B.C. man's vintage Japanese car collection makes TV debut

Merlin Blackwell of Clearwater, B.C. is making some extra money off his vintage Japanese cars while they appear in the Amazon series 'The Man in the High Castle.'

'It's kind of a cool thing to have your vehicles have a purpose,' said collector Merlin Blackwell

Merlin Blackwell has been collecting vintage Japanese cars since the 1980s. (Doug Herbert/CBC)

Normally, you'd find Merlin Blackwell's collection of "underdog" vintage cars in a couple of sheds on his property. But now, they're becoming TV stars.

Blackwell's vintage Japanese cars, specifically from the 50s and 60s, are being used as props in the Amazon series The Man in the High Castle, currently filming in Vancouver.

"It's kind of a cool thing to have your vehicles have a purpose," he said. 

Blackwell's 1965 Datsun Cedric on the set of 'The Man in the High Castle.' (Submitted)

The Man in the High Castle is an alternative history drama series about what the world would be like had the Axis won World War II. It takes place shortly after the war ended, in the early 60s, so naturally the filmmakers need Japanese cars from that era.

That's where Blackwell and his collection come in. 

"I probably own half the [cars] that fit that category in British Columbia," he said. 

"With some movie magic and some restoration work on my part we can get a few things up and running."

He stores his collection of 14 cars in two sheds at his home in Clearwater, a small community along the North Thompson River.

Blackwell has owned 25 vintage Japanese cars over the years. 

He admits it's a bit of a niche hobby, but it's been something he's been passionate about since he was in high school. 

"The first car I ever got to drive in with a racing stripe was a Datsun 510" he says.

"It was so neat. It was small, it's compact, it was fast it was sporty. I started looking into the history of these cars and mechanically they're pretty amazing, but they're the underdogs. I like the underdogs. I like the car that nobody else really thinks is worthy and those are the ones that I try to save."

Blackwell says along with the "cool-factor," he believes the quality of cars from Japan during this era was outstanding.

"My Datsun 510 never stopped working," he said, adding that his friends' American cars would often be in the shop for repairs. 

Blackwell recalled his friends bragging about their fancy engines, and to that Blackwell responded "well, my car runs."

With files fromDoug Herbert

To hear the audio, click Clearwater man's vintage Japanese car collection used in TV series