It was sometime last year that Watanabe-san of Rocky Auto told us he was putting the finishing touches on a brand new garage right next to his house. Seeing as he’s accumulated quite a collection of vintage and classic rides over his years in business, the need for more storage space sparked the idea to create something a little bit more than your average two-car tin knock-up. So on my way back from Liberty Walk a few weeks ago, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to stop by and have a look.
When Watanabe said “garage” I was imagining some kind of extension of his existing building, or a small separate building, but what I saw upon my arrival literally blew me away. I’ve always been impressed by the sheer number of cars that are usually displayed in front of the Rocky Auto shop in Okazaki, but little did I know that was only a fraction of its actual stock. It turns out the talented car builder has an incredible collection.
Some cars he has no intention of selling and others are in the process of restoring and selling, so it’s kind of understandable why he would need a lot more space to keep them all in. The massive new garage/warehouse/workshop is a good half-hour drive out of the city, nestled deep in the lush Aichi-ken hills.
After getting over the initial surprise of not only the size of it all but the quality to which it was built to, I stepped inside and began my obligatory walk to see what sort of jewels were hiding inside…
… beginning with this V8-powered Datsun 240Z that was recently imported from the US.
Tucked behind the corner next to the little two-level office and chill-out room was this Porsche 930 sporting a Turbo rear wing…
… with a couple of Rolls-Royces parked right behind it.
As of this year Watanabe-san has started restoring an even wider selection of classics…
… including some truly antique vehicles. The kyusha scene has been enjoying an unprecedented growth recently, with all sort of cars coming into high demand. I will touch more on this next month in an editorial piece, but the fact of the matter is – the Japanese aren’t letting any of their historic cars die away any more. That’s a very good thing as there are a huge number of historically significant vehicles out there other than your usual Fairladys and Skylines.
I spotted the front end of a Prince Gloria Super 6 sticking out of the covered two rows of cars in the main garage space.
I just love the American influences that numerous early ’60s Japanese cars like this had…
… even a front bench seat!
But this is Rocky Auto after all, and as with most cars it builds you’ll generally find at least one surprise – some bigger than others. That’s an RB25DE out of an ER34 Skyline replacing the car’s original straight-six and giving the big classic plenty of power and reliability. As I moved further down…
… it was hard to resist the lure of a machine than Enzo Ferrari once referred to as the most beautiful car ever designed.
This 1962 Jaguar E-type 4.2 convertible is currently on sale…
… but Watanabe loves it so much he isn’t in a hurry to get rid of it.
A look under the front-hinged hood was a must. I’m a great fan of inline-six engines and it’s great seeing older units like these. I just wish manufacturers hadn’t abandoned this layout in favor of the more compact V6s.
Affordable old vintage cars are all the rage in the JDM vintage world with more and more people willing to invest in vehicles that remind them of a bygone era. This Mazda Carl Deluxe is one of Watanabe’s latest purchases, and despite requiring a little TLC, it’s in excellent condition.
Am I the only one that thinks Mazda should start using its old emblem again? So simple!
The Carol was the four-door sedan alternative to the smaller R360…
… and just like it’s V-twin powered little brother, it had the engine fitted in the back. With a capacity of just 358cc it’s one of the smallest inline-four engines ever made.
And here’s the three-wheeled version – the K360 kei truck.
This blue S30 has just gone through paint and was waiting to be transported to the main shop where a custom driveline will be installed.
On the subject of Fairladys this race replica is one of Watanabe’s personal projects…
… which is just about to get repainted and refreshed for the upcoming JCCA event at Fuji Speedway.
I really wanted to do a full feature shoot with it then-and-there, but he asked me to come back once it’s 100 per cent completed. I’m definitely going to take him up on that!
Here’s a wider view of the garage and the rest of the cars that were housed within during my visit.
At the same moment I headed outside to see what else I could uncover around the property, a transporter dropped off Rocky Auto’s RB26-powered S30 Z. This beast develops close to 600hp!
My ride for this little excursion down south was the new, and rather bravely-styled Lexus IS350 F Sport. I’ve got a Dream Drive post coming up next month with this car, so stay tuned for that.
Outside but undercover at the front of the garage I spotted this little pair of Subaru 360s ready to be given a new lease on life. I always call these cars the Fiat 500 of Japan, for obvious reasons.
Ah, finally an Hakosuka!
The Toyota Publica is another of those old city cars that have become a sought after piece of Japanese car history. At face value it might just be a regular passenger car from the ’60s, but they’ve become popular with enthusiasts because of their 697cc version of the flat-twin engine that powered the Toyota Sport 800, or Yotahachi. This gave the Publica a low center of gravity and subsequently, decent handling characteristics.
Now we are talking! I haven’t seen this works replica Kenmeri for a few years since it was on display outside the main shop.
Like the four-door Hakosuka parked beside it, it’s been fixed up and added to the stock list.
I was wondering why Watanabe-san had so many limited edition R32 4-door Autech Version sitting around, easily recognizable via its muted-green body color and unique front bumper…
… with the ‘S/S’ logo. On the used car market this model is actually very affordable…
… and it’s a good way of sourcing the rather rare, naturally aspirated ‘DE’ version of the RB26.
