2020 Japanese Classic Car Show: Editors’ Picks

In a historically unusual year, the Japanese Classic Car Show managed to pull off an event that managed to capture the same sense of community that the physical provides in spades. Not only that, but they’ve even welcomed more enthusiasts into the mix by hosting a virtual show open to anyone around the world with an old Japanese car. You’ve already seen the videos, but here’s the JNC staff picks and the reasons why we love these cars.

For this segment, we’ve focused on cars that are from parts of the globe that will probably never be able to attend a JCCS in person. There were plenty of excellent local cars as well — which isn’t hard when local means southern California — but we really wanted to highlight those the wonderful worldwide community of owners united by a common love for automobiles from Japan.

Our first contestant is Yasunari Sugiyama from Kanagawa, Japan, who owns two Toyota Sports 800s. This is only fitting, as he is the president of the Toyota Sports 800 Owners Club. His first-year 1965 model (top) is stock but for alloy wheels, and underwent a full restoration in 2015. That left him free to modify his matching 1966 model, which he’s owned since 1972, however he wanted — debumpered, with sports mirrors, suspension, color-matched targa panel, and RS-Watanabe wheels. It must be nice to have the best of both worlds.

Merlin Blackwell from British Columbia, Canada entered two of the rarest Nissan models on Earth.  The first is a beautiful, nut-and-bolt restoration of a 1964 Cedric 1900. You might notice that the car is LHD, and it is one of the handful of official Canadian imports of this very early Nissan sedan. As mentioned in the JCCS video, it was featured in the TV series Man in the High Castle and has a three-speed column-shift manual transmission.

Merlin’s second car is a ultra-rare 1967 Nissan Patrol 4W61. According to Merlin, who is a Nissan historian himself, this is the only known surviving example of its kind. A similar one is known to be located in the Middle East, but it’s a short-wheelbase variant. As the story goes, this one was brought back by an American passing through Canada on his way to Alaska, where he either lost it in a poker game or left it at a gas station when it broke down. Merlin found it 10 years ago in British Columbia and is in the process of restoring it. If his Cedric is any indication of his handiwork, we are looking forward to the result.

Makoto Dohi’s owns a Toyota Sports 800 specialty shop in Utsonomiya, Japan and owns several examples of this OG Toyota sports car.. His 1965 example seen here has been race-modified and is no longer street legal, and is a tribute car to Ukiya Tojiro’s race car, which won the All-Japan Automobile Club Championship at Funabashi Circuit in 1965.

Despite the inclusion of Japanese participants, the oldest car entered this year hailed from Texas. Dan Zubkoff’s 1947 Datsun 2224 pickup is something few have likely seen before, even in photos. These types of crude vehicles were thrown together with meager post-war resources as quickly as possible to get the country rebuilding again. Featuring a wood frame, semaphore turn signals, and a leather clutch, it truly hails from a different era. Although the bed does not appear to be original, the mere existence of this truck itself is cause for celebration.

Our resident rallymaster and JCCS emcee Patrick Strong’s number one pick for this year was Steve Tetreault’s 1967 Datsun Sports 2000. The numbers-matching roadster is not only a highly desirable 1967.5 low-windshield, 2.0-liter, 5-speed example of which only about 700 were made, but has been restored with impeccable workmanship. A true work of art.

Honda of America really went above and beyond when it came to supporting JCCS’s pandemic show. Though they entered several cars into the show, we wanted to spotlight this 1967 Honda S800 Coupé making its first car show debut. Not only is it a fine example of the breed, but it is owned by Honda USA’s CEO Shinji Aoyama, and we always have mad respect for an enthusiast executive who puts his money where his mouth is.

Former JNC forum admin Karyn Hamer of Australia entered a stunning 1965 Prince Skyline GT-B. Her car is one of 331 officially imported to Australia between 1965-68 and, according to Karyn, only about 120 have survived, 45 of which are still on the road. Karyn has had her Prince for 12 years, driving it hard in historic races and taking it to events thousands of kilometers from home. We have nothing but awe for this rare ADM model and its use as a track weapon.

Another JNC forum admin, Kieron Ash of Essex, England, is working on what he describes as a “period correct race car restoration on a former JCCA F-Class Nissan Bluebird.” The SSS 510 coupe is loaded with racing parts, not least of which is an L18 with full Kameari internals. It is a huge undertaking, and we can’t wait to see this car when complete.

