Arriving at Zama — one of Nissan's oldest manufacturing plants — we are told that no photos are to be taken while outside the buildings. Our bus works its way through the huge facility and arrives at a very unassuming entranceway. So much so that I doubt I could find my own way back. But for a not-open-to-the-public museum, this is probably a good thing. What lay beyond those doors was Nissan's Heritage Collection — a treasure trove of Nissan's long history dating right back to the very first cars that they produced predating the name Nissan. In total, 350 were on display and another 50 in the wings undergoing restoration.
Not open to the public, and barely opened to the media, it's the kind of display that gets the hairs on the back of your neck to stand up when the doors are swung open. Not only for the ridiculous amount of iconic race cars, but also for all the oddities like this late-1940s fire truck. Each car restored to new condition and spit-polished to perfection.
Tracing back your R32's lineage will lead you to a company known as Prince, which merged with Nissan in the late ’60s. Prince launched the very first Skyline in 1957. The first sports coupe (shown above) was released in 1961 and featured a hand-built body, with only 500 ever built.
As you can imagine, GT-Rs of all generations can be found. The best part of the tour was that our chaperones were all retired Nissan designers and technicians, including those who were responsible for the development of many of the icons, including he GT-R projects.
The passion these gentleman displayed for the brand and the GT-R name was amazing. You really got a sense that they took the GT-R heritage very seriously and that the badge was never put on anything that they didn't believe deserved it.
Four-door R33 GT-R anyone?
But of course it's not just the typical Nissan heroes restored and displayed — some lesser icons have also earned their spot in the collection. I'm sure no one from New Zealand needs to be told what this headlight belongs to.
But if I'm honest it was hard to walk the rows of restored factory machines, when over the way was a huge collection of race machinery. Something that is right up my alley. After all it's Nissan's dominance in so many race disciplines that has played a huge part in building the legend that is Nissan.
My personal favourites were the super silhouettes of the early ’80s, like the 910 Bluebird — powered by a 570hp two-litre LZ20B it took both the 1980 and 1982 championships.
Sitting next to the Bluebird was a hero car of mine: the Tomica Skyline.
Wrestling all 570hp through this wheel with what was surely a pretty laggy turbo set-up must have made for an exciting time behind the wheel.
There is just something about the analogue simplicity of these monsters.
I was lucky enough to witness this car spitting flames only a day earlier at the Nismo Festival.
The team from Safari Garage, who, alongside Nismo, are responsible for the restoration and race prep of many of the race cars, were busy returning them to their spots, where they will wait until next year's Nismo Festival for another lap in anger.
Is there a better-looking R32 than those that ran Group A? The Taisan STP entry played its part in 1993 taking one victory. The R32 was undefeated in four seasons!
When you think Nissan motorsport, Can-Am racing is not something that springs to mind, but during the late ’60s these machines dominated the Japan GP.
The reason being was the six-litre DOHC V12 delivering over 600hp at only 6000rpm.
This 240Z served its time as a works-built machine. I'm not sure what the wheels are? But damn I want some.
The rally collection, was just as impressive as any of the circuit stuff, but with a twist.
Some of the machines have been left untouched, like this 240 driven by Lofty Drews and Shekhar Mehta, which has been left just how it crossed the line in first place back in 1973.
More proof of Nissan's dominance, the Primera that stole the show during the 1999 BTCC championship.
Raced in Group 5 during 1982, this March Super Silhouette built by Nismo was surprisingly popular thanks to its low cost to run when compared with the turbo Skylines, Silvias, and Bluebirds
The lack of safety is certainly made up for by the level of detail that a race car simply should not have. But when you're driven by a famous TV personalty that extra flare is a given.
Sadly my time at Zama was short, and in all honesty I could have spent a day or two there going over each and every machine. One can only hope that one day this facility is opened to the public, as it would be a must-visit for any Nissan fan, as what I have shown here is only just scratching the surface.