In the 80 years Nissan’s been around, its flagship showrooms have moved several times. The first truly glamorous location was at the 4-chome intersection in the heart of Ginza, sharing real estate during the booming 1960s with some of Japan’s oldest and most expensive department stores. Nissan eventually got tired of switching out display vehicles into the distinctive curved glass building by crane and relocated a few blocks away, to the lobby of Nissan’s massive Tokyo headquarters. Then in 2009, to the surprise of many, Nissan left its long-time home in Japan’s capital for brand new digs in Yokohama.
One of the main reasons for the move was to get closer to Nissan’s factories and shipping facilities, located by Yokohama’s sprawling seaports. Along with the new crib came a new lobby showroom, easily quadrupling the square footage of the old one in Tokyo. With Nissan’s 80th birthday party in full swing, we decided to check out the space in person and meet the guests of honor.
Flagship showrooms are kind of like combination dealerships and museums. Sure, they’re typically on the first floor of the company mothership, but tire kickers, fans and passers by are all encouraged to come in an gawk. You can sit in whatever new car they have without the pressure of a salesman asking if he can put you in one today, and they usually rotate classics or other rare cars in and out.
During our visit the fourteenth-generation of the venerable Skyline had just debuted, so prime real estate was devoted to showcasing this very important part of Nissan’s lineup. Interestingly, the striking new sedan, sold as the Infiniti Q50 in the rest of the world, actually wears the Infiniti badge on its grille despite being branded a Nissan in Japan. The company says it’s to let Japanese customers know the world class status of their car.
To show how far the Skyline has come, Nissan also displayed a gorgeous 1965 Prince Skyline 2000GT. While you could paw and sit in all the new Skylines you wanted, the classics were strictly off limits to human contact. As devout JNCers know, this is the street version of the race car that birthed the Skyline legend and predecessor to the GT-R.
Behind it were photos from Nissan’s 80th anniversary ad campaign. If some of those cars look familiar, that’s because many of our very own SoCal Datsun owners were hand-picked for this at last year’s Nissan Jam.
Speaking of GT-Rs, Nissan had a special spot set aside for newly re-crowned King of the ‘Ring. The GT-R NISMO had just reclaimed the title for fastest production car around Germany’s famed Nürburgring with a 7:08.679 lap time, achieved thanks to a bunch of suspension and aero tweaks and larger turbos from the GT3 race version giving the already bonkers “standard” GT-R a 50hp bump.
Furthermore, since this was Nissan’s global headquarters they displayed cars sold all over the world. Sure, there were kei cars and Cimas, but what’s more exotic than a classic Skyline to the average Japanese? A big, honkin’ Nissan Titan, built in Mississippi and sporting a cargo bed so big it could double as a Tokyo hotel room.
Joining the Prince were a court of fair ladies, arguably an even more important model than the Skyline, historically speaking. Since the new car section featured a Black Cherry Z33 Fairlady Z roadster, the classic counterpart was a gorgeous Grand Prix Maroon 240Z G-nose.
Also displayed was a 1952 Datsun Sports DC-3, Nissan’s very first “sports car.” Though the 860cc engine and leaf-sprung chassis was straight out of a Datsun pickup of the same era, the open top and swoopy-for-its-time body work designed by Yuichi Ohta (son of the founder of the defunct Ohta car company) gave it a sporting feel. Only 50 were built, making this a very rare piece of Nissan history.
Of course, no Japanese destination would be complete without a gift shop. The Nissan Boutique offers a mind-boggling array of goods, from standard fare like model cars and keychains to uniquely Japanese items like souvenir towels and Nissan-branded cookies. There was even a Datsun Fairlady Roadster dog bed.
If you’re on a budget though, you can always ask for the free brochures of your favorite models. Catalogs for high-end models like the President or GT-R take it to a whole new level with hard covers like you’d find on an actual book. You can even peruse it while sipping a concoction from the built-in Starbucks.
Everywhere you turn there’s something interesting to see. Minicar aficionados could spend hours gazing at a mile-long display of nearly every Nissan model known to man, in 1:43 scale. Or, how about an exhibit of Nissan badges through the ages, starting with the leaping hare hood ornament from 1935?
If you’re craving even more Nissan history, there’s the Heritage Corridor where you can learn about the company’s founding and significant milestones. We love the fact that the life-size photo of the Calsonic Group A R32 even has its wheels cambered out.
And if all that hasn’t tired you out yet, there’s the brand new NISMO headquarters nearby. These photos are actually from two separate trips, but they are close enough to hit up in one afternoon. At NISMO central, you can ogle legendary cars like the Z-Tune R34 GT-R or the JGTC UNISIA JECS R33 GT-R.
There’s even a window where you can watch NISMO techs working on customer cars while Nissan tempts you with a smorgasbord of tuning parts and NISMO branded gear.
A die-hard Nissan nut could easily blow an entire afternoon in Yokohama just visiting these sights. The cars on display are constantly changing as well, so each time you visit you might see something new. Yokohama is only about an hour south of Tokyo and easily accessible by train. You can find out more information, including directions, here.
Some photos by John Moran, president of Empire Z.