Garage Life: Classic Car Nagoya Diary

Today’s guest writer David Lovett lives in Japan and works at Classic Car Nagoya. Here is a dispatch about what it’s like to be employed at what most of us would consider the ultimate dream job. Enjoy. —Ben

Just about halfway between Nagoya and Toyota City is the town of Togo, home to a little shop called Classic Car Nagoya. As the name implies, CCN specializes in classic cars. It’s very much a family run operation with six full time employees, three of whom are related, plus one part time gaijin — me. 

Classic Car Nagoya was started in Kyushu by Naoyoshi Higuchi, better known as the Shacho (“the Boss” in Japanese). When he moved to Nagoya he expanded shop a little bit, but with space at a premium in the near-downtown location, he relocated once again to the current location in Togo in order to spread out.

The dead zone between the two cities is actually a pretty car-rich area with numerous shops nearby, most notably C&Y Sports and Auto Prestige, specializing respectively in insane engine swaps and British sports cars, Minis and European sport bikes.

It also happens to be where I live, along with some cars you might know me by — my Mitsubishi 360Isuzu Bellett and various other car projects. It’s not far from the Toyotaku mecca, the aptly named Toyota City, but before you get too excited let me say that it’s actually an awfully boring place.

Sure, Toyota City is the global headquarters of ToMoCo and you do glimpse the occasional pre-production model on a trailer. If you’re lucky you might even see a Lexus LFA prowling the streets — I’ve seen no less than four of the Toyota supercars in the wild since living here, one a full year before release. Other than that, though, all the really fun and exciting stuff is behind some pretty heavy security.

Despite it all, getting to immerse myself at CCN makes it totally worthwhile. Just one whiff of the showroom and its stable of finished, so-clean-you-could-eat-off-it cars and I’m in kyuusha heaven. At any given time the cars can range anywhere from a Daihatsu Midget three-wheeler pickup to a grand pre-merger Prince Skyline.

They rotate out on a fairly regular basis but there are a few that have been around for years — most notably, a red Fairlady Z432 hidden in the back that’s in the middle of a restoration.

Although you can buy a complete car from the CCN showroom, Classic Car Nagoya is also about restoring, maintaining and enhancing nostalgic cars. This S30 Toyopet Crown and 510 Bluebird are just a few examples of customer cars that visit the shop.

Classic Car Nagoya is very much a family business. The Shacho’s daughter Chiho handles all the paperwork, while his son Hide can be often found in the paint booth, sometimes spending days wet-sanding a finish to perfection.

The multi-bay garage you see when you first pull up to CCN usually houses several customer cars being worked on by Miya, the resident MacGyver. You roll anything in front of him and he can tear it down and put it back together using only a paperclip.

To the left of the garage is a covered area where Sugi, the shop’s “god-hand,” works his magic. He specializes in metal work and does all of the rust repairs. The man can twist metal better than anyone I’ve ever seen.

Taira is the shop’s engine guy and I’ve seen him tune triple side-draft carbs to sing in perfect harmony using just his ear and a screw driver.

Finally, there’s me. I specialize in selling parts internationally and generally do a crap job of it. But I make up for the crappiness by taking old radios, ripping them apart and then putting in a switching headphone jack and USB charger so you can use your original radio and speakers to listen to tunes on your newfangled iThing.

The sheer diversity of cars that come through the shop is amazing. At one point we had all three S20 powered models (Z432hakosuka and kenmeri GT-Rs) all within 50 meters of each other!

Old Crowns, Coronas, Sports 800s, Laurels, Glorias, Midgets (the Daihatsu kind, not MG), Cosmos and FTOs are just some of the types of cars that roll through on a fairly regular schedule. The CCN crew doesn’t just limit themselves to domestic cars though. Quite a few foreign jobbies make their way through the gates as well — Bentleys, Jags, Minis, Volvos, Lancias and a Matra have all been known to come out to play.

Work ranges from a simple Shaken inspection shakedown to a stripped-down-to-the-shell restoration. There are obviously big plans for this hako and it’s in for the long haul.

This may look like utter chaos, but it’s typical of Japanese garages and I assure you there’s a rhyme and reason for everything. With space in short supply Japan is not a kind place for hoarders, but as anyone who’s restored an old car knows, sometimes that one missing piece can strand a restoration for months.

That’s why CCN stocks what is quite possibly the largest parts nostalgic car parts collection in Japan. This is just a sampling of the taillight and turn signal lenses on deck. I could peruse this area for hours (and have been known to in fact).

In the back there are even more parts, only these aren’t used, they’re mostly NOS, custom bits or feverishly refurbished items. We can find almost anything we need here, but even CCN has its limits.

In the event there’s something we can’t find in the storeroom, there’s always the junkyard behind the shop. Junkyards in Japan are an incredibly expensive thing to own and operate because land is at such a premium.