A universal staff favorite was Gerard McKenna of  County Monaghan, Ireland’s 1978 Toyota Celica. The 18RG-powered Liftback was the subject of a bare-shell restoration with countless new-old-stock parts and period correct street-style modifications. The result is an insanely gorgeous and clean RA28, with an underbody you could eat off of.

Honda-head Ken Weidner entered a beautiful restomod 1971 Honda Z600. Ken has owned this car for over 20 years, and says that when he began the restoration NOS parts were still widely available from Honda. The car has wears a JDM front end conversion and several Japanese-market bits, along with 10-inch RS-Watanabe wheels wrapped in Yokohama A008 tires. We wanted to feature Ken’s Honda because he hails from Pennsylvania and is unlikely to appear at JCCS with this car, but you never know — last year he was crazy enough to drive his 1981 Accord DX all the way to Long Beach, California for the show.

Masumi Nakano of Okazaki, Japan’s 1972 Skyline is the prototypical street-modified Hakosuka of the 21st century. With staggered RS-Watanabe wheels and a custom suspension, it embodies the sinister looking street machines that have made the C10-generation Skyliine a worldwide favorite. A custom orange paint paying homage to Nissan Safari Gold, shaved and wire-tucked engine bay, and blacked out chrome bits give it an unforgettable presence.

Another entry from Tokyo is Katsuo Maehara’s 1974 Mazda REPU. As JNCers will know, the rotary-engined pickup was built in Japan but never actually sold there officially. Therefore, Katsuo had to purchase his REPU in the US and ship it back to its homeland. It’s one of several repatriated cars that have been entered in JCCS 2020 showing the discerning tastes of Japanese enthusiasts.

From the Netherlands, Nico Jongeneel brings us a stunning 1973 Toyota Celica. The TA22 underwent a nut and bolt, bare-metal restoration spanning a period of over seven years. Part of that, Nico describes, includes cutting out all the rust and welding new metal in its place, including “chassis rods” which we presume to be part of the frame. Though stock appearing, the 2T-G engine has been bored out, and other restomod touches include a full stainless steel exhaust and a 50mm lowering.

 

Lance Hirano’s 1973 Toyota Sprinter Trueno TE27 comes to JCCS from Hawaii as part of the Old School Imports of Hawaii crew. Stripped to bare metal before an extensive restoration, it features a built 2T-G, TRD suspennsion, and period 13-inch TOSCO wheels.

Another entrant from OSIxHI, Lance Sugiyama’s 1976 Datsun 280Z exemplifies the kaido racer look, which is no small feat on US soil. If we didn’t know better, we’d think this was a Japanese entry, thanks to a works-style G-nose kit, Aironi Pantera hatch, and ultra deep 14×9.5 and 14×11.5 Jilbas. The goodness extends to under the hood, where a stroked 3.0-liter L28 resides with OER carbs and Tomei cam hiding beneath a Kameari valve cover.

Hailing from Montreal, Quebec is Gilles Girouard’s 1977 Celica Liftback. Amazingly, the car is an original owner, unrestored survivor. Aside from a few minor cosmetic changes like the JDM bumpers and grille, it’s a stunning example of a well-kept Japanese classic that has somehow endured decades in a very harsh climate.

A personal favorite of mine was Nobukazu Kataoka’s 1975 Nissan Fairlady Z from Okayama. Why? Because it is the basically the platonic ideal of a Japanese S30 Z build, Japan’s equivalent of one of those six-figure Steve Strope muscle cars that transcend the term restomod.

It has the perfect turaichi stance with massive 10.5J and 11.0J magnesium RS-Watanabe wheels under exposed-fastener fender flares, made possible with a custom one-off aluminum chassis pan that raises the body 80mm higher than stock. No detail was left untouched, from the tube-reinforced frame to the smoothed out bumpers to a one-off titanium shift knob. And the pièce de résistance is a fully built, original OS Giken gear-driven twin-cam TC24-B1 capable of 11,000 rpm, built in 1981 of which only 5 are known to exist.

It’s slathered in R35 GT-R Solid Red and almost certainly cost more than a brand new GT-R, and yet, it did not mess with the purity of the S30 Z’s original lines. It sets a new standard among JCCS entrants, made only possible with the online format. If there was an award for Best in Show this year, we’re sure this car would’ve taken it.

James Anderson of McGrady, North Carolina entered a 100 percent original 1979 Toyota Celica. James is the original owner of the car, which he has owned since age 17. It boasts only 6,500 miles on the odometer and has never once touched rain and may even have most of its original fluids.

