As Rust ‘N’ Pieces readers know, I have a soft spot for older Japanese cars, so imagine my surprise when I saw that I would be spending an afternoon at the Zama Garage, otherwise known as the Nissan Heritage Collection, during a recent trip to Japan to cover the Tokyo Motor Show.
The Zama Garage is located in a separate building in Nissan’s Oppama Plant complex, which is about a one-and-a-half hour drive from Tokyo. On the way there I couldn’t contain my excitement.
After a quick presentation about the history of Nissan, this is what greeted me when I stepped through the doors of the main garage area:
This is just one section. Turn the corner and you will be overwhelmed. It’s a sea of Nissans, with models from almost every era.
Holy cow! My camera lens can’t get wide enough to capture all of the cars. This garage is 5,600sqm of all that is good in the automotive world. Check out all of the chrome!
To get this series started, let’s have a look at some of the earliest Nissans/Datsuns.
This is a 1933 Datsun 12, a model produced by the Jidosha Seizo Co.—a newly formed automobile division created after the merging of the Tobata Foundry (owned by Yoshisuke Aikawa) and DAT Jidosha (an early Japanese manufacturer of cars). It is worth noting that December 1933 is acknowledged by Nissan historians as the date when Nissan was born, so this model is of much significance.
Here’s a row of 1935 Datsun 14s. This is the first mass-produced model in Japan and it was a hit, thanks to its styling.
Here’s a closer look at the roadster variant.
Its small proportions accommodated Japanese physique (at least for the time) nicely.
In 1937, the first ‘Nissan’ branded model was launched. Here it is. If the Nissan 70 (above) looks very similar to an American car, that’s because Datsun purchased the design plans and plant facilities of the Graham-Paige Motor Corporation. Not familiar with Graham-Paige? It’s the same brand of car used by the traveling Zapp family that we featured in Top Gear Philippines ‘Adventure Issue’ last March.
Here’s a fully restored 1939 Nissan 90 Bus
Here are some other cars that I wasn’t able to identify. Let’s just say I couldn't stop moving to check every car out.
By the end of the ’30s Nissan was taking its first steps toward becoming a manufacturer with a full lineup. However, when WWII erupted, the company shifted its priorities to manufacturing army trucks and engines for aircraft and torpedo boats.
There are approximately 400 cars stored in the Zama Garage, and each has a key slotted into the ignition.
Believe it or not, almost 70 percent of the cars here are in perfect running condition.
There are more exciting cars to see, so keep logging on and look out for Part 2 of this series!