QotW: What’s the strangest JNC sighting you’ve encountered?

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As Nissan designer Ken Lee put it, part of the fun with old Japanese cars is that you have to be in the know to recognize the gem that’s hiding in plain sight. The preponderance of interesting background cars in You’re Under Arrest has led us to think about how amped we get when we see a JNC where it doesn’t belong, ignored by the masses but acting as a dog whistle for people who read this site.

What’s the strangest JNC sighting you’ve encountered?

Many moons ago, there was a show called World’s Wildest Police Videos. It’s goal was to repeatedly caution viewers about the vehicular dangers caused by criminals fleeing from the law, all while gleefully showing you the Hollywood style carnage caused by said criminals. It was America’s Funniest Home Videos but with worse narration. Periodically, the unnecessarily intense host would stand in front of a staged accident, showing you what would happen if you were foolish enough to engage cops in a car chase. Most of the cars used in these faked accident scenes, complete with flashing reds and blues, were junkers arranged like Hot Wheels cars, but one day, lo and behold, there was a bone stock Corolla GT-S flipped on its roof. To the producers, it was just an old Corolla; to AE86 fans, it was a travesty.

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 the greatest nostalgic Subaru?” 


Though we had compelling entries from sublime advocating for the Leone and canalnoises pitching the BRAT, the winner this week is Sammy for his chuckle-inducing description of the Subaru Sambar:

I’m not sure what the proper measure of the “greatest” would be; sales, styling, lineage, engine, speed, least rusty, most plaid, ugliest, prettiest, my head is about to explode.

Well, my vote is for the Subaru 360 Van (Sambar). It is quirky and weird, ugly but handsome. I don’t know what it is about them but people seem to adore them. It’s like nothing Subaru has made since, it’s totally unique in a sea of ubiquitous and pedestrian econo-cars from Japan. I heard it called a refrigerator on wheels for styling and a chainsaw on crack for the engine. But, without a doubt, it’s a head turner and everyone needs to know what it is then wants a ride.

It’s a 356cc, 25 hp, air cooled, two stroke engine with a top speed, depending on the angle of the hill you’re going down, of around 65 or so. The fuel is mixed on the fly (at different ratios depending on speed) with an oil injector to save you from having to mix it up first. It sits on 10″ tube tires on a split rim. And, there is a little flap up front that let’s in cool air when things heat up. Yeah, you have to be moving, but who wants to be stopped at a light anyway?

My nomination, the Subaru 360 Van (aka, Sambar).

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 the strangest JNC sighting you’ve encountered?

  1. Bakasan says:

    Well, I was walking along one day, as you do, until I spotted a gleaming red KHGC210 240K (Skyline) coupe parked on a narrow side road. I found it rather strange that in the usual sea of dreary modern blobs that inhabited this town, a pristine, unmodified, and manual Skyline Japan just happened to be hanging around. Sadly, I didn’t get to take a photo of it, and never saw it since. It was the only 240K I’ve seen on the road, hopefully I may see it again someday, after all It I don’t know of any other red C210 coupes…

  2. Kuroneko says:

    This one time, I was out on a drive with the Subaru club, and one of the 360 had a fuel line problem. So, the club president in his WRX offered to tow him home. Unfortunately, halfway back to Tokyo on the Shin-Tomei expressway, we were passed by some Porsche going pretty fast. The club president then taking up the challenge for a top speed run against the Porsche – forgetting he was towing the diminutive 360. At we supposed speeds well over the legal limit, the driver of the 360 was of course mildly distressed, and was flashing his headlights madly at the WRX driver in a vain attempt to get him to slow down.

    When we all stopped at the next PA, the rest of the Porsche drivers came over to exclaim they were amazed how fast the WRX was in keeping up. ‘Yeah’, said one guy though. ‘But what about the 360 flashing his lights who wanted to pass us both!’

    Nothing was as strange however, as driving an S800 to my local Toyota yard to photograph a 2000GT, and in saying goodbye to the shacho we both stood next to the S800 & the 2000GT I’d just photographed. We then stood slack-jawed as someone drove past in yet another 2000GT with their grocery shopping bags in the back. Now, that was strange…

  3. Banpei says:

    I think I could name a few very impressive rare sports cars here, but I think the strangest sighting would have been the two identical Nissan Prairies (aka Stanza Wagon in the US) I spotted half a year ago.

