We’ve been going to the Japanese Classic Car Show for over a decade, but this year was undoubtedly the best one yet. In its twelfth year, the JCCS, which took place this weekend at the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California, has grown into a truly world-class event.
One of the main reasons we say this is because of the participation of the automakers themselves. An official presence is nothing new, but in past years automakers were usually satisfied with a nice display of cars from their heritage collections. This year, on the other hand, they actually used JCCS to debut cars never before seen by the public.
Case in point: Nissan took the opportunity to show the 2017 GT-R NISMO for the first time anywhere in North America. This type of introduction is typically reserved for a major international auto show like Detroit or New York. When Nissan whisks the covers off of their facelifted Godzilla here, it says two things — 1.) that JCCS is an important enough event for the unveiling of a $175,000, 600-horsepower flagship, and 2.) this is the largest concentration of die-hard enthusiasts on the continent.
Nissan also displayed a very appropriate pairing of 1969 Patrol and a 2017 Armada. This is significant because for 2017 the new Armada is no longer based on the Titan pickup, but the global Patrol platform that is sold in places like Australia and the Middle East.
The classic Patrol was on loan from Lou Bircheff, to whom we awarded the Preservation Award at Nissan Jam. The 19,000-mile, all-original example could very well be the most well-preserved 60-series Patrol in the world.
The only other privately owned car at Nissan’s booth was a hakosuka Skyline belonging to Rick Ishitani. JNC helped arrange this car for Nissan to coincide with their special giveaway of the new Matchbox Skyline, and is thus identified by the new JNC Shōnin decal on the left side.
Last but not least, a small collection of Nissan’s race cars was bookended by the legendary BRE Datsun 510, which won the 1971-72 SCCA Trans-Am 2.5 Challenge to define Nissan as a builder of giant-killing sport sedans, and the latest Pirelli World Challenge GT-R GT3. The 510 was delivered from Nissan’s US headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee for this event, proving yet again the importance of JCCS.
Nissan wasn’t the only one to make news. Honda also chose the JCCS to show the finished restoration of Honda Serial One. A year ago we saw it in its found state, but it has since been painstakingly restored by N600 guru Tim Mings. The car was probably one of the most visited in the entire show and was surrounded all day by media who wanted a glimpse of the first Honda automobile ever built for the North American market. We were honored to have the JNC Shõnin decal so rudely placed on this priceless part of Honda history (more on this car later).
Honda too had a “then and now” display of an iconic model, the Acura NSX. It’s mind-blowing to consider, but more time separates the original 1990 NSX from the all-new 2017 NSX (26 years) than from the N600 (21 years). The horsepower spread is equally astounding, going from 31 to 276 to 573.
Mazda showed to the public for the first time its newly restored 929 sedan. Displayed alongside a Eunos Cosmo and 1967 Cosmo Sport, it was a sampling of Mazda’s past premium offerings. The purpose was to draw parallels to cars like the CX-9 as Mazda begins its move upmarket.
The other half of Mazda’s booth was devoted to sports and race cars, including another recently restored machine. The 1989 767B that raced at Le Mans debuted in Monterey last month, but for many southern Californians this was the first time they’ve been able to see it and its distinctive livery in person. As we walked by, we noticed at least one Mazdafarian very happy to find something that didn’t clash with his JNC “Le Mans” shirt.
The display also paid tribute to Yoshimi Katayama, the Mazda racing legend who passed away earlier this year.
Toyota continued its year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Corolla with a variety of early models in both stock and racing guise. There were actually two first-generation Corollas, the KE10 we drove before The Great Race and a beautiful red 2-door wagon from the Toyota USA Museum.
From Toyota USA’s motorsports collection was an ex-SCCA TE27 Corolla SR5 and yet another incredible Corolla GT-S owned by Janet Fujimoto. Amazingly, it is the AE86 that’s barricaded by stanchions, while the 2000GT is free to approach. That sounds about right, actually, as bone stock AE86s are probably much rarer.
To pair with the 2000GT, however, we had a surprise visit from Koji Sato, chief engineer of the Lexus LC500 and LC500h. Sato-san himself drove an LC500, which is not yet available for sale, to JCCS to showcase the next evolution of Toyota flagship grand tourers.
We’re also happy to report that while neither Mitsubishi nor Subaru had an official presence, that didn’t stop their fans. This year saw many more of either marque than in any previous JCCS shows, a trend we hope will continue for these sorely underrepresented badges (more on these individual cars in a later installment).
In addition to the automakers, though, what really elevates JCCS to must-see status is the fact that private owners are building and restoring cars to debut at the show, cars that continue to astonish every year with their vision and quality (more on these in an upcoming installment).
Perhaps one of the most important developments this year was the debut Glenn Chiou’s newly restored 1970 Datsun 240Z race car. That’s because this isn’t just any old Z that’s been converted; it was built as a race car in period, won several regional championships against drivers like Paul Newman, and was specifically sought out because Glenn wanted to restore a pedigreed racing Datsun.
According to Glenn, it has been a race car for all 46 years of its life, having won three ISCC GT2 championships in SCCA C-Production class. Restored to its 1977 VIP’s Restaurant livery, it perhaps marks a new direction in Japanese classics in which motorsports provenance is taken in to account and adds value to a restoration.
These are the reasons why JCCS is bigger and better than ever, and it’s rewarding to see something that we’ve been a part of and covered for so many years grow into a required stop on the calendar. Even better, the trends outlined here are just the beginning, as JCCS progresses into the next decade.
To be continued…