QotW: Which JNC was the one that got away?

Usui_Touge49-Toyota_Corolla AE86

Life with cars is cruel as it is in dating. Sometimes, you just don’t know you how good you have it until it’s gone. Or, maybe those are the lucky ones, because they actually had some time with their soul mate, no matter how brief. Others never met them to begin with, or were a minute to late to make that call asking them to prom before they were picked up by someone else.

Which JNC was the one that got away?

What say you, dear reader? As always, the most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What’s your best Japanese taxi story?” 

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It was an extremely hard choice between this week’s two finalists. Mike RL411 had a great story about a harrowing cab ride in an actual classic Nissan taxi in 1962, which included yet another brilliant reason for why fender mirrors are superior to door mirrors. However, by a hair, the winner this week was Leon Dixon for his tale of the ultimate car-based faux pas and its insight into Japanese culture:

Ahhh, yes. I had been to Nihon many times, but I learned an important lesson one day in Hiroshima when I hopped into the first taxi available as I arrived. At the time I was working for Mazda (North America) and there were corporate/business subtleties in Japan of which I was unaware as an American.

The taxi was, of course, immaculate and driver very courteous. But as we neared the gates of Mazda headquarters where I was headed, suddenly the driver began to look and act a bit nervous. I wondered what was wrong? Ignorant foreigner that I was, I had hopped into a Mitsubishi taxi and no way was the driver going onto the hallowed grounds of Toyo Kogyo Mazda in a Fuji Heavy Industries product!

I asked the driver to continue on, but the guards at the gate gave us a rather forboding stare and the driver abruptly braked and then made a U-turn! What the? He politely told me that I must exit the taxi here and that he could go no further. And that was that. I ended up walking a long way to the building where I was expecting to go with my suitcases (in very hot and humid weather)… never realizing I had broken protocol.

One of my Japanese counterparts had a chuckle when I told him the story. “Leon-san, next time it will be best choice to select Mazda taxi!” I followed that advice in Hiroshima with great success. And from that day forward, if another make of taxi would pull up and open the door for me, I would always politely inform the driver, “Mat-soo-da, please”…and it worked.

Omedetou, your comment has earned you a set of decals from the JNC Shop!

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26 Responses to QotW: Which JNC was the one that got away?

  1. Ian G. said:

    This is easy. I lived in an apt. complex in college that had what seemed to be an abandoned ’86 or ’87 Toyota Corolla AE86 GTS hatch in two-tone blue. I was/am into just Toyota MR2s at the time and owned 2 MKI’s at this point. I really was considering picking up this car but at this point one of my MR2s was out of commission (this one seemed to be as well) and I had limited funds. I did have mechanic friends who would have kept the car for me.

    At a local autocross, my good buddy (another Toyota fan named Ian) had a nice AE86 that he was competing in. He has some other AE85/AE86’s as well. I told him about the car in my complex. This was around 1999 and the whole drift craze was geographically limited (Japan), and even thought I’d seen some BEST Motoring videos, I was just thinking there was not way I could afford to buy this and restore it.. So my buddy was interested and I left a note on the windshield for him.
    The owner got back to him within a couple of weeks, and sold the non-working GTS for $600!!! :/ He proceeds to restore the car. I don’t even think the mechanical issues were that major (head gasket and some other maintenance), the paint cleaned up quite nicely. In a few month’s time, I come to find the restored car running in the auto-x as well. I think my buddy kept the car and just sold it within the past year.

    To summarize: This was definitely the one that got away. I should have inquired about it myself instead of assume I couldn’t buy it. Nice GTS hatch, shiny original paint. Minor engine rebuild. $600!!! #ugh!

  2. Ant said:

    Jumped the gun on this one by talking about it in the “My Summer Car” article a few days back but to summarise…

    The closest I came to buying a “proper” JNC was around mid-2011. I’d replaced my old (stolen) MX-5 with a much newer car and it wasn’t really hitting the spot, so I searched around for a proper classic that I could run on the side.

    I eventually whittled the shortlist down to three cars, each very different but all offering the kind of character I was looking for: a Saab 96, a Volkswagen Beetle, and a Datsun 100a.

