Each year as part of our Japanese Classic Car Show coverage, we pick our favorites to highlight. We had six members of the JNC team at the show this year, plus one car that we voted on collectively to give the JNC Award. Here’s what we chose.
Before we get into the picks, we’d like to once again thank some of the people who made JCCS a fun time for all. First, big thanks to Datsun racing legend John Morton, who signed posters, car parts and toys for our fans. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a photo of him because we were covering the show.
We’d also like to thank the two Hot Wheels designers who are largely responsible for the plethora of tiny metal JNCs hanging from the shelves of your local toy store. Jun Imai and Ryu Asada were signing their hands off at the JNC booth with a line stretching several tens of fans deep. Somehow, during the autograph session, the two broke out into an impromptu drawing contest sketching their favorite cars on the backs of JNC decals. Some of these were secretly and randomly given away to prize winners.
John Roper, Tech Editor and Forum Administrator. Fort Worth, Texas: As a diehard 510 fan, this car really stands out. Not only is it a RHD Bluebird, but it has a laundry list of weird options that would make any JDM fanboy drool: the coveted stainless trim around the door glass, the bench seat (only common to the base model 1300 version and never installed in a USDM car), the late production GL grill, the unobtanium tail light center filler garnish, the column-shifted manual trans, and the very uncommon Ivory paint. Aside from the fairly commonplace Panasport wheels, it’s the perfect 510 to me.
Matt De Mangos, Contributor and Forum Administrator. San Diego, California: Easy choice — Jesse Hernandez’s 1970 1800SSS Coupe (aka “Blackbird”) with 17-inch finned wheels and no fender mirrors. Do you know of any other JDM car at the show that had the same owner for nearly 30 years? We respect owners who aren’t out to flip their car and move onto the next trend. We even found a photo of Jesse’s car the era of giant chrome rims, circa 1991. Look closely at that pic; any guesses to who the chap in the gray jacket to the right is?
Dave Yuan, Contributor. San Francisco, California: This might be a bit of a weird choice, but I pick Jerry Goulette’s Suzuki Jimny LJ80. The Jimny was Suzuki’s first successful export product, making both it and its legacy a bit of a mini-Land Cruiser. It’s a kei off-roader with serious off-road capability. There’s nothing else like it, and its lineage extends to this day true to form. It has some obscure history, too: the first-gen Jimny was originally designed by Hope, who sold it to Suzuki (oddly, Hope is still around but makes amusement park equipment now). The LJ80 is the final, ultimate development of this model. Most importantly, the one at the show was just an immaculate example of a rare car.
Skorj, Contributor. Tokyo, Japan: Easy! Matt’s Colt Galant GTO G S-R. Simply because they are rare, even in Japan, and his was such a sympathetic restoration — appropriate to the car, period, and totally Japanese in its presentation. Loved those gentleman’s foot-mats, and he even resisted putting a GT-R style rear spoiler on it. Impressive!
Jovan Hsu, Business Development. Boston, Massachusetts: The early-grille Mazda RX-4s are simply gorgeous cars, period. On top of that, they’re rare to boot. Though not entirely original, Armando Licon’s 1974 coupe’s modifications aren’t so insane that the car couldn’t one day be returned to stock. It looks like a clean driver, and was the only one at JCCS this year.
Ben Hsu, Editor-in-Chief. Los Angeles, California. Patrick Soliman’s 1973 Nissan Skyline is probably the most authentic Japanese-style kenmeri we’ve seen stateside. Love it or hate it, all the modifications are true to Japanese tuning culture, from its massive bolt-on overfenders to its nekome (cat eye) racing jacket to its ridiculous 12-inch-deep Techno Phantoms, this car could have driven right out of the streets of Chiba. Also included is a photo of what it looked like in a former life. Patrick won the first ever JCSpeed Award for his efforts, and narrowly missed winning the JNC Award. So which car did take home that ignoble prize?
That dubious honor went to Chris Green’s absolutely gorgeous 1986 Honda Prelude, which went mysteriously overlooked in all other categories. The Sonic Blue coupe isn’t an Si, but has the optional taillight panel, twin carbs and less than 50,000 miles.
As Honda’s hi-so coupe, it had an excessively plush interior at the time, featuring excesses like vents in the door panels for defogging the side windows, yet it didn’t give up anything in handling or the overall fun-to-drive department. The elderly gent Chris purchased it from kept it so mint, the steering column even had the original tilt wheel instructions tag hanging from it. Omedetou, Chris!
Our 2014 JCCS coverage continues, but in case you missed it check out Part 01 — Debut Builds, Part 02 — JDM, Part 03 — The Sixties, Part 04 — Modified Machines, Part 05 — Made in the 80s, Part 06 — Trucks, Vans and Wagons, Part 07 — Taking Stock, and Part 08 — Motorcycles.
Photo Editor: Ryan Senensky.