Delving into the 80s, we arrive at David Kim’s 1988 Nissan Skyline from Shoreline, Washington. An HR31 sedan is a bit of an unusual choice of JDM import when coupes seem to dominate, but this is exactly the type of simple build you would see in Japan, A straightforward lowering on Hoshinos and you have a perfect 80s cruiser.

From Wauwatosa, Wisconsin comes Anthony Stephenson’s 1984 Mazda RX-7. Powered by a its original 12A motor, the unrestored survivor is an excellent time capsule from America’s dairyland.

All the way from Nesttun, Norway is Henning Dyrkolbotn’s 1982 Toyota HiAce panel van. According to Hennig, it was originally used at the fire department of a small Norwegian town and has accumulated only 13,500 km (under 8,400 miles) on the clock. It had been outfitted with firefighting equipment, but that was all removed before the van was sold at auction. It was stored indoors since new, and Hennig says that it still emits that new car smell.

Marwin Jansen’s 1983 Mitsubishi Galant 1600 GLX was originally sold in Germany but now resides in the Netherlands. You may recall Marwin’s car from a report he guest wrote for us back in 2015, when his Galant was asked to participate by Mitsubishi Netherlands in an event celebrating the company’s 40th anniversary in the country.

From the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, Tennessee comes a 1986 Honda Today wearing Hayashi Street wheels, Recaro seats, and Pioneer TS-X1 speakers in period fashion. This is a 2-cylinder model making 31 horsepower, but the kei hatch weighs just 1,410 pounds and is cute as a button.

This 1987 Honda Civic was entered by the folks at Osaka JDM, the infamous tuning shop that builds Hondas for nighttime street races around Osaka’s Kanjo highway loop. With a stripped out interior, a Civic Type R B16B engine swap mated to a DA Integra YS1 transmission, one can easily imagine this car wreaking havoc on central Japan’s expressways.

Another repatriated car was Shinji Kanako’s US-spec 1981 Honda Accord hatchback, now living in Tokyo. Not only is it an excellent specimen, with all original paint and interior, but it’s loaded with rare items like an NOS roof rack, NOS louvers, and rare Honda wheels from the official accessory catalog.

Ed Wong of Canada is the original owner of his 1989 Honda CRX and kept it in amazingly good condition despite living in Calgary, Alberta. It still wears its original paint, interior, and wheels, and its odometer reading currently sits at currently at 110,378 km (68,586 miles). It boasts many period modifications from the Tuner Era, including Lightspeed intake, DC Sports exhaust manifold, Autometer gauges on the A-pillar, Eibach springs with Tokico blues, Momo Anatomico leather shift knob, and Alpine CDA 9815 head unit, but Ed had the foresight to keep all the OEM bits should he ever want to restore it to factory stock. Ed won the Honda Style award given by the renowned Japanese magazine of the same name.

Hirokazu Sato’s 1986 Toyota Sprinter Trueno from Hiroshima, Japan is an eye-catching example of an AE86. Dramatically lowered on Advan A3A wheels, the panda coupe boasts many custom modifications, and even a shout out to the USDM Corolla GT-S with its lower door and decklid decals. Hirokazu has owned his Hachiroku for more than 10 years, and it would look right at home on Japan’s touge roads.

Koji Sakamoto’s 1993 Toyota Corolla may seem like just another nondescript compact, but it’s the type of car that only a USDM enthusiast could own. A self-described ongoing project, Koji is slowly converting his car to a US-spec Corolla DX, with American-market headlights, bumpers, wheels, and instrument cluster. The details extend even to parts that few would notice, liks sunvisors and fuel cap. For his considerable yet subtle efforts, Koji won the Work in Progress prize.

Jonathan Lim from the Phillippines displayed an excellent-looking AE111 Toyota Corolla Levin. Powered by a 4A-GE 20-valve mated to a 6-speed with LSD, the car looks like something straight out of Gran Turismo. I’m also partial to Buddy Club P1 wheels, so this checks all the Tuner Era boxes for me. The unavailabilty of this chassis in the US probably also contributes to this car being on the list.

Nick Doan from Samammish, Washington has chosen a JDM sled that isn’t your typical Skyline or Crown. It’s a 1989 Nissan Laurel, done up in period VIP style with 16×9 and 16×10 Superstar Chevlon S1C wheels. Powered by a stock RB20DET, it’s refreshing to see a C32 Laurel that hasn’t been turned into a half-destroyed drift missile.

