It can take a long time to get something you want. I'd say I've been waiting about 15 years, and it's finally happened. We have two JDM cars sitting in our garage. For the past few months we've been on the roller-coaster ride of importing two cars from Japan. A 1989 Toyota Soarer Aerocabin, and a 1970 Toyota Crown Coupe (MS51). This is the story.
I'm lucky and found a girlfriend who shares my enthusiasm for the strange (you guys know her as Ferrero1911). We had to delay and re-route our planned Lada road-trip. So earlier this year we decided to move up another crazy idea we've been planning for a long time. Importing from Japan. These two were a trial run to make sure we wanted to go all the way. So far so good, and right now we're on track to officially be an importer and dealer by this fall.
We didn't want to sell these first two right away. The plan has always been to get the cars ready, and then get a couple road-trips out of them before they go. If you're buying 25-40 year old cars sight unseen you have to expect some surprises. We had planned to have our export partner deal with any major issues in Japan. That didn't work out quite as planned. I'll explain all that later, but those few extra surprises are what's had me working the extra hours in the garage the past couple weeks. I know you guys have been waiting to hear about this. Sorry it's taken so long...and be warned, this is going to be a long one.
Out of all the cars I've owned, the Aerocabin instantly became my favorite. It's just an amazing luxury coupe...and convertible! I keep comparing it to my old E46. It has an awesome digital dash, one touch driver power window, power folding mirrors, digital AC, steering wheel AC controls...the seats even have power lumbar and side bolsters!
If you noticed, it's wearing the SSR Reverse Mesh that Ferrero1911 found on craigslist. She's been heading up the restoration of those. She had the lips polished and the centers painted in a Toyota white to go with the car. Then we painted the hardware to match the body kit and reassembled them. We ended up getting some pretty meaty tires and have dubbed it 'Vintage Meaty Stance'.
The best surprise of the Aerocabin was the paint. The photo above shows it the best we can photograph it, it's a beautiful blue pearl over white. The pictures just don't do it justice. I can hardly believe it's factory. It's also in amazing condition. We've been over the whole car, and it has one ding. It has an interior to match too. It must have been garaged and meticulously cared for most of it's life. Nothing's brittle like every other 25yr+ car I've had. The only real wear is on the steering wheel and the drivers bolster. We're going to have that repaired, so both seats are perfect.
Unfortunately the car had some bad surprises too. Luckily we had strong compression, but the turbo was seeping badly and had some shaft play. The car ran great, but the turbo was a few thousand miles from turning the engine into a smoke machine. That's out for a rebuild now. While we're at it I'm having the injectors cleaned and flow tested, radiator flushed, changing the cooling hoses, replacing a bunch of seals, and changing the timing belt and water pump. The stock downpipe was pretty beat up from being one of the lowest points on the car, and it already has a very nice 3" exhaust, so we ordered a 3" downpipe to match. We'll throw on a high-flow catalytic converter to replace the worn out one that's on there now, and then we'll have a full 3" stainless exhaust turbo to tailpipe.
The other issue was the top. It didn't work. Mechanically it's fully functional, and right now I've bypassed the control computer and have it working on new switches. The problem with it is actually two-fold. All Aerocabins were delivered from the factory as automatics, but ours is a manual swap. Personally I prefer it that way. Since the Soarer was available with the R154 5-speed, it's an easy factory swap.
What does that have to do with our top? Well, to operate the top, you'll first need to place the transmission in Park. See where I'm going with this? Our car still has the automatic cluster. Probably left to preserve the odometer reading. The shot above is actually ours, and as you can see I've managed to trick it into thinking it's in Park. I'll tie that to the parking brake, so when you set it, you'll also be putting the car in 'Park'.
I still have another issue though. I've been translating the parts and wiring diagrams from the Japanese service manual, and I'm just a couple words short of having it done. After that it's just a matter of tracing the fault. It's actually a pretty simple system of 4 motors, about a dozen switches, and some relays. I have my suspicions as to where the fault lies, but I'll try to do a write-up on the top itself later.
We intend to make sure the cars we sell are always well sorted. You can buy a car from Japan a lot of ways. Our plan is to offer cars for sale after they're landed and prepped. I think there is a market for top condition, ready to go cars. That's exactly what this car will be. As it is, I'm pretty sure it's the best Aerocabin in the country. After I'm done, you'll be hard pressed to find a nicer one for sale anywhere.
This is already way too long, so I'll have to give the full write-up about the Crown later. We're happy because it looks even cooler in person than it did in photos. It's completely original, and all there. Nothings missing, not even the matching full size spare. Which still has a vintage Toyo bias ply tire on it. Unfortunately it came with surprises too. Mainly a couple liters of fuel in the oil, and a lot of sludge. We flushed it out, and tried to bring it back to life, but it only spun over a couple times before the cam seized. We've got a plan how we'll be sorting that though...
We imported two cars from Japan and are working to set up our import business. We're writing about the experience on Oppositelock. To see all of the updates search the tag 'Imported from Japan'
For more photos check out Bird's website birdhasacamera.com