    Started looking for examples of each. Beetles were easiest to find, predictably. Saabs were relatively prolific and relatively affordable, but oddly every seller I contacted failed to get back to me – I can only assume they weren’t really keen to let go. And there were just two Datsun 100a for sale.

    One was a basket case, the other, in a sort of faded ochre shade, looked like a prime candidate. Price was good – less than £1k if I remember correctly (which was the going rate just a few years ago!) and it looked fairly complete. But on contacting the seller, who was 250-or-so miles away, and asking whether he thought the little 100a would make it, I got the surprisingly honest answer of “Err… I wouldn’t attempt it myself…”

    So that was that, and I bought a Beetle. Which made it all of 200 miles, before I took it apart and couldn’t muster the motivation to put it back together again in the two subsequent years it sat in my parents’ garage. I certainly regret doing that, but I also regret not giving the Datsun a chance – maybe it’d have made those 250 miles after all…

  3. Derrick said:

    This one that got away and is not coming back ever.
    Ive been fixing up my 68 datsun 1000 and finding parts are very hard. I had posted a wanted ad and was told of a car out in a tiny town about 2 or 3 hours away. Found the car but no one was home left a note but no reply tied a few more time 4 or 5 but could not waste much more time driving out.
    So a few years later i was at a swap meet looking though old car ads and had a few 1000 ads sitting on the table. A fellow stops laughes at the car ad and says i just crushed one of these. Started talking and it turned out to be that car. So though all thats driving and leaving notes it got away

  4. DanTsun said:

    oh let me tell you of The 2 x Datsun 160j sss coupes ( datsun 710) I once had in my possession, and you will know misery and woe.

    My first was purchased cheap ($350!!!) and had an 80’s silvia SOHC motor and doglegged 5 spd. My god that thing could move! After a few months of ownership it was repeatedly stolen and recovered from outside my home, as the thieves discovered they could unlock and start it with a two pronged fork. It just wasn’t the same with no 1st gear left ( thieves couldn’t fathom the dogleg), so being a poor teenager I s couldn’t afford repairs and sold it for parts.
    My second was another cheapy purchase, with some kind of 2 litre Datsun twin carb motor transplanted, mazda familia body kit molded on, and painted British racing green. It actually looked and went great, until I made the cardinal mistake of letting gas station employees top up my oil, ( they begged me to let them do it when i declined the first few times)…I came out from paying to find 3 attendants crowded around my engine bay. They had twisted the oils fill cap teh wrong way and snapped the top off, then wound it further the wrong way, when i took over to remedy, i touched what was left of the cap and it fell into the rocker cover innards….
    The gas-jockeys told it would be fine as it fell ‘down the side’ haha – no.
    I ripped of the rocker cover, fished out the plastic, bought some gasket paper and glue, and jury-rigged a rocker cover gasket replacement…which unfortunately dd not last long at all. Over the next few week the engine lost pressure, blue huge amounts of smoke, and eventually became a lawn ornament, until I accepted that again, I couldn’t afford to do anything about it and had to sell it to someone else with the dream.
    SO yeah, I ache for that car more than any, so unique looking and a pure joy to drive. And now rare as hens teeth.
    I still feel honoured to owned and driven not 1 but 2 in my lifetime but they are the ones that got away.

  5. goodshow_aa said:

    About 5 years ago, I lived in Garden Grove CA. Some guy whom will not be named, knew my brother and was offering him to do an rb swap on his s30z, well this same guy happened to have a super clean kenmerri skyline, YES, this is real, and he had it for cheap and wanted to sell it to my brother( who wanted to buy it with me, because it is my absolute favorite car) funny story is, that this guy also had a brother that wanted to boso up the car, this car was immaculate, very clean car, the guy only wanted 4500 -5k from my brother for it. Yes, that is correct not a typo. Well during the process of him sifting things out with his brother, he is stabbed by someone at a bar or restaurant, then hospitalized for weeks, at this point things were at a stand still. So I am waiting to hear back from the guy, and my brother talked with him while he was in the hospital via text. The next thing I hear from my brother is that the guy got out of the hospital to find out that someone bought it from his brother while he was in the hospital. Heart breaking and the one that got away does not even come close to describing this. At the time people were buying the cars in Japan for around 15-25 k in all types of conditions, and somewhere buying them in other countries for 8-15k, so this was the deal of a life time. still leave a saltiness with me when I think about this.

