JCCS Week Model of the Day: Jun Imai’s Hot Wheels Toyota AE86 Corolla…
It is officially JCCS week, as we look forward to the upcoming Japanese Classic Car Show in Long Beach, California on September 15. The Lamley Group will be there, and is taking the week to celebrate: Alright folks, we are in the thick of JCCS week. Yesterday, we got an excellent contribution from Japanese Nostalgic Car Editor-in-Chief Ben Hsu, highlighting his favorite diecast, and today is Part 1 of our look at Jun Imai’s JDM-inspired designs for Hot Wheels. Jun will be a special guest at the JNC booth on Saturday, and more importantly, he is responsible for the influx of j-tin designs that have (and will) grace the blue pegs at your local big box store. Who knows how many people now have an appreciation of, say, the Datsun 510’s racing heritage for example, just because they saw a Hot Wheels version on the pegs sitting next to a Camaro… Since there is essentially a 5-day period from now until Saturday, we picked one model for each day, all licensed castings. What was (probably unfairly) omitted is the truly excellent Mad Manga, which was released this year and instantaneously forced Hot Wheels collectors to drop their Chevelles and zip over to Wikipedia to figure out what bosozoku meant. Here are the five:
Toyota AE86 Corolla
Datsun Bluebird 510
Nissan Skyline H/T 2000GT-X
Nissan Skyline H/T 2000GT-R
Now if I can just get my hands on Jun’s newest, the 1970 Toyota Celica, I would show that too. But 2013’s first New Model is not out yet, so it will get First Look treatment on another day. Maybe Jun will bring it with him on Saturday.
Alright, on with it.
I think it makes sense to go in chronological order, so let’s start with the oldest casting. Jun’s AE86 debuted in 2006. Want some fun facts about the casting?
It was one of the original Faster Than Ever models, debuting with FTE wheels and with red 5-spokes. But that is not as interesting as its mysterious color switch. Very early FTE versions appeared not in white as it was supposed to be, but in matte gray. Soon red 5sp versions showed up in gray in Mexico. The vari world went nuts, and gray Corollas became the vari to have for quite awhile. They still are nearly impossible to track down. So why the gray? From what I know, that was the original color, but once Jun and/or others saw it in its final production version, that was scrapped, and white became the color of choice. A good move, as the matte gray version looks like it is covered in clay. Nonetheless, a grey Corolla with either FTEs or 5sp wheels is a great vari to have in the collection.
And there is another vari. A few 3-spoke versions appeared in grocery store shippers, and also went to the top of variation collector’s lists. For a car that was supposed to produce essentially one color that year, it sure created havoc. If you were lucky, you could take a photo like this one:
I took this photo back in 2006. Then I sold the models to buy an Eames Rocker. Robbing Peter to pay Paul. I love my mid-century furniture, but I should have kept these. I have since reacquired the FTE gray, and it is pictured below.
Since then, the AE86 has been featured in the 2010 Hot Tunerz 5-pack, and this year in the Decades series. That is it. Not enough, so hopefully we see another version soon.
How about the real car? I have this little machine at the carnival down the street that is Zoltar from the movie Big, only it is JDM expert Ben Hsu’s head, and when I put in a quarter, it spews fun facts about Japanese faves. So I put in my quarter, and learned this:
Japanese nickname hachiroku (Japanese for “eight six”, its chassis code”)
sold in the US as Corolla GT-S
sold concurrently with FWD Corolla on completely different chassis
lightweight, RWD Corolla, the last of its breed (that is until the Scion FR-S, which is simply called the Toyota 86 in Japan)
instantly became weapon of choice for illegal drifting and touge battles in the mountains of Japan
immortalized in the Initial-D series of manga and anime
Thanks Zoltar Ben Hsu. Cool machine, eh? Let’s hope we get an Initial-D version at some point.