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Carchive Special: The endless fascination of JDM

There’s little doubt that my favorite section of the entire Carchive is that covering Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) models. I leap on any opportunity to expand it, particularly with brochures for cars that were likely seen as monumentally dull in their homeland.

Cars like the Toyota Mark II. This was an upper-midsize car, fitting somewhere between the Camry and the Celsior in the global Toyota continuum. An inherently dull machine, really – engine up front, drive out back, four doors in the middle, it’s as traditional a car as you might expect to find. It is enlivened somewhat by a choice of engines that run to the twin-turbo 1JZ-GTE, though, and it’s not a disastrous choice for drifting, it seems. But what really appeals to me abut the Mark II and its ilk, aside from the almost total absence of them on UK roads, is the peculiar and optional features they possess.

When I mentioned this the other day, it seems I’m far from alone.

Pretty much every JDM brochure that lands in the Carchive introduces me to at least one strange feature I never even imagined before. My R31 Nissan Skyline brochure introduced me to the audio cassette autochanger, my C31 Nissan Laurel brochure piqued my attention with in-car karaoke, while the Mazda Luce showed me that car stereos could have tape doors as well as slots. All good things. The Toyota Mark II, though, was the first car I ever saw that could offer wipers for the front side windows, intended to allow the best possible view into the side door mirrors. What an awesome idea!

I muck about on Twitter from time to time (my handle is @RoadworkUK if anybody’s curious), and Tweeted about these weird wipers last week. Unexpectedly, 47 people ‘liked’ the Tweet, and 10 re-Tweeted it. What I didn’t expect to happen, though, was Road and Track to get wind of it.

Máté Petrány of that esteemed motoring organ saw my Tweet and it not only became the focus of an(er, before that became the focus of this Redusernab item….), but it also raised the game a little.

He also went on to mention that the early ’90s Nissan Cima could trump the Toyota’s efforts by fitting wipers to the actual mirrors. Outraged that I had missed this astonishing feature, I immediately set about sourcing a copy of the 1990 Y31 Nissan Cima brochure, which I somehow found for sale in this very country, for the frightening sum of £12. Plus postage. I grimaced and clicked ‘buy it now’, and it arrived a few days later – providing a delicious contrast with the Kia Sorento and Stinger brochures that landed on my doorstep at the same time.

And just eleven pages through, there it was.

Yes, it was well worth investing in the brochure for that image alone, but the Cima, it seems, has far more to offer. Stout engines for one thing; the VG30DE or 255bhp single-turbo VG30DET were available, along with swathes of itchy-looking velour and quite the most button packed dashboard I’ve ever seen. The steering wheel alone could house 20 buttons and three scroll wheels. Good stuff.

The brochure also presented this:

There’s no English language translation anywhere in the brochure that explains it, but I believe we’re looking at a humidifier here, perhaps one that’s able to emit different scents in vaporized form. It looks amusingly like there’s a kettle buried in that centre console, though.

Yes, it seems the mine of crazy JDM features is almost bottomless, and I intend to cover them in greater depth over time with further journeys into The Carchive. What I really want to do is present them on video, albeit in a substantially better way than my earliest attempts – with little experience on camera, no script and absolutely no video production skills, my sank to the very bottom of Youtube with a mere 259 views. Whatevs, people have no taste.

I’ll get on it one day, and I’m pretty sure my fascination with these obscure models and their quirks will never cease. Meanwhile, I invite you to share any other weird and wonderful features you’ve seen on strange foreign vehicles that you just don’t get back home.

(All images Chris Haining/Redusernab 2018)

  • Fuhrman16

    But do any JDM machinery have a briefcase in the dash?
    http://redusernab.info/2017/12/22/the-carchive-the-alfa-romeo-90/

  • Rover 1

    Or a spoiler that drops down with speed?

    Yes alright, I know, quite a few, but not with the crudeness, er I mean simplicity of an Alfa 90.
    Something that’s been reintroduced on the new(ish) Guilia in a considerably more sophisticated way, perhaps copied from Mitsubishi,s 3000 GT or it’s Toyota A80 Supra rival of the 90s



    • Alff

      “Crudeness”?! Elegance, I say!

      • I say that all the time, too, but it doesn’t work for me, either.

  • tonyola

    How many wagons beat the awesomeness of the 1979 Nissan Skyline?

    • Few. Or less.

    • Alff

      Nissan’s designs in the 70s always incorporated a bit of quirk. This is no exception, with the weird rear windows.

      • tonyola

        Sort of a Japanese take on the Pinto Cruising Wagon.

        • JayP

          Directional wheel fail.

    • Rover 1

      The C110 model Skyline Wagon before that C111 was even better.

      NO rear ‘D’ pillar glazing at all!

      Because….Well, I’m sure there was a good reason at the time.



    • SlowJoeCrow

      That’s awesome, I’ve never seen a factory wagon with opera windows before. Throw on a half vinyl roof and it would be peak Brougham.

  • Sjalabais

    Rear view mirror wipers are a thing I’d like to have not just for the curiosity of it…practical stuff! I have heated mirrors which helps a lot considering that we constantly drive in and out of tunnels (51 tunnels over 240km of the road we use the most), but getting the condensation off is not the same as getting a clear view.

    The moisturising machine though seems utterly conspicous. We can do that on our own, with a bit of smell in it, too.

    • Maymar

      Yeah, we’re in that portion of January where everything is coated in a thick slurry of road salt and grime, and both versions of mirror wiper are looking pretty useful right now.

  • It’s not precisely JDM but the diagonal powertrain of the 1923 Sekine deserves mention. It was built by Austin M. Wolf of New York exclusively for export to the nascent Japanese automotive market. It did not do well.

  • The 80s Camaro Berlinetta had a tape player with a door. Plus it was mounted on a free standing swiveling post too.

    • Ah, yes, I forgot about that! It appears in the ’83 Camaro brochure, but gets barely a mention in the text. Wacky gauges around that era, too.

      • tonyola

        Wacky gauges (or “gages” in GM spelling) indeed – like the double-needled speedometer.

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