It's no secret that we're huge advocates of the Japanese classic car movement here at Model Citizen. We're thrilled that vehicles from the Land of the Rising Sun are gaining mainstream acceptance in the collector car world, and we're encouraged that more and more "J-tin" is finding its way into upscale vintage car shows and driving events. We're especially proud to be a sponsor of Touge California, the only tour rally in North America exclusively for pre-1980 Japanese cars. As the Japanese "nostalgic" scene grows, we hope to establish Model Citizen as the premier dealer of scale-model classic Japanese cars in the United States.
To that end, we'd like to offer a little advice to our friends in the model car manufacturing community. Despite the growing popularity of Japanese classic cars in the U.S., the variety of available diecast models in the genre is a little thin. We love Nissan Skylines as much as anyone, but there's more to life than Godzilla, you know. With a century's worth of subject matter available courtesy of the Japanese motor industry and growing demand from model car collectors and JDM enthusiasts alike, it's high time for model companies to broaden their palates. With that in mind, here are five classic Japanese cars we'd like to see represented by 1:18-scale models:
Before the rise of the RX-7, Mazda's early application of their legendary rotary engine was in a series of handsome coupes and sedans. Arguably the loveliest of the bunch was the RX-4 hardtop coupe, produced from 1972 to 1977. Highly regarded in its day for its mix of performance and refinement, the RX-4 has become somewhat obscure today. That's a pity, because the car is straight up gorgeous. We would love to see a high-quality 1:18-scale diecast version of the RX-4 come to market; AUTOart would seem to be the right company to tackle it as a subject, as it would fit nicely with their existing RX-7 and Cosmo Sport lines (plus, they already have the tooling in place to make a minature 12A engine...reduced development costs, yo!)
The youngest car on our list, the Subaru SVX is growing in stature as a cult collectable thanks to its relative rarity (fewer than 25,000 were produced between 1991 and 1996), its offbeat-but-sexy Giugiaro styling, and its wealth of advanced technology. The SVX was a massively overengineered GT that was emblematic of the Bubble-Era Japanese ethos of pushing the boundaries of technology; it's said that Subaru took a $3,000 loss on every unit built. Today, the SVX is thought of as a sort of Citroen SM of the Nineties: gorgeous and just a little weird. Again, we think that AUTOart would be the ideal model maker here, as their skill at capturing complex subjects with full opening-part detail is unrivaled.
NISSAN 300ZX (Z31)
Both early and late Nissan/Datsun Z-cars have seen their moment in the 1:18-scale spotlight, but to our knowledge no diecast company has yet to tackle the Z31 as a high-detail model. Too bad, because few cars can rival the pure '80s-ness of Nissan's technology-packed sports tourer. It took the classic GT formula [started] by its 240/260/280Z forebears, and added the angular styling, computer technology and turbocharged power that would define its decade. Our favorite Z31 has to be the 1984 50th-Anniversary edition; as Kyosho has history in making contemporary Z-cars in diecast (their Z32 models are sought-after classics) we think they would be the right choice to replicate the Z31 300ZX in scale.
TOYOTA COROLLA (TE27) SPRINTER TRUENO
Though the Datsun 510 has hogged the small '70s sports sedan limelight for nearly 50 years, enthusiasts are starting to wise up to the substantial charms of the TE27-generation Toyota Corolla. Already a legend in Asia, high-quality builds (like Russ Capulong's Sprinter Trueno tribute, pictured above) are putting the spotlight on this handsome, tossable street fighter. With their emphasis on tastefully modified JDM cars, we believe that Ignition Models would be ideally suited to developing a premium 1:18-scale TE27 Sprinter Trueno.
The first-generation Isuzu Impulse should have become an enduring Japanese classic. With styling by Giugiaro, its looks were a cut above contemporary sports coupe offerings like the Toyota Celica and Nissan 200SX, and with the eventual addition of turbo power and Lotus-tuned handling, it ultimately had the performance to back up its pretty mug. Sadly, the Impulse never sold in great numbers and is largely forgotten today by all but a handful of dedicated enthusiasts/preservationists. Since diecast model cars are all about aesthetics, we think that the Isuzu Impulse is long overdue for the 1:18-scale treatment. A great resin model from Hobby Japan would do the trick.
Obviously, this list could stretch on for days, and as enthusiasm for vintage Japanese cars grows, so too will the number available in diecast form. We only hope that model car manufacturers will keep an open mind in their material selection process...the possibilities for subject matter are almost limitless!