    Basically the Nissan Prairie was one the first compact MPV that got produced when it got launched in 1981. Its design was inspired by the 1978 Lancia Megagamma concept car and Nissan stuck as close as possible to Giorgetto Giugiaro’s design. Even though Nissan did not ask the design department to go wild on the Prairie it was so immensely popular that it was all over the place in the 80s and 90s. But like any early boxy 80s car people lost interest in such an old and aging MPV and nowadays the car is almost extinct. Suppose you want one you will have great difficulty finding one: you can’t even find them in the classifieds anymore. They all have been crushed by now or turned in by the owners for a cash-for-clunkers deal. All of them?

    So imagine my surprise when I passed not just a single one, but actually two of them parked in line! Not only were they the exact same model, but also had the exact same blue color! I was so excited that I stopped, made a U-turn, jumped out of the car (leaving mys six year old son in the car) and started to make pictures of the both of them.
    This is one of the photos:

    If it only had been one car I’m not so sure if I would have stopped at all. So isn’t it strange to get all excited about a pair of cars that less than then years ago I thought were about the dullest cars in the world? 😉

    • Dave Yuan says:

      The Prairie was one of those ’80s Japanese cars that was ahead of its time. Awkward looks aside, it was pretty innovative w/ super configurable seats and lack of a b-pillar b/t the front doors. It’s remembered by few now, but the Ford B-Max is basically a modern rendition of it.

    • Kuroneko says:

      You win. The evidence clinches the deal!

  4. james says:

    About 3 weeks ago, while traveling along I-95S, I saw a Nissan Pulsar GTi-R. It had Maine tags and was really booking.That’s one of the cars I’d love to import here and since it started production in 1990 its technically legal to import and a JNC.Win-win!!

  5. Anna says:

    Walking around a junkyard that was mostly a forest growing up through the cars. cars from the 50s and up mostly domestic. i came across a starion, ae86, Datsun 260, and a non turbo impulse all within a few hundred yards of each other. This yard also had Volvo p80?

    I also came across an isetta in the middle of nowhere for sale in this tiny coastal town!
    Not rice…. But still blew my mind!!!

  6. Kane says:

    The awsome rarity i saw once was a dark orange honda civic shuttle (wagon), it was bone stock and not in the best condition but would not at all be a hard to fix up to its former glory. It is the only one i have seen in real life to this day, witch gives me a very strong reason to beleive that they where not sold in this country (Australia). I am also very impresed that someone went through the effort of importing it, as they are very un-herd of over here. Ever scince i first saw a picture of them online and found out what they where i was intrested in them, i thought it would make a very unique and intresting daily driver but still very pratical and economical. If i ever get One im just going to lower her a tiny bit, tint, nice wheels, exhaust and stereo and thats probabily about it.

    When i did spot the honda civic shuttle i did have to get a picture, and i bet the first thing people thought when they saw me standing on the road watching out for traffic as well getting a picture of a seemingly normal car was ‘why is he taking a picture of that thing for?’…… oh how little they know…….

  7. Spudenater says:

    A few months ago, I took my girlfriend on a drive to north Texas to visit my grandmother. She lives in a trailer on a lake in a small settlement of elderly folks; it’s a place called Huxley Bay. Upon our arrival I decided to give her the grand tour of the community, what little there was to see. In an attempt to remember a short cut I used to take as a kid to get to the marina/general store, I got us lost in the woods. It had been years, and the trail I seemed to remember taking to sneak off for mischief had completely vanished, and so we ended up meandering around the impossibly tall pine trees for about and hour or so.

    Eventually, I noticed a large, mossy silhouette. It was sort of spooky, because you couldn’t tell what it was exactly, but it clearly didn’t belong. As I got closer, I realized it was an old AE82 Corolla sedan. It was gold, with beige interior, and a healthy dose of mold and mildew. All four windows had been rolled down for ages it seemed, and vines had begun growing from the floorboard. It looked like it had been there at least ten years if not longer (no registration or plates, nothing in the glove box either save for a gross looking neon green plastic slinky and some spare bulbs). A great deal of persistence in opening the hood revealed it had a Weber 32/36 I distinctly recall. The front had been smashed in pretty badly, as if it had hit a tree square-on at a considerable speed.

