Alright, so I don't usually make these random story time posts so this one might seem a bit disjointed, but I got to thinking about brand loyalty (I know, it hurts to think so it's best I don't do it, haha). So, since I love pictures I'm totally going to do a little car history thing here.
So the car I learned to drive on was my father's 1964 1/2 Mustang with a 289 and four on the floor. Sweet, sweet car, had my name on it for the car I would take to college, only before I did, I put it on its roof. My dream Mustang totaled by me, ouch.
Here's a promo picture of one like ours.
Here's a picture my Dad just sent me of him in it years ago!
So after that I was down to driving my father's 1947 Ford Super Deluxe 8. Flathead V8 making all of 80 horsepower in a car that weighs roughly the same as a Nimitz class aircraft carrier. She was slow and safe. At the time I totally didn't appreciate the big girl, but now, looking back, I was one lucky kid cause that thing was pure awesome. I don't have any pictures of her from the front, but she looked just like this one only minus the wheel covers over the rear wheels and grey.
Here she is in the back of the garage. The white Z is my 88SS (which is coming up in a bit) and in the foreground is my dad's Austin Healey 3000 Mk. III (this car is so awesome it'll get a post of it's own some day).
Here's another of her from the side.
And one from the inside. Yes that's my family and yes I'm 13 in that picture, haha. But the reason I post this picture isn't so you can make fun of my baby face (although feel free, haha) but to show the epicness of the interior! This picture was taken in time for it's 50th birthday in 1997.
So to get back to brand loyalty, at this point its looking like I'm pretty Ford focused (focused, see what I did there, hah!) but then something happened. My best friend had, at the time, a 1993 Nissan Maxima. Just the plain Jane one with the VG30E and an auto, but I swear I have never seen anyone beat the piss out of a car as hard as he did. He destroyed that poor car, but, every morning, he'd walk out and it would fire up without even thinking twice.
So that settled it. I wanted a rear wheel drive sports car with that engine. Kind of limited my options there, but the Z31 is actually an awesome car. So I picked up this baby up. 1987 300ZX n/a.
Now this car was awesome, but a little nagging part of my brain knew it wasn't the best Z31 I could get. As far as I was concerned the fabled SS version was the best. So the hunt was on. Eventually I found one, flew out to check it out, and bought it on the spot (sold the n/a to help pay for it). She drove home flawlessly and has run without fail (knock on wood) for the last 7 years and 120,000 miles. The car is absolutely amazing. Needless to say, I was hooked on Nissan. I never intended to own anything other than a Nissan. Here she is, as she sits now, doesn't look bad for 180,000 miles!
I love this car, and I will keep it until I get so old I can't drive it anymore, then I hope to give it my children and let them care for it. However, since I'm now on the other side of the world, she now gets driven regularly by my mother, haha.
At any rate, back before coming to Japan I stumbled across an FC3S RX-7 for 200 bones. So naturally, I snatched it up. Got it running and quickly became bored with it. It was an n/a so the rotary engine was tough as nails but had no balls. So out came everything, interior, ac, heater, I mean everything. Then, still being bored, I bought an RHD steering rack and converted her over. Being so light weight she was almost as fast as my Z in a straight line, so pretty close to a 15 second flat quarter (that was my best time in my Z31 SS, which is completely bone stock). Then I exploded the clutch on it (doing drag runs in the driveway... we have a very long driveway, haha) and decided to turn it into a track car. Well the project stalled when I picked up another Z (which is coming up next). To be honest though, I never felt the love for this car. I absolutely loved the engine and astronomical revs, but the rest of the car just didn't feel right to me, not sure why. So I may swap a rotary into something in the future, but that was my first and maybe only foray into Mazdas. I really like Mazdas but that brand loyalty thing keeps coming back to me.
Anyways, here's what she looked like before I sold her to a friend (I was in the process of re-welding the firewall to better align the clutch and brake pedals).
So while I was working on the FC a friend mailed me with a craigslist ad for a 1971 Fairlady Z in Dallas. I jumped on that deal as fast as I possibly could. Towed it to a friends, and a new fuel pump, spark plugs and some starting fluid later, she was running like a champ. I got a temp plate for it, insured it for a day and drove her two hours to my dad's garage and started a full blown restoration on her. This project also stalled once I got a job here in Japan. Don't worry though, she's covered and inside so as soon as I get back this will start right back up again.
Now, even in it's rusty state, this car is freaking beautiful. I mean just look at it. If it came to a 432Z or a 2000GT I'd take the 432Z hands down, even though the 2000GT is worth about 200 grand more! This was it, my love for Nissans was completely cemented. I'd be damned if I was going to own anything other than a Nissan again.
I moved to New York shortly after to complete college and while in New York I was confronted with something that doesn't exist in the great state of Texas... snow. And a whole lot of it. Clearly my precious SS would not do for winter duty. So I set out to find a winter beater. With some scouring I found a $600 Infiniti M30 down in New Jersey. Went and bought it and drove it the 6 hours back without a hitch. By far the scariest part of the whole experience was actually having to go to Jersey, haha (I kid, I kid). This car pulled winter duty beautifully for one winter but during the summer she got lonely and I got bored. These cars in the states only came in automatic, but the engine was my favorite little VG30. So over the summer I swapped her to a manual. First AT to MT swap Ive done, wasn't easy, but sure was a lot of fun. When it came time to move home I sold her to a friend and to this day I regret it. When I get back to the states getting another one of these is definitely a goal of mine.