  6. Justin said:

    Although this car didn’t get away from me personally, I was involved in the process, so I feel as though it’s a suitable story.

    My best friend was looking to buy an RA29 Celica a few years back, living in Vancouver, Canada out picking were rather slim. However just to the south of us is the great state of Washington. Pick any local craigslist in Washington state – especially Seattle-Tacoma and you’ll find some pretty slick JNC on any given day.

    On this particular day, my friend and I had planned to leave nice and early on a sunday and make the 6 hour drive down past Seattle to a small ocean side community in WA state. We hopped in my AE71 Corolla and blasted down the i5.

    Having spoken to this fine gentleman only a day prior, we were rather excited to finally see a half decent example of one of these cars in person. Much to our surprise and dismay, when we showed up the guy informed us that he had sold the car the evening prior. Thanks for the heads up buddy!

    To top it all off, my muffler fell off my 4age’d corolla on the highway back. It was a deafening ride back to our Country.

    My friend did end up getting an RA29 after all, and probably got a better deal on the one he purchased from a farm in Canada, however let this be a PSA for all you craigslisters. Always confirm your appointments before driving hours and hours to see a car.

  7. Kane said:

    Ahh yes, I do think of this time to time.

    The one that got away from me was a 1990 short wheel base nissan patrol, In diesel. It was a white example, it had black steel wheels with mud terrain tyres. As well as a lift kit, steel bull bar and a few other goodies. For a 4×4 of its age and how they get used it was in remarkable shape.

    So I asked my freind if he could take me to look at/potentialy buy it, he agreed. We got there gave it a good look at, test drove it (it was fun :D) and gave it another good look. I was very intrested…. very interested. But being a car I had to offer a bit less than what it was worth. He told me ‘someone else is comming to look at it, if they dont offer me anything higher its yours’. I than said ‘fair enough, let me know what they offer and ill see if I can up them’.

    My freind drove me home. It had been along day at work before I had a look at the car, plus I find it extremely easy to sleep in a car when someone else is driving. So comfy and you have your music playing, I love it.

    So I had a nap. I woke up after the drive home to find a few missed calls on my phone. It was the guy with the patrol… ‘sh!t, I need to call him!’. I returned his call to find out that the other person looked at it only shortly after i was there…. and only offered a couple hundred more than me!!!!. ‘Sorry mate, tryed calling you but no answer.. he offered more so it took it’. Dammm ‘ok then’.

    I never ended up getting a shorty patrol, I think everything would have been different it i did. Im not complaining about what I have now, but a nice four wheel drive is always a good experience to have.

  8. Sideglide said:

    5 years ago, I was also browsing Craigslist, Washington State listings, and came across one of those fabled “elderly-owned” classics. In this case it was a Mark II x10, circa 1974 I believe. It was mint. Not the kind of chewing gum mint, it was 5-star hotel on your pillow kind of mint. 30,000 miles on it, and was trailered behind a mobile home. It even had one of those mobile home club association stickers on the back. Perfect black interior, non-split dash, and carpet you could kick your shoes off and relax on. All this wrapped in silver and shiny chrome bumpers.

    The owners mainly used it to tool around the mobile trailer grounds as they moved about the country. They took +12 pics and were sure to show the tiny scratch just above the left headlamp. No doubt, it had a run in with a walker or wheelchair.

    To top it all off, it was even a respectable $2500. I tried to hate it. I wanted to hate it. Because although it was close to my old stomping grounds, I was an ocean away. Even if I buy it, I can’t drive it or enjoy it I thought. But, I just HAD to save it.

    I called a good buddy who had zero knowledge of cars, but a great sense of adventure. He agrees to drive 75 miles and meet the owner first thing in the morning (side note: I saw the listing in Japan and messaged my friend at 5 AM PST to get mobile). He called the owner and they had it while he was on the way!

