This year marks momentous anniversaries for several Japanese institutions. The Nissan Skyline GT-R turned 50 in February, and the Nissan Fairlady Z will celebrate its 50th this fall. To commemorate these events, Nissan held a 50th anniversary celebration not at its Yokohama headquarters, its Ginza gallery, or its Zama warehouse, but at an expressway rest stop containing a Starbucks, McDonalds, and udon shop.
That’s because Ashigara Service Area is located along the Tomei Expressway, which is also celebrating its golden anniversary this year. Sections of it opened starting February 1, 1969 and continued through that spring until the full line was open by May 26. Though Nissan would never officially admit it, the histories of the Tomei and the GT-R and Z are inexorably linked, as the highway was once a famed stomping ground for high-speed racers, whose favored machines were often GT-Rs and Zs. The Tomei Expressway is also the most direct route to Fuji Speedway, and Ashigara is located under the southeastern face of Mount Fuji.
The celebration brought out PCG10 Skyline GT-Rs, a KPGC110, R32, R33, R34, and 50th Anniversary editions of the Fairlady Z and R35 GT-R. There was also a display of the GT-R badge made out of Tomica. Attendees were also offered a 50km test drive of the 50th anniversary GT-R that went up to Sugura Bay and back. Of course, diecast cars were offered for sale, and even anniversary edition chocolates (which we will review in an upcoming article). GT-R head honcho Hiroshi Tamura was also on hand to speak and be interviewed. Sure, it’s an unusual location for a big celebration, but under the circumstances we think it’s entirely appropriate.