Are you into classic cars? Check out the 12th annual Japanese classic car show in Long Beach, CA. (This blog information comes courtesy of AutoWeek.)
It’ll happen one day: At some point in the future you will see a class at Pebble Beach for Japanese cars. They might simply be called “imports,” though imports could just as easily mean European cars – Bugattis are technically imports, too. But until that day comes, and maybe even after it comes, the best gathering of cool Japanese cars is at the annual Japanese Classic Car Show, the twelfth running of which was held Sunday Sept. 24 in Long Beach, Calif.
One way to gauge an event’s coming of age is corporate participation. It happened to SEMA, to Pebble and even to the Goodwood Festival of Speed, and it is happening to JCCS. Toyota, Mazda, Honda and Nissan brought 18-wheelers full of great old cars.
Mazda brought a standout 767B Le Mans prototype, the precursor to the 1991 Le Mans-winning 787. A rare pair of R100 Rotary Coupes in rally trim parked next to the official Mazda Corporate space came fresh from the Motorsport Reunion at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. There was also a bevy of Mazda street cars, including an immaculately-preserved 929, once the future flagship of the stillborn Amati luxury division.
The Nissan space on the far end of the show was surrounded by a host of historical Skylines and GT-Rs, 17 by our count, one of the best gatherings we’ve ever seen of those performance street cars. One row of them contained the following: 1973 Skyline 2000 GT-X Kenmeri – C110; 1983 Skyline DR30; 1987 Skyline R31, 1990 NISMO R32; 1995 V-Spec R33; 2000 V-Spec R34; and 2017 R35. What a row.
Nissan also showed a 1961 Datsun Fairlady Sport (when’s the last time you saw one of those?), 1969 Patrol in powder blue, and even featured the North American debut of its 2017 GT-R NISMO. BRE engineer John Knepp was on-hand to sign autographs.
Toyota celebrated 50 years of Corollas with a first-generation tribute Corolla built for The Great Race. There was also a 2000GT along with trucks and sedans of all eras. Later in the day Lexus surprised the field with an LC500. Wow!
Honda revealed the finished restoration of the first car it ever imported to the U.S., an N600 called Serial One. Restored by specialist Tim Mings, the car sat under a black cover all morning at the show before being revealed in front of the biggest crowd of the day. Mings was onhand and was absolutely loving the experience.
“Of the 50 1967 Honda N600s manufactured, three of them have survived,” he said in a video shot to commemorate the rebuild. “I bought it pretty much sight unseen and owned it for several years before I actually scraped the goop off it to see that it was serial number one car.”
Indeed, the serial number reads: N600-1000001.
Honda also had a sizeable fleet of historic motorcycles, part of its collection of 150 to 200 motorcycles and about 150 cars, according to Jon Seidel, Honda motorcycle spokesman. He was standing next to a 1966 Super Hawk, a 305-cc four stroke with a four-speed transmission and a 9000-rpm redline.
“It would go 100 mph,” Seidel pointed out. “Triumph motorcycles of the day could hit that but with much larger displacements.”
Seidel also pointed out that almost all Honda motorcycles, even the historic ones, were four-strokes at a time when most competitors were using two-stroke power.
While car and motorcycle manufacturers formed the cornerstones of the show, the meat and potatoes came from individual owners. Of the 330 privately owned cars at Sunday’s show, 120 were there for the first time. We met several owners.
Greg Childs had an unrestored yet perfectly preserved 1963 Bluebird that spent 21 years of its life in the showroom of an Australian Datsun dealership. He bought it in 2010 when he saw it for sale on an internet site at 1:00 in the morning.
“It’s so smooth,” he said of driving the car. “Maybe a little floaty, but it’ll cruise at 55 or 60 mph.”
The two-tone paint was a dealer-installed option that retailed for $17. It was our favorite until we saw Garm Beall’s Subaru 360 van.
“I found two of them in a storage unit in Alameda,” Beall said. “They’d been sitting for 20 years.”
Powered by a 360-cc air-cooled two-stroke two-cylinder vertical twin, the 360 is the poster child for post-war Japanese efficiency in transportation. The thing that saved them from extinction?
“Wiseco did a run of forged pistons for us,” Beall said. God bless Wiseco.
He said the van will do 60 to 65 mph “…behind a semi.” We want to buy one.
Sean Torres races his 1972 Corolla in rallycross events but has plans to race stage rallies soon in the California Rally Series. The car is raised up with a welded-in roll cage and a welded rear differential. The engine makes 200 hp thanks to new pistons, intake and exhaust but has the same two-speed transmission. We want to go rallying now.
Our choice for Best in Show was Diego Rodriguez’ Skyline 2000 GT-R. He bought it in Yokohama and had it shipped to his home in Costa Rica. He had the trunk and hood open. It looked perfect to us and, indeed, “…all the clamps, screws, everything is perfect,” Rodriguez said. And to drive it? “It’s beautiful.” We’re moving to Costa Rica.
In addition to an army of volunteers who help run everything, we have Terry and Koji Yamaguchi to thank for those 12 years of JCCS. They came from Japan 17 years ago and attended a lot of single-marque gatherings before uniting all makes in this single show.
“Thank you,” is usually all Koji says, refusing to take any credit. Terry is a bit more elaborative, explaining the appeal of these cars.
“They’re cute, unique and for some models it’s still a reachable price for a collector car,” she said.
Attendee Jay Kho was more direct.
“This is the best car show bar none,” he said. “It’s the camaraderie. It’s not about how big an ego you have. You talk to different owners, share common knowledge and you share your enthusiasm.”
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