Yuichi Ikegaya from Tokyo brings his 1984 Skyline RS-X Turbo-C, which he has owned for 30 years. As it happens, Yuichi is the owner of Utilitas, an R30 Skyline and Toyota Land Cruiser specialist shop, and thus uses this as his demo car. Despite its stock appearance aside from a coilover suspension on SSR Formula Mesh wheels, its FJ20 has been stroked to 2.1 liters matched with an HKS GT2535 turbo good for 350 horsepower. The car is multifaceted, and pulls triple duty at shows, time attacks, and club cruises.

Our editor Dave Yuan’s favorite was Marion Mendoza’s 1989 Toyota Corolla GL from the Phillippines. Though it has the appearance of a regular compacdt sedan (the major difference being the rest-of-the-w0rld slim bumpers in black budget trim, no less), the car is a bit of a sleeper. Underneath its original paint, suspension, and exhaust is a black top 4A-GE 20-valve mated to a 6-speed transmission.

Matt Meares of Queensland submitted his 1988 Toyota MR2, one of just 930 sold in Australia. It might have 297,000 km (185,000 miles) on the odometer, it still looks great in original paint from the front bumper on back and period TOM’s Racing wheels. Matt says all the stock parts have been retained for conversion back to factory spec, but he even tracked down some rare accessories like a Toyota ski rack, frunk storage bin, and deluxe floor mats.

Hailing from Hawaii is Kirk Hubbard’s 1994 Toyota Supra Turbo, bone stock with factory 6-speed transmission. The fortunate ones who resisted the urge to modify their Supras are now sitting on six-figure collector cars. Still, unmodified examples are the exception rather than the norm, and we’re thrilled to see this one being well preserved.

You may recognize Kazushige Sakamoto’s heavily modified 1994 Nissan Skyline GT-R as the demo car of his shop, Garage Active. However, it’s only an R32 in the loosest of terms, as nearly every body panel has been replaced by a widebody carbon fiber replacement of Sakamoto’s own design. Inside the shaved engine bay is a naturally aspirated RB30 straight six with completely built internals capable of revving to 9,000 rpm. That’s good for putting 350 horsepower or so to the rear wheels, as the car has also been converted to RWD. It’s the type of insane unlimited build from Japan that hearkens back to the Tuner Era heyday.

From Nagoya, Japan, Ippei Takahashi entered his 1991 Honda Street G. In a market dominated by kei jidosha stalwarts like the Suzuki Carry and Subaru Sambar, it’s great to see this slightly uncommon example get some love. It looks like a great camping vehicle, too.

Finally, you may have noticed from the finale video that several publications gave special accolades to cars that aligned with their respective missions. We at Japanese Nostalgic Car decided this year to give the JNC Award to Attikus Soulliere of Windsor, Ontario nad his 1984 Nissan 300ZX Turbo.

Why, other than the fact that the car is well kept and clean? Because it is, hands down, one of the rarest Z31 specimens on the planet, rarer than any of the special editions such as the Shiro or 50th Anniversary models. The factory color, 235 Dark Green Metallic, was never offered in Japan or Europe, and only offered for the 1984 model year in North America. According to Nissan’s FAST system, the company’s official worldwide parts ordering database, only one car was imported to the US in this color. That’s one (1) car.

But, as XenonZCar says, a Z31 resource says, a few more were imported to Canada. Still, the number of surviving examples is likely in the single digits. It’s a gorgeous color, one we’ve never seen in person, and one we thought was extinct. On top of that, Attikus’s is a 5-speed manual turbo, which is basically the ideal drivetrain, and shows only a few ticks over 56,000 km (35,000 miles). We hope Attikus continues to be a conscientious caretaker of this beautiful unicorn.

We truly enjoyed seeing all the cars from across the globe this year. The diverse entries and styles were a pleasure to see, and we’re just glad that JCCS could unite people from all over the planet during these chaotic times. In fact, even after life returns to normal post-pandemic, if this format could continue as an addition to the physical JCCS, we would be all for it.

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3 Responses to 2020 Japanese Classic Car Show: Editors’ Picks

  1. Steve said:

    Thanks for putting this together from around the globe, great cars.

  2. Rubien Brandon said:

    Hello I have a 1989 Toyota Camry V6 and I want to turn it into a sleeper. Can you give me guidance.

  3. Ant said:

    What a great collection of cars. The 300ZX and Laurel blew me away though – both absolutely fantastic examples and those photos really do them justice.

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