QotW: What’s the rarest “normal” JNC you’ve spotted in the wild?

When we are out our radars are usually tuned to rare JNC sightings (much to the annoyance of our spouses). Of course it’s incredible when you see a 2000GT in morning rush hour traffic, but a once-common-now-rare car in good condition can brighten your whole day as well. Even “Normal” JNCs are getting scarcer on the streets, so seeing one still kicking is always a treat.

What’s the rarest “normal” JNC you’ve spotted in the wild?

The most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What’s does the Fairlady mean to you?

As one would expect from one of the most — if not the most — famous Japanese sports car, the name Fairlady means a lot of things to a lot of different people. For some it was the introduction to the culture of Japanese cars that we know and love today — for Banpei it will always recall Japanese video games, for cesariojpn the manga and anime star of Wangan Midnight.

For others, it’s more personal. To Negishi no Keibajo it brings back memories of his mother hand-stitching the interior of his Z. For Sam, a 280Z 2+2 represents hope for a new family. For Lee L, it recalls his grandfather’s S130 that influenced his automotive journey. For My_Fairlady_ZFG, it represents the memory of an inspiring teacher and the blood, sweat and tears involved in learning how to restore a car.

The winner this week, however, is Alan T., who gave an excellent schooling of the name’s origins and what it represented in the automotive world:

It always strikes me that people talk about Kawamata’s choice as though it was less thought-through than it actually was.

Here’s the thing. ‘My Fair Lady’ was of course based on George Bernard Shaw’s stage play ‘Pygmalion’ (in Greek mythology, Pygmalion was a sculptor who fell in love with one of his sculptures and – in doing so – he brought it to life) but Lerner and Loewe’s adaptation gave us the figure of Phonetician Henry Higgins attempting to transform a simple working class, downtown London flower-selling girl into an upper class, uptown London ‘Mayfair lady’. There it is. That’s the pun. Flower seller Eliza’s working class accent mangled ‘Mayfair lady’ to sound like “Myfair lady”…

Transposing this tale into the world of cars, we have Nissan playing the part of Henry Higgins and rising to the challenge of passing their new ‘sports’ car off as something that can proudly rub shoulders with the products from established sports car makers. Maybe something of a reach when the ‘Fair Lady’ emblems were pinned on the SP212, but by the time it was attached to the SP310 it could be argued that the model was indeed punching above its weight and was the equal of sector and price point contemporaries from the likes of FIAT, Renault, Triumph, Austin-Healey and MG et al.

So, humble Fair Lady – with the right clothes, the right accent and the right manners was easily good enough to run with the Mayfair Ladies. Quite a neat little back story if you think about it, and certainly a lot more thought-through than the name’s detractors usually seem to understand. Typical bonehead reaction: “it’s gay”… and this from people happy to ride around in Mustangs, Camaros, Chargers and Barracudas, as though a car cannot be feminine.

Yutaka Katayama didn’t like it, but he hated Kawamata and probably would have hated any name chosen by him. Choosing to draw a line between Japanese domestic models and export models by not using ‘Fairlady’ for export markets was certainly more divisive than necessary. My cars wear their original ‘Fairlady Z’ and ‘Fairlady 240Z’ emblems as badges of honour. Its very likely that anyone who gives them the stink eye doesn’t know the back story.

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

JNC Decal smash

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22 Responses to QotW: What’s the rarest “normal” JNC you’ve spotted in the wild?

  1. Banpei says:

    It depends on what you would call “normal”. If the definition is like the Festival of the Unexceptional, it must have been the Nissan Prairie twins I spotted about seven years ago. It even made me do a U-turn on a very busy road to the annoyance of my, back then, 7 year old son.

    • Banpei says:

      I accidentally posted the comment before I was done. 😉

      A Nissan Prairie was already a rare car back in 2014, so spotting two of them parked in identical colors next to each other was exceptional. I haven’t seen another for the past seven years. However a few weeks ago I was filling up my daily Civic at the local gas station and lo and behold: a blue Nissan Prairie stops. The owner was an elderly gent who only needed an errant from the shop. The Prairie looked well used but it was still relatively rust free and sounding well.

