho voiceover are all met in this ’91 AX ad.


But you really need to bring the AX to Malaysia to unlock the true advertising potential. This two-minute-long special-effects extravaganza for the Proton Tiara features a canoe-paddlin’ hero, a tiger that morphs into a tiger-striped muscleman, and an attractive— though modestly dressed, no doubt in deference to Malaysia’s Muslim population— woman who uses magical powers to summon a Tiara from the ether.


It’s for the CX and we’ve all seen it before, but it seems wrong to talk about classic Citroën ads without showing the what-the-hell-were-they-thinking “Robot Grace Jones” ’84 CX ad.

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