New Year Meeting
January 28, 2007
n celebration of the dawning year, the largest gathering anywhere of vintage Japanese steel comes together on the massive manmade island of Odaiba in Tokyo Bay. Surrounded by the towering car elevators of Toyota's Megaweb showroom, one of the world's largest daikanranshas
(that's Ferris wheel to us) and the Fuji TV building, which was lifted straight off of Cybertron, one can witness the best and rarest examples of nostalgics anywhere. The contrast is quite stark, actually, as Odaiba is the part of Japan that best epitomizes the superfuturistic architecture inevitably described as Blade Runner
-esque, yet the annual collection of wheels remains decidedly old school.
And we do mean old
. Where else can you expect to see a Subaru Sambar followed by Isuzu Bellets and 117 Coupes, Suzuki Frontes, Toyota Publicas, Prince - not Nissan - Glorias, and a minor fleet of three-wheeled Daihatsus? Of course, many of the most popular classics in Japan are also the usual suspects here in the States. After all, these cars came into being before the evolutionary split that gave us North American-specific models and as such, there was no shortage of Zs, Bluebirds, Celicas, Corollas or Mazda RX cars.
This year, Mitsubishi received the hallowed status of featured marque and the triple-diamond mafia showed up in full force. Minicas, Colts and Galants! GTOs! FTOs! One thing's for sure, back in the day Mitsubishi must've gotten a monster discount on orange paint.
Although Mitsubishi has been in the horseless carriage business since 1917, only post-war models were displayed. A special roped-off area celebrated three of the automaker's most significant creations from the last half century - a 1960 Mitsubishi 500, sporting 20hp and launching the brand's racing program, this is also the car in our current forum banner; a 1966 Japan Grand Prix class-winning Colt F3A open-wheel racer equipped with an 1000cc, 90hp OHV engine that redlined at 8000rpm; and a three-wheeled Leo pickup that debuted in 1959 and inspired today's triangular-nose corporate grille.
With so many beauties and rarities to drink in, it's near impossible to choose our favorites, but some particularly noteworthy specimens that caught our eye include an all original 1st-gen Corolla
; a gorgeous mint-green 1961 Crown
; a pair of big honkin' Cedric Specials
; a Cherry X-1R
that looks like something Ultraman might battle; a diminutive Mitsubishi Delica fire truck
; an absolutely wicked Mazda Carol
at the Nineten Racing booth; and a duo of track-ready Hino Contessas
from Team Samurai.
To fully appreciate the sights of the New Year Meeting, one must understand that the Japanese climate is about as equally unfriendly towards classics as their safety and smog inspections. Many of these models never saw export, and if it weren't for the dedicated enthusiasts like the ones at this show, such vehicles would have long since been lost to history. So here's to the cars, the collectors and with 2007 being our first year in existence to cover this event, many more meetings to come. Happy new year.