By Steve & Tamami Laser
As long-term Southern California residents and certified car nuts, we’ve been to scores of car shows over the years. One of our favorites is the Japanese Classic Car Show (JCCS), now in its 12th year. In addition to a wide variety of gorgeous vintage “Old School” cars, trucks, and motorcycles displayed by enthusiasts, automakers support the show with their own exhibits.
This year’s show returned to the Harry Bridges Memorial Park at the Queen Mary in Long Beach, on September 24. There’s no need to fret if you missed the show. We’ve done our best to document as much as possible (and hopefully convince you to attend next year’s show). We have plenty of ground (and about 60 years) to cover, so let’s get rolling with Nissan, NISMO, and Datsun.
Our first video highlights the Nissan display that was filled with an incredible array of heritage racing and street vehicles.
Nissan’s U.S. headquarters used to be located a short drive from Long Beach in nearby Gardena. While the company relocated to Nashville, Tennessee, about a decade ago, it hasn’t forgotten its So. Cal. roots.
To the delight of fans, Nissan brought several cars from its heritage collection. This rare Datsun Fairlady Sport was one of only 217 built. The SPL213 Fairlady was based on the Datsun 223 truck.
Nissan says the first car in the “Fairlady” series was named after the Broadway musical “My Fair Lady,” which took America by storm in the late 1950s and was beloved by Nissan Motors Chairman Katsuji Kawamata when he saw the play in 1958. (Do you know that the Fairlady name is still used in Japan for the Z car?)
A living legend racer was on display at JCCS. Peter Brock and Brock Racing Enterprises (BRE) built and raced the #46 Datsun 510 with driver John Morton. This is the actual car driven by Morton that remains in its original racing livery.
The team won the 1971 and 1972 SCCA Trans Am Under 2.5 Liter Championship, beating many established European rivals. Click here to read our book review of “The Stainless Steel Carrot” by Sylvia Wilkinson, that chronicles Morton’s racing career.
The popular Nissan Skyline was well represented at this year’s show. Here’s a modified version of the “Hakosuka” Skyline (“Boxy Skyline”) a privately owned tribute GT-R. Introduced in 1969, this generation GT-R, with its DOHC 24-valve 6-cylinder S20 engine, is the stuff of legends, with 52 race victories in Japanese touring car competition, in the 1960s and 1970s.
To the surprise and delight of everyone, Nissan made the North American market reveal of the 2017 GT-R NISMO at the show. We captured the full presentation in our above video. Nissan also announced pricing of $174,990 for the new model.
Nissan says the GT-R NISMO delivers factory tuned supercar dynamics with advanced aerodynamics and precise handling. Developed by NISMO, the brand’s motorsport specialists, the new model is available in limited numbers in North America. The 2017 edition is highlighted by a fresh look inside and out.
Campaigned in the Pirelli World Challenge series and fielded by Always Evolving/AIM Autosport, the GT-R NISMO GT3 continues the GT-R legend on the track. The team fields two vehicles, the No. 05 Nissan NISMO and No. 33 AER NOW (above) machines.
Stepping back in time, here’s a rare Nissan of a different breed. The second-generation Datsun Patrol was sold in the U.S. for a short time. This 1969 model featured a leaf-spring suspension on a ladder frame including a rugged 4×4 system.
Shifting gears to privately owned vehicles on display at JCCS, we take a look at some spectacular 240Zs. This bright yellow model’s first owner was Yutaka Katayama, who led Nisan’s U.S. operations in the 1970s and is called the “father of the Z.” Current owner Jonnie, who served as the secretary for Mr. K, continues to promote his passion for the car and the Nissan brand.
Speaking of passion, this ultra-cool Datsun 2000 dressed in a gorgeous shade of red was an evolution of the “Fairlady” that came before the Z. Inspired by British roadsters of the era, the drop-top Datsun is highly collectible today.
Speaking of collectible, Nissan Skylines have taken the U.S. market by storm (even though they were never officially sold here). Our video takes a look at some of the right-hand-drive models displayed by enthusiasts at the show.
The 2.0-liter inline-6 engine in this Nissan Skyline was so incredibly clean, it looked like it was just built this week.
Made famous in movies and video games, Skyline models like this one are rarely seen on the streets of So. Cal. This Skyline RS-Turbo wearing Oregon license plates reminded us of the old blue California plates from the 1970s.
