There’s nothing better than Sunday touring; making pit stops for freshly ground coffee and one (or three) pastries, not having to wash up, and not having to be anywhere on time. When you’re out on popular driving roads in Japan, parking areas are great places to see who else is out and about, and more often than not you’ll come across a few gems.
Last weekend, my destination was Omugishiro Parking Area on the banks of Lake Okutama, North West of Tokyo, where I had arranged to meet a group of cars for a shoot.
As I burbled my way up the mountain in my newly-acquired WRX Type RA, I passed a few interesting cars, most of which seemed to be headed for the same place.
They included this Hakosuka pairing. Following these two old school JDM legends through the many tunnels provided a perfect soundtrack for the beautiful, sunny morning.
Arriving at Omugishiro PA, introductions were made and I snapped a few pics of the group. But with so many other interesting cars parked up, I just had to shoot some more photos in the 15 minutes before we were due to convoy off.
Isuzu is not generally a brand I associate with grand touring or performance motoring, but to be fair, they have produced a few great cars. The Bellet Coupé and the 117 Coupé are probably Isuzu’s greatest hits, so is this second generation, front-wheel drive Gemini worthy of a B-side? The first generation was arguably more beautiful, and also wins my vote for its front-engine, rear-wheel drive layout.
By some weird twist of fate – or maybe there was just some Isuzu owners mini-meet going on – further along in the parking area I found a very tidy, late first-generation Gemini Coupé whose owner was sporting a period correct mullet. There was also an Irmscher R version with suspension tuned by Lotus, turbocharged engine and constant four-wheel drive.
As you can see, the cars out for a Sunday drive were a real mixed bag. I especially loved this Toyota Corona Mark II; there’s something very cool about these staunch little Japanese muscle cars from the ’70s.
Another favourite of mine, the Datsun Sunny truck, was also out for a spin. This model is actually pretty high on my fantasy garage list. They look great with a ‘Hakotora’ front end conversion, but this one looked just as classy with its tastefully reworked original front end.
As you’d expect, the owners at this gathering were super friendly, and many people were admiring each others cars. It wasn’t an organised event at all, just a bunch of likeminded enthusiasts out for a drive. Even so, the cars and coffee vibe was strong.
I really don’t even know where to start with the Nissan EXA Canopy…
Naturally, the Mini crew were well represented. There’s a really strong admiration for these little cars here in Japan.
I circled back to my group as people where making final checks in preparation for the next leg of our outing.
In case you hadn’t guessed, my travel companions were a group of 21 Porsches from the ’60’s and ’70s, and amongst a sea of rare, priceless and breathtaking beauties, were two that stole the show…
Yes, this is an authentic Porsche Japanese patoka (patrol car) from 1968. With 155,943km on the clock, this West German-built 912 served the Japanese boys in blue for six years without a single breakdown I was told. Furthermore, during its service on the Tomei Expressway, it pursued and successfully stopped a car doing 178km/h, which is probably like 278km/h by today’s standards.
As you can see by the fantastic patina, this car is all original. It really must have been pretty spectacular to have seen this on the expressways of Tokyo back in the day.
Eventually, these 912s were replaced by faster, more powerful machines. I tried to find out exactly what car replaced it, but couldn’t find much information online. However, I did find some photos of a very cool Ford Mustang Mach 1, which is now living in the Tochigi Driver’s License Center foyer, and the production dates (1969 to 1973) suggest that this could well have been the replacement for the Porsche. Eventually domestically produced patrol cars took over the performance duties; think GT-R, Impreza and RX-7.
Last but in no way least, the crown jewel amongst foreign bounty – Hidaka-san’s 1970 911S. This is the car I’d really come to see, and I’ll be back soon with more on it and the rest of our sublime Sunday drive.