While I might feel that car design peaked in the 70s, I have to admit that being a kid from the 80s, the one that captured my heart are the machines I grew up looking at. Welcome to the 80s and the 90s.
With the emerging popularity of the cars from the decade of excess, it wasn’t a surprise when the publishers of Nostalgic Hero magazine introduced a sister publication. Aptly named, Hachimaru Hero. Which more or less translates into 80s Hero. Which isn’t quite representative of its contents as it doesn’t just feature the automobiles from the 80s but through to the 90s and sometimes, from the 00s. I guess Hachimaru と Kyumaru と Maru Maru Hero isn’t quite as catchy a title. Nonetheless, each issue features several lovely modern classics with a “hero” cover car conveying the theme of each month. Even if you don’t understand Japanese, the fantastic photos inside make it worth a punt.
So with that out of the way, let’s look at some Hachimaru Heroes.
Given a choice, which would you rather bring home? An R30 Skyline or Mk3 Supra? Even though the DR30 competed in several races in various race categories, it sadly never had a GT-R variant. The top of the line variant for this Skyline was the RS and RS-X. They might not have been Godzillas, but their unique front end styling did bestow upon them an equally interesting and still somewhat fearsome nickname, Tekkamen. In English, Iron Mask. Interesting too was that the flagship Skyline of this era never had a 6-cylinder under the hood, with a Turbocharged Inline-4 heart instead.
While the R30’s aesthetic is distinctively a product of the 80s, Toyota’s 3rd generation flagship sports-car is a little harder to pinpoint, probably because it sort of straddled half of both decades! Yes, the Mk3 Supra was unleashed upon the public just as the R30 Skyline was ending production and unlike the Skylines successor which more or less looked pretty much the same, the Mk3 Supra marked (hehe) a rather significant departure from the car it replaced. Becoming more swoopy, more powerful, much more high tech and towards the end of its production run, got even better looking.
After living in the shadows of its all-conquering “Veilside/Top Secret/Wangan Midnight/Abflug/Overnight-parts-from-Japan” Mk4 successor, the Mk3s are now finally starting to gain the recognition they deserve. Pick one up while you still can. Coincidentally, this one’s for sale at 2,300,300 Yens (Approx SGD$30,000). Somewhat alright don’t you think? I know I’d be seriously tempted.
If your taste in Toyotas are of a slightly earlier vintage, may I suggest one of these instead? A second generation Celica, they might not be as pretty as the first generation Coke bottle-shaped classic but I think they have their own charm. Especially in liftback form with some subtle enhancements.
This one looked to be in particularly good shape. Best part?
Check out the price!
Even though all classic car values have been dragged upwards in recent years, the sticker price on this Celica at just slightly over SGD$20,000 seems very reasonable to me. It might not have as much pizzazz as its predecessor but at this price point, it’s a pretty great way to get into the old car hobby! I’m guessing these prices won’t stay down for very much longer.
The same booth also had an assortment of other Hachimaru Heroes for sale but that Celica was my pick of the bunch.
But if street cred is what you are after, you can’t go wrong with an AE86. A car with a chassis code so iconic, it requires no introduction. This sassy red example though was something else.
Not because it was LHD, which meant it was most likely a car back into Japan from America.
Nor was it because of the crazy fitment of these sexy AF custom BBS RS wheels.
No… What made it stand out for me, was its engine bay.
That is a thing of beauty.
If you are in the fortunate position of having an AE86 to bring back to life, Toyota themselves can help you out.
While most people might recognise AE86s with their sloping liftback rear hatch, Toyota also made the AE in Coupe form with a normal boot. Which do you think looks better? I prefer the sloping rear design.
Next to the beautiful AE86, we have what many (myself included) consider to be THE most iconic Japanese Sportscar of all. The Nissan GT-R. Seen here in the all-mighty R32 form, a car so successful at racing it eventually got itself banned. This Gunmetal grey R32 once featured on the magazine cover was super MINT! It must be worth a fortune today!
But once again, if you are in the extremely fortunate position of having an R32 in the first place, and require some bits and pieces to bring her back to her glory days. Nissan themselves can lend a hand with some brand new parts for your nostalgic Godzilla through their Heritage program.
Need new aero?
Or a new tail panel? Nissan Japan has you covered.
If Nostalgic Nissans from the 80s and 90s are your thing, one name that should ring familiar is Shibata R31 House. A tuning shop which initially started with numerous R31 builds but has now expanded their portfolio to cover pretty much all of Nissan’s modern classic machines, from the R30, through to the R34.
While the R31s introduced more modern features into the Skyline range back in the day, its styling remained relatively unchanged from the car that came before it. Aesthetically, I think the older car had a better, purer design.
Not that these guys minded of course.
R31 House also had a beautiful R32 GTR on show, a favourite of many. Including myself. I will forever remember seeing many R32s running around in Japan back in the late 90s on my first ever visit to the land of the rising sun.
But if we were talking about Hero cars, then for me, it has to the R33 generation. These were the cars I grew up admiring the most, browsing through imported Option magazines just to look at pictures to eventually popping my eyes open the first time I laid eyes on an actual car in Japan. Even more heart-stopping was spotting an actual Autech 4-door GTR33 on the same trip.
R33s were my unicorn cars when I was growing up and I even created a fleet of them in Gran Turismo 2, each for a specific purpose and eventually setting a record track time on Laguna Seca with a track-prepped R33 fast enough to have almost gotten me kicked out of an online racing forum. Remember, this was back in the pre-youtube days when verifying virtual lap times were almost impossible.
I’ve probably lost count the number of times I’ve seen this view in Gran Turismo. If I lived in Japan, I’m pretty sure I’d have one of these in my garage, maybe two… Or three. In midnight purple, white and black.
R33s might be my jam but I’m pretty sure many others are fans of its successor, the perennial favourite R34. The 993 of GTRs.
Pretty much depreciation-proof if you’ve bought back in the day.
R32 House also had a few other non-Skyline Nissans on display, like this Leopard. A car few know about outside of Japan but in the land of JDM, these have quite the fanbase. Initially starting out based on the Skyline and Laurel, the Leopards eventually moved onto the FR chassis of the Gloria and Cedric. This F31 on display is a second-generation Leopard built on the same platform as the Nissan Skyline R31, Nissan Cefiro A31, and the Nissan Laurel C32. The F31 was equipped with a rather advanced DUET-SS “Super Sonic Suspension” II system which featured a sonar module mounted under the front bumper that scanned the road surface and adjusted the suspension accordingly via actuators mounted on the strut towers. While this isn’t something very interesting today, remember this was introduced back in 1986.
Even though Leopards were rather exclusive automobiles being sold in selected dealerships, the brand was was eventually put to rest after a short 19-year lifespan. In its place, came the Fuga.
Another often overlooked generation of its family, the Z31 Fairlady. Nissan’s wedgiest shaped sportscar that was seriously overshadowed by the car that followed. The beautifully curvaceous Z32. While these have been sitting at the bottom of the Fairlady desirability list for years, they are now also starting to gain traction amongst modern classic enthusiast and owners are also now more willing to spend good money on them.
Not keen to spend the time and effort required to rebuild one? I’m sure R31 House are willing to help out.
Nissan and Toyota are not the only manufacturers helping out with our Kyushu hobby, Mazda was also at the event showcasing what they can do.
While many wouldn’t blink at a restored first-generation Miata, that pristine Familia/323 right next to it was drawing several curious onlookers.
Not preserved but rebuilt by master craftsmen from Mazda.
If obscure is what you are after though, how about a shop specialising in and showing off a fleet of Subaru SVX(s)?
Penned by Giugiaro whilst at Italdesign, the Subaru SVX (Subaru Vehicle X) entered production with minimal design changes from its original concept, retaining a unique window-within-a-window design seen on the concept vehicle. A design feature which Subaru describes as an “aircraft-inspired glass-to-glass canopy.”
Powered by a 3.3 Litre Flat-six engine, the P̶o̶r̶s̶c̶h̶e̶ Subaru SVX was a handsome and luxurious sports coupe which was unfortunately short-lived and only lasted through a single generation developed and released during Japan’s “bubble economy”, and as the economic condition in Japan continued to decline, so too did sales of Subaru’s flagship and any chance of the SVX gaining a successor.
I’m not sure what’s Giugiaro’s relation with so many Japanese manufacturers but here’s yet another one of his creations. The very rare Isuzu Piazza, yet again, another reason why Isuzu bowing out of the automotive market was such a waste. Given free rein over the design of the car and resulted in a very wedge-shaped three-door hatchback prototype called the Asso di Fiori (“Ace of Clubs”).
Shown at the 1979 Tokyo Motor Show to rave reviews. Giugiaro referred to his design as his fifth “Copernican revolution”, integrating the design innovations of many different previous works into one, mass-producible, vehicle. Within 48 hours of its unveiling at the Tokyo Motor Show, Isuzu fast-tracked the vehicle into production with minimal changes to the design. The Piazza wasn’t just a unique visual experiment, it also had three interesting suspension tuning options, standard, Irmscher, and Lotus. Rad.
Isuzu, of course, didn’t limit themselves to svelte sports cars, they also made a few “normal” looking vehicles. Like this Gemini, which even though is a somewhat pedestrian car, was in amazing shape.
Prefer something slightly less obscure but still interesting? How about a Honda City Turbo II? The brainchild of Hirotoshi Honda, son of Honda founder Soichiro Honda as well as founder and owner of Mugen. Hirotoshi Honda took one of Honda’s most unassuming subcompact cars and successfully turned it into an aggressive street machine, considered to be well ahead of its time.
Shown here with its Motocompo companion which was introduced as a “trunk bike” to fit inside subcompact cars. Interestingly, the City’s baggage compartment was developed around the Motocompo instead of the other way around. Today the little bike maintains a cult status among compact motorcycle enthusiasts.
While we are on the topic of cult favourites, how about one of these pocket rockets?
But I guess in the World of Hondas, it doesn’t get any better than an NSX. Bonus points for popup headlights.
Here’s something you won’t see very often, an S14 with an L28 engine! What?
Showing that sometimes all it takes is a few subtle tweaks to make an interesting looking car, was this 80s Bluebird wagon.
Wald also showed off what they can do with 80s/90s machines like this Toyota Soarer.
It’s been a long time since I last saw a Celsior/LS400, but I Wald’s take on this Toyota/Lexus looks especially good.
Rounding up our Nos2days coverage, here’s a very clean Z31. Stay safe everyone!