By any standard the Kiryu Classic Car Festival is a memorable and diverse gathering of kyusha with no shortage of charm. Even better, however, is that after the car show part of the event concluded, the cars go for a parade through the streets of the quaint town of Kiryu, Gunma Prefecture that gives the event its namesake. Suddenly, the car show becomes a moving tapestry of automotive history.
Prior to leaving for Kiryu’s quaint lanes, however, a quick spin through the parking lot revealed a few treasures of its own. A standout was a Celica Liftback with Trans-Am front spoiler and spats and Hayashi Streets, as well as a B310 Sunny on gold Wats, a stately C210 Laurel sedan in a proper rose bronze and a slammed barikan Corona on dog dishes.
Though the show was limited to pre-1980 cars, somehow a neoclassic EG Civic snuck into the festivities. Done in the neo-USDM style that is popular today in Japan (which in turn requires JDM trim). In this case since the car already was a JDM Si-R to begin with, only the slammage, Work wheels and billet suspension arms and braces were needed. Its chokkan small-diameter exhaust was uniquely Japanese though.
What followed couldn’t have been a starker contrast. Cars from the 360 Owner’s Club included two generations of Mitsubishi Minica kei cars that followed — an orange 70 and a beautiful LA20 Super Deluxe — and a rear-engined Suzuki Fronte.
A Mark II wagon on period slots looked positively brutish in comparison.
The parade afforded a better look at some of the cars that were at the show, including two-digit original-plate gems like a perfect TE27 on TOSCOs and a stock 411 Bluebird.
Showgoers and citizens alike gathered along the streets to watch the procession. Many of the elderly citizens in attendance probably remembered the cars back when they were still new. The show wasn’t just limited to Japanese cars, either, as evidenced by a phalanx of Italian Vespas trailing a British MG B GT.
A scene comprised of a single-digit number plate Subaru 360 trundling by old houses could have been plucked straight from the Showa Era if it weren’t for the modern people movers in the background.
More original single-digit plate vehicles from the 60s followed, including two from opposite ends of 1960s societal classes — a miraculously surviving workhorse Datsun 320 pickup and an ostentatious Prince Gloria.
A pair of Showa Era Hondas included a sporty S600 and suichumegane Z. You can see how grand the S600 must have looked in Japan at the time.
Perhaps the oddest Honda was a 1980 Caren, based on a 50cc moped and sidecar with an enclosed FRP body built around it, complete with luggage rack.
As the sun dipped low a Fairlady 240ZG purred through the narrow streets, its curves looking positively alien against the town’s old buildings.
More Nissans, including a perfect Hakosuka on black Wats and a shakotan Butaketsu on Hayashi Streets rumbled through.
These days, a 4-door Hako with surf line and its original steelies in tact may be rarer. This one, with its original two-digit number plate, set the Showa Era scene.
Not all BRE tributes are Datsuns. The Hino Contessa was Peter Brock’s first foray into racing and this de-bumpered and shaved example is an homage to his original Team Samurai race car.
As much as we love Japanese classics in SoCal or Sydney, seeing them in their natural habitat. Kiryu is a delightful town, and seeing kyusha driving through cramped streets amongst kei vans, and bicycle-riding ojisan provides a new perspective on their scale and design.