The Story of Diane Krey, the “Mary” behind the Kenmeri Skyline

The C10 hakosuka GT-R made “Skyline” a legend among Japanese gearheads, but the C110 kenmeri made it a household name. Its popularity was due in no small part to the now re-famous Ken & Mary television commercials that gave the fourth-gen Skyline its nickname and perfectly captured Japan’s optimism and romance for the open road in the early 70s.

Although there were multiple Kens and Marys over the years, the original stars were a soap actor, Jimmy Zinnai, and the daughter of an American pilot living in Japan at the time, Diane Krey. Our friend and scribe Jeff Koch last year tracked down the real Mary, now a high school teacher near Sacramento. His interview reveals the backstory of the Ni-Ten ad agency shoots, and what it was like for an American girl to be one of the most recognizable faces in Japan at the time. 

Krey probably could have gone on to a stellar modeling career, but quit and moved to America in 1975 after Zinnai died in a motorcycle accident. In Japan she had been the face of one of the most successful ad campaigns of all time, but at home in America no one had even heard of the Skyline. That is, until she discovered recently that one of her students knew all about the C110. The car she had modeled for half a world away was now considered a classic in our hemisphere as well.

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34 Responses to The Story of Diane Krey, the “Mary” behind the Kenmeri Skyline

  1. Kuroneko says:

    Brings a tear to the eye…

    (Seriously, living in Tokyo, with a daughter at an American school modeling for the same reasons, recognizing the tourist spots, and thinking – hazily – about the 1970s, I can only imagine what it was like back then. Mary would be pleased to know though we still do not lock our doors when we go out…)

  2. Nigel says:

    Cool story.
    (Favorite Skyline on my list).

  3. Lincoln Stax says:

    What a great story, and I’m glad that she’s still around to tell us about it.

    • Ben says:

      You can always send an email to tips at JapaneseNostalgicCar dot com, but we will have coverage of that 2000GT in our Tokyo Auto Salon coverage.

  4. Toyotageek says:

    Very nice! Good job JK!

    Ya’know what would really be awesome? If someone did a photoshoot with Ms. Diane Krey-Wesley and a Skyline….. memories ;o)

  5. Lincoln Stax says:

    Someone needs to invite her to JCCS.

  6. DavidR. says:

    SWEET!!! the four door is my favorite!

  7. Diane Krey-Wesley says:

    Thanks guys!!!!!

  8. Drive510 says:

    That’s the coolest thing. One of the most sought after classic Japanese cars in history. Though I don’t own a Skyline, it would be cool for her to autograph my glove box, or hood of my Datsun 510.

  9. Kevin Lee says:

    I haven’t posted or replied on here for the longest time. But I’m amazed that someone took the effort to trace down Mary on this site. Wishes Nissan or the fans will send her a C110 Skyline for ownership in the USA. It will be that awesome to bring back good memories about 40 years ago

  10. It was a very exciting time. I remember going to the train station an being mobbed by teenagers wanting her autograph. Yelling out Meri! Meri! Atogurafu!
    I was and still am very proud of my sister!

  11. Ted says:

    Wow thats cool, a historical car and the woman who is is half known after. JCCS ? 🙂

  12. eastwest6 says:

    I like Skylines (had an R30). I like the 70’s (born in ’71). I like this story. My wife’s parents (Japanese and both owned Skylines) said they wore the Ken & Mary shirts when they first came out. Anyone know a place that has the shirts at a reasonable price? The only place I saw was over $60.

  13. Charlie says:

    very touching story.

    im a big fan of the ken & mary commercials, 30-40years on and diane still has fans.

  14. Kevin Truong says:

    Wow! Mrs. Diane Krey-Wesley looked stunning in that video. Just naturally beautiful.

  15. Hi, I have several Skyline’s starting from a Prince GTB # 82 of 293 sent to Australia & NZ & have 9 Ken & Mary C110’s Coupe’s & 4 door, C210 C211′ the Only 4dr. PNV Paul Newman Version R30 Turbo in Aust. R31 (Aussie)Silhouette Series 1, several Project in Progress waiting among others in my Collection, some time ago I made FB contact with Diane I believe from my Post of the 3 TV Video’s she made some some Aussie FB friends in Australia (another Story) I knew of her going to to the JCCS & have a Plan I’ll talk more about later that I discussed with Diane “Mary” It was nice to discover this connection Story so I though I’d like to add 2017 some Aussie story I too Love the “Ken& Mary” TV Adv., the Music & yes wasn’t Mary so Beautifull in the adv’s., enough for now More from Aust’. later. Cheers Trev Shelby

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