The Kiryu Classic Car Festival holds a special place in the history of JNC. Back in 2006, long before any other English-language sites were interested in kyusha, it was the first show we covered in Japan. That also happened to be the first time the show was ever held, and it’s hard to believe it’s been a decade since.
Held at Gunma University’s campus in Kiryu City, located about 100 kilometers north of Tokyo, the show welcomes any vehicles built before 1980. The school’s tree- and brick-lined walkways provides a wonderfully picturesque backdrop to showcase the wide variety of assembled machines.
Shota, our photographer on site, reported that the venue allowed plenty of elderly men and women attended the show to feel nostalgic about the old days, while children came to gawk at cars they’d never seen before.
One of the most amazing things about this show was its ability to attract owners who had kept their cars for a long time, as denoted by their two-digit (the smaller-typeface numbers beside location) number plates. That included a beautiful CSP311 Silvia on whitelines and Wats that had a rare 2-digit light-up plate.
Amazingly some of them were modified in period style, like the gorgeous olive daruma Celica GTV in rally guise with Cibie baby Oscar foglights and 13×5.5 Enkei 8-spokes.
Even more impressive, however, were the cars wearing original single-digit number plates. The array included a Toyota 2000GT, 510 Bluebird, and a sleeper of a Toyota 1600GT finished not in the traditional yellow but in red with a black vinyl top, echoing a more gentlemanly owner’s tastes with added resources for the options.
Remarkably, the show organizers managed to wrangle at least three examples of the Toyota 2000GT, as well as other 1960s icons like the Honda S600 and a particular Toyota Sports 800 whose aircraft fuselage-inspired body was especially beautiful in its silver finish.
On hand was also plenty of memorabilia for sale, including rare Nissan parts department clocks and an assortment of miniature cars in 1:43 and 1:18 scale.
For those wanting to experience a real wave of nostalgia, a section of early kei cars included a Daihatsu Midget whose cargo area was filled with Showa Era goods.
For a different kind of nostalgia, one could also ogle cars like a Prince Gloria or Nissan Cedric like the ones seen in 1970s Japanese police dramas.
The sheer diversity of the lineup was mind-boggling. There was everything from a Subaru 1000 on Zona wheels to a Hino Contessa sedan on Hayashi meshies to a gorgeous Nissan Fairlady Z432.
Work trucks, too, like the Honda Life Pickup and “eyebrows” Daihatsu Hijet were well represented.
Even an extremely rare Honda TN360 Snow Crawler — a kei truck whose rear wheels were swapped with optional treads — was on display.
Larger trucks, like an 1970 Toyota Crown Pickup, were welcomed as well. One particular example on skinny and wide Fuchs wheels had a street rod feel but actually look period perfect with a style inspired by 80s mini-truckers.
Nearby, an even earlier Crown Pickup had its bed floor modified and raised so the owner could slam it some more.
By the Mazda corral was the Maehara Bros.’ REPU, a rotary pickup that was only sold in the US, which they purchased in Hawaii and brought back to Japan.
One of our favorite cars was a Skyline GT sedan replete with mods one would do when the car was new. The owner in fact has two Hakos — one slammed in kaido racer style, and this one, a 1970-71 street style with flared and radiused rear fenders and widened steelies finished with rare accessory center caps.
Another standout was a TE27 which, judging by the plates, was probably modified in period and stayed that way through the decades. To go with a works theme, it sported TOSCO wheels, works endurance constant-sweep wipers, accessory rivet plugs covering the holes where the trunk garnish once sat, and big-buck Marchal Ampilux headlights. What’s underneath is all probably TOSCO or TRD. If you had the cash back in 1973-75, this was the ultimate street TE27.
Another favorite was parked in the Mitsubishi section, a blue FTO in period style with wha is likely a Coltspeed suspension and widened steelies.
In fact, the Mitsubishi turnout was superb, with not one but two yellow Lancer Celestes and rally cars that look as if the pages of the Coltspeed catalog for Galant and Lancer came to life replete with period colors and graphics.
By three o’clock though the show was over. Fortunately, one of the features of the Kiryu Classic Car Festival is a parade run that weaves its way through town as the participants leave. We’ll cover that in Part 02. To be continued…