By Steve & Tamami Laser
The Japanese Classic Car Show is one of our favorite annual shows. For the past six years in a row, we’ve attended the show in Long Beach, Calif., where rows and rows of the coolest classic and collectible cars, trucks, SUV and vans are displayed by their owners.
Automakers, including Toyota, Nissan, Honda and Mazda also brought vintage vehicles from their private collections, and displayed their latest new models including the Acura NSX and Toyota Supra.
Like so many enthusiasts, we were planning on attending the 16th annual JCCS. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the show’s organizers decided to stage a virtual edition this year. The digital show format offered a pleasant diversion from these difficult times and allowed owners to participate from across the globe.
For JCCS® World Matsuri Week, classic and vintage Japanese car owners contributed photos, videos, and descriptions of their rides, like this gorgeous Honda S800 (above). A series of World Matsuri Week videos are available to watch on the JCCS Association YouTube Channel (see highlights below), while a photo gallery of all the entries is posted on the JCCS website.
Honda Celebrates 50 Years of Auto Sales in America
Honda planned to bring a quintet of vehicles to this year’s show in Long Beach, celebrating 50 years of auto sales in the U.S. To share these cars with World Matsuri Week viewers, American Honda produced its own video.
Following its success with motorcycles, Honda expanded with the brand’s first mass-market car targeting U.S. consumers – the N600 (above). The small car featured a 2-cylinder 600cc air-cooled engine and a base price of $1,395. About 40,500 units were sold in the U.S. from 1970 to 1972.
The above video, from the American Honda YouTube Channel, offers a closer look at collector cars from the automaker’s private collection, including a 1967 Honda S800 coupe, 1976 Accord LX hatchback, 1986 Civic Si, 1993 Prelude, plus a future collectible, 2020 Civic Type R. (video: Honda)
While not originally sold in the U.S., the S Series represents Honda’s first car line, starting with the Sports 360 prototype in 1962. Later models included the S500, S600 and S800. They’re prized by collectors today for their agile handling, high-revving engines, and nimble size. Honda says that this 1967 S800 (above) was recently acquired by Shinji Aoyama, American Honda President and CEO.
This S800 features a 4-cylinder DOHC engine and a coupe body style. With 70 hp from just 791 cc, it produces 1.5 horsepower per cubic inch. The engine is fitted with four side-draft carbs and redlines at an impressive 8,500 rpm.
During our previous visit to the private American Honda Museum, we had a chance to get a close-up look at another S Series owned by Honda – this fantastic S660 roadster.
JCCS® World Matsuri Week Videos
While we recognize some of the classic and collectible vehicles featured in the JCCS® World Matsuri Week videos, there are many we haven’t seen before. Entries include vehicles from North America, Japan, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Be sure to watch the complete Matsuri Week video series on the JCCS Association YouTube Channel.
The videos are hosted by Patrick Strong of Model Citizen Diecast. If his voice sounds familiar, it’s because he’s usually onstage during the JCCS live shows at Marina Green Park in Long Beach. The first video (Day 1) of World Matsuri Week focused on classics and collectibles from the 1960s and ’70s. Vehicles previewed include some great footage of cars driven by their owners on the streets of So. Cal. Our favorite car in this video is a gorgeous, and extremely rare, 1967 Toyota 2000GT from Japan. We were also amazed to see a 1947 Datsun pickup, said to be the oldest vehicle entered in this year’s virtual show, cruising around its current home in Texas. (video: JCCS Association)
Fast forward to Day 2 and check out this video featuring collectible cars from the 1970s. We spotted a modified 1977 Toyota Celica that we’ve seen at previous JCCSs over the years. This video also includes cars that we’re seeing for the first time, including a cool 1978 Celica GT from Ireland, a race-prepped 1972 Nissan Skyline from Japan (with a rotary engine), and a 1974 Skyline from New Zealand. Our favorite car in this video is a 1970 Isuzu Bellett GTR from Malaysia. The owner made a neat walkaround video look at his rare car. (video: JCCS Association)
A bonanza of collectible Japanese cars from the 1980s are featured in the Day 4 video. We were surprised to see a 1982 Toyota HiAce van in mint, low mileage condition from Norway. A 1986 Honda Today from a museum in Nashville also caught our eye, and so did a gorgeous 1986 Toyota Land Cruiser from Arizona. Our favorite car in this video is a 1986 Toyota Corolla GT-S, also known as AE86, or hachiroku. (video: JCCS Association)
Be sure to visit the JCCS Association YouTube Channel to watch more videos from World Matsuri Week.
