QotW: What’s a great movie or TV show for background JNC spotting?

While we’re all continuing to shelter from home, it’s a great time to catch up on movies. Going back to watch some of the classics, it can be amazing to see some of the JNCs populating the backgrounds. Take the above scene in the original Back to the Future, for example. The idyllic town of Hill Valley circa 1985 is absolutely packed with mint condition JNCs — B210, Civic, Tercel, Celica, B110, 240Z, Toyota Van, and so on — and that’s not even counting the Toyota pickup that is featured front and center as Marty’s dream car. Forget 1955, we’d love a time machine to take us there.

What’s a great movie or TV show for background JNC spotting?

The most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “Daily, Garage, Sell — Flagship Sedans Edition.

We don’t think we’ve ever had a Daily, Garage, Sell commenter who actually owned all three of the cars in question. And if we had to guess, the with three late-1990s Japanese luxury sedans would have seemed like the least likely category for that. However, reader kcbobo surprised us with a collection of game-changing flagship four-doors:

Heyyy, wait a minute…how did you guys get into my garage? This is just weird. Talk about doing a double take: I own all three of these vehicles! (For real. And if I knew how, I’d send along photos to prove it.) Yep, all three, and while Daily and Garage are pretty easy, Sell is just cruel.

Daily is my ’91 Toyota Celsior, identical to the car above branded Lexus LS400 around these parts. It’s the same white-over-gray pictured above, and with about 110k kilometers (get your smartphone out), it’s as pleasant a daily driver as you could ever hope for. It’s JDM with right-hand drive, which throws some people off but works for ambidextrous weirdos like yrs. truly. It’ll happily go to the grocery one day, then halfway across the country the next. Reliable, smooth, ergonomically flawless and as comfortable as a BarcaLounger – Toyota/Lexus executed the design and build just right on this one. Air suspension, power seat belt height adjustment, mirror blowers…apparently nothing was considered superfluous as they came to capture the hearts and wallets of Benz and Bimmer lovers here. Every aspect of this superb sedan, from the virtually NVH-free 1-UZ V8 engine to the hush-quiet cabin with sublime audio system, reflects the best Japan has ever offered, even 30 years on.

Garage (because of rarity) is my ’89 Acura Legend sedan with 17k miles. More time machine than automobile at this point, it very quietly goes about its business, doing pretty much everything right. It feels like what it is, Honda’s big move at the time into “luxury” with leather, power everything, a very refined V6 and odd little touches like a high-mounted pushbutton to skip to the next radio station and two master cylinders, one dedicated solely to the then-new ABS system. It runs and handles effortlessly, with a well-tuned suspension, solid handling and a confident manner that belies its somewhat diminutive size. It feels and drives bigger than it is, and with so few miles, it’s still showroom new in and out. Sell it? Why? Drive it daily? Couldn’t handle the guilt. They don’t call it Legend for nothin’ friends: Honda built this fun and dynamic Acura to last, and every drive in it reminds me that it will.

Sell (only because you’re making me!) would be my ’91 Nissan President, another JDM right-hand driver known here in the US as the Infiniti Q45. It looks like a Q45 on steroids, stretched so the body is longer than its Q45 twin. 36k miles and all the finest early ’90s appointments a diplomat or CEO could want, from power curtains and a TV to heated and reclining rear seats. And hey, it’s got the best looking hood ornament of any car I’ve owned. The Infiniti V8 is a workhorse, just doing its thing without a lotta drama. On the street, this car gets more stares than Marilyn Manson at bible camp, though there is always the small matter of that Active Suspension. And if you want to master the A/C and stereo controls, your Japanese skills will come in handy. As for driving dynamics, it handles like the love child of a Mercedes S600 that mated with a DC-3. As my mechanic says, this isn’t just a car, it’s a work of art. (So yeah, sure, I’m saying I’d sell, we’ll go with that. But in reality, um, let’s just say it wouldn’t be my first lie.)

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

JNC Decal smash


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19 Responses to QotW: What’s a great movie or TV show for background JNC spotting?

  1. エーイダン says:

    I know, it’s an anime but……
    Demon City Shinjuku from 1987. An anime film based off the manga of the same name, DCS is set in a world where Rebei Ra has destroyed the heart of Tokyo by awakening demons. 10 years later, a young man named Kyoya Izayoi is tasked with defeating the demons that protect Rebei and finally Rebei himself. If you look closely, in the earthquake scene at the opening you can spot a destroyed First-gen Mazda RX-7 and if I’m not mistaken, what is intended to be a Toyota HiAce or LiteAce van. Later on in the movie, a spider-like demon destroys a ’80s-era Toyota Crown saloon.

  2. Nigel says:

    Saw a U2 video the other day, spotted a 240Z and a Celica.

    Video was:
    I still haven’t found what i’m looking for.

