Skip to main content

The Nissan Heritage Collection is a hidden gem in Kanagawa, a suburb of Yokohama, in Japan. The museum is a private collection of more than 500 vehicles with a value in the millions of dollars. It’s nestled in a massive garage at Nissan’s Zama engine manufacturing plant. The museum is open to the public free of charge, but online registration is required.

In 1933, Yoshisuke Aikawa founded Nissan as Japan’s first mass-production auto maker. In 1933, Nissan merged with Datsun, which was founded in 1914. Here are 10 of the priceless vehicles in the collection, dating back to 1933, including Nissan’s first all-electric car from 1947.

1. 1933 Datsun 12 Phaeton

This 1933 Datsun 12 Phaeton is the oldest vehicle in the collection. This four-seater convertible with a cloth top was in disrepair before it was completely restored to its original form in the 1950s. Back in 1933, it cost 1,900 Yen, or less than $20. Today, it’s valued at about 20 million yen or nearly $200,000.

Open this photo in gallery:

A 1933 Datsun 12 Phaeton on display at the Nissan Heritage Collection in Kanagawa, Japan.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

2. 1935 Datsun 14 pickup

This Datsun 14 pickup is the oldest commercial vehicle in the museum. It was manufactured at Nissan’s Yokohama plant when Japan’s first vehicle mass production started. It was quite advanced for the day – it had an engine with aluminum piston, duralumin connecting-rods and a crankshaft using ball bearings. It took two years to restore this truck back to its original glory.

Open this photo in gallery:

A 1935 Datsun 14 pickup.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

3. 1938 Nissan Model 70 sedan

In the late 1930s, Nissan wanted to make a bigger passenger car similar to Ford and Chevrolet vehicles in the U.S. So, this 1938 Nissan 70 sedan was born. It was made with equipment purchased from the American company Graham-Paige. The 70 sedan rolled off the line in March 1937 as a 1938 model. It had a straight-six-cylinder engine, 85 horsepower and a top speed of 80 kilometres an hour.

Open this photo in gallery:

A 1938 Nissan Model 70 sedan.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

4. 1947 Tama Electric

Nissan was a pioneer in the electric vehicle space dating back decades. This was Nissan’s first all-electric vehicle, the 1947 Tama Electric car. It had a driving range of 96 kilometres and a maximum speed of 35 kilometres an hour. It was often used as a taxi in Japan until 1951. The model code name was E4S-47 I, which stood for electric (E), 4-seater sedan (4S), 47 was the year, and I was for the initial type.

Open this photo in gallery:

A 1947 Tama Electric.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

5. 1953 Austin A40

After the Second World War ended, the Japanese manufacturing industry was devastated. In 1952, Nissan entered a technical partnership with Austin Motor Co. in the United Kingdom to jump start the sector and recover the technology lost in the war. It chose Austin because it was skilled at building small-size vehicles and had a solid reputation in the U.S. and Japan. This Austin A40 Somerset Saloon was the first car built at the Austin factory in Yokohama in April 1953. Nissan and its partnership with Austin ended in 1959.

Open this photo in gallery:

A 1953 Austin A40.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

6. 1954 Prince

This vehicle is the 1954 Prince sedan. It was named “Prince” in honour of the ceremony when former Japanese emperor Akihito became Crown Prince Akihito. Prince Akihito purchased the vehicle after spotting it at the first Tokyo Motor Show in 1954. It’s extremely valuable because Prince Akihito drove it himself, regularly. The Prince name was used as the company name and the brand name until 1966 when Nissan merged with the Prince Motor Co.

Open this photo in gallery:

A 1954 Prince.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

7. 1969 Skyline 2000GT-R

This 1969 Skyline 2000GT-R was the first vehicle to wear Nissan’s iconic GT-R badge. “GT-R” was a high performance car produced for touring car races. This first generation GT-R had an inline six-cylinder engine with 160 horsepower and weighed 1,120 kilograms. The body changed from a four-door sedan to a two-door hardtop in the fall of 1970.

Open this photo in gallery:

A 1969 Skyline 2000GT-R.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

8. 1969 Fairlady Z

This 1969 Fairlady Z, also known as the Datsun 240Z, was the first Z car to come to North America. Manufactured for nine years, its global sales topped more than 500,000 units. This high-performance “Z432″ model was powered by an inline six-cylinder four-valve DOHC engine with 160 horsepower. The sticker price was 1.85 million Yen, or about $17,000 – about twice as much as a base Z car.

Open this photo in gallery:

A 1969 Fairlady Z.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

9. 1991 Infiniti Q45

Infiniti, Nissan’s luxury arm, first arrived in North America in 1989, starting with its flagship model, the Q45 sedan. This model is a 1991 version powered by a newly developed 4.5-litre V8 DOHC engine. It delivered about 280 horsepower and weighed 1,780 kilograms. And it had a bold spacious interior with red leather seats and a burgundy-painted exterior body.

Open this photo in gallery:

A 1991 Infiniti Q45.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

10. 2012 Nissan Leaf

Nissan introduced the world to the first mass-produced electric vehicle back in 2010. It was a groundbreaking zero-emissions vehicle with a 24-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery and high-output electric motor. When it debuted, it had a driving range of up to 200 kilometres. The battery and range has improved significantly over the years. The 2024 Nissan Leaf comes with a standard 40-kilowatt-hour battery with 240 kilometres of range or an available 60-kilowatt-hour battery with up to 342 kilometres of range.

Open this photo in gallery:

A 2012 Nissan Leaf.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe