For most, the term “Sunday drive” means a leisurely excursion, to no place in particular, just a way to exercise the family car. In Japan, it can include a number of things — blissfully empty touge, kohi (coffee) and kuruma (car) at one of the many PA (parking areas), exercises in regional eating (this is Japan after all), straight line expressway blasts, and scenic seaside roads. For one Sunday drive, we decided to combine a few of these Japanese pursuits, including — I was promised — the best fresh fish breakfast in all of Kanto.
Starting at 06:00, I took a near abandoned expressways in my own S800 to a nominated PA on the Yokosuka Toll Road. There, waiting for me were a set of Honda S600, S800, and Toyota Sports 800.
Shortly after arriving, we were joined by a Subaru ff-1 G Sports, a curious machine: two door, front-wheel-drive, full independent suspension, 1300cc, in-board brakes and, like the Yotahachi, equipped with a horizontally opposed engine. This one, lowered on a set of clean Minilite wheels, was particularly quick and, unlike the rest of the cars here, a number were sold in the US. It was too Subaru’s first step into the sports sedan market.
Though smaller than small, the Sports 800, or Yotahachi, is a very well-proportioned car. The mini-2000GT vibe coming through strongly with its similar headlight cowl, T-grille, low-stance, sleek lines, and inlay cloisonné badges.
The red Yotahachi was in excellent condition, and the owner wasn’t scared to give it full throttle. The resulting sound of its air-cooled flat-twin, coming through loud and clear, reminded me of my old 356, which had a similar deep thrum.
In keeping with its lightweight, aircraft-inspired construction techniques, the Yotahachi has an aluminum hood, trunk lid, and removable targa top. A silver example, on period Hayashi Street wheels, looked rather purposeful among the trucks at the early morning PA stop.
The Honda S800 and Toyota Sports 800 were sub-1000cc racing rivals in their day, and the usual story is while the twin-cammed Honda produced more power at its often quoted 10,000 rpm, the Toyota was lighter and more aerodynamic, thus equalizing their on-track performance.
No such racing antics were undertaken on this day though, as our destination was through some quiet suburbs to Joga-shima, an island on the tip of the Miura Hanto (hanto is Japanese for peninsula).
Along for the day too was a recently imported four-seat Lotus Elan +2, seen here crossing the bridge to Joga-shima.
Our destination this day was a family-run restaurant, famed for its fresh fish. Despite its reputation for one of the best breakfasts in Kanto, the building was utterly nondescript and even sort of run-down.
Though empty on our arrival, and barely open so early on a Sunday morning, the mama-san went about making us a pot of tea as she eagerly inquired about the cars we were driving.
It seems both she and her husband in the kitchen were classic car enthusiasts, and the restaurant was scattered accordingly with many automotive-themed manga. Perhaps someone can comment on this series, as I am a manga ignorant.
The walls of the restaurant were covered in fishing exploits of both the staff and customers. Here, an inked record of the fish, catch equipment, size and date are recorded.
With many cooked and raw varieties of fish to choose for breakfast, I went for my standard choice of a fresh-cut maguro-don (raw tuna on rice). To distinguish the style of fish — not sushi in this case — the technique is to hack the fish into lumps for eager consumption, as opposed to diligent slow appreciation of thin-cut sushi or sashimi.
After breakfast, the convoy of S600, S800, Sports 800, Subaru, and Lotus departed for some further driving around the coast before joining the expressway.
This S800M roadster on semi-slicks is regularly tracked. The M-series Honda were made for supposed US sales, with numerous safety improvements over earlier S-cars including the obvious side markers, dual brake circuits, and recessed door handles. It was, however, ultimately never sold in the US.
At the next PA, a closer inspection of the Subaru revealed its secret weapon — a single big-bore Weber carburetor. Coupled with some minor undisclosed engine mods, the owner advised he had significantly enhanced his FF-1’s performance.
To accommodate the change in performance the original gauges had been swapped out for some Smiths.
While both the S600 and S800 have twin cams, roller-bearing modular cranks, solid connecting rods, and four carburetors, there are a number of significant differences under the skin. Notably as most S600 feature chain-driven rear ends, where trailing-arm chain cases take the final drive from the differential to the rear wheels.
Only very early S800 feature chain-driven rear ends, and most like my gray Coupe here have conventional rigid axles with a Panhard rod, a much simpler configuration.
The S600 is further distinguished by their lack of power bulge on the hood, needed for the S800 to accommodate the larger carburetors, different grille and front and side badging.
Stopping one last time at a PA, we crossed paths with an S13 Nissan Silvia, configured to continually modify its own body work. It too was obviously out to enjoy the scenic roads in the area.
Finishing my roll of film, I tried to capture the red Yotahachi as he tore off noisily into the expressway traffic. Heading back to Tokyo for a week of work in typical Japanese fashion, we’re always looking forward to the next weekend, and the next Sunday drive.