    In the next 2 hours I hunched over my phone waiting for a call or text that we got this holy treasure. Instead, I got 4 words:

    “He sold it”

    I was gutted. I had never seen it face-to-face but felt I lost a loved one. There are plenty of opportunities to get some cool cars here in Japan, but it was the one that got away back home that stings the most.

    • Ant said:

      “I got 4 words: He sold it”

      Is the missing word because the fourth is unprintable in polite company?…

      • Sideglide said:

        Ha! Kinda. I flubbed on my part since I was writing before I needed to dash out the door. The missing, mystery word was “already”.

        It might as well be an explicative. It sure prompted me to say a few…

  9. Robin said:

    cant relate to this weeks question, but love the picture… i see a Sunny Truck, March, Altezza and a Trueno I show appreciation.

    • Ant said:

      Think that might be a Starlet rather than a March. Either way, like the Altezza, a definite future JNC.

      • Robin said:

        I think you are correct… rear looks very much the same as a k11 march from that angle… and I recently finished a 1/24 scale k11 march so thats about the only shape embedded in my head currently haha.

        Thanks for correcting me.

  10. Banpei said:

    Back in 2004 I set my mind on buying an AE86 and saving up money to buy one around 1500 euros. (a good one that is)
    Going through the local classifieds website (back then similarly styled as Craigslist) I found a shabby LHD Datsun 240K C110 coupe. I contacted the seller and he wanted only 1000 euros for the car. It was in need of some welding, but nothing structural. I had the money, but my mind was set on an AE86 and decided to save up a few more bucks for that instead.
    Of course I made up my mind after two days, but the C110 already had been sold by then.

    I don’t regret it in hindsight as I did buy the AE86 after all. 😉

    Another one is also a sad story. Back in 2008/2009 I photographed a S14 that was apparently not getting a lot of miles. More and more dirt, leaves, snow, etc was clinging on it and the paint was peeling off. A great source for photography, but in hindsight rather sad to see. Personally I wasn’t interested in owning an S14 around that time, but someone else saw the photos I made and asked me for the location. I told him where it was and he got back to me it had vanished. He managed to get in contact with the owner by asking around in the neighborhood. The owner sold it the day before to a scrapyard. My friend visited the scrapyard the same day, but the S14 already had been crushed including the engine and drivetrain. The wrecker simply could not understand why anyone would want a rusty, paint peeling 15 year old Nissan.

  11. MainstreaM said:

    I had a line on a genuine Starion GSR-V. The flatside with widebody underpinnings and a unique three valve 4g63 engine. The second intake valve chimed in above 2500 RPM. It was known as the Sirius DASH, Dual Action Super Head. Those silly Japanese and their crazy acronyms. The car was located in Western Australia. I had even went so far as to have made arrangements for importing to the states. Shortly before time, like a couple weeks away, I found out I would be getting a divorce. The money to be spent on a keen and clean example of such a rare version went to lawyers instead. When the taken for granted normality of life returned a couple of years later, the car had already moved on to a new owner. Cars and women, both can be a whole lot of trouble, sometimes more than they are worth.

  12. Steve said:

    I’ve had a few woulda/coulda/shoulda cars; you cars that you look at and think, I would/could/should buy that car but didn’t. Like a brand new leftover MkIV 6MT Supra in 1999, a brand new leftover RA42 Celica in 1985, a new S14 240SX. But the “one that got away” car was not a car, but a motorcycle. One Saturday, I went into a local Yamaha dealer to look at an FZR600 but saw a brand new leftover 1986 FZ750 that was on the dealer floor in 1991. Salesman told me that they just found the bike in the back room so they prepped it and put it on the floor at MSRP. I went home to think about it and decided to buy it even through I’d never learned to properly ride a bike. I figured I could learn after I bought it. Went back the next Saturday but it was gone. A couple months later I bought an FZR600 and have a few bikes since then but even to this day I still wish I had bought that FZ750…

  13. Andrew said:

    To this day I still toss and turn over this one….my very first car was a 2 door 1969 Datsun 510 that I got at 16 in 1998. I fell in love with them at the age of 14 after I saw a newspaper clipping of a mismatched color 510 for sale in Portland OR …..the side profile boxy shape hooked me instantly! I searched for years and ended up finding one close to me that my dad helped me purchase for $2,200 which I paid back with interest (took me two years bc it kept breaking!!!)

