A NISMO ODYSSEY

MAR­CUS HEADS TO THE LAND OF THE RIS­ING SUN TO CHECK OUT NIS­SAN’S DEEP HER­ITAGE IN MO­TOR­SPORT

NZ Performance Car - - Contents -

MAR­CUS FLIES TO JA­PAN TO TAKE IN THE NIS­SAN HER­ITAGE MU­SEUM AT ZAMA AND THE MUST-DO EVENT FOR ALL NIS­SAN FANS — THE NISMO FES­TI­VAL

Nis­san is one of Ja­pan’s old­est car com­pa­nies. Founded in 1911 as the Kwaishin­sha Mo­tor Car Works, it built its first car in 1914, the DAT. The name ‘Nis­san’ didn’t ar­rive un­til the 1930s, and a reshuf­fle of as­sets cre­ated a new au­to­mo­bile sub­sidiary in 1934, then called ‘Nis­san Mo­tor Co Ltd’.

Given that his­tory, not to men­tion the brand’s role in mo­tor­sport from the 1930s, it comes as no sur­prise that the com­pany boasts a col­lec­tion of rac­ing and road-go­ing cars that are well worth show­cas­ing. That col­lec­tion — some 350 cars strong — is housed at Zama, a for­mer man­u­fac­tur­ing plant There, all th­ese ve­hi­cles are on dis­play, re­stored to their for­mer glory and ready to run. It’s all thanks to a few com­pa­nies such as Nismo and Sa­fari Garage, and a team of re­tired Nis­san em­ploy­ees who are restor­ing ve­hi­cles down to the small­est de­tail. Each year, a few projects are com­pleted and added to the col­lec­tion, with over 50 cur­rently await­ing their turn.

Ev­ery­thing from the very first pro­duc­tion model to a full ar­ray of rac­ing ma­chines, from what many con­sider to be the most suc­cess­ful and var­ied rac­ing his­tory of any car man­u­fac­turer, can be found among the rows and rows of bea­t­u­ify­ing re­stored tin. Sadly,

this fa­cil­ity is not open to the pub­lic, al­though you can get the chance to view many of the race cars run­ning in anger around the famed Fuji Speed­way once a year, an event that took place the day be­fore our visit to Zama.

Known as the ‘Nismo Fes­ti­val’, it’s a one-day event of colos­sal pro­por­tions, re­garded as the Holy Grail of fes­ti­vals by any diehard Nis­san fan, and a chance to get up close and per­sonal with the proper he­roes of the Nis­san col­lec­tion. Each year, the Nis­san team brings a range of race hard­ware from Zama, along with a bunch of Nismo ve­hi­cles and pri­va­teer ve­hi­cles. At this event, you can see 50-odd cars run­ning through­out the day, most of which have some se­ri­ous cre­den­tials — cars like the dom­i­nat­ing Cal­sonic R32 GT-R, which took the Ja­panese Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship in 1991 and 1993, plus a big col­lec­tion of mod­ern GT500 and GT300 GT-Rs, 24 Hours of Le Mans spe­cials, GT3 cars, Z Cup cars, Hako­sukas, Dat­suns, and the men­ac­ing Su­per Sil­hou­ettes.

Along­side the on-track ac­tion, the pad­dock and car park just scream Nis­san. Even more Zama cars were on dis­play dot­ted around the pad­dock, as well as a swap meet, trade stands, and an RB26-build­ing com­pe­ti­tion that pit­ted three teams head-to-head, all of which kept pun­ters happy.

But our favourite fan ac­tiv­ity had to be the Cir­cuit Sa­fari: when you ride on a bus dur­ing a live track of GT cars go­ing at race pace. Words sim­ply can­not de­scribe this feel­ing. It’s things like this that you will only ever ex­pe­ri­ence at events like the Nismo Fes­ti­val.

How­ever, the high­light for most was watch­ing the on-track ac­tion, in­clud­ing those thun­der­ing Su­per Sil­hou­ettes of the ’70s and ’80s, and then the fi­nal ex­hi­bi­tion race, the Nismo Grand Prix, fea­tur­ing mod­ern and cur­rent-spec ma­chines, the fastest of which were the GT500s, th­ese hit­ting 300kph along the front straight of the For­mula 1 track — a sight and sound most will not for­get in a long time.

If you ask us, hold­ing the event as a sin­gle day sim­ply does not al­low enough time to re­ally en­joy ev­ery­thing, as you are con­stantly forced to make some se­ri­ous first-world de­ci­sions: Do I stand in the pits and watch the team wrench­ing on the Tom­ica R31? Catch the JGTC-win­ning R33 spit­ting flames on track? Or go and grab the sig­na­tures of driv­ers such as the leg­endary Toshio Suzuki or Masahiro Hasemi?

Will we go back? Damn right we will, and we sug­gest that if you’re a Nis­san fan, you too should add this event to your bucket list.

At times, it was nearly im­pos­si­ble to work your way through the crowds at the trade stands. We man­aged to grab a few bar­gains and stuff them in our suit­cases. Sadly, not a set of GT500 Nismo wheels, though

The ’80s were a wild time in terms of bodywork. Just check out this S12 Sil­via and sky­line. Both are pow­ered by an LZ20B tur­bocharged 2.0-litre unit mak­ing 425kW (570hp)

This is the re­sult when OS Giken reimag­ines the L-se­ries en­gine. Com­plete with al­loy head, this mo­tor is, for many, the Holy Grail of nat­u­rally as­pi­rated six-cylin­ders, with 11.5:1 com­pres­sion and some­where over 300kW (402hp)

Dur­ing the 1960s, Nis­san built quite a few Can-Am cars, most fea­tur­ing a 6.0-litre, 447kW (600hp) V12 and us­ing non-Nis­san chas­sis from com­pa­nies like March

With a mix of highly strung nat­u­rally as­pi­rated four- and six-cylin­der en­gines, the Hako­sukas, Dat­sun 1200s, and Dat­sun 180Bs sounded amaz­ing as the full field fought for po­si­tion on track. Th­ese guys were not mess­ing around, even trad­ing paint a few times

Dur­ing our visit, all the cars were re­turn­ing from Fuji Race­way and be­ing pushed back into place un­til next year

The 1999 Bri­tish Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship–win­ning Primera

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