If you never heard from the BRE Hino Samurai, you’re not alone! I did read about it years ago, but I forgot about it until I spotted this awesome cutaway drawing by Takashi Jufuku!
You may be familiar with Brock Racing Enterprises (BRE) with the Datsun connection. However, before Peter Brock joined forces with Nissan on that endeavour, he first created the Samurai for Hino Motors. This is completely unrelated to the Hino DSL RSB race car!
Hino History in a nutshell
Back in the 1960s, Hino Motors was still a passenger car manufacturer and they were churning out Hino Contessas by the masses. In my opinion, the Hino Contessa is one of the most beautiful cars ever to be made in Japan. My opinion doesn’t just limit itself to the beautifully styled Contessa Sprint and Contessa Coupe, also the basic four-door Contessa’s are almost equally beautiful! I really must create a blog post about the Contessa soon. But I digress…
Let’s build a condensed Contessa timeline first. Before Hino built the Contessa, Hino built the Renauld 4CV in license between 1947 and 1961. By the end of the 1950s, when the 4CV became outdated, Hino started the development of their own car and based it on the components it had at hand. This meant the Contessa’s underpinnings and engine were largely based upon the 4CV. The first generation Contessa PC was designed by Michelotti and was a true piece of art. Naturally Hino returned to Michelotti to design its successor, the Contessa PD, which was built from 1964 onwards. By 1964, Hino started to export cars abroad including the Netherlands, Switzerland and Australia. By 1969 the curtain fell for the Contessa as Hino was forced to merge with Toyota by the Japanese government.
The BRE Hino Samurai
Naturally, exports meant racing aspirations as well. Bob Dunham, an American actor living in Japan, wanted a race car based upon the Contessa and contracted Peter Brock to make one. Due to its success, Hino invited Peter Brock to test their new Contessa coupé. In 1966 Peter Brock raced a Hino Contessa coupé successfully in the Riverside Raceway and this made the ties even closer.
Hino asked Peter Brock to build a genuine prototype race car for them that could enter the Japanese Grand Prix in 1967 and also compete in the 24 hours of Le Mans. Peter Brock created the BRE Hino Samurai and based it around the 1300cc engine of the Hino Contessa. It was an aluminium-bodied car that sat on a tubular steel frame. The Samurai was entered in the Japanese Grand Prix in 1967, but unfortunately disqualified due to ground clearance. The car also never competed in the 24 hours of Le Mans as shortly after the Japanese Grand Prix the president of Hino died and all support for the racing program vanished as well. The Samurai was shipped to the US where it competed regularly in various US races.
I’m very thankful to both Hino and Peter Brock for creating such a wonderful little car. Let’s hope the Samurai one day emerges back into this world from its Southern Californian lockup that it’s supposed to be.