Finding a junkyard at all is really difficult, much less finding one with classics in it. This junkyard though, is something special, populated with hakosuka, S30s, Glorias, Celicas, Coronas, Midgets, a Leopard and so on. All this can be yours for the low, low price of walking in, removing the parts yourself, and asking the Shacho, “Ikura desu ka?”

I could go on and on about CCN, but what I really the like about the place, especially when compared to some of the more famous shops, is that all the employees are genuine car guys. Not a single one of them, including the Shacho, puts money before the cars.

As such they’re not rich and some customers have been known to take advantage of that, but the passion and drive for the cars really shows. The CCN gang are all genuine, excellent car guys and are more than willing to strike up a conversation and chat about your classic rides. They are, without a doubt, some of the nicest guys I have come across in Japan and I’m glad to call this place my home away from home.

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50 Responses to Garage Life: Classic Car Nagoya Diary

  1. Kuroneko said:

    すばらしいだね。No idea the operation was so large… I’ll call in next time I am down that way! Neko.

  2. awesome article (and photos!) thanks for posting! (wish they had a shop like this in the san francisco bay area!)

  3. Jared said:

    great article and fantastic photos

  4. Ben said:

    Thanks for the excellent story, David. Hope to see more of your adventures!

  5. David said:

    Awesome, the story looks great! I’m so happy I could help contribute, and hopefully, I’ll be able to contribute again in the future!
    Neko, you’re welcome by any time, just hit me up!
    Thanks everyone!
    David

  6. mister k said:

    this was a feel good entry.. thx!

  7. Eric said:

    What’s up David? Great read, and an amazing shop!

  8. kingtoy said:

    That really does sound like a dream job. If I were to live in Japan it is exactly the type of job I would want.

  9. Adrian said:

    Wow, great article. I wish more shops like this existed all over.

    You mentioned you liked to modify old radios, would it be very difficult to set one up to have the volume control of a old radio control the volume of another more modern deck hidden in the car?

    • David said:

      Thanks for the comment!
      Modifying an older volume knob to work on a modern deck becomes very difficult because older radios have a potentiometer to control the volume while modern decks do it all internally and digitally.
      There might be a couple of ways to get around this, but modern decks are like black magic to me, haha. Shoot me an email at ccnagoyaeng at gmail dot com and maybe we can figure something out!

      Thanks again,
      David

  10. jkwade said:

    I just have to echo what has already been said, an excellent and well written read! Thanks for sharing. I, too, will be looking for further updates.

  11. Wagoneer said:

    Oh sweet God of classic cars!!! I don´t know what I would choose, it´s Aladin’san’s cave of Japanese classics. I think I still have the biggest soft spot for the original Daihatsu Midget kei van. I can’t possibly dirve it myself, but being transported around town on the cargo bed could be pretty cool. Also that little kei car Pajero Pinin in the ‘Junk’ yard is very sweet.

  12. goki said:

    David! Nice article!

    I visited David and CCN almost a year ago…man, I miss CCN and everyone!
    David is 100%..everyone at CCN is genuine and probably the nicest lot I’ve ever met.

    Hope to go and hangout with everyone again soon!

    • David said:

      Thanks a lot man!
      We all miss you here and hope you can come visit us again sometime soon! Maybe someday I’ll make a road trip out your way in my Bellett, that would be awesome!

      Thanks again!
      David

  13. Jesse Risk said:

    This brought a tear to my eye! haha so awesome, that im completely envious! nice write-up too -JJ

  14. Iwakuni91 said:

    Scrolling down I wondered, “There is no chance they will have my C31 Laurel, no chance…It’s my Laurel! It’s my Laurel!”

    Thanks JNC. You made my day.

  15. Matias said:

    Nice writeup!
    Did a litte Googling and and my question to David is:
    Is CCNagoya@gmail.com the way to contact you, I’d like you to sell me some stuff regardless despite ‘doing a crap job of it’…:)
    Thanks!

    • Matias said:

      Oh crap, can’t even write…disregard the regardless and add a you after despite….:/

    • Bob said:

      I’m also wondering, haha. Do they have any first generation Mazda Luce (1500/1800) parts?

    • David said:

      Thanks so much!
      You can send an email to either ccnagoya at gmail dot com or ccnagoyaeng at gmail dot com. The ccnagoyaeng one is the our dedicated English language mail box, but if it shows up in the regular ccnagoya mailbox, Chiho san just forwards it to the other, so I’ll get your mail either way!

      I’ll try not to do such a crap job of getting some parts headed your way!

      Thanks again!
      David

  16. Tom Westmacott said:

    Wow, I love these kind of places in Japan… even more amazing that you got a job there.

    When I had my S13 I took it to a place in Hida-Takayama, smaller but with a similar vibe, they had a sweet Kenmeri in the yard. Really nice guys, and aligned my suspension just perfect for the touge.

  17. Ryan said:

    Excellent article, loved it. What are the chances of finding a restorable hako in that junkyard? I’d love to get one in Australia one day, and do a proper nuts and bolts resto job.

