Way before the Skyline GT-Rs, the RX-7s, and the Supras, there were these cars that shaped the lives of Japanese in the ‘60s.
The 1964 Summer Olympics and the cars
57 years ago, it was Tokyo that hosted the summer Olympics to show the world its rebirth of the city after a total defeat in World War II.
At that time, Japan, or Tokyo specifically, transportation networks were being developed at a drastic pace, and the term “motorization” was heard at many places. This formed the beginning of the automobile society in Japan.
In the 1950s, Japan was entering a period of rapid growth, known as the “Japanese economic miracle”, and the importance of the automobile was increasing in major cities including Tokyo. And the 1960s saw the birth of a number of famous cars, thanks to the momentum of the times.
Now let’s look at the wonderful cars that were born around the ‘60s.
Toyota 2000GT (1967)
Three years after the historic Tokyo Games, Toyota launched Japan’s very first authentic sports car, the 2000GT.
The 3M 2-liter inline-6 engine was developed by Yamaha and was the first DOHC engine in Toyota. Its maximum output boasted 150 ps and with its beautiful lines of the body, which was also developed by Yamaha, the car attracted many car enthusiasts.
Today, the 2000GT is an extremely expensive collector’s item, but even before its debut, expectations were high for the 2000GT. The car won the Suzuka 1000 km and also set an FIA record for both speed and endurance in a 72-hour test conducted at the Yatabe High Speed Test Track in 1966, one year before its release.
Nissan Cedric Special (1963)
In 1955, to compete with Toyota’s Toyopet Crown sedan, Nissan introduced the Cedric.
The car has a design like an American full-size sedan was Nissan’s first model using a monocoque body. At launch, the engine used was a 1.5-liter engine but in 1961, Nissan added a “Custom” trim that came with a 1.9-liter.
The one that appears in this video is the Cedric Special, which came with a bigger 2.8-liter inline-6 engine that produces 120 ps. And not only the engine but also the body was bigger than the ordinary model, making the model the first Japanese car to be sold in the “3-number” classification (‘3’ stands for passenger car larger than 2000 cc for its engine, or having a bigger body size than the classif. ‘5’ compact cars).
This Cedric also served as the torchbearer for the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics.
Subaru 360 (1958)
The Subaru 360 was introduced by Fuji Heavy Industries in 1958. With its excellent packaging that could accommodate four adults in the car’s small cabin, the 360 soon became popular as the people’s car of Japan.
Doors were made to open towards the front to make it easy for people to get in and off. Fuji Heavy Industries used their know-how from aircraft engineering to conduct a drastic weight reduction such as making the rear window acrylic.
The 356 cc inline-2, air-cooled two-stroke cycle engine was developed using the company’s technology cultivated through the production of a 250 cc scooter engine. Its maximum output was around 16 ps at 4,500 rpm, which was not very high but combined with a body weighing only 400 kg (881.8 lbs.), it drove around town with ease.
It was widely loved for its high driving performance and low price when compared to other kei-cars a that time, and was sold until 1970. The Subaru 360 was a gift from Fuji Heavy Industries to the Japanese people, and is one of the most famous cars of the 1960s.