The S/S on the intake plenum stands for Shinchiro Sakurai – Prince’s famous engineer that created the very first Skyline, along with the Prince R380 race car. The Plasma-RB26DE develops 220hp at 6,800 rpm and 245Nm (180lb/ft) at 5,200rpm and makes for a very good motor in vintage car swaps. Add some velocity stacks and wilder cams into the equation and you have yourself a modern, reliable, highly responsive and of course – great sounding – alternative to an L-series motor.
The damn things were everywhere – even up on the hill opposite the garage!
Around the back there was much more to see – mostly hacked up donor cars….
… or other little classics waiting to be given some attention.
We may, at times, concentrate on the most powerful and newest cars out there, so days like this, where we’re able to step back in time, are extremely refreshing. It was all a great warm-up for the car I had actually came to the garage to photograph – one that perfectly represents what Rocky Auto is really good at: giving modern touches to highly sought-after classic rides. Can you guess which one it was?
Dino Dalle Carbonare
Anybody ever see the feature on this red Z? If so, please let me know. Would love to learn more about it
20 - 30 years from now, he will have an unprecedented collection of R32 shells and parts to start a whole new order of classic cars to restore.
It is a marvelous collection, thank you for the restoration of classic Japanese cars because very rarely we can see the Japanese classic cars in this condition other than the English and American classics. If I had a chance to visit Japan, definitely I will come to your place to see these diamonds in my naked eyes.
@ma70jake me too bro, me too
There's something surreal, and a little sad, about all those RB26's just sitting out there, waiting to be gutted for their parts. Sort of like wild horses headed to the glue factory.
Sorry, just got a bit dark there. Great article!
@MattAtDoyle I know what you mean! I'd have and look after one just for its rarity
@speedhunters_dino hello! I stumbled across this article a while back and have wondered if you ever got a chance to get more details on the crimson colored 240z with the center exit exhaust. Looks incredible!!
Nice pics. However, on the second photo I see some Z32. Why aren't there close-ups of those? Or weren't they "special"? Just wondering as I'm a Z32 owner myself.
@RaySpijk Those are more donor cars....
I LOVE the photo of the three Autechs on the hill side. I would love a desktop of that. It screams "crazy car life of Japan" that is rarely seen.
@roryfjohnston Oh that isn't even close to what I still have to show you guys. Make sure you check back next month ;)
So you went to his "garage" a found out he owns half a mountain full of cars. LOL The Toyota Publica and the Prince Gloria are supreme. I wish Mazda would take the old logo back and teach their designers when to stop designing. The Lexus looks quite simple and elegant for a new car, I find that lately many new cars are overdone in terms of design, but that may be an age related thing. Great article.
@koko san Not half a mountain, the WHOLE bloody thing!!
So, you came to see and shoot the S30 Z power by RB26 with 600 hp? :)
This garage would be perfect for me. Even though I may put some European goodies also. Some M3, GTI, some old Audi's, some young timer MB and some SW Volvo 240. Really cool!
@greenroadster No shot the RB26DE powered Haosuka :)
@speedhunters_dino Really subtle put that picture. Never saw it.
Big question - what in the world Rocky Auto does with the Soarer? :) Really wanna know....
@LouisSoon i would ask him the same thing! hahaha
@aussieANON 700k to a million Yen
@ChrisPBacon I'm sure he would be happy to get rid of a few...just so he could buy some more! lol
It's great to see an article on Rocky Auto after RWB and TRA Kyoto. Is there an article on Liberty Walk?
A question out to you Dino, what is the law to importing cars into Japan? I constantly see North American cars being imported in and legalized like the Sienna or Muira's FR-S.
@Swonz Haven't done a tour of Liberty Walk yet. It's quite straightforward to import cars into Japan and get them registered, that's why there are a lot of them :)
There really is no substitute for the sound of tuned straight-6...
'cept a rotary.
Great post as always Dino.
@Simply P Tough one there lol
@Simply P tuned straight 6 sounds like music.
tuned rotary sounds like bombs going off
both amazing sounds on opposite ends of the engine noise spectrum.
@MikeDonnelly Some of those Skylines are for sale. Those engines were a bit tuned from Autech, larger pistons for just over 2,600 cc, balanced crank, rods and flywheel, ported heads. It's a good base engine for a little more NA tuning
Firstly, damn... what a garage! Second, "The damn things were everywhere – even up on the hill opposite the garage!" made me laugh my ass off. Thanks for the post Dino!
@zephoto lol well they were. And that's not all of his cars either, he has a ton at his garages next to his house which I didn't get to shoot.
Carbon type C10 Hako !
Nice to see the Rocky Auto, secret lab.
(C10 GT-R is badass modified or not).
@jzx81 Might be right :)
@jzx81 You think that are good investment? I found a C10 Skyline with 1.6 engine in my country with 1300 euro's. I would buy it but I already have 2 Soarer's....Although a retro car would be a nice touch
That E-type is a series 2 made from 1969 to 1972. A 1962 xke would have glass covered headlights, tail lights set on the same level as the rear bumper, and smooth valve covers. Looks like it's a United States import as those were the only ones to have twin carbs instead of triples. Hopefully it still has the original 4speed, either way looks to be a fine example.The rest of this is just amazing to see tucked away.
@Brad_S Obviously it's quite possible haha