    • David said:

      Thanks for the comment!
      Most of the Hakos in the yard are beyond repair (well beyond repair for sane people at least, if I had the money I’d still be tempted to take one of them on). Hakos show up quite regularly though. If you shoot me an email at ccnagoyaeng at gmail dot com, we’ll see if we can figure something out!

      Thanks again!
      David

      • Ryan said:

        If you saw my 240z…… Heheheh. That’s at least a few years from completion though.

        I’m planning a Japan holiday about a year from now, I’ll send you an e-mail and hopefully I can come around and have a look, love the entire setup :)

        Might be close enough with the Z to start considering the next project too… Thanks for the reply!

  18. jivecom said:

    toyota sport 800! my day is made

  19. Toyguy said:

    CC Nagoya sold me my Carina.
    Dave hit the nail on the head. These guys are real car guys – true craftsmen.

  20. Nigel said:

    Nice to see a shop like this and get a tour.
    (Whats great it is from a JNC’er).
    Thanks for sharing David. I think the shop may get a bit more overseas business now.

  21. IMO said:

    The P1800 in the last pic looks fantastic. Not Japanese, but one of my ultimate nostalgia cars and a much appreciated picture.

  22. have been following your projects and the shop in a while, great job and thanks for sharing. just love all of it :)

  23. Dennis said:

    Thanks for writing the article David. You gave us a great insider’s perspective on nostalgic car life in Japan; something that is such a mystery here in the States. I look forward to your future articles.

  24. Censport said:

    David, I’ll be contacting you for some Sports 800 parts. I’m currently in the middle of an engine rebuild for one of our museum cars.

    • David said:

      Thanks for the comment!

      Sports 800 stuff is getting rarer and rarer these days, but we still have some parts floating around the shop! Send me an email at ccnagoyaeng at gmail dot com and we’ll see if we can hunt down what you need!

      Thanks again!
      David

      • Censport said:

        David,

        Email is on the way. Yes, original parts are getting harder to find. Some folks here and in Japan have been reproducing a few things.

        You have a great job, and I envy you for being able to work and live in Japan. I was there for most of September, and had the time of my life. Hopefully I will have a chance to visit your shop during my next trip.

        Cheers…

  25. David said:

    I just wanted to say thank you again to everyone! The response has been overwhelming and this post has been the talk of the day here at CCN. Everyone is so happy to see their shop up on JNC and to see all the positive comments!

    I certainly hope some more of my articles make it up here sometime in the future.

    Thank you guys again so much, and I want to especially thank Ben for letting me help contribute!

    Cheers,
    David

  26. Chin said:

    David, for thr love of anime, at least one time Be Lupin the third and take a picture with the 360!!

  27. Chin said:

    For Halloween be Lupin* Idk how I missed that. -_-

  28. James said:

    That white Hako in the last pic looks familiar :)

  29. Dan said:

    Hey, that’s my car !
    My dealings with David and CCNagoya went super smoothly and I would recommend them. They obviously love what they do.

  30. ACSK said:

    I sure wish I knew about this place when I lived in Okazaki. I used to work in and around Aichi & Gifu-ken, so that’s my old stomping grounds. It would have taken less than 30 minutes from home to go visit.

    Speaking of which, how okay is the Higuchi family with visitors? If I visit in a few years, are they open to some random person showing up and looking around?

  31. JamesE said:

    Thanks for the great write-up about your shop. To work there indeed does look like a dream. Perhaps I can do business with you in the future.

    Nice to see one or two 3rd gen Celica/Supra. Being an 80′s car they stand out against the more common classics.

  32. Brandon said:

    I can only echo what has already been said about David and the CCN crew. I’ve been working in Nagoya for almost half a year and visited Classic Car Nagoya many times. Their hospitality, knowledge, and inventory is amazing. David is the true article in not only his willingness to make everyone happy but also his ADVICE on projects and build direction. I got a few cars picked out if/when I get the cash (Toyota Publica, Ken Mary, etc.), I will be going there.

  33. Chiho said:

    Awesome!! Thank you David for great article and photos. (But, I needed a lot of time to read English that these article and many comments. …haha) I was so happy to know that many people are interested in Japanese cars.

    Dan, Thank you for bought the Hakosuka. She was a long journey. and I was glad when arrived safely to your.

    David is a important family for us.
    and みんな、ありがとう!

  34. khalid said:

    very nice reading….

  35. khalid said:

    can u give me the pictures of body modification of mitsubishi galant 86?

  36. Asimor said:

    Nice shop!!!
    I want to buy spare parts for my Honda N360, I can find here?
    Thanks,

  37. PAUL said:

    Hi David,
    Stumbled on your article while looking at pictures of old Japanese cars.Great reading I must say!I am working on a Mazda 616 Capella that has a piston engine.Can I possibly get a genuine carburetor,Rear bumper,fender lights and tail lamps for this car?Any links to sellers of these parts will be appreciated.
    Thanks
    Paul
    Nairobi