Motoring J Style
July 28, 2007
Martin Swig is a name oft mentioned in vintage racing and car collecting circles. He is the founder of Amici Americani Della Mille Miglia, or American Friends of the Mille Miglia. He organizes vintage rallies such as the California Mille, Mille Autunno Della Cinque Passi, and Double 500. His favorite color is red. Actually, we don't know that for a fact but given his large collection of vintage Italian automobiles, it seems likely.
Appropriately, he got his start as an Alfa Romeo and Fiat salesman in the 1950s. However, when it came time to start his own dealership empire in 1966, he went with Japanese upstart Datsun (see our Profile on Mike McGinnis
for more). His son, David, had the good fortune to have grown up surrounded by cool cars and people who loved them. Keeping with Swig tradition, his first car was a 1987 Alfa Romeo Milano. Neither fit the typical mold of Japanese car enthusiasts, but the father and son team recently held the inaugural Motoring J Style event, a celebration of all things automotive and Japanese. The show welcomed Japanese cars old and new, street or race, dirt or drift, and was held at the Solano County Fairgrounds in Vallejo, California. For such a large, multi-faceted event, it's an amazing testament to the Swigs that they started planning just nine months ago.
Typically, those in Concours circles deign to acknowledge Japanese marques as nothing more than cheap, generic, A-to-B transport. However, as one of the Americans who saw potential in the fledgling Japanese auto industry, Martin Swig eventually acquired an expansive portfolio of franchises from the likes of Toyota, Mazda, Suzuki, Rolls Royce, Bentley, Audi, Saab, Plymouth, Oldsmobile, Alfa Romeo and Fiat. By the time he retired from the dealership business in 1998, which of these marques do you suppose had been kindest to him and his family?
In recent years, the Swigs have quickly acquired a fantastic collection of nostalgics that would make any vintage car nut as green as the Hulk with envy. As David tells us, while autocrossing his Alfa, he noticed a non-descript econobox particularly adept at cleaning up the course. The car, as it turns out, was one that served as a gateway drug for many a nostalgic car enthusiast - the AE86 Corolla GT-S. Since then the Swigs have added a BRE-themed Datsun 510, a Toyota Celica liftback 2000GT from Switzerland, a 1958 Toyopet Crown, and the Allread Lexus V8-powered Corona hot rod, among others, to their stable of European collector cars.
With the Swig name and reputation behind Japanese cars now, collectors that wouldn't have otherwise paid any attention at all to vintage Japanese iron at all have suddenly taken notice. For example, as we interviewed David, who graciously took time out of his otherwise non-stop schedule during the day of the show to talk to us, he was approached by a gentleman representing the Palo Alto Concours D'Elegance, who was extremely eager to include Japanese cars at his next event, a first for the Concours. Throughout the day, the buzz at Motoring J Style was that Japanese cars as collector items are about to hit the big time. Better snatch them up while you can.