Even Mercedes-Benz is getting their classics from Japan

It’s been an unintentionally German week here on JNC. Many respondents, rightly so, said that Porsche had the best automaker heritage collection in the world. Then there was news that German supplier Bosch was launching a series of classic car service workshops in Japan, something Denso or Aisin haven’t done. Then on Tuesday, I received an opportunity to see some of Mercedes-Benz’s collection of G-Classes and was surprised to find that two out of the five were from Japan, one a very rare model and one with a rare inspection sticker.

The occasion was the reveal of the electric G-Class, officially called the “Mercedes-Benz G 580 with EQ Technology”.  To help illustrate the heritage of the Geländewagen to the celeb- and influencer-heavy crowd Mercedes-Benz USA rolled out several classic G-wagens lining the wooded path to the dock.

The first to greet us were a 1979 G300 GD diesel wearing Puch badges (now Magna-Steyr, the company that still hand-builds the G-Class in Austria) and a 1998 G 320 Convertible. The latter, finished in a beautiful shade of dark teal, was still wearing its Japanese periodic inspection sticker on its windshield. This one shows that the next inspection was due in February 2020.

Furthermore, the G320’s is a rather special sticker because of its date. Periodic inspection stickers are affixed once the yearly inspection is done and indicate when next year’s inspection is due. The dates are represented using the Japanese calendar that’s determined by the reign of the emperor, and in this case it reads Heisei 32. But as it happens, there was never a Heisei 32, because on April 30, 2019 Emperor Akihito unexpectedly abdicated the throne before Heisei 31 was over.

The other Japanese G-wagon was a rare G36 AMG, built from 1994-97. Equipped with a 3.6-liter M104 inline-six, same as in the E36 but detuned for more low-end torque, output was detuned from 280 PS to 258 (254 horsepower). Shocks, springs, and exhaust were all unique to the AMG, along with copious AMG badging. Inside, they’re denoted by a 260 kph speedometer (280 kph for 1997).

Most importantly, it has the Japanese market swiggle graphic on the sides. These were sold by Yanase, the official importer of Mercedes-Benz in Japan, as indicated by the badge on the rear. According to many sources, only about 120 were built. If that figure is correct, it’s almost a Japan-market exclusive because Yanase imported 90 of them in a mix of 3-door and 5-door models.

The rest of the classics included a G290 GD pickup, an AMG G63 6×6, and a G500 Convertible that, we were told, belonged to Kendall Jenner. The Germans seem to be quite enamored with the whole Hollywood scene. They rented an entire park in Beverly Hills so the new car could drive onto a lake covered in dry ice fog. Then, in a Hasselhoffian move, Travis Scott climbed on top of it to perform a mini-concert.

It makes sense that Mercedes would source cars from Japan. Most cars there, especially high end ones, are kept in great condition. And because of Japan’s extensive public transportation network no one needs to drive every day, and mileages are kept low.

It must be said, however, that it’s a sad day when non-Japanese car companies are scooping up cars from Japan while actual Japanese car companies are scrapping their own. It’s rare for us to devote an entire article to non-Japanese cars, but we felt that was worth a mention. We’ll be return to your regularly scheduled Japanese car coverage next week.

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1 Response to Even Mercedes-Benz is getting their classics from Japan

  1. Fred Langille says:

    An interesting situation … I have seen low mileage and well kept Mercedes-Benz on sites like CAR FROM JAPAN … showing my interest as we now own Sun Yellow (rare color, not offered in ’24) Mercedes-Benz 250 4Matic AMG 4-door coupe (a coupe body but with 4 doors) in addition to our ’89 Nissan S-Cargo. The prices are really low as are mileages … if I didn’t have a car payment that’s more than the mortgage (!? … yup!), I’d do more than look at the 380 and 560 SLs and, G-Wagens … maybe even another 230 SLK Kompressor? What IS cool about some of these cars is that they are RHD … making it a rarity for Benz aficionados here in the USA. M-B is NOT the only marque available as there are other euro cars available at not too shabby prices. So, if you don’t mind waiting 3-4 months for delivery, go for it!

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