Automotive History and Obscura on Display: Osaka’s Glion Museum
We’ve previously covered Automesse, Osaka’s more laid-back answer to Tokyo Auto Salon. In many ways, Automesse is quite reflective of car culture in the Kansai region of Japan: Kansai builds are quite flashy and a bit playful, yet are still put together with the same attention to detail that Japanese builds are known for.
Something a little bit different, however, can be found across the harbor from Automesse. A short walk from Osakako Station, you’ll find what was once a row of red brick warehouses, now home to the Glion Museum and its collection of classic cars.
The museum has a pretty good range of cars on display, from famous marques as well as the old and obscure. How obscure? Behold: an Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire 346.
After paying for our tickets, one of the first things to catch our eye was the pair of Toyota 2000GT’s sitting next to each other. One of them is rather unusual, with aftermarket alloy wheels, widened fenders and a set of vents on the hood and front fenders. We’re not quite sure if this is was a prototype or racecar of some sort, or perhaps even a modification done by a previous owner.
A few feet away a Mazda Cosmo, and three Skylines are all parked side-by-side. There’s a Hakosuka and a Kenmeri, and something very rare in the Skyline world – a Prince Skyline Sport Convertible. This model, dating back to the pre-Nissan days of the Skyline nameplate, features a handbuilt body designed by the Italian coachbuilder Giovanni Michelotti.
Rolls-Royce cars feature heavily in the Glion Museum collection, including a handful of pre-war cars. These were from the days when the chassis and body were sold separately, with the latter being commissioned from a coachbuilder like H.J. Mulliner or Park Ward.
A few of the cars on display were from the Sakai City Historic Car Collection, with a selection of classic BMW sports cars and motorcycles. Of note are the white 507, a V8-powered competitor to the Mercedes 300SL and the Corvette, and a 328 with a coachbuilt body by Wendler.
The Glion Museum also houses a showroom and dealership, which specializes in late-model American cars. Apart from Corvettes and Mustangs, much of the dealership’s inventory seems to consist of large SUV’s like Hummers and Cadillac Escalades, which are quite popular in Japan.
The museum’s exterior will usually have some cars lined up on display, with a mix of the museum collection and the dealership inventory. It’s not unlike a swap meet in Southern California, with 1950s Packards and Chevy Bel-Airs sharing space with a newer Dodge Challenger sitting on 20-inch wheels.
The visitor’s parking area is definitely worth a look as well. On our visit, we encountered a rather nice-looking Mustang slammed on Wald wheels, and a friend’s turbo SA22C RX-7 – the latter being a real beast on the local Osaka touge. It was great to see the car again, this time parked against a beautiful red-bricked backdrop that really should be in the Scapes mode of Gran Turismo Sport.
A visit to the Glion Museum comes highly recommended when visiting Osaka. Even if well-preserved classics aren’t your cup of tea, the Glion collection provides an example of a side of Japanese car culture that rarely gets any attention. It’s a breath of fresh air from the high-end supercars and 90s drift machines we find all over Instagram. Given that it’s one stop away from Intex Osaka, where Osaka Automesse is held, it could make for an interesting side excursion before or after going to the show.
Words by Alec Mendez
Photos by Jose Altoveros