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Thread: Article - Hino Samurai

  1. #1

    Article - Hino Samurai

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    Iíve long held a fascination for Japanese racing history. The rate at which Japanese technology progressed during the 1960s was quite incredible. The first Japanese motor race of note was the 1963 Japan Grand Prix, at Mt Fuji Speedway. Unlike its later name-sake, the Formula 1 Wold Championship event it evolved into by 1976, the Japan Grand Prix was initially an event for production saloons and sports cars.

    When the first Japan Grand Prix was hosted, the nations various manufacturers largely serviced the Kei car market. High performance cars, or even those designed purely for driving pleasure, were really not a thing. And yet, by the end of the decade, Japanís manufacturers were showing just how fast they were absorbing information, and learning, and pushing the performance envelope. Toyota, for example, had built and was testing a twin-turbocharged, 900 horsepower quad-cam 5 litre V8 racing engine, fitted with fuel-injection, and using alloy for its engine block and cylinder heads. It was staggering.

    American designer and racer Pete Brock is known to many for his role in crafting the striking second-generation Corvette Stingray, and then, while working at Shelby American, for designing the swoopy Cobra Daytona Coupes. The Daytona Coupes contested the World Sports Car Championship in both 1964 and 1965, winning the GT championship the second year. Brock then branched out on his own, and established BRE (Brock Racing Enterprises).

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    One of BREís first clients was Japanese manufacturer Hino Industry Corporation. Prior to World War 2, Hino operated in the diesel and heavy vehicle industry, and was a very successful truck producer. But in 1953, it branched out into the small passenger car market, manufacturing Renault 4CVís under licence.

    Like most of the companies in the Japanese automotive industry, by the early/mid 1960s, Hino was looking to expand beyond its own borders. It focused on the lucrative United States market, and, as its Japanese rivals would also practice, entered motor racing as a way of establishing itself, and promoting the qualities of its products.

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    BRE began racing various tiny Hino creations, such as the characterful 1300cc Contessa in Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) C/Sedan contests, but then began to get a lot more serious.

    Enthused by the positive press brought about by its racing activities, Hino and BRE pushed ahead with a new project; the slinky mid-engined Samurai, which would be built with a view to winning the 1300cc class at the 1967 Japan Grand Prix at Mt Fuji Speedway.

  2. #2
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    The Samurai incorporated a steel tube-frame chassis, into which a 1300cc GR100 Contessa 4-cylinder engine, with twin Mikuni-Solex carburettors was installed. Power output was 100-horsepower, and the little Hino unit was backed by a 5-speed transmission.

    Brock designed a slippery low-slung body, in which styling cues from the Daytona Cobra Coupe were evident. The most notable feature was the tall ‘hoop’ rear wing, which sprouted naturally up from the rear bodywork, and curved inwards at each end. The centre section of the wing was attached to the outer hoops, and its angle could be adjusted manually by the driver while the car was in motion.

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    Thanks to its light alloy body, the little Hino Samurai weighed just 530-kilograms.

    The swept front windscreen designed for the Samurai would also find its way onto another Pete Brock creation, the Triumph TR250K.

    The Samurai was completed and tested in readiness for the 1967 Japan Grand Prix. However, in a bizarre turn of events, race officials failed it on the grounds of its ride height being too low. And as such, it was denied a start.

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    Regardless of its failed racing pedigree, the wild little Hino Samurai attracted an immense amount of attention, and even made the cover of the November 1967 issue of Road & Track magazine.

    However, before BRE could progress with the next Hino racing project, the company, which had been absorbed into the fast-growing Toyota group, reverted back to pure truck manufacturing, and its passenger car production was cancelled, along with its ambitious racing projects. BRE hoped to win a contract to race Toyota’s in the US, but the company was instead wooed by Carroll Shelby, who scored a lucrative deal to campaign a fleet of beautiful 2000GT’s in SCCA C/Production sports car racing. Ultimately, Toyota’s decision proved to be a mistake. Shelby enjoyed little success with its products, while BRE won-over Nissan, and went on to achieve great things in both D/Production with the Datsun 2000 Roadster, C/Production with the 240Z, and the Trans-Am 2.5 division, where the BRE Datsun 510s won races and championships.

    As for the one-off Hino Samurai, this passed through various owners in the US, and was raced unsuccessfully in SCCA club racing. For the most-part, nobody seemed to understand its high-revving little engine, and struggled to make the car stop and turn. Eventually it was purchased by Ron Bianchi, who invested a good deal of time and money into its development, and he went on to enjoy a lot of success with it until he retired from racing. Eventually, the Samurai’s creator, Pete Brock, reached out to Bianchi and persuaded him to sell. Brock didn’t keep it for long, however, and soon sold it to wealthy Japanese collector Satoshi Ezawa, where it joined his extensive Hino collection.

  3. #3
    World Champion
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    Los Olivos, California, 93441
    That is a very interesting post about a car I was not aware of, thanks for sharing.
    It is also good to have you back amongst us "pluggers"
    Ken H

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by khyndart in CA View Post
    That is a very interesting post about a car I was not aware of, thanks for sharing.
    It is also good to have you back amongst us "pluggers"
    Ken H
    Thanks Ken, much appreciated! Yes its been a busy couple of years. I feel guilty for not being here enough.

  5. #5
    Another interesting article Steve. Thanks.

  6. #6
    World Champion
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Cool!! thanks Steve..

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