JA­PANESE NO­BIL­ITY

HINO OB­SES­SION

New Zealand Classic Car - - EDITORIAL -

Hino, known to­day as a maker of heavy ve­hi­cles such as buses and trucks, part­nered up with Re­nault of France back in 1953 and be­gan pro­duc­tion of the Hino Re­nault PA 62. Adopt­ing a some­what un­con­ven­tional style for the times, it had a rear en­gine and rear­wheel drive. And, be­lieve it or not, be­cause of its com­pact size, it was adopted for use as a taxi!

Hino Mo­tors, which ab­sorbed the tech­no­log­i­cal guid­ance of Re­nault, in­de­pen­dently de­vel­oped and planned the Contessa 900, which was re­leased in April of 1961. The de­sign de­tails of the Re­nault and Hino’s own tech­nol­ogy were used, but the body styling was new, and, since it was a ‘sports sedan’ in the eyes of the Ja­panese, the car was given the name ‘Contessa’, a Span­ish word sig­ni­fy­ing no­bil­ity.

Grand Prix suc­cess

By us­ing the rear en­gine and rear-wheeldrive sys­tem, the car was noted for its ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity and smooth-run­ning en­gine. There was also a ver­sion, known as the ‘PC10’, with what was con­sid­ered at the time to be a small sporty body. In 1963, one was en­tered in the Ja­pan Grand Prix and was awarded first place in the GT class. My oh my, have times changed!

Back in about 1998, my grandad, Trevor Stan­ley-joblin (con­trib­u­tor to this pub­li­ca­tion since May 1991, and a long-term or­ga­nizer of clas­sic-car events in Can­ter­bury), pur­chased a very rare 1963 Hino Contessa that had trav­elled only 43,272 miles (69,638km). Although he has no proof, he was told that it came into New Zealand via Amer­i­can Samoa. Un­for­tu­nately, this Hino was then left out­side un­der a tree for many years, some­where over on the West Coast of the South Is­land.

Trevor kept the car for many years in its as-found con­di­tion and said that his wish, if he’d won Lotto, would have been to sim­ply send the Hino into Auto Restora­tions, a world-renowned restoration shop here in Christchurch, with instructions to give it a full first-class re­build. This may have cost five times as much as its New Zealand value, but if you win Lotto, what the heck!

As it was a ‘sports sedan’ in the eyes of the Ja­panese, the car was given the name ‘Contessa’, a Span­ish word sig­ni­fy­ing no­bil­ity

Grandad do­nated this low-mileage, left-hand-drive ex­am­ple to the Ste­warts Clas­sic Col­lec­tion in Rus­s­ley, Christchurch, some years ago. The car re­quires a to­tal restoration and, to this day, re­mains parked up, un­der cover in the to-be-re­stored barn at the mu­seum. In the un­likely chance that Grandad does win Lotto some­time soon, he will ask John Stew­art for the car back and will still send it into Auto Restora­tions.

New Contessa in­tro­duced

The Hino Contessa was con­tin­ued un­til 1967. Grandad told me that, back in the mid ’50s his fa­ther said to him, “The Ja­panese don’t in­vent much, but they are great copiers.” You can see that from the front of the 1967 Contessa shown on the next page. Take a close look — what do you see? If your an­swer is ‘The MKI Tri­umph 2000’, you’re cor­rect.

Grandad pur­chased this 1967 Hino Contessa 1300, by pure chance, in about 1994. He had re­ceived a phone call from a lady ask­ing if he was in­ter­ested in buy­ing a car ra­dio from a 1937 Ford V8 coupé that she and her late hus­band had once owned. At that stage, Grandad was restor­ing his 1936 Ford V8 road­ster. Act­ing on this phone call, he went to the ad­dress. It was then that he was in­tro­duced to this Hino, which had been out of ac­tion for some time and was ab­so­lutely cov­ered in a thick coat­ing of dust.

The car was to­tally orig­i­nal and had trav­elled only 35,804 miles (57,619km). Frost White in colour, with pow­der blue vinyl up­hol­stery, this pris­tine ex­am­ple was prob­a­bly the most orig­i­nal in New Zealand, if not the world! Even af­ter all these years, Grandad still clearly re­calls driv­ing the Contessa home: “It drove re­ally well for a car man­u­fac­tured in 1967. I also re­call how tight the car felt. Not a rat­tle or noise from any­where in the car. In fact, without a word of ex­ag­ger­a­tion, she felt like new. A bit light and drifty in the steer­ing depart­ment, but I guess a set of mod­ern-day ra­dial tyres would vastly im­prove that.”

When Grandad pur­chased it, the left front park light glass was bro­ken. These, of course, would be like hen’s teeth to lo­cate. How­ever, the chance came up a few years later to pur­chase a com­plete Ja­panese-as­sem­bled 1966

Hino Contessa Deluxe, war­ranted, reg­is­tered, and drive­able, for just $350. It had been owned by the seller for the past nine years, and she’d had it reg­u­larly ser­viced dur­ing her own­er­ship. Con­se­quently, the deal was done, so home came an­other Hino to join his ‘brother’. This one was yel­low, but, when new, it had been fin­ished in a nice me­tal­lic ma­roon/red colour, as was de­tected by the paint in the en­gine bay. This par­tic­u­lar Hino is be­lieved to have been one of the seven or eight pi­lot cars im­ported by Camp­bell Mo­tor In­dus­tries prior to New Zealand assem­bly. In 1966, it was sold new to a lady in Levin.

Off came the hard to find park light lens, and, as an ex­tra bonus, as this car was a Deluxe model, it had a fac­tory clock fit­ted — the al­most square one you can see in the photo above left, so that came off too. It is im­mac­u­late and works. The Frost White Hino, be­ing a stan­dard model, did not have this lux­ury fit­ted, which is why Grandad trans­ferred it to the ’67 Hino.

As he had no use for the now-al­most­com­plete Hino, a cou­ple of years later, he ad­ver­tised in this pub­li­ca­tion. A gen­tle­man from an auc­tion house in Auck­land pur­chased it sight un­seen over the tele­phone, and away she went, never to be heard from or seen again! Shipped to Ja­pan, maybe?

One thing Grandad had to do with the Frost White one was have the bumpers and over­rid­ers re-chromed. This was sim­ply be­cause the car had sat for so many years, ab­so­lutely cov­ered in thick dust, in spite of be­ing housed in a good garage. For­tu­nately,

the paint­work washed, cut, and pol­ished up re­mark­ably well. The en­tire in­te­rior was ab­so­lutely like brand new, in­clud­ing the del­i­cate-look­ing pow­der blue up­hol­stery. Grandad re-chromed the hub­caps and fit­ted a set of wheel bands to the re­painted gun­metal grey wheels.

Rare ve­hi­cles

Contes­sas are now very rare. The New Zealand–new Contes­sas were as­sem­bled by Camp­bell Mo­tor In­dus­tries at its plant in Thames. It is also worth men­tion­ing that the New Zealand– as­sem­bled Contes­sas were dif­fer­ent to the Ja­panese-as­sem­bled cars in a num­ber of im­por­tant ways. These in­cluded a unique chas­sis-num­ber set, pre­vi­ously un­known to the Ja­panese Hino club peo­ple. The op­tional heater was a ‘Cruise’ brand, made in Hast­ings, and in­cluded unique dash­board con­trols. The seat frames, air cleaner, ex­haust sys­tem, and car­bu­ret­tor pipe were made by Camp­bell Tube Prod­ucts in Thames, and lo­cally man­u­fac­tured up­hol­stery in­cluded a unique range of colours not avail­able in Ja­pan. Other lo­cally man­u­fac­tured items in­cluded the ra­di­a­tor and all the win­dow glass ex­cept for the front quar­ter win­dows, which were man­u­fac­tured by Pilk­ing­ton New Zealand. Lo­cal paint­work also in­cluded a unique colour range not avail­able in Ja­pan.

As for the num­bers known to have sur­vived, Contes­sas still turn up oc­ca­sion­ally in pad­docks and barns around the coun­try. Our re­search sug­gests that there could pos­si­bly be five Contessa sedans in run­ning or­der, and there are ru­mours of an­other six or seven. New Zealand cer­tainly seems to have the most Contessa sur­vivors out­side Ja­pan. Is­rael has a few as well, and I be­lieve that they are very rare in Aus­tralia, where there may well be fewer than six; they were al­ways far rarer there than in New Zealand.

Above: The ‘spare’ ’66 Hino sent away to mys­tery buyer in Auck­land Left: A 1961 Hino Contessa 900 PC10

Above: Hino Contessa 1300s at a mo­tor show. Be­low: “Frisky sporty rugged” — a con­tem­po­rary press ad­ver­tise­ment for the Contessa Right: Trevor’s first Hino Contessa, pur­chased in 1998

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