Japanese Car Staff Picks - Cliff Chambers

By: Cliff Chambers, Unique Cars magazine

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subaru leone drift subaru leone drift

Cliff Chambers nominates his top three choices of Japanese cars

 

SUBARU LEONE RX TURBO 1985-87

Out in the forests they called the Subaru RX Turbo 4WD ‘The Whispering Death’ – and less friendly things as well. This was the car that changed rallying in this country; sneaking up on long-held traditions in the way it might an errant spectator who didn’t hear it coming and meandered across a live section of rally road.

I managed Subaru’s competition programme back in those amazing days when Australian rallying changed from loud and sideways to silent and sophisticated, when the Turbo won two National and several State rally titles. For some years afterwards I owned the silver RX I had used as an ARC ‘chaser’ before letting it go off and become a real-life rally car. Despite the wall full of trophies won by RXs around the world, very few of these significant cars survive and even the very good ones don’t generate much money.

Value Range: $3000-15,000

 

DATSUN 1600 – 1968-72

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No contest as to which model gets pole position in this trio. The 1600 will live in motoring history as the car that changed everything people thought they knew about Japanese designs. At some point in their lives, most of the enthusiasts in this country seem to have owned a Datto, with more than a few tales to tell. Off the stick the 1600 was not a fast car but dominated its category in Production Car racing and could be made to go incredibly quickly.

Add to that immense strength and you understand why 1600s rallied at the highest levels could and did outlast the best in the world to win major events and innumerable Championships. Sad thing today is that many of the surviving cars have been modified and so few convey the original character of an exceptional design.

Value Range: $10,000-35,000

| Market Review: Datsun Bluebird/1200/1600/240K

 

TOYOTA CELICA GT4 GROUP A 1994-95

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Bit of a pattern here isn’t there? Yes, my final choice is yet another Japanese car that wrote its name into any number of record books that dotted the arena of world rallying, It is also a hugely impressive road car and achieved unprecedented notoriety by getting Toyota banned from international rallying for cheating.

Unlike other top-level rally cars of its era the Group A Celica is stunning to look at with a nose so elongated it will block out the sun on sharp crests. Only a problem of course for those without the benefit of pace notes.  Australia’s share of the 2500 Group As built was just 77 cars plus a few private imports, but given their scarcity and competence the money asked when one does appear isn’t ridiculous.

Value Range: $20,000-55,000

  

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