    Anyways at the same time I started playing the original Gran Turismo on Playstation and saw a Hakosuka – OMG AMAZING!!!!! From that day I dreamed of owning one but never thought it would be possible. Over the next 7-8 years I would buy cycle through about 30-40 cars (mostly datsuns – always owning 1-2 510’s)……and at about 2007 I heard from a friend there was a Datsun collection a couple towns over. I drove by and for the first time saw my “holy grail” – a white 1972 Nissan Skyine GTX 2 door (power windows) along with a rhd bluebird coupe, a rhd fairlady z, a rhd Datsun 610 sss, and a couple other datsuns. I couldn’t believe my eyes so I knocked on the door and no answer. I left a note and went by a few more times over the next 18 months but never got to talk to the owner, I was guessing he was military or something.

    Anyways one day in 2008 my friend told me he drove by and saw a for sale sign in the Hako!!!! Are you kidding me! I couldn’t believe my ears. I instantly left work and drove there as fast as I could with NO money not knowing how I would buy it but I had to! I pulled up and saw a phone number and a sign for $15,000!!!!!! I called and he picked up, could I be the next owner I thought?! After I spoke with him he told me the car was sold. I asked if he would come out and talk to me and about how I tried to meet him years earlier but he told me he couldn’t….that a buyer was on the way up from LA. After I got off the phone I was solo deflated and depressed I even think I cried 😭

    That’s my sucky story….

  14. Dutch 1960 said:

    That’s easy. The Car & Driver Rx2 IMSA race car (the one now in Mazda’s Irvine basement) was for sale about 1980, through a classified ad in Autoweek, for $8k. I was a starving college student, no $8k. Tore out the ad (it had a small photo as part of the ad), and I still have it somewhere. At least I know it ended up in a good home.

  15. Dadzsun said:

    I’ve got two misses that I regret.

    I’ve got a ’72 510 which is nearing completion so I wanted another project to start on. 2-3 years ago I found a ’72 Celica is great condition located in Wisconsin. The owner was willing to tow the car to the Sault Cdn border crossing for $1200 USD! I eventually backed out because my oldest son was in a National program of a VERY expensive sport – only for him to quit after he ‘met a girl’ a year later…

    Last month I was in Calgary for work and happened to browse local Kijiji, I went to see a ’72 (spotting the theme here?) 520. It was in pieces but the chassis was very clean. It was a perfect project and only $1000 Cdn (like $400 USD LOL). I was so close to pulling the trigger but getting that damn thing towed to the East Coast was going to cost thousands more which unfortunately pushed my ideal project budget out of reach.

  16. ahja said:

    Hmm…opportunity cost. If I had gotten one of the 240, 260, or 280Zs I went to see, I would have been in the Z car life I dreamed about from childhood. But I would have missed out on my AE86 and everything the hachiroku life has to offer. I didn’t even like (other) Corollas (just mine and only mine) when I got my first hachi. A decade+ later and AE86s are so integral to who I am and how I see myself that I can’t really even imagine the alternate reality me living a hachi-free life. And I openly profess that AE86s are the greatest car of all time, that ever has been made and ever will be made. And I’,m not alone in that sentiment.

    What else got away? A white turbo II s5 RX7. Another of my dream cars. But if I had caught it, then I wouldn’t have gotten my third hachi. I did have an abandoned SR5 hatchback AE86 get away from me. It was abandoned and I tried to track down where and how I would be able to bring it to my life with a clean title and legally and all. Unfortunately I got the run around, but I had already mentally committed to having another car. So I got something else. But it was that poor old boxy hatchback sitting on the side of the road, fate unknown, that inspired me to become a multiple-car-at-once car owner in the first place. The guy’s house that it got abandoned in front of knew nothing about it and was derogatory and condescending towards it. What a dick. And whoever abandoned it in the first place. Shame x10000.

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