Project Hakosuka: Right Back At The Beginning (Part One)

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Well, I guess I better tell you guys a little more about the car! And I suppose the best place to start is at the beginning.

It was almost three months ago that I decided to take the plunge and buy a JDM classic. I’d owned JDM imports before (there are plenty of second hand imported JDM cars in Australia) but nothing this old. So on 12th November I send an email to our friends at J-Spec.

I want a Hakosuka I said, and described what I wanted. Initially, I was quite flexible about buying a 2dr or a 4dr, my main aim was to buy the best-condition car possible, irrespective of the number of doors.

What then happened was quite wonderful…everyday, my email inbox would be filled with new Hakosuka candidates, as J-Spec searched available dealer stocks in Japan and sent the details and pictures to me. This was both wonderful and a curse, since it meant that from November to December, I didn’t get any work done and spent the days emailing pics back and forth with my friends, discussing the merits of each car….so basically about 20 of my friends didn’t get any work done either!

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Now let me tell you something about this stage of the process….they ALL look great. It’s like being a kid in the most awesome, biggest candy store. But that was also the problem…pretty much any car will look clean and straight in a picture, and of course the Japanese have such great taste in wheels, stance, etc that there is a great temptation to assume that every car is perfect. As western car guys, we tend to assume that if something looks right, it is right, but that turned out to be a very dangerous attitude to have when it came to shopping for JDM classics.

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One rather shocking learning from this whole experience is that when it comes to buying classic JDM, you should be extremely careful. And the reason for this is a difference in focus between western car enthusiasts and JDM car guys.
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In western car culture, good workmanship or a good restoration, is in the detail. It’s all the little things that make the difference, and the mark of a good restoration is in the quality of work done in the areas that you don’t normally see…but in Japan, a good restoration is simply one that looks good. It may be a generalisation, but in my experience, most JDM car guys would be happy for their car simply to look good from 5-6ft away.

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It’s not a question of dishonesty or anything like that, things are just a bit different in Japan. For example, when a car is resprayed a different colour, in 90% of the time the engine bay will be left the original colour. In 10% of the time, the door jambs will be left the old colour too! Very often, old cars are given very “cosmetic” restorations, where all the work is focussed on the shiny-side and no attention at all is paid to rust removal. It’s not uncommon to find tuner shop demo cars, and even showcars, that look a million bucks on the top, and it’ll have all the cool hardware, and the right wheels, etc but have holes in the floor under the carpets.

Here’s an example below. This is a Tokyo Autosalon showcar, a highly desirable and gorgeous classic with the right look and all the good hardware. It’s also one of the most expensive examples of its kind on sale in Japan currently, at a very well known classic car dealer. But when you look at the detail, it is simply not of a standard that would satisfy most car guys in the west.

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Like I said, it’s not a matter of dishonesty (and I certainly am not trying to be judgmental), it’s merely a difference in focus. In Japan, the money simply gets spent on other things: things that make the car look good, and go good….and let’s face it, it is those things that we love about JDM classics in the first place.

But buying a JDM classic is an expensive business, and so we tend to expect that the car of our dreams will still look good in 10 years time, but the reality is that a great proportion of JDM restorations will not meet that expectation. There are, however, like-minded JDM car guys out there so it’s a question of sorting out the cars that were good, from the cars simply looked good. And the search threw up some stunning examples.

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This 4dr was an awesome example. Not only was it in great condition, but the seller was also keen to show what lengths had been gone to during the restoration to do it all right…a very good sign.

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But unfortunately by then I’d decided that I really wanted a 2dr Hardtop….in a light colour (preferably white) with flares front and back, a hot engine and Watanabes….BIG Watanabes. The right car eventually came up at Tokyo nostalgic dealer, Red Megaphone.

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Like all the others, it looked a million bucks, but the details were promising. The car had been restored 2yrs prior, an engine-out, glass-out resto that saw the interior, engine bay and boot repainted. The floor underneath had been rust treated and repainted too. The engine had triple Webers, extractors and dual exhaust…and yes, it had big Watanabes. The fact that it wasn’t a recent restoration was a plus in my book: if there were any really serious short cuts taken, then we should see rust bubbling up or excessive filler start to crack and swell by now.

J-Spec are great for us classic enthusiasts because they’re quite willing to look for the oddball cars, and then they’re quite willing to check it out for you. They have their own car inspectors in Japan, so I agreed to pay the A$250 to get the Red Megaphone car looked over.

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What came next was a total surprise: a very long and detailed report (that even covered gearknob wear) and a few hundred pictures of the car. J-Spec’s guy even lifted the carpets to take pictures of the floorpan, I got pictures of the chassis rails, engine bay, door jambs, pretty much every nook and cranny of the car.

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The verdict was that it seemed to be quite solidly restored. Not perfect in the areas you can’t see, but all the rust repairs looked sound, and the car was straight.

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There were some minor things, like a little rust in the rear quarters, but overall the pics assured me that all the areas had been addressed in the resto. In typical JDM style, some of the detail work in the boot shut, door jambs etc were a little rough, but at least I could see that it was a proper repair and the important things like shutlines were great. So the car looked solid and built to last, and it fulfilled all the various things I wanted in my car. So on the 14th December I made a telegraphic transfer for the purchase price to Japan….

What happens next? Tune in tomorrow…same channel :D

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9 Responses to Project Hakosuka: Right Back At The Beginning (Part One)

  1. DiscoQuinn said:

    Ge that rust fixed, here in Ontario Canada, we use a Salt Sand mix in the winter to clear the roads of snow and ice. (I know Australia doesn’t have much snow, and you surely wouldn’t drive that in snow). The snow plow clears most of the snow, then the hard packed snow and ice below is coated with a salt sand mixture, to improve traction and melt dangerous ice. However, the moisture of snow/ice attaches itself to the sand and salt and sticks to the body of your car, in every crevasse possible. So the sand and water make a paste, and the water and salt EAT metal. A small rust patch that size ate the entire wheel arch on my ae86 in one winter. To the point that I needed new fenders and quarter panels and rockers to even fix the problem. Terrible.

  2. leongsoon said:

    I’m surprised even the Japanese do not address rust problems properly, it’s the same here in Malaysia too most of the time :D

  3. altoidsburnme said:

    ooh! How much?

  4. Kev said:

    We don’t have road salt here in Sydney (where it doesn’t snow) but one of the things I want to do as soon as possible is get some sort of wax injection service done to the car with Waxoyl or something.

    And I won’t say how much, but it was above the average when we surveyed 2007 classic car prices the other day :)

    LINK

  5. 31GUN said:

    The 14th of December is my birthday!
    I think I should get a ride asap!

    Hooks

  6. Kev said:

    You will see in the next instalment that any driving of the Hakosuka at the moment will have to involve pushing :D

  7. Lachy said:

    Seeing all those small pictures of other cars brought back memories! Well, I hope I helped.

  8. sumo510 said:

    Kev, Nice wheels. Re cavity wax Wurth have product that does the job. http://www.wurth.com.au/catalogueview.asp?pdf=A03_0015.pdf

  9. RatDat said:

    Also check out http://www.bilthamber.com Their cavity wax is supposed to be excellent.

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