This car did teach me one thing though. For whatever need I had, Nissan had the solution. So off I went to Japan in search of classic Nissans. Only when I got here I found out that Nissans are like the exotics here and bloody expensive! I didn't have near the money needed for any of the Nissans I wanted, but I still needed (that should totally be wanted, but with me, I think needed covers it, haha) something sporty and fun to drive. For the second time in my life, I'd have to buy a car that wasn't a Nissan. Enter the AE86.
This car, is interesting. At the limit this is without a doubt the most predictable car in the world. When she's sideways it was the most fun I've had behind the wheel of a car and on the track the engine was slow but damned fun. Oh and the sound, the 4AG can make one amazing noise! But the motor hemorrhaged oil. Even after I got a full rebuild on it she was still bleeding oil form the distributor. The interior felt chincy and around town everyday she was brutal. I just had this feeling that if the car had been an S12 200SX instead it'd be just the same amount of fun at the limit, but less cheap feeling, and would manage to keep it's oil on the inside. Anyways, after a bit too much in the right foot department on a rainy day I spun her right into a guard rail, pushing in the a-pillar. And that was my first and last foray into Toyota. I really liked this car, but I didn't feel that intrinsic love that I feel with Nissan.
Now before I stuffed my AE86 I bought a Skyline. A 1972 rust bucket to be more precise. It is however, a dream car and next on the list to be restored. Unfortunately she's sitting downstairs giving me dirty stares every time I walk by for putting her off this long. Soon enough baby, soon enough.
The reason the Skyline is on the back burner is because I found another car floating around in a field. This car has been the source of an unbelievably amount of enjoyment in restoration. Every step of the way restoring this car has been just a lot of fun and without even driving it I can already say I'm completely in love with it. She should be registered and on the road in a couple of months and I absolutely cannot wait. She is of course, a Mitsubishi 360.
Wait. What? A Mitsubishi? But, what about brand loyalty? And this is where my revalation from the M30 got so quickly shot down. Whatever need I had Nissan had the solution, right? What about classic Kei cars with suicide doors? Uh oh, Nissan comes up short on that one. As a matter of a fact, when it comes to Kei cars in general Nissan comes up short altogether! So while part of my brain is screaming "You should be restoring a Nissan!" another part of my brain is saying "Look, Mitsubishi has one insane rally racing pedigree and have made some absolutely stunning cars. Why not be brand loyal to two companies?"
Now here comes the kicker. When I decided that it would be fun to see if my AE86 and a guardrail could occupy the same space I promptly needed something else to drive to work. I needed a daily driver. Something cheap that I could drive for a bit and then throw away once I got the 360 on the road. I talked to my buddy who runs the AE86 speed shop and he happened to have a spare car floating around that he would sell to me for 500 bones. It was a four speed manual and looked like a bit like an egg, but I took it, after all, getting to work is more important than shopping for something I like for weeks on end. I take it for a test drive and realize it's a Mitsubishi Minica. Aside from a rattling noise from the front (which interestingly is the brake pads not fitting perfectly in the calipers, although she stops without a problem) she drives surprisingly solid.
Now at first, I hated this car. It represented how unoriginal and uninspired the original RWD Minicas from the 60s and 70s had become. Not only that recently on rainy days the engine has been dying. I changed the oil in her and put in some new plugs (the old ones looked like they had been in there since the factory line) and the engine problems cleared right up. I also spent some time underneath and started to appreciate the simplicity of the car.
Then I started thinking that I got this car all wrong. This car isn't about being inspired or original or sporty, this car is all about simplicity. It's about creating a car that even a cretin like me can understand and fix with a hammer if he has to. I mean, hell, the clutch is cable operated! You can't get simpler than that. And then I realized that it's actually extremely similar to my old Mitsubishi 360. I got blinded by the Nostalgia, but now that I think about it, in 1967 you had plenty of exceedingly fun and beautiful cars to chose from. You could get Datsun Roadsters, Toyota Sports 800s, Honda S800s, Skylines, or my personal favorite, my father's 1967 Austin Healey 3000 Mk. III.
Why would one chose a small, underpowered Mitsubishi Kei? Small, cheap, practical, and so simple you can fix it with a hammer.
Then I went blasting down a gravel road and the simplicity meant that even for a front wheel drive car she was fairly predictable. Now every time I get in the car I have these strange visions of a roll cage, triple bike carbs and blasting down a really, really narrow dirt road topped out in fourth.
This car, this Minica I hated so much, has become a winner in my book. What's this? Two Mitsubishi in a row and I feel some strange attachment to both of them? I think my brand loyalty has just grown by one!
So that was obscenely long, but was enjoyable to write!
Hope y'all enjoyed it as much as I did.