      As I was filling up, I didn’t dare to approach him and bother him with my questions. I did take a few quick photos which I cross referenced back home. Indeed his Prairie was one of the two I spotted back in 2014! Now afterwards I regret not praising him for taking care of such a rare car for (at least) the past seven years!

      You can find photos of the pair here:

  2. MWC70 says:

    I see a Figaro driving here once in a while…it’s a unique sight in these parts.

  3. speedie says:

    Just this weekend I saw a first generation Toyota Rav4 two door that was still in use by a local business. I had totally forgotten how small they were. It was dwarfed by my 2010 Mazda3. The Rav4 was introduced to the US in 1994, three years before Honda released the CRV. I still see a fair number of first generation CRVs but this is the first Rav4 I have seen in a number of years. BTW – My 20 something daughter thought it was terribly cute.


  4. Nigel says:

    EF Civics come to mind. I quite often see a white one in my neighborhood.
    (it is a hatchback).

  5. j_c says:

    My neighbor has a very clean E90 Corolla wagon. It’s a manual and the interior isn’t falling apart, I know she spends a bit to maintain it because I’ve seen it a local garage. Unfortunately I recently saw it had been rear ended, at the very least it’ll need a new taillight and rear hatch.

  6. Angelo says:

    A four-door Isuzu Gemini would be what we’d consider that, since most examples were used as taxicabs here in the Philippines during the 80s till the mid 90s, giving way to more modern rivals such as the EE100 Corolla and the B13 Sentra.

    With the model being synonymous with being a taxi, most examples were destined to the scrappy, with only a few owners turning theirs into family haulers.(which incidentally you’d know if you know how license plates here work)

    I had a few encounters of such car in the 21 years I’ve lived here in the Philippines, and even though seeing a unicorn is much more likely to happen than seeing one of these nowadays, talk to any old car guy about Geminis and they’d surely know about it and where to spot one.

  7. MikeRL411 says:

    i would self nominate my 411. How many have you seen ever? I was the only 411 at the last 2 JCCS meets, Nissan didn’t even show their one.

  8. Negishi no Keibajo says:

    While Kei cars aren’t considered rare these days, seeing them in the US during the 70’s was a surprise. A local US Navy shipyard had a small fleet of the trucks driving around the base for yeoman’s duties.

    • MikeRL411 says:

      TRW in Redondo Beach CA had a fleet of Japanese mini trucks that they used for parts shuffling and quick technician dispatch in the 1980s.

  9. Mark F Newton-John says:

    San Diego State University employed a fleet of kei trucks as campus vehicles.

  10. Raul says:

    I live in Chile, back when I was a Kid in the 90’s the Daihatsu Charade G10 and G20 where everywhere. In the 80 thousands of these cars where sold, even the myth says that these more of those models where sold here than in Japan, it was cheap, excelent gas mileage compared to American and European cars sold here until the arrival of the Japanese, it even beat on their own game another euro “citycars” like the Citroen LNA, The Renault 5, The Mini or Fiat 147/127, this small Japanese car was the first car of many Chilean families… it even was used as a Taxi and you can find them literally everywhere from big cities to small towns in the countryside. You easily can find them on streets until early 2010’s, but lately this little car have become super hard to see, I fear most of them where junked, or sold as parts or even as scrap metal and the ones that still survive has acquired a “cult” status car between enthusiats in Chile. The succesor genrations of Charades, like the G11 or the 90’s G100 ones never reached the success of the First one and Daihatsu slowly faded away in the early 2000’s of our market.

  11. Christoph says:

    A very common car in my country in the early 80s was the Mitsubishi Tredia. They were really cheap and sold like hot cakes, lots more than Lancers.

    Unfortunately they were cars that nobody cared about. They were already almost extinct in the early 90s.

    I had one in 2010, according to the statistics there were only 8 left in my whole country and I have never seen another one in the wild since then.

    It was an amazing car! The 2×4 gearbox was funny and after sitting in the backyard for three years without even disconnecting the battery it startet on the second attempt.

