There is something unostentatious about taking an unused workshop with its cold grey painted floors, bare walls and fluorescent lights to house the gem of an empire. From the outside you would think that whatever is inside can’t be much if it’s been stashed away in an old workshop. However for those who are granted access, what awaits you behind the shutter doors will leave you utterly speechless. Welcome to ‘Datsun Nissan Automuseum’.
What you are looking at is the world’s most amazing automotive time capsule, showcasing an impressive 80-year history courtesy of more than 400 vehicles. I’m guessing most of you will be wondering how you hadn’t heard about this impressive collection before. It’s simple; Nissan doesn't really tell anyone they have it. Off-limits to the public, this wonderland was created to inspire their designers when they need some encouragement. Everything in this collection is iconic, from classic cars, to special one-off pieces, and all their world-renowned and iconic racecars.
Glancing to the left your eyes are greeted by cars such as the ‘1932 Type 12’, the first car Datsun produced, straight ahead are the earlier Datsuns, as well as the iconic Nissan Kenmeri, and Hakosuka GT-R’s.
Then over to the right is all the best racecars of Gran Turismo, complete with more Skylines than a coffee and cars morning. Peering into the C110 you can’t help but notice how immaculate the cars are, completely original and many are un-restored too.
I was lucky to have a guide who was a walking encyclopedia of all things Nissan. Appearing as possibly the world’s most enthusiastic Nissan fanatic, I soon realized just how special Mr Kazuo really was. ‘I have been to Australia, but never New Zealand…I visited Bathurst’ he said with a smile.
Yeah you guessed it, standing next to me was the exact man responsible for taking the ‘Godzilla’ to Bathurst. ‘It was a memorable experience and I will never forget the look on everyone’s face when we dominated the event’. I am pretty sure everyone in New Zealand can remember his or her own astonishment after that particular year’s race too.
Wandering the lines of automotive dominoes, my senses were being treated to all the smells of the automotive glory days. All the old cars had a memorable special scent and the corner, which housed all the competition machines just smelled just like a pit-garage. These cars were no models; this was the real McCoy complete with cracked bodywork, the rear fenders charred from backfiring throughout all the racing and molten rubber shards stuck to their body work.
However what made this compound really special was not just the vast mix of cars on display, but the fact that every car had a story to tell. ‘This is the ’66 Silvia, only 500 were made and none of them were exported’ my tour guide exclaimed. ‘This Fairlady is chassis number 000001 and is owned by Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn who still drives it when he is in Tokyo’.
How about the 1989 Skyline GT-R, which is so rare it is hidden away, for good reason too as it is estimated to be worth $300,000. I was trying to soak as much of the experience in as was humanly possible, as I had been granted a mere (yet very generous) two-hour private time slot with the collection. Heck, it was just a huge collection of cars but I was treating it like sacred holy ground, as I had truly been blind-sided with quite simply one of the most amazing automotive experiences of my life.
I was immensely impressed with the rally car collection as well. Nissan in the early days chose the Safari rallies to showcase their reliability when they were pushing into the international markets, and it certainly worked. All the classic rally cars had basically been hosed off after the finish line, and then pushed into the museum. Body panels missing, bent, one car that had rolled was left exactly as it finished the event. This was for sure the best way to preserve history.
Peering through the windows of the 240Z Safari edition there was sand and dust still behind the instrument panel and it just felt like you could smell the sweat from the long hours Edgar Herrmann and Hans Schuller spent in 1971 pounding the car across the dusty plains of Africa. All the competition machines were similar, even though they were all a one-off build, they all proudly were left showing off their battle scars from the four corners of the world where Nissan has taken them to battle.
By the time I had taken in the smells, sights and tried to comprehend exactly what had just happened the two hours was basically up.
Seeing those iconic cars we all know and love from games such as Gran Turismo in real life was really the icing on the cake for me as let’s face it, how often do you get to go behind the scenes and get one on one time with the one and only ‘Gojira’?