FEATURE: We visit a thrilling JDM collection in Johannesburg

The neat industrial complex doesn’t give anything away. It looks like it houses storage units or some type of manufacturing equipment, not a treasure trove of some of the most highly sought-after Japanese cars under the rising sun. As photographer Peet Mocke and myself were welcomed by Shiran and ushered through the front door, the bewinged machinery immediately grabbed our attention; all perfectly parked, in an almost military fashion. A couple of the cars are stored here for clients, some are for sale and a good chunk belong to Shiran himself. As expected, most of the R35 Nissan GT-Rs are not standard. Most owners prefer to customise these cars, some more liberally than others. A white R34 V-Spec II caught my eye; without a doubt, the most collectible.

Shiran explains, “My first car was a hand-me-down Colt Galant. I started modifying everything I could, from the engine to the exhaust. When I left school, I acquired a Ford Escort. I read CAR magazine, browsed the classifieds and learnt everything I could about cars, their power figures and prices. The media and stats at the time maintained the Nissan Sabre 200 GXi was the car to have. That was 2001 when I got a 1997 model and from there my JDM interest kicked off. This was also the year that the movie Fast & Furious hit the big screen and there was even more focus on aftermarket performance parts. You could see what people in the US and Australia were doing to their cars online. My passion for Nissan kicked off then with the powerful yet durable SR20 VVL engine. I did an engine swap on the Sabre with an imported Japanese motor.”

The car in his collection he has held onto the longest is a modified R35 GT-R that he has owned for around six years. “Some of the modifications I’ve done include an AMS Alpha 7 conversion, a NISMO Time Attack rear carbon-fibre wing and an uprated turbo. It makes 620 kW at the wheels … it is a lovely car.” Shiran leaves the maintenance and tuning of his vehicles to NxGen in Johannesburg.

“I enjoy modifying cars. I believe all cars are only a starting point and are meant to be played with, to be pushed to realise their full potential. With JDM cars especially, it is an expression of yourself. I prefer the older cars because they are so engaging, visceral and you need to work behind the wheel to drive them.

“The only way you get access to the really special cars is through the car community. That is how I acquired most of my cars and is what my company JDM Collective is all about; to open things up for the broader community and petrolheads, whether this is to buy or sell a car or to simply meet up for a coffee and discuss your shared passion.

“The Japanese car culture fascinates me. The reputation for craftsmanship and perfection is well founded and can be seen in the details. For example, Nissan honours GT-R engine builders with a dedicated plaque. I love that they take the job so seriously to award such prestige and that philosophy of you only stop when the end product is perfect.

“The other thing I like about JDMs is they are almost naughty, kind of anti-establishment. There was the gentleman’s agreement a few decades ago of a power restriction of 280 horsepower (±208 kW) and yet, the cars often made much more than that stock. Japanese manufacturers always catered for the enthusiast … with a subtle wink and a knowing nod. It was an era before the marketing departments took over and brands lost their petrolhead DNA. It’s almost a nostalgia thing.”
Shiran has toured Japan with his family, visiting some of the most important places in the country for JDM enthusiasts. Although, he admits his visit barely scratched the surface of Japanese car culture and he is keen to return as soon as he can.

The collector

Shiran Samuel has worked on the financial markets; however, after several years in the corporate world, he decided to live out his passion and get involved in the car community and dealer side. He founded JDM Collective. Today, he offers a range of collectible Japanese performance cars as well as some European exotics.

Article written by

Cars (both new and classic) and motorcycles excite Wilhelm no end. He's usually found searching for a special car to drive or drooling over exotics in the classifieds and on auction websites. He's also currently restoring a motorcycle, with (thankfully) plenty of help from fellow enthusiasts!