States­man­TheThe­wasabi­wasabi States­man

Australian Muscle Car - - Muscle Maniac -

Here is quite pos­si­bly the last Isuzu States­man DeVille in cap­tiv­ity, freshly pho­tographed in Ja­pan in late April. We can’t con­firm ex­actly how many of th­ese GM-H-built odd­i­ties were sold in Ja­pan in the mid 1970s, although the fig­ure 246 pops up reg­u­larly on Ja­panese web­sites.

The pho­tos are the hand­i­work of ex-pat Aussie Daniel O’Grady who has worked as an English teacher in the land of the ris­ing sun since 2001. Daniel of­ten goes old-car-spot­ting in his spare time as he seeks out un­usual im­ports, es­pe­cially those from his na­tive coun­try.

We rec­om­mend check­ing out Daniel’s many in­ter­est­ing finds via his Wasabi Cars web­site. Why Wasabi Cars? As he points out, it’s not just the word for Ja­panese horse­rad­ish, but a neat com­bi­na­tion of ‘Wa’ (mean­ing Ja­pan) and ‘sabi’ (mean­ing rust).

Three years ago, in AMC #62, we pub­lished his images of the elu­sive Mazda Road­pacer AP, the im­ported and re­badged HJ Holden Pre­mier fit­ted with a 13B ro­tary en­gine. The Road­pacer was Mazda’s at­tempt to grab a slice of the lu­cra­tive diplo­matic trans­port mar­ket.

That was the first tick on his per­sonal ‘must see’ and ‘must pho­to­graph’ list of Aus­tralian cars sold new in the Ja­panese do­mes­tic mar­ket. The Isuzu States­man DeVille was the sec­ond.

His quest to see with his own eyes an ex­am­ple of the 5.0-litre V8 HQ-based big car of­fered by Isuzu in­ten­si­fied when he spot­ted a photo on a Ja­panese web­site. That’s when the de­tec­tive work be­gan.

He worked out that the mod­ern-day pho­to­graph was taken some­where in south­ern Kyusha, an overnight drive away from his adopted home, Yay­oigaoka. He had a “compass point” at least, but no real lead as such.

Fast for­ward sev­eral months to when Daniel was at a car show.

“I was in­tro­duced to some out-of-town­ers with a par­tic­u­larly well-kept 1973 Toy­ota Crown. Look­ing at their li­cence plate I could see that they came from the very place I be­lieved the elu­sive Isuzu was lurk­ing. The first ques­tion out of my gob was, ‘Would you have hap­pen to have seen a big, black States­man DeVille?’”

Daniel says this “di­rect ap­proach is not re­ally cool in Ja­pan”, but it paid div­i­dends on this oc­ca­sion with the Crown owner’s friend, Ya­mashita-san, aware of the States­man and happy to point him to­wards a large shop­ping cen­tre, of all places, where he be­lieved it resided.

The en­su­ing overnight trip was fu­elled by “ten cans of those vend­ing­ma­chine cof­fees that the Ja­panese go nuts for” and hope. Even­tu­ally, af­ter many wrong turns and much pound­ing of the pave­ment, Daniel found his ob­jec­tive.

“I can’t fully ex­press what a treat this was for me. I’d been a fan the HQ Holden since high school. It didn’t mat­ter which body style ei­ther. Sedan, sta­tion­wagon, ute (ei­ther one), panel van, the LWB States­man, the Monaro; I liked the look of all of them.

“At first glimpse I thought the Mid­night Black beast was lit­tle dif­fer­ent to its Aussie cousins be­low the equa­tor. But, the more I looked at it, the more I no­ticed some mi­nor dif­fer­ences. The first thing that jumped out at me was the ‘Isuzu by GMH’ badge on the boot lid and the Kingswood hub­caps.” There was one glar­ing vis­ual dif­fer­ence. “Fen­der-mounted side mir­rors – the sign of a true JDM! Also, there were the side-fac­ing marker lights, and a pair of re­vers­ing lights bolted on un­der the rear bumper. All tweaks to com­ply with the lo­cal reg­u­la­tions, no doubt.

“In con­trast to the grandpa-spec ex­te­rior, the cloth on those seats was pretty wild. Those deeply-tex­tured jac­quard seats looked like they’d pro­vide near-Bon­nie Doon lev­els of ‘the seren­ity’. I just wanted to dive it, get comfy and catch up on some sleep. Nat­u­rally, I was dreaming.

“Ac­cord­ing to the orig­i­nal Isuzu sales brochure, this car was or­dered with the ‘Ash’ in­te­rior and the bench seat. They were about the only op­tions. Com­ing as stan­dard was the column­shifted Tri­matic, elec­tric win­dows and wood-grain ac­cents; classy but all quite straight­for­ward.”

About that brochure, that is in­deed golfer Jack Nick­laus fea­tur­ing promi­nently. The Golden Bear wouldn’t have come cheap, but the use of his im­age does hint strongly to one of the mar­kets Isuzu was tar­get­ing with the States­man. That cav­ernous boot would have swal­lowed plenty of

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