    The strangest thing was I couldn’t figure out how it had gotten there. There didn’t seem to be any trails in or out, and the trees were almost too close together for it to even fit. I mean we were in the middle of freaking nowhere. Moreover, I couldn’t find any trace of whatever it hit, though there were headlight and grille fragments on the ground. I thought maybe it was a deer, but this car would have had to be going freeway speed to get messed up like that from a deer, and the shape was concave (offset to the pass. side), with no visible animal bones or blood anywhere. (admittedly, critters and rain would have probably cleaned up the mess anyway.) We were losing light and decided to leave it for another day, any pictures I could snap with my crappy flip phone would probably come out awful anyway.

    After another 20 minutes or so of walking, we could hear a truck rattling down the county road, and we were able to emerge. We weren’t where I thought we should be, but I figured out the rest of the way to the general store and back. I tried to go back the next day with my actual camera, making my best attempt at re-tracing my steps. I also had some basic tools, because I wanted that carb (free parts are best parts).

    Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it again for the life of me. I even tried climbing some trees for vantage, but the underbrush was too good of camo I guess. With a travel schedule looming, I had to shelve it, but I haven’t given up completely. One day I am going to find that thing again, take proper pics, and yank that carb. Maybe with more time I can work out what in the actual hell happened there, and piece together whatever wild ride sent this old Corolla to its final resting place.

  8. JNCSeikoNeko says:

    Well my friend was showing me a film one day (sad that I forgot what it was called) and there was a first gen RX-7 that was staged to break down. They called it a complete piece of s*** and they sold it later in the film. Sad, it looked like it even had some IMSA-like body kit…

  9. Russ from Okinawa says:

    Congrats to this weeks winner. To give readers an idea of how small the 360 Sambar micro van is, take a look at one I shot at a car show last year.

  10. Jim-Bob says:

    My unicorn sighting came as I was driving home from my eternal hunt for Geo Metro parts at the U Pull it one day (In my nearly 400,000 mile one owner Nissan Frontier). There it was, just sitting at a used car lot in Tarpon Springs, Florida. A car of legend that I had previously only experienced in Grand Turismo. Yes, it was Godzilla himself, a R32 GTR! Oh, and this was not just any Skyline either as it was far from stock. It had a wide body kit, some 90’s looking three spoke wheels a big front mount intercooler and more genuine JDM speed parts than you can shake a katana at. Not only that, but it was for sale too! So, you may wonder, why didn’t I buy it? Sadly, I simply don’t have the kind of income necessary to own such an exquisite kaiju. Such is the life of a pizza delivery driver. I have to be content to drive a customized 3 cylinder Suzuki and indestructible Nissan pickup instead. Sigh.

  11. Kylezone says:

    I was driving my datsun 521 down an old country road and saw a yellow Honda Z600 sitting on the side of the road, nobody was around. So I pulled over to look at it and take some pictures. A couple weeks later I came to find out that A little before I got there It had a “FREE” sign in the window with a signed title on the seat… I just about died…

  12. emuman says:

    A couple of years ago we moved. The hirer of the flat showed us the underground parking lot we rented along with the flat. Hidden under a bed sheet I recognized a familiar silhouette. I lifted the sheet and found a Mazda RX-7 FC coupe in showroom like condition. Of course I parked my RX-8 next to it and got always something to talk about with my new neighbour. He drove his third RX-7 in a row and despite of his age he enjoyed driving his sports car with 240 km/h over the german autobahn.
    Two years we moved again. One of the first things I recognized was a NSU Wankel Spider, RO80 and Prinz parking in our street. And one of the neighbours drives a old Toyota MR-2, another one collects old motor bikes and drives a BMW E30 cabriolet. My wife sees a pattern in the selection of place of recidence

  13. cesariojpn says:

    I’ve mentioned elsewhere that the State of Hawaii kept some 80’s Toyota Tercel Wagons way into the 2000’s, and I shared a photo of two of them on the forums (till the forums got transferred over and lost some posts) that were being used in my neck of the woods..

    I’ve also seen a Mazda 323 hatchback as well in an underground State Parking Lot, and just recently, the State still has a few 90’s Tercels still rolling around. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are still a few 80’s J-Tin still floating around on life support.

    Sadly, I found out just recently that the State is not one to sell things: Any vehicle in the State fleet that has been determined to be at it’s end of it’s useful life is scrapped. So unless those Tercel Wagons are in a Maintenance Yard, they are probably gone.

  14. ewokracing says:

    A Series I RX-7 in a shed in the wilds of Fiji of all places! No idea how it even got up the mountain track to get there.

  15. SBM666 says:

    Impreza casablanca… thats some jdm hardcore!

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