So, I sold my daily driver (the March Super Turbo) a while back and have been on the hunt for a new daily since. I have just two rules when buying cars here: it must be a car that was not available in America and it must be a manual. I have other preferences, like I would prefer a two door, but they all take a back seat to the two rules.
I've been mulling this over for a while and have narrowed it down to 5 cars that I'm interested in (although, I'm open to new suggestions). I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts on the five I've selected and if you think I should be considering any other candidates!
(A quick note about my dailies, I live just 3 kilometers from work; I can walk it if I have to. The speed limit the entire way there is just 40 km/h and the only time I ever see a speed limit higher is when I hop on the highway to Tokyo, which we always end up doing in my girlfriend's Ractis.)
1973 Honda Life:
I've talked to the owner via email about this car and it's currently priced at 420,000 yen shipped to my door. He also sent me pictures of the interior, engine, etc. and it's in pretty decent shape. Very minimal rust and paint that won't need a respray immediately. The engine runs, but needs some cleaning/work to get it purring perfectly. The biggest draw to this car is the shape (I think it looks as good as the N360) and the fact that it's got the fantastic little air-cooled, 36 hp, twin that was in the N360. It's got door mirrors (which ahve been removed) but I can get fender mirrors for it from Classic Car Nagoya for pretty cheap. I'm pretty tall at 6'4", but there's enough space for me to build a custom seat rail and scoot the front seat further back.
1982 Suzuki Cervo:
This one is pretty cheap as well at 450,000 all said and done. It looks to have minimal rust, but all I have to go on are the pictures in the ad. We're planning on shooting this guy an email this week for more pictures and information. I sat in one of these over the weekend (there was a pristine one for sale in Okazaki, it was 1,000,000 yen though) and it's tight inside. Fortunately, there's room behind the front seat. That means I can modify the seat rail and get a little more room. Unfortunately, as this is a later model, the engine, a 550cc 2 stroke triple, actually has less power than the 360cc version due to emissions stuff. Although, I reckon with some good carbs and some proper expansion chambers, I should see 40 hp out of the engine, maybe more. Being rear-engined, it's like the original Honda Beat, only better looking. Speaking of Beats...
1991 Honda Beat:
I actually checked this one out in person as it's about a 30 minute drive from here. The owner was a nice guy and good to talk to. It's pretty cheap at 380,000 yen but it's got a few rough spots. The soft top is a little worse for the wear and will probably leak in the rain. The engine is tired (although, he said that if I'm serious he would consider doing a swap from a crashed Beat he has that had a great engine in it prior to sale). The biggest problem with this car is space. All kei cars are going to be tight, but the Beat doesn't have any room for me to modify the seat rail and get the seat further back. If I change the steering wheel I might be able to get a bit more room, but it'll always be knees-on-the-dash tight. The other problem with it is that it isn't 25 years old yet, which means I'll have to wait another 3 years before I can ship it home. I'd really rather have something older. Still, it's a mini NSX and is supposed to feel like a motorcycle with four wheels!
1971 Nissan Laurel:
As opposed to the Kei cars, it would be nice to have a full size car to sit in. It's much more expensive at 680,000 yen, pushing my budget past its limit, but it just might be worth it. The main draw of this car is that it already has Shaken (the Japanese version of inspection), which costs in the neighborhood of 80,000 yen for a 2.0 liter. I have talked to the owner of this one via email as well and he supplied me with a few extra pictures. There are some rough spots in the paint that were touched up poorly and the front of the driver door has some rust growing under the paint. He sent a picture of the underside as well though, and that looks surprisingly solid. It will need a full re-spray in the future (at which point, I'd remove the vinyl roof and go back to clean steel), but I can probably get away with cruising it for a few years first. The interior also leaves a lot to be desired. It'll most likely need new seats. Unfortunately, it's the single carb model, and while the twin SU carb manifold and carbs show up on Yahoo Auctions occasionally, they cost an unbelievable 100,000 yen ish! Of course, this car would make a perfect candidate for an L20B engine swap.
1978 Isuzu 117 Coupe:
It's far too expensive at 720,000 yen, completely busting my budget. However, aside from a cracked dashboard, it looks like it's in excellent shape. The interior leaves a little to be desired, but the exterior looks rust free and solid. It's also supposedly a one-owner car, so it should have been well looked after. It's got the 1.8 SOHC motor in it, which unfortunately there isn't a picture of, but it's in Aichi and easy to check out (about an hour drive from my house). If I can talk them down 100,000 yen, it might be worth it.
I'm actually leaning very heavily towards either the Life or the Cervo. They aren't full size cars and are going to be comparatively slow, but they won't break the bank and will still deliver barrels of laughs. I would like to save some money for the Bellett and the Cosmo, and the 117 Coupe will make that not possible. The Laurel will also push it, making things very tight for a few months. On the other hand, both the Laurel and the 117 are just so damn pretty!
Alright, help me out here guys! What do you think?