The Story of Diane Krey, the “Mary” behind the Kenmeri Skyline

The hakosuka GT-R made “Skyline” a legend among Japanese gearheads, but the C110 kenmeri made it a household name. Its popularity was due in no small part to the now re-famous Ken & Mary television commercials that gave the fourth-gen Skyline its nickname and perfectly captured Japan’s optimism and romance for the open road in the early 70s.

Although there were multiple Kens and Marys over the years, the original stars were a soap actor, Jimmy Zinnai, and the daughter of an American pilot living in Japan at the time, Diane Krey. Our friend and scribe Jeff Koch last year tracked down the real Mary, now a high school teacher near Sacramento. His interview reveals the backstory of the Ni-Ten ad agency shoots, and what it was like for an American girl to be one of the most recognizable faces in Japan at the time. 

Krey probably could have gone on to a stellar modeling career, but quit and moved to America in 1975 after Zinnai died in a motorcycle accident. In Japan she had been the face of one of the most successful ad campaigns of all time, but at home no one had even heard of the Skyline. That is, until she discovered recently that one of her students knew all about the C110. The car she had modeled for half a world away was now considered a classic in our hemisphere as well.

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32 Responses to The Story of Diane Krey, the “Mary” behind the Kenmeri Skyline

  1. Kuroneko said:

    Brings a tear to the eye…

    (Seriously, living in Tokyo, with a daughter at an American school modeling for the same reasons, recognizing the tourist spots, and thinking – hazily – about the 1970s, I can only imagine what it was like back then. Mary would be pleased to know though we still do not lock our doors when we go out…)

  2. Nigel said:

    Cool story.
    (Favorite Skyline on my list).

  3. Lincoln Stax said:

    What a great story, and I’m glad that she’s still around to tell us about it.

    • Ben said:

      You can always send an email to tips at JapaneseNostalgicCar dot com, but we will have coverage of that 2000GT in our Tokyo Auto Salon coverage.

  4. Toyotageek said:

    Very nice! Good job JK!

    Ya’know what would really be awesome? If someone did a photoshoot with Ms. Diane Krey-Wesley and a Skyline….. memories ;o)

  5. Lincoln Stax said:

    Someone needs to invite her to JCCS.

  6. DavidR. said:

    SWEET!!! the four door is my favorite!

  7. Diane Krey-Wesley said:

    Thanks guys!!!!!
    Diane

    • Ben said:

      Wow, what an honor!! Thank you for all the great nostalgic ads you’ve given us!

    • Toyotageek said:

      Whoa! Awesome!

      Diane, Thanks for taking the time to respond to us geeky gearheads! ;oP

    • Drive510 said:

      @ Mrs. Diane, I hope by now you got the hint from other comments that there are many who would love to see you at this years 8th Annual Japanese Classic Car Show (JCCS) this year. I hope that you would be able to make an appearance this year.

    • Q8ijin said:

      WOW.. thank you Diane ….. those ads were… dream like ……..proud Ken&Mary owner :)

    • Peter said:

      Hi Diane believe or not my daughter keep asking me showing this video everyday… she love the song even have no clue what he’s singing and keep telling how pretty the girl in the video~ You just have a new fan who just turned five~

      I totally agree you should join the JCCS! And let all your fans taking picture with you~

      Pete

  8. Drive510 said:

    That’s the coolest thing. One of the most sought after classic Japanese cars in history. Though I don’t own a Skyline, it would be cool for her to autograph my glove box, or hood of my Datsun 510.

  9. Kevin Lee said:

    I haven’t posted or replied on here for the longest time. But I’m amazed that someone took the effort to trace down Mary on this site. Wishes Nissan or the fans will send her a C110 Skyline for ownership in the USA. It will be that awesome to bring back good memories about 40 years ago

  10. It was a very exciting time. I remember going to the train station an being mobbed by teenagers wanting her autograph. Yelling out Meri! Meri! Atogurafu!
    I was and still am very proud of my sister!

  11. Ted said:

    Wow thats cool, a historical car and the woman who is is half known after. JCCS ? :-)

  12. eastwest6 said:

    I like Skylines (had an R30). I like the 70′s (born in ’71). I like this story. My wife’s parents (Japanese and both owned Skylines) said they wore the Ken & Mary shirts when they first came out. Anyone know a place that has the shirts at a reasonable price? The only place I saw was over $60.

  13. Charlie said:

    very touching story.

    im a big fan of the ken & mary commercials, 30-40years on and diane still has fans.

  14. Kevin Truong said:

    Wow! Mrs. Diane Krey-Wesley looked stunning in that video. Just naturally beautiful.