The New Year Meeting is Tokyo’s premiere classic car show and it takes place at the end of January. You’ll likely never see a gathering of J-tin so diverse anywhere else, and the magic begins with a line of cars at the show’s gates. Right off the bat there’s a 1960s H31 Nissan Cedric, Sunny, Subaru Leone wagon, and a daruma Celica all queued up.
A contingent of Galant GTOs regularly makes a strong showing at the New Year Meeting, but this year gave them extra cause to celebrate, as Mitsubishi was the featured marque. It’s been 10 years since the Triple Diamond headlined.
The Mitsubishi Minica Skipper, a kei coupe with a perhaps familiar dual-glass hatch, predates the Honda CRX by 13 years. A highly coveted kei car, it sought to adapt the Galant GTO’s styling into a supercompact platform and became one of the earliest people’s cars designed with a eye towards sportiness.
Wedge-nose Celicas are dear now, so there has been a noticeable gravitation to the flat-nose. One can still build a compelling works-style custom, however, with enduro-style wipers, baca mirrors and ultra-rare TOM’S lenses that, if you look closely, have the logo molded into them.
Popularized in 1973 by the turbo Celicas that attacked Fuji Speedway, endurance style wipers provided a constant sweep so that the drivers could maintain visibility even when charging at speed during one the region’s epic downpours. The distinctive green Celicas became the first turbo Toyotas to win a race, a notable fact in TMSC-R history.
Continuing on the Celica theme, here is a very well-preserved example. Fitted with TOSCO rally wheels and factory options such as window visors and a vinyl top, it is something only a wealthy owner would buy back in day. Perhaps that explains its original two-digit license plate, unchanged for over 40 years.
The Toyota tuners of Team Wizard are regulars at the show, and typically their corral is lined with daruma Celicas or TE27s running twin-cam race motors. this year, they brought in a rare TE51 Corolla Levin.
This Corona Mark II is what makes the New Year Meeting so good. It celebrates every aspect of car culture, even ones that are apparently inspired by the Group 5 McLaren BMW 320 Turbo and offered as a rolling lowrider caricature meant to evoke shock as its primary purpose.
By contrast, here’s an S30 Fairlady Z that’s a replica of the Z that Nissan entered into the 1975 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The original was a repurposed works rally car and raced at LeMans, and this one replicates is rather well, with rare period correct tires and body kit straight from the 70s.
Back in the days of high end drag racing, American-style pro street cars with Japanese engines could be seen tearing down the Sendai Highland drag strip or Fuji straight. While that style had been falling out of favor even before the 2011 tsunami damaged the Sendai grounds and the track closed for good in 2014, it’s good to see cars like this Z20 Soarer still around in case dragging comes back again.
Here we see the begininnigs of very period-correct Corolla racer. Before the KP47 Starlet came about, Toyota used these now-rare 3K motors in TE27 mangos to do battle with Nissan’s Sunny.
Speaking of KP47s, here’s a replica of Keiichi Suzuki’s 1980 TS-specification Starlet wearing the classic red-on-black Advan livery. The TS Cup Sunnys have seen a resurgence in vintage racing in recent years. It would be great to see this contemporary mixing it up with the Nissans at Fuji Speedway.
A small of assembly of Mazda Porter Cabs is another regular fixture at the Meeting, charming the crowds with their adorable little mascot faces. Note the front-hinged doors and headlight bezels that double as vents.
Going even further back is a Mazda B360 kei pickup, running on pre-yellow kei plates. It might be a super rare classic truck but that didn’t stop its owners from hauling around their entire booth in the bed, which probably has the footprint of a standard US refrigerator.
A 510 Bluebird Coupe gleamed in the sun, sprinkled with a dash of American style thanks to modern Recaro racing seat, BRE-style spook and 5-spoke Works.
The trend towards preserving non-GT-R hakosuka Skylines continues. A beautiful rare blue GT-X, complete with in-tact surf line was seen rolling around on original steelies and two-digit plates. A drop-dead cherry Skyline 2000GT sedan, a former Nostalgic Hero feature car, was offered for sale at the Victory 50 booth. When the price is “ASK” you know it’s either going to be expensive, or they’re looking for the right owner.
If Skylines and 510s are out of reach but you must have a pre-disco Nissan, perhaps a C30 Laurel hardtop coupe might be of interest to you. Similar to the identically-colored Celica above, this is a top-of-the-line GX model with a 2.0-liter twin-carb. Wire wheels and Marchal driving lights were popular add-ons back in the day.
Here we have a chuuki Isuzu 117, an early round-headlight but post-GM non-handmade version. Not only is it a beautiful car, we are learning that it’s actually a great road-trip vehicle.
The Honda delegation consisted of a collection of 10,000-rpm esuhachis, in both coupe and roadster form. They are also regular fixtures at the New Year Meeting. This year, they were joined by a rare Honda Life pickup. With the addition of its trailer, it had six Ac Courréges wheels, an old school Japanese rim penned by a 1960s French fashion designer.
The Meeting isn’t limited to cars. There are also sellers of everything from Nissan S20 valve covers, displayed before a hakosuka Skyline, to scale model kits, arranged in front of a barely-bigger Honda S600.
Here’s an extremely rare NOS Japan Skyline Musashi Crystal “pinky tail” replacement lens, a two decades before the ubiquitous “Altezzas” became trendy.
Of course, traversing the entire show takes a toll on the feet of even the octane blooded, so for those prone to afternoon naps there’s no better conveyance than a modified wagon.
And if you get hungry, just set up your own kotatsu and make a meal. Dining between parked cars — there should be more restaurants like this.
Rilakkuma, or “relax bear,” is huge in Japan, appearing on every consumer good you can imagine and second only to Hello Kitty in popularity. Now, there’s a Korilakkuma — Rilakkuma’s smaller friend — oil catch can in a TE27.
Closing out Part 01 of our 2016 New Year Meeting coverage is a rare Toyota Publica convertible. Lowered a perfect amount on reproduction TMSC wheels (granddaddy of the TOSCOs), it was the Best of Show for our illustrator San Mamiya.
It was time to go home, as these twin H31 Cedric wagons can attest, but that doesn’t mean our coverage of the 2016 New Year Meeting is over. The real show is in the parking area, and that’s what we’ll see in Part 02. To be continued…