  3. Banpei says:

    Copy-paste from a previous (very) similar QOTW http://japanesenostalgiccar.com/qotw-whats-the-best-use-of-a-jnc-in-cinema/#comment-115098:

    I was very impressed with the JNC usage in the 2010 live action film (loosely) based upon the book The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (Toki o Kakeru Shōjo). As the title suggests: some girl will travel back in time, 1974 to be more precise.

    Placing a movie in the 70s would suggest that there are a lot of 70s JNCs to be seen. Indeed a white Kenmeri Skyline coupe pops up every now an then, just like a couple of Toyota Publicas and Toyota Corollas;. But what surprised me was the excellent mix of 50s, 60s and 70s nostalgia in the movie. I can’t remember all of them by heart, but I remember there were Subaru 360s, Mazda Carols and other pre-70s cars to be seen. None of these nostalgics play a big role in the movie but they contribute to the overall atmosphere of the movie.

    There is one highlight though: there is one scene in the pooring rain where the two protagonists stand in front of a while Kenmeri Skyline coupe holding an umbrella above their heads. I have no idea if this was intentional, but it’s a nice nod to the Ken & Mary umbrella branding.

  4. Scotty G says:

    CHiPs is a great TV show for JNC spotting as is Adam-12. No, really! They’re both on ME TV in the afternoons.

    • Yuri says:

      CHiPs is seriously a gold mine.

      The fact that it’s filmed in SoCal during the late 70’s and early 80’s means it has practically every Japanese car in the US market at the time.
      And not just one example, but usually every variant there of.

      It’s like Stefan from SNL started narrating the car list.

      “If you’re lost in Hollywood drinking Pocari sweat from a sketchy Japanese market, I have just the show for you. LA’s hottest show is CHiPs. Inspired by true events, this sexy old drama has a familiar yet troubling feel, like when Chrysler would pass off Mitsubishis as domestics. This show has everything: Datsun Z-cars, Toyota Coronas, captive imports, a Datsun 321, TWO types of Plymouth Arrows, and a car built into a candy paint airbrushed flying saucer. Plus, you can play everyone’s favorite party game, Gran Turismo grab bag. Do you know that game? Well, it’s when you wait around looking for a certain old JDM car, and then something else shows up completely, and not only is it a car you never heard of, but it’s driven by a 7’0 tall prostitute named “Jaundice” who also happens to be a former member of the Los Angeles Clippers, and is now your new best friend.”

  5. Yuri says:

    “We don’t think we’ve ever had a Daily, Garage, Sell commenter who actually owned all three of the cars in question.”

    Don’t underestimate your readers. 😉

  6. Bob says:

    @Nigel In that U2 video Bono is actually on the hood of a black 280z not a 240z.

  7. cesariojpn says:

    Assuming the viewing isn’t restricted by legal or “sailing the high seas”, we should go back to the JNC staple of Seibu Keikatsu.


    Yeah, it’s a Nissan commercial, but it’s a interesting time capsule of 70’s Japan. And the crashes. And the wacky cop cars. And Sgt. Daimon.

    • Kyle Soler says:

      Wait, That collectors dvd box set came with 4 TLV cars? FOUR TOMICA LIMITED VINTAGE CARS?!! sweet. shame it came out 5 years ago, would be cool to see something like that again, but then the DVD wouldn’t have English subtitles which would be a huge bummer for me.

  8. Toyotageek says:

    I’ve been watching episodes of Ultra-Q for a fair share of some nostalgic cars and some pre-Ultraman monsters. Who could ask for anything more?

    Mill Creek Entertainment Blu Ray set has subtitles, but here are some episodes strictly in Japanese only:

  9. LTDScott says:

    The original Gone in 60 Seconds by HJ Halicki is an old favorite of mine. It is amazing to watch just because of the incredible car chase (the longest in cinematic history) alone, but one scene was filmed inside a Mazda dealership where you get to see a bunch of brand new 1974 RX-2s, RX-3s, early B-series trucks, etc.


  10. teddy says:

    I know this is a little out there but I’ve heard Tokyo Drift is a good one

  11. thelacerati says:

    The original Hawaii Five-0 is loaded. Shot in Hawaii from 1968-1980, so JNCs are everywhere. Not only Datsun, Honda, Toyota, but less common stuff, too, like Daihatsu and Hino.

    But my favorite is when the 1966 Silvia shows up in Karate Kid 2.

  12. Alvin says:

    Stranger Things on Netflix has been great for 80’s J-tin. I saw a bunch of Accords and Corollas on it.

  13. Angelo says:

    Most movies here in the Philippines from the 80’s to the early 2000’s all have pretty good JNC sightings in them, maybe due to J-Tin still running abundantly here in the country.

    Just prepare yourselves for corny storylines to cringey acting scenes. If you get past those, congratulations, you may now feast your eyes.

  14. Daniel says:

    25 years have not passed yet but my vote goes fast and furious showing not only a moment but a time and a way to modify the cars, several of the cars there would have a few more years.
    perhaps in a few years the question can be answered in this way.

    special mention for Tango & Cash and the Mitsubishi Delica

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