We were happy to see rows of Datsun 510s at the show. Inspired by the likes of John Morton and others, these cars remain an affordable, ideal way for new generations of enthusiasts to get started in the hobby.
While they may lack the sleek look of a 240Z or Skyline, rugged Datsun trucks like this early example have a unique charm that make them irresistible to Old School fans.
Easy to modify and available in a variety of models and configurations, Datsun trucks like the examples in our video above tug at our heartstrings.
Several of our high school friends (way back in the 1970s) bought Datsun pickups like the ones in the video. In addition to offering space to carry gear like surfboards, the early models were affordable “first cars.”
Moving on to Toyota, the centerpiece of Toyota’s display was this gorgeous 2000GT. This 1969 model is distinguished from earlier examples of the low-production sports car with its smaller front grille and driving lights. With sales at private auctions exceeding $1 million a car, the 2000GT is one of the most highly coveted Japanese collector cars.
Join us for a walkthrough of the Toyota display including this beautifully restored 1985 Corolla GT-S Hatchback owned by Janet Fujimoto. This collectible model, dubbed “Hachiroku,” signifies the numbers “8” and “6” in Japanese, for the Corolla 86 series.
There was a large turnout of Corolla models at the show in honor of the car’s 50th anniversary. Toyota brought this modified racing machine to the show where it shared the lawn with the 2000GT and three other milestone Corollas.
We were floored by the array of privately owned, beautifully restored Corollas. We tried to record as many as possible to share with you in this video.
With popularity on the rise for Hachiroku models, the 86, and other Corollas, remain a great point of entry to the Old School Japanese collector car hobby.
Enthusiasts also brought their favorite Toyota Celicas to the show. Whether stock or modified, the wide array of Celica models and bodystyles over the years offer something for everyone. We’re still waiting for Toyota to bring the nameplate back to production.
This sizzling hot orange modified Celica was eye candy for fans of Toyota’s sporty coupes and hatchbacks. The sunny day made it stand out like a beacon, attracting shutterbugs like us.
Originally called the Celica Supra, and later shortened to Supra, the Celica’s larger sibling had a good turnout at this year’s show.
We’ve heard plenty of rumors that the Supra may be coming back. A new flagship sports car for Toyota is an excellent idea and it would be great to see the name return. Now that the Scion FR-S has become the Toyota 86 in the U.S., a larger and more powerful car would certainly be welcomed by enthusiasts.
The lineup of Toyota Trucks on display included a tribute to Marty McFly’s dream truck from the first “Back to the Future” movie. Don’t miss the movie memorabilia displayed by the truck’s owner inside the cab in our video.
Toyota Land Cruisers are hot commodities with collectors. Yet we rarely see the pickup version in our neck of the woods. This FJ75, owned by Paul Williamsen, originally served with the U.S. Marines. Toyota still builds the rugged 70 series models and sells them in Australia and other markets.
Another big surprise was the informal debut of the stunning new Lexus LC 500 coupe at JCCS. Instead of signs and a flashy display, it showed up stealth-like in the parking lot zone. Of course, we quickly made a walkaround video, fearing that it might disappear into its trailer. The new flagship coupe in V8 and hybrid models is slated to go on sale sometime next year.
Now, let’s go visit the Honda and Acura display. The car that generated the biggest buzz was this tiny N600. Restored by specialist mechanic Tim Mings (above), Serial One is a 1967 N600 that Honda imported (with 49 others) to test the waters for selling cars in the U.S. (If you want to see how the car looked when he started the restoration, click here for our coverage of last year’s JCCS.)
Honda wowed the crowd by unveiling the completed restoration of the first (official) Honda car imported to America, the N600 Serial One. Take a look at this reborn minicar in our video along with privately owned N600 and Z600 models on display at the show.
These multi-hued N600 and Z600 models arrived at JCCS to help celebrate the debut of Serial One. The N600 originally went on sale in the U.S. in 1970 with a base price of just $1,395.
Here’s a creative approach to increasing the cargo capacity of a Honda Z600. It looks like the owner built the trailer from a donor car. This rig must generate plenty of double-takes on the road.
Our video walkthrough of the Honda and Acura display at JCCS includes a quick look at the new 2017 NSX.
The fact that Nissan, Lexus, and Acura brought their new flagship sports cars to JCCS signals how important this car show is to automakers. With thousands of fans and enthusiasts in attendance, it’s a great way to promote exciting new models.