Revisit Past Shows with Our Reviews
We’ve been attending and reporting on the Japanese Classic Car Show for each year since 2014. The photo below is from the 2015 show, held at the Queen Mary Events Park (Harry Bridges Memorial Park) in Long Beach, where nearly 400 vehicles were on display.
The show moved to a new venue starting in 2018. The larger Marina Green Park can accommodate more than 500 vehicles. By the way, that’s a 1967 Mazda Cosmo Sport 110S (above), and a 1970 Toyota Crown (below), from the 2017 show.
Our show reports can be accessed via the links at the end of this story. We also have more than 100 videos we’ve made at the shows over the years on our CarNichiWa YouTube Channel. Here are highlights from last year’s show:
2019 Japanese Classic Car Show 15th Anniversary
By Steve & Tamami Laser
Flashback to Sep. 21, 2019 – At the 15th annual Japanese Car Show (JCCS), we looked at the rows and rows of cool cars, trucks and vans and wondered which ones could become highly coveted many years from now? The answer, of course, is to look at the cars that collectors prize today, and consult a crystal ball.
Datsun and Nissan
The Datsun 240Z (Fairlady Z) was incredibly popular when it first arrived in the U.S., and the love continues today, nearly 50 years, and many generations later.
It was a thrill to see special guest, Peter Brock, in person at JCCS 15th Anniversary. At the BRE display, Brock held a meet-and-greet and signed autographs for fans. Back in the 1960s, BRE was one of Nissan’s factory backed racing teams and won several national championships in the Datsun 240Z, Roadster, and 510.
This is BRE’s 1971 240Z Tribute Car, on display at the Brock Racing Enterprises booth at JCCS. It was restored by BRE, along with Pierre’s Z Car Service, Ian’s Auto Interiors, Tucker’s Performance Center, Plastic Media Stripping, and others. Painted ’63 Sebring Sliver and ’14 Mustang White, it wears original-style and updated graphics designed by Peter Brock.
Last year’s JCCS had a great turnout of vintage Skyline models including this “Hakosuka” or “boxy Skyline.” Our video offers a closer look at several different Skylines displayed by their owners at the show.
While not officially imported into the U.S. market by Nissan, vintage Skylines like this one are now extremely popular with fans and collectors. These right-hand-drive cars, made famous in movies and video games, remain rare sights on the street.
Fun to drive and easy to modify, the Datsun 510 is an excellent choice for those entering the Japanese collector car hobby. Our video takes a look at some of the cool 510s at the show, including this good-looking wagon.
As we approached this cool-looking 510, we were checking out its big exhaust and Bluebird-style taillights when spotted a “Rotary” badge on the back. So what’s under the hood?
Yes, it’s powered by a “Zoom-Zoom” Mazda rotary engine. While some might scoff at the notion of mixing brands, we think it fits with the So Cal lifestyle where anything goes. And we can imagine that it goes pretty well on the street.
Toyota and Lexus
We’ve had the good fortune to see about 20 of the super rare Toyota 2000GTs over the years, including the once-in-a-lifetime chance to sit in the “James Bond” 2000GT Roadster during a visit to the Toyota Automobile Museum in Nagakute, Japan (see our separate story at the link).
This Toyota 2000GT on display from the Malamut Auto Museum is one of the rare left-hand drive models. While the production run of 337 units from 1967-’70 makes it scarce today, even rarer are the 54 models that were imported to North America.
