Japanese Classic Car Show
Long Beach, California

How do say, "If you build it, they will come," in Japanese? We never truly understood that Field of Dreams mantra until we saw the line of gleaming nostalgics lined up at the entry gates under a Long Beach sunrise. At that point, we were sure the ghosts of Jujiro Matsuda or Kiichiro Toyoda must have whispered the phrase into the ears of Koji and Terry Yamaguchi, the organizers of the Japanese Classic Car Show.

Now in its third year, the JCCS has become a true destination for anyone into vintage cars, Japanese cars, or the all-important combo of vintage Japanese cars. Before the event debuted in 2005, typical classic J-car enthusiasts tinkering away the hours in their garages desperately needed a venue to bring them out of the woodwork and celebrate their labors of love. They might not even have known that's what they needed, but thankfully, that is exactly what JCCS provided.

Proof of this notion came in the biggest surprises of the show - first-timers like Rory Baldrey, who brought his 1976 Nissan Laruel SGX all the way from Boise, Idaho; or Mike Haviland, who debuted his carbon fiber bodied Honda Z600 with a side-mounted Hayabusa engine; and Gin Nakamura, who split our ears with his kenmeri Skyline done up in the race scheme Nissan would have campaigned in 1973 had the oil crisis not struck. We wonder, if not for events like the JCCS, would we have ever seen these masterpieces?

Of course, old schoolers like Brian Karasawa, with his bright orange Celica Liftback, Kelvin Hiraishi, with his RB-powered 240Z, and PJ Bonifacio's crew, still wowed the crowd with their creations. Between these magnificent machines, manufacturer displays from Toyota, Nissan, Mazda and Mitsubishi, vendor booths, and an R/C drift track, there was barely enough room for the Meguiar's Car Crazy TV crew to swarm in, dressed in black like a commando unit with an arsenal of video equipment in tow. At one point, late night TV host Jay Leno rolled up to the festivities in his Series II Mazda Cosmo Sport and was promptly swarmed. Our Cressida station wagon did not receive as much attention.

This year, the JCCS also recognized the achievements of Toyota USA's half century of sales in the US and Mazda's 40th anniversary of the rotary engine. A pair of cakes were served and "Happy Birthday" was sung. The main focus, however, remained on the individual owners and the rolling history they brought to the show. We were in the presence of more beauty than we really had time to savor. Yes, there were awards given out, and maybe it was the relaxing vibe of the waterfront lawn locale, but the atmosphere was one of pure mutual appreciation of the old school cars we know and love. Now, we finally know what those dead ballplayers meant.


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