A Glimpse at the Japanese Auto Auctions – 6/24/15
It seems like kind of a slow week at the Japanese auctions and so I’ve only been able to find 6 cars worthy of mention. 3 of them aren’t even Japanese but they’re all still fantastic examples of the kinds of pure automotive awesomeness that you can find in the Far East so without further delay, this week’s coolest cars for auction!
6. 1969 Datsun U521
It’s a double-cab truck with the bed and body all one piece, so from the front or side it looks like your standard double-box design sedan. But, look at it from the back and you’ll notice a tailgate and small open bed! With the size of the bed, it honestly doesn’t seem very practical and the 67hp 1.3L isn’t going to be happy if you put much in it but who cares? It’s still a really neat look. Plus, the dash makes a VW Beetle’s look overly complex and I have a thing for simplistic charm.
5. 1973 Mercedes Unimog 406
The ultimate off-road machine! This one has a 5.7L 6-cylinder heavy duty diesel motor and 6 speed forward/2 speed reverse transmission but what makes it truly impressive is that it seems to have been purchased and then stored for most of its life. It only has 11,000 miles (though that may actually be hours) and has a mint condition exterior with not even a scratch in the bed. The Unimog Centre site has a ton of great info on these vehicles but basically they’re like 10 pieces of heavy farm equipment rolled into one, the world’s best wilderness rescue/expedition truck and, most importantly, would allow you to laugh at Doug’s puny H2 Hummer. Bring a Trailer highlighted one in 2013 for nearly $30,000 and though shipping might be a little more than average, I bet it’ll go for a lot less in Japan because this monster must cost a fortune to keep on the road.
4. 1988 Toyota MR2 Supercharged
These pint-sized pocket rockets don’t seem to have a high demand, which is surprising because who wouldn’t want a mid-engine, rwd car with 145hp and a 7500 rpm redline? 1988 was the first year the supercharged version was offered in North America, but few are left as they tended to rust, overheat or crash. Their handling characteristics can be politely described as “squirrelly”. However, Japan still has tons of these little beauties and if you’re a 1st gen MR2 fanatic, this is the one you want. It has the 4A-GZE motor with a roots-style supercharger and air-to-air intercooler, 5-speed transmission, t-tops, all the lettering intact, no body kit damage and both the interior and exterior are in pretty good shape. It also has some Tom’s suspension bits which may help improve the handling somewhat.
3. 1990 Honda NSX
A truly legendary and under appreciated car, the NSX is still a bargain in Japan compared to US pricing. This is a car that was handmade by 200 of Honda’s most skilled works, each required to have a minimum of 10 years assembly experience with Honda. The paint process alone required 23 different steps. This particular NSX has some pros and cons to it. On the downside it’s an automatic and has an R rating, meaning it was in an accident at some point. However, on the plus side it appears to have been repaired flawlessly as the body looks nearly perfect. And to overcome the inability to row your own, this car has a mere 11,000 miles on it. It’s expected to sell for around $20,000. So, the question becomes, are you willing to give up a manual transmission for an NSX with mileage not even in the teens and a landed/titled price tag of about $30,000?
2. 1990 BMW Alpina B10 3.5
A lot of Alpinas have lost the pin-striping, but when you own an Alpina, the last thing you want is for someone to mistake it for a mere 5-series, so those gold lines give just enough indication that this car is “serious business” and they look fantastic against that dark blue. It has a perfect exterior, a near perfect interior, a mere 28,000 miles and… an automatic. Unfortunately, all B10 3.5s came with the Switchtronic automatic and as B10s go, the 3.5 is kind of the base model with a straight-six M60 putting out 254hp and a top speed of 158mph. Only 572 were made, but what you really want is the slightly more rare Bi-Turbo or the exceptionally rare 4.0 with the V8. Still, this car is no slouch and in a sea of boring e34 535’s, it would definitely stand out in the parking lot. Bring a Trailer featured one in 2011 for a mere $17,000 Canadian but that was long before they were US-legal and it had 3 times the mileage so this one may be worth quite a bit more.
1. 1990 ERA Mini Turbo
I love small, zippy little cars so I like the original Minis but often thought the body style was just a little too “old” for my taste but when I saw this one I nearly passed out. Nobody would describe it as “charmingly British”, nobody’s going to paint a Union Jack on the roof and yet it hasn’t gone full racecar. This is the ERA Mini Turbo, one of 436 ever made and 1 of 337 made for Japan. It’s a Mini City that was modified by a company called Engineering Research and Application and sold under the ERA brand name to select Austin Rover dealers. It was designed to be “the spiritual successor to the Cooper” with modified front suspension, an aggressive body kit, 13×6 wheels to accommodate more rubber and many other small refinements. Wikipedia has a full list of all the mechanical changes if you’re so inclined. This wasn’t just a conversion, it was a full rebuild designed to produce a modern-day original-body Mini Cooper S and it succeeded.
This particular example has 25,000 miles, is in top-rated condition both inside and out and is simply fantastic. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the nicest, lowest-mileage ERA Mini Turbo in existence and I have no idea what it’ll sell for but I really, really want it.