The 2000GT first appeared as a prototype at the 1965 Tokyo Motor Show and was put into limited production in 1967. It features a 6-cylinder DOHC engine delivering 150 horses via a 5-speed manual gearbox to the rear wheels.
While it looks like a miniature 2000GT, the Toyota Sports 800 went on sale in Japan in 1965, before its larger sibling came to the market. The targa-roof sportster is powered by an air-cooled 2-cylinder horizontally opposed engine with dual carbs delivering 45 horsepower.
The Sports 800 was based on Toyota’s Publica economy sedan. Although it wasn’t officially sold in America, the car could be considered to be a forerunner of today’s Toyota 86 by virtue of its front-mounted horizontally opposed engine.
The owner of this stunning 1972 Celica that we’ve seen at previous shows continues to modify it. This time around it was wearing a chopped hood that revealed the highly modified engine (without having to open the hood).
In addition to a right-hand-drive conversion, it features a 2JZGTE engine, TH350 transmission with full manual reverse vale body and trans-brake, Toyota truck 8-inch rear end with 4.10 spool, drag-style radial tires, and a 3/4-back half chassis.
We remember when Lexus introduced the beautiful SC 400 coupe in the early 1990s. With Lexus celebrating its 30th anniversary, the first SC turned 27 last year.
If we were in the market for a vintage SC, we’d select one like this, fitted with the 4.0-liter, 32-valve V8 engine. The SC 300 is also a great choice, with its 3.0-liter inline 6. The SC was called the Toyota Soarer in Japan, since the Lexus brand didn’t launch there until 2005.
Honda and Acura
While American consumers were enjoying happy times with Honda motorcycles in the 1960s, it took a while for Honda cars, like the small N600. and others that followed, to catch on.
N600 (and its predecessor called N360) is well known as Honda’s first commercially successful passenger car. The N600 has a special place among Honda fans as the brand’s first car model line officially sold in America. Our video shows some of the N600 and AZ600 “coupe” models at 2019 JCCS.
We’ve never seen anything like this radically modified 1972 600 that Honda displayed at JCCS last year. Underneath, it rests on narrowed subframes from a Mazda Miata, and features 4-wheel disc brakes and independent suspension.
Honda says the original 600cc, 2-cylinder engine is replaced with a fuel-injected, gear-driven unit from a 1998 Honda Interceptor (VFR 800) motorcycle sending power to the rear wheels. It puts out 115hp and 60 lb.-ft. of torque.
The completely revamped interior is also a joy to behold. The seats are sourced from a Polaris RZR. Gear changes for the transplanted motorcycle’s transmission can be made using steering wheel-mounted paddles.
This 1974 Honda Life Step Van is a rare sight in the U.S. The first-generation Life was sold in Japan as a car, a commercial and passenger van, and a pickup. This one is in great condition and attracted plenty of attention at last year’s JCCS.
The interior, with its bus-like steering wheel angle, is nicely restored. Today, Honda’s small, boxy new-generation Kei cars are more popular than ever with the N Series, including the N-BOX, N-WGN and N-VAN, selling more than 2.5 million units.
Honda was the first Japanese brand in the U.S. to launch a luxury division. Today, more than 30 years later, many Acura models are popular with collectors. The Integra has staying power, especially the rare Type R.
This modified model sporting Euro number plates was a feast for the eyes, from its super straight exterior, to the red sport bucket seats, and an engine compartment fitted with blue and yellow accents.
For more information visit the Japanese Classic Car Show
See our reviews of previous Japanese Classic Car Shows at these links:
CarNichiWa.com thanks JCCS for providing us with media passes to the 2014-2019 shows
2020 World Matsuri Week videos are courtesy of the owners © 2020 JCCS Association
Honda at 2020 JCCS video and S800 images (as marked) courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc.
Other photos and videos (as marked) © 2014-2019 CarNichiWa.com
Story (commentary) © 2020 CarNichiWa.com