The N600 paved the way for Honda’s first big success story in the U.S. auto market: the Civic. This 1984 Civic Wagon offered Honda’s first four-wheel-drive system. Styling has changed quite a bit over the years, with glassy greenhouses now out of vogue.
To show where the Civic is headed, Honda displayed its latest new model, the 2017 Civic Hatchback. We made a quick walkaround video of the exterior.
The 2017 Civic Hatchback was developed jointly by Honda R&D teams in Europe and Japan and is built by Honda of the UK Manufacturing at its Swindon plant. This cool new Civic should be arriving soon at a Honda dealer near you.
Another Civic model that’s popular with collectors is the CRX. We made this video of privately owned CRX models on display in the parking lot zone at JCCS.
From mild to wild, we were impressed by the attention to detail that owners gave their cars in preparation for the show. Take a look at this spotless CRX engine compartment.
Of course, Honda got its start in the U.S with motorcycles. And while there were several classic bikes at its own display, JCCS encouraged owners of all vintage Japanese brand bikes to bring them to the show. Check out these fantastic two-wheelers in our video.
For the sixth year, JCCS included the “Japanese Vintage Motorcycle Show,” appropriately positioned next to the Honda display. We wandered through the rows of beautiful bikes spotting Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, and Kawasaki badges.
It’s time to visit the Mazda display. The rotary engine may be out of production, yet it keeps on spinning in the minds and hearts of Mazda enthusiasts. Check out this vintage 1967 Mazda Cosmo Sport and more in our video.
Mazda’s display was dedicated to factory racing driver Yoshimi Katayama who passed away this year. His achievements included the Fuji Grand Touring battle of Mazda RX-3 vs Nissan Skyline in 1972, a 1979 class win at Daytona, and his development of the LeMans-winning Mazda 787B (above). Katayama drove the car displayed at JCCS in four races, while its successor went on to win at LeMans.
Mazda showed this 1979 RX-7 IMSA GTU racer that was used as a development and backup vehicle. Although it was not raced competitively, it has Katayama’s name on the driver’s door.
The RX-7 remains a popular collectible among today’s enthusiasts. Check out these primo examples on display by their owners at JCCS in our video above.
A very cool concept car at Mazda’s display, this 2016 MX-5 Miata Spyder made its debut at the SEMA show in Las Vegas last year. Mazda says the color combo is planned for the upcoming production MX-5 RF Launch Edition.
Here’s our video recap of enthusiasts’ RX-2, RX-3 and RX-4 rotary coupes. As with so many other vehicles at the show, we remember when these cars were new. We also spotted a Mazda rotary engine pickup on display.
The Mazda Cosmo nameplate lived on in Japan until 1995, sold as the Eunos Cosmo coupe. Mazda owns this clean triple-rotor twin-turbocharged model displayed at JCCS. At one time Mazda planned to launch a separate luxury brand in the U.S., called Amati, with cars like the Cosmo.
Subaru is known today for cars like the WRX and Outback. Yet back in the 1960s, it got its start in the U.S. market with the tiny 360. Take a look at the neat models on display at JCCS in our video.
Two examples of the rare, and incredibly cool, Subaru 360 van were on display at this year’s show. The rear-engine design reminds us of a shrunken Volkswagen microbus.
Speaking of rare, this is the first time we’ve seen a Hino Contessa outside of Japan. This 1966 rear-engine model reminds us of Volkswagens and Corvairs from the era. Hino stopped car production in 1967 when it joined the Toyota group. Today, Hino makes a variety of trucks and buses, manufacturing some of its trucks in the U.S.
Our story is running long, so we’re going to wrap it up with one of the cutest cars at this year’s show. This 1989 Nissan S-Cargo was one of a trio of retro cars that the automaker offered in Japan before retro went mainstream. The snail-like panel van is a rare sight in the U.S.
The S-Cargo, which looks like a large toy, was the perfect vehicle of choice for this toy and model vendor at the show. We were tempted to take home one of these Skyline model kits, yet we ran out of funds after a couple of visits to the tasty food trucks.
This year’s Japanese Classic Car Show was a great success and will long be remembered. We made our last video of the day as some of the Datsun 510 and Toyota Celica models started driving out (after the show closed to the public). See you next year!
Visit the Japanese Classic Car Show website for more information.
CarNichiWa.com thanks JCCS for providing us with media credentials and early access to the event so we could bring you this story.
Story, photos and videos ©2016 CarNichiWa.com