Driving through Japan in a red-on-black DR30 Skyline festooned with emergency lights is akin to prowling rural Georgia in an orange ’69 Dodge Charger. Or Miami in a white Testarossa. Or Los Angeles in a black ’82 Firebird with a pulsating red light in the grille. Seibu Keisatsu was the premiere Japanese cop drama of its time and, having been sponsored by Nissan, featured a whole lotta Skylines.
In Osaka, post-Naniwa Swap Meet, we were at Tempozan Harbor Village’s Showa era food court. In the midst of deciding who should be the woman in the Daihatsu CO10T diorama, we received a message from our friend Ryu Asada.
If that name sounds familiar, that’s because he’s Mattel’s resident Honda head responsible for such cars as the Hot Wheels CRX and EF Civic. Turns out, Ryu was visiting his hometown of Osaka. “Hey, do you want to see my friend’s Seibu Keisatsu police car?” he asked. I believe the only suitable response to a question like that is, “Hell to the yes!”
Sunday evenings at 8:00pm, between the years of 1979 and 1984, adolescent boys across Japan planted themselves in front of the TV, tuned in to the latest adventures of the ice-cold Sgt Keisuke Daimon and his elite police corps. Seibu Keisatsu loosely translates to “West Tokyo Police,” and it fulfilled every late-70s cop show stereotype you can imagine. Each episode was packed with gunfights, smackdowns and, of course, car chases.
Nissan was a headline sponsor, so naturally they supplied producers with a never ending stockpile of cars. It is estimated that over the 263-episode run, 4,680 cars were destroyed. Do the math and that’s 20 per show. Most chase fodder consisted of Cedrics, Laurels, and the occasional Fairlady Z, but the hero car was always Skyline.
Initially that meant a black and gold C210 2000 Turbo GT-E, but when sixth-generation R30 debuted in 1981, the program made the switch to showcase Nissan’s latest and greatest. Though the product placement was obvious, Daimon & Co never referred to the car by name. Instead, they called it the Machine RS.
Ryu and his childhood pal Hiroyuki Narazaki were waiting for us as we hopped out of our cab at our meeting point, a Komeda Coffee in Minoh City. Hiro, you see, was born in 1979, just as the series kicked off, and it had an immense impact on his formative years. He owns loads of Seibu Keisatsu memorabilia, purposefully dresses in 80s garb when he’s not decked out in one of the show’s slick old school suits, and drives a replica of its star car.
With the switch to the R30, producers tripled the Skyline’s role. Each Machine RS served a different purpose in their fictional world. RS-1 was the lead car, equipped with an afterburner system and twin 20mm machine guns. RS-2 was the reconnaissance vehicle, furnished with an array of communications equipment and trunk mounted shell launchers. RS-3 was the only non-turbo car, a mobile data lab with tracking maps and infrared image processing.
Hiro’s car is probably closest to Machine RS-2, minus all the computer equipment (which was basically just a pretty but non-functional light array and special effects anyway). The show car’s classic Nardi three-spoke and AD Three rear visor were likely contributed by Japanese car parts store Autobacs, another sponsor, but these days the visor is an extremely rare piece.
The RS-2 was the only one without a large police light bar on the roof. It also ran on Enkei 92s (Enkei was a sponsor of the show) and although Hiro’s car has two-piece SSR meshies instead, they are of the proper gold color (the RS-3 had silver wheels). Sadly, he doesn’t have grenade launchers or tear gas cannons in his trunk either.
Like the show car Hiro’s is powered by Nissan’s FJ20ET, a 16-valve turbo four. With electronic fuel injection and twin chain-driven cams (this was before Nissan began using “D” to denote dual cams in their engine codes), it produced 190ps, and impressive figure for its day.
But enough about the car already. The whole purpose of having a Seibu Keisatsu Machine RS at your disposal is to wail through the streets of Japan like you’re fighting crime!
Driving through Osaka in the Japanese version of KITT is as fun as it sounds. Naturally, Hiro had the Seibu Keisatsu soundtrack and its trademark horn section ready to go. If anyone gave us funny looks we didn’t notice because we were too busy chasing imaginary perps.
By modern standards, the DR30 isn’t particularly quick. The turbo lags on its way to an admittedly stellar 7,500 rpm redline. By 1983 standards though, it’s a rocket! The FJ20ET was the most powerful production engine you could get in Japan at the time.
Still, it didn’t feel like Seibu Keisatsu because we were surrounded by modern kei cars and hybrids. What we needed were some period-correct slabs of Nihon steel.
Luckily, Ryu and Hiro knew exactly where to find them. Near the coffee shop was lot with nothing built on it but a layer of asphalt. That in itself is rare for a developed suburb like Minoh, which has seen explosive growth since Ryu and Hiro went to school here (A lot of what’s in these photos were rice fields then). This lot, though, was home to a fleet of immaculate nostalgics. There were matching white R31s, successor to Hiro’s Machine RS-2 and one of the least-loved Skylines.
The lot did not seem to be related to an adjacent house or building. However, all the cars, parked in tight formation, were spotless despite being exposed to the elements. It was a collection of oddballs, too — none of the usual suspects like Celicas or Fairlady Zs. Instead we had a Mazda Cosmo AP and Isuzu 117.
Not only was there a Corona Mark II but it was late second-gen version, pretty much unloved even by the most ardent of Toyotaku. And it was a sedan to boot. To get a better look at the stunning Nissan President, we squeezed ourselves into the back of the lot, which was completely open with no security.
We were also digging on an absolutely pristine fifth-gen Toyota Crown. Foreign cars like an Opel Manta (with fender mirrors!) and a BMW 2002 also lingered, as well as a modern Honda minivan. None had license plates, yet someone was clearly taking good care of them.
Up front stood another green Corona Mark II. Though a hardtop, it’s still one of the kouki models that few would think to collect. Somehow, though, seeing such stately if unconventional classics preserved with care gave us a newfound appreciation for them. During our time there the owner(s) were nowhere to be seen.
After a bit more time in the Machine RS-2, Hiro dropped us off at the train station. Without the Skyline we were suddenly regular civilians again. Whomever the owner of that peculiar collection of classics was, it was one mystery we Seibu Keisatsu pretenders could not solve.