  12. Sam says:

    Whenever I see a nice stock or near OEM of any car that’s usually destroyed by ricers and boy racers, like a 240SX coupe or Civic EG or even Supra. I actually have a neighbor who owns and drives a MK2 Supra in bone stock condition. It’s awesome to see when I drive by his place- and gives me hope for the preservation of these awesome cars for the future

  13. nlpnt says:

    Leaving aside the really old stuff, there’s a couple of categories mostly from the ’80s;

    1. Upstarts. Isuzu and Mitsubishi models not wearing Detroit branding, Daihatsus and the like. Rare new in northern New England due to scant dealer coverage which inevitably started in California and worked its’ way east and north (and in the VRA era often started with pickup trucks only), rare now due to rust.

    2. One-year wonders. N12 Pulsar hatchbacks, G15B Dodge/Ply Colt 5-doors, Nissan Axxess. Models that just didn’t click on the American market, followed slightly by models like the Chevy Sprint Plus (zenki 5-door Suzuki Cultus) which were one-year only because the line extension happened a year before a model change. For that matter Toyota pulled both off in the ’70s with the Carina and the Corona wagon respectively.

  14. F31roger says:

    When I was younger, I used to get excited to see tricked out cars. Now, it’s the opposite. I do like built cars, but it’s a true treat to see well taken cared of examples.

    I do see the EF, EG, CRX often, but to see clean, stock examples are nice.

    Suzuki Vehicross are always nice to see as they are one of my favorite SUVs.
    Nissan Axxess – I saw last year.
    Toyota starlet and Mazda 323 in stock form. I’m sure those owners get tons of notes!

    Conversely, I always get asked about my car because people don’t know what it is. I drive my car pretty much daily and everywhere. So people would ask me about it.
    For me, it is kinda sad that I seriously rarely see another M30 on the road. I see the more in junkyards than the wild.

  15. HotWheelsAndFriedChicken ! says:

    Theres a guy near me with a bone stock 1st gen rx7 rotting in his backyard. I also saw a eunos mpv once. Idk if that’s rare.

  16. Kevinx says:

    There was the Isuzu Impulse that I saw in a neighborhood by my house a couple years ago. I had never even heard of that car before, and so far its the only Impulse I’ve seen other than the ones at JCCS. Rodeos and Troopers still roam the streets here in SoCal but an Isuzu car? Now that’s something you don’t see every day.

    There is also the Daihatsu Rocky I saw parked at a mechanics a month or so ago. Was unaware of the car’s existence until I helped a friend buy a JDM imported one and now here was a US model, sitting in all its 80s off roader glory. Dark grey, and seemed in good condition aside from some dings and dents.

    And finally I have to mention the old Datsuns that I see occasionally.A B210 here, a 610 there. The 510 gets all the attention but seeing one of its stablemates is the real prize.

  17. My_Fairlady_ZFG says:

    So this isn’t exactly fair, but my father just bought a 1973 Mazda 818 wagon like 2 weeks ago. So the most recent rare car I’ve seen is a minty unrestored Mazda that never was brought to the US. America got the 808, but I believe never the 818. They’re very similar, but still. It’s so dope. It was imported from Spain, driven awhile, Then parked in a garage where it sat for 20 or 30 years. PO got it from his uncle, who was the original owner.
    Other than that, I saw a drift spec (read front bumper-less and exposes radiator) S13 240SX randomly. That was pretty awesome. I rolled down my window and gave the guy horns, and he did a burnout right then and there. Respect.

  18. Collin says:

    A Plymouth Sapporo. I dont know about anyone else, but here in Michigan I dont know the last time I saw one, and I saw it twice this month! being a Dodge power ram (mighty max) owner it caught my eye quick. Yes.. I was cursed with a fancy for the Mitsubishi/Chrysler deal.

  19. Edward Paris says:

    The rarest JNC in the wild that I have seen is one that I use as a daily driver. It is a 1987 Mazda 323 station wagon. It has the original engine, clutch, and transmission. It currently has 175,000 miles and is going strong. My wife and I have had several long trips over the years and I hope to have more.

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