Zama Storage Facility is one of a myriad of large warehouses in an area that spans hundreds of acres. Though there are many buildings both small and large the area in general is split into three sections and we wound our way through them to get to a high security area. After some interrogation by security on the gate our coach was allowed in, then Geetak, Aki and Fuggles had to go back to the security gate in person before we parked up and met our host for the day.
We were soon ushered past a few cars in the entrance area before sitting down to a presentation by our host – Nakayama-san. Explaining the history of Nissan/Datsun, Prince and all the other companies that came together to make the company today. He also explained that there was some major rebuilding work going on and, as a result, some of the cars were being stored in a different warehouse that we could not access for safety reasons. But our disappointment was to be short lived as we were escorted through a small door in a very large wall.
Whatever languages we all speak I think the very first thought that went through every single persons head that moment was summed up by David when he said (in a slightly raised voiced) “Oh my ****ing god!”
Zama may be home to retired race cars, one-off demos and rare collectors items. It may indeed be a large collection of metal, bright paint and stickers for the race cars, but it is without doubt a truly amazing experience. Compare what is here – and remember this is only a part of the collection – to the Porsche Museum or any general automotive museum and you have something that betters those by some considerable way.
In time honoured fashion often actions speak louder than wods and we soon all walked off in different directions. What followed was a really strange experience. For the next hour or so the only sound you could hear was camera shutters going off. Everyone walked around in hushed silence and if anyone did say the odd word it was very quiet. Heck this is a massive warehouse full of cars yet we were treating it like a temple. Indeed the warehouse was a temple and we had come to worship what for everyone had to be one of the most amazing things we will ever see.
All the photos will be on the GTR Owners Club Flikr page very soon but we first want to combine them from everyone’s collection before we do. So check below for an update and a direct link. We did ask what the restriction on photographs was as previously no group had been allowed in with free reign to take photos and, if we wanted open doors, bonnets etc to peek inside. We were told Nissan would allow them only on our personal blogs or the GTROC site and our photo wall. We pushed further and explained some magazines were hoping to cover this and, at that point, they relented and said we could send some to magazines only but as long as no money exchanged. Relieved, that we could ‘share the love’ we continued our quest for more photos.
After several hours Fuggles had the tough task of trying to usher everyone away as we had a meeting with Nissan at their HQ. Every request was met with “in a minute”, “okay” or “just one more”. Of course the action to these comments was just to continue taking pictures and completely forget that we had to leave.
Eventually, somehow, we managed to escape the arena and were all reluctant we could not stay long for that last perfect photo. Miguel commented that he had been in Japan 14 years and had tried to get into Zama before and never been allowed. His comments summed it up when he said he felt truly privileged to have visited the facility and to be part of the GTROC.
After farewells to the people running the facility – and the cars – we stepped back on our coach and headed off; this time not for Nissan’s first HQ but for the global Nissan Head Office. Since the morning our party of 12 from Europe had swelled by three of our USAF colleagues from Japan who were on the ‘bus’, plus four GTROC members living in Japan. We made quite a formidable party and a world away from seven years ago when the first every GTROC tour to Japan consisted of just four people.
After a ten minute drive we arrived at Nissan HQ and were met outside by our host for the early evening. Overall the weather had been kind to us so far; dry but cold. As the sun was setting it was now decidedly ‘fresh’ and we soon huddled inside the doorway of the office where we were all given security passes for our visit.
Our host from Nissan explained that we were in the Nissan HQ Gallery which was actually shut that day but had been opened especially for us. Basically the entire ground floor was a Nissan Museum and showroom. The focus of the day was the Nissan Wall and the 55 Years of the Skyline display. The Nissan Wall explains the history of Nissan motor cars – a bit like Top Gear’s Cool Wall, except that it was all cool.
The 55 years display had a great collection of Skylines from a Prince production right through to the latest edition – sold as Infiniti elsewhere in the world. Somehow this display did not get the heart pumping and the blood coursing as much as Zama but it was laid out in a way that was easier to photograph and we spent some time taking pictures. The main focus for everyone though was the R35 GT-R Egoist; in white with red and pink interior – perhaps the most photographed car on the tour so far.
The Egoist flamboyant interior and one-off paint was perhaps enough even for Heinz. Not only were the seats different in colour they were too different in design and once inside it resembled more a soft armchair than a performance GT car. For some of our party sourcing the paint reference number seemed to be the objective, for others the reaction was “I like it but not in that colour” or perhaps a real admiration for the car but the price tag gave it a truly exclusive appeal.
All photographed out we were escorted to a large meeting room in Nissan’s HQ. There we were entertained by our hosts for the day and the meeting. Whilst at the Egoist we had been joined by Global Chief Marketing Manager Guillame Masurel who wanted to hear our thoughts on a range of topics. Also there was Sekiguchi-san. Part way through we were joined by Simon Sproule of Nissan.
The one hour meeting was a very spirited affair with members disagreeing on what they wanted from a car – perhaps explaining then why Nissan make so many models and versions. We also discussed the next GT-R, what other sports cars Nissan have in plan – and yes they do have something and it will be hear soon, but please don’t get out your cheque books just yet. The Juke-R came up in conversation as did Nismo and many other subjects. Sitting also in the room were other Nissan people who, along with Guillame made copious notes.
Everyone in the room was urging Nissan to do something with Zama and make a museum to rival any other. We accepted it would take a lot of work – and a lot of space but it had to be done. Perhaps the feelings about this idea were summed up by one tour party member when he said “In my heart I hope you don’t because my today was something very special, but my head says you are sitting on something you should share with everyone”
Perhaps one key discussion was the way the tour party felt dropping the Skyline name (apart from in Japan) was a mistake. We explained outside of Japan the Skyline name had huge importance but it was recognised the new GT-R was such a leap forward that it was not a Skyline. Nissan really listened and seemed genuinely pleased with the suggestion that their next new sports car should perhaps be an all new Nissan Skyline. So, who knows, perhaps some other car clubs out their do still have a future after all !
All to soon we wrapped up the meeting where. In time honoured and GTROC traditional fashion Club Chairman John Fuggles thanked our hosts for the day and invited them to visit us whenever they are in Europe next.
Outside and leaving the building we continued conversations in the darkness of early evening. As we boarded the bus we headed back to the Hilton in Shinjuku and time for a brief respite before finishing something to eat. In small groups we headed off the local restaurants and for all of us a relatively early night – sometime around 2am!