- Words / Photography © Skorj / Magnesium
Students of automotive design and history will advise us the death of the rear-engine air-cooled car was dictated by a number of changing fashions and requirements. Pollution and noise requirements ensured two-strokes with their oil-burning lubrication systems, were phased out, and still more stringent regulations in many jurisdictions started to enforce additional requirements.
Making the job of NVH (Noise, Vibration, and Harshness) engineers difficult, the requirement for low drive-by ambient noise levels put the rear engined car at a natural disadvantage – with induction, combustion, and exhaust all at the same end, a rear-engined is naturally louder (from one end at least) than a car with its potential noise sources evenly distributed. Air-cooled versions perhaps more so.
The addition of a water-jacket for cooling, the deletion of large and many air-flow promoting openings, and an always running air-cooling fan, further makes water-cooled engines attractive. Requirements for heater and demister operation also favoring a water-cooled engine, with air-cooled engines requiring complex heat exchangers, flaps & valves, or even auxiliary engines to heat the cabin rapidly.
Abandoned car collections can be found all across Japan: kei-cars, sports cars, saloons, trucks, even buses. I’ve seen a few of each type, but only ever a smattering of air-cooled goodness. So, this collection in Saitama, on the Kanto Plain north of Tokyo, is even more remarkable as almost all of its neglected machines are rear-engine and air-cooled. A real find.
Honda 360, Subaru 360, Honda TC, Honda Vamos, Suzuki Cervo, Mazda Carol, all in various state of decay. The only ’360′ missing appeared to be the Mitsubishi. A large number of whole engines, cylinder heads, fans, cooling shrouds, interior trim, and the usual junkyard parts lay about from the collection.
Subaru 360 and Honda TC kei-trucks are reasonably common, as too are Suzuki Cervo, but Honda Vamos are quite rare, as is the Ford Anglia inspired four-cylinder Mazda Carol. The red one here is quite complete, with any missing parts appearing to lie scattered on the ground near by.
Also in the collection is a Mitsubishi Debonair, resplendent in funeral black, the only faux-pas being wire wheels, perhaps fitted in the 1970s when I suppose they were a popular accessory to make cars look “classy”. At least they are real wires, not just plastic hubcaps from proto-Auto Bacs.
The collection also includes a boat-tailed Alfa Spyder under cover, a few lesser Japanese classics, but also a car I’ve never seen before – a Daihastsu Compagno. Though not air-cooled, or rear-engined, its small convertible configuration would have made it an obvious nice-to-have for any car collector. In surprisingly good condition, its European style is perhaps reminiscent of a small Fiat or Alfa Romeo. A Daihatsu otaku might be aware of its design and marketing history?
Unlike some abandoned collections throughout Japan, this set is actively owned by someone and at least one of these interesting machines is posted for sale via on-line classic car sales, so it would be reasonable to assume offers would be accepted accordingly for others seen here.
Continuing the air-cooled in Saitama theme, just down the road from this collection, and made by the company that was later to produce the Subaru 360, an air-cooled Rabbit scooter was parked out front of the local scooter distributor…
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