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Friday, May 16, 2014

We met at the end of the 1980s when I borrowed his Land-Cruiser FJ40. I was traveling from California to Moab, Utah camping and off-roading with my wife and 2 children.

Mr.Marv Spector. He and ....

his wife Kay were determined to make Specter Off Road the best Land-Cruiser's parts business in the world.


I had never driven the Land-Cruiser FJ40. Truthfully, Land-Cruiser was not my favorite car. I asked for Jeep, CJ-5, if possible at first. It was impudent but I did not know him or his Land-Cruiser reputation. A friend had told me to look Marvin up and then arranged to have an FJ40 for us to use in LA.

Several years later they told me they will not borrow to a foreign tourist anymore because of the insurance cost. But on that first trip, I could get 4WD vehicle. My children experienced America and began to understand. After returning to Japan, my travelogue was published in 4X4 magazine as a 4 month serial. I think it was because of Marv’s Land-Cruiser that the article was so well received.


That FJ40 was rough, no power steering, no air-conditioning; Marv gave me a water mister to help stay cool, simple and not easily broken. Today, a quarter century later, I understand why Land-Cruiser is highly valued. It is a great vehicle. Marv Specter and Specter Off Road (SOR) is one reason why these cars are still working in the field.

Business - catch the part of the warrior

I was finding source material in America then presenting it to the magazines, photos and stories were getting published -- my freelance job made me a traveler between the U.S. and Japan about every six months. I spent one or two months on each trip but every time I spent a week or so at Marv's house. One time, on the evening of one of my many visits, I was waiting for him to close his shop. He asked to me "hungry?". I answered, “Yes,” then he said, "Watashi-mo" (me too) with a foolish grin. Then he locked that steel door and said, "I wanna be a success.” It was just a flash, just a glimpse of the man. I’ll never forget that. Only once in our long years of association that moment when I saw his great spirit that supported his hard work, his honesty, integrity and consideration for all of his friends.

When took his picture, he often put his finger up and said, "Ichinban.” Maybe because of his determination - "I will not give up this business.” "I will be the best” were burning under his gentle attitude. It might be the same with any successful entrepreneurs.

I've learned a lot

Before that first trip another friend of mine lent me a Smith and Wesson .38 because it might be dangerous where we were going. My friend’s kind concern was that if something were to happen, I could protect family.

When I told Marv, he asked me, “Have you fired a gun?” The answer was no, of course. Soon, he took me to a shooting range. He gave me a safety lecture and taught me how to use the weapon. After an hour or so, his last advise was, “If you can’t bear the burden of another’s life, don’t shoot ". It is a big hint when I think about guns and their use.

In the morning, when he asked to me "how are you". I answered "so-so,” then he told me do not say that. Nobody welcomes the person who is not feeling good. So you must answer, "good" even if you are not feeling that way. "So-so" is common In Kansai Japan but it is not a good answer in other places. When I was hung over from too much party, he says, "everybody does something too much.” Maybe it is one of the reason why he could show so much generosity every time.

Every time, twice per year, I spent couple of months to gathering materials in the States, I spent a week or so at his house. Every time, it was as a matter of course for Marv and Kay to welcome me into their home. And every time, I learned some lesson, some way to think from Marv.


Marv was always beef eater. He thought salad was, "Usagi-tabemono" (rabbit food) and would refuse it. One day, started to drink V8 juice and started to think about a balanced diet. The workaholic life was traded for hobbys like fishing and motor home travel. He didn’t smoke cigarettes or drink but the cancer which was dormant for 20 to 30 years have begun to affect him.

He had friend, Mike Fennel who was a restorer. Mike passed away last year suddenly. Marv and Kay asked to me if I had his picture. I dug up Mike’s picture and scanned it to sendin email. We talked via phone. He thanked me but it seemed without usual his vigor. Last year he cancelled Kay’s visit to Japan.

It was not like him so I had something to worry about. In a little while, pancreatic cancer was found. Then Marv's life under medical treatment began. The radiotherapy was hard but Marv was determined to fight. Even though Kay nursed Marv and helped him, radiotherapy did not stop the cancer. Marv and Kay decided to take the time he had left, quietly and in peace. I have a picture of them on the beach at sunset. They look very happy, Marv's clear smile of a man who has done his best in life and against cancer.

Ceremony met over 800, then Marvisims


I'm frustrated because I could not say even one thank you to him who showed so very much kindness to me. He said, “We are hard to kill.” We swore our undying friendship but he is gone. The celebration of his life was planned for May 4th. I went to Los Angeles. More than 800 people came to celebrate Marv’s life, every one counted themselves Marv and Kay’s friend.


Tears won’t bring him back. With his memory in mind, everybody does his "ichinban" pose with forefinger up in front of cameras. Memorial cups and T-shirts were decorated with Marvisms - a collection of Marv's sayings. Almost of them are local slang but they are also profound. Unique views and words to give to customers who became friends at last. Marvisms - Marv had a really unique sense as a businessman.

I'm thinking about eternal life that Marv got in the end. I will remember his face whenever I see a Land Cruiser. I will feel him in my heart every time, forever. R.I.P.Marv!!

[ Specter Offroad Memorial Event Web Page ]