Today’s guest writer is Chris Nicholson, who keeps the cars running at the Lane Motor Museum. Chris recently attended a classic car show in Showa Kinen Park.
Every trip to Japan is full of wonder, and every trip to Japan is too short. A free afternoon with a break in the rain led to Showa Kinen Park with its lines of famous gingko trees, whose colors were peaking. There, a collection of early Showa Era cars awaited, all bone stock and exemplifying family cars of the era. Unlike most shows, there was a distinct lack of sports models — no GT-Rs, Fairlady Zs, Celicas, TE27s, or Mazda rotaries — just what you might see on a Japanese city street in the early 1970s, perfectly preserved in time.
Getting to Showa Kinen Park from Tachikawa Station is easy. It’s a short walk north, then west, from the north exit. Like most Japanese public spaces, it’s perfectly manicured.
Near the park entrance was a sign about a classic car show in the park.
The Lane Motor Museum has the largest collection of European cars in the US., as well as the largest collection of cars never sold or marketed in the US. Out of over 430 cars, only 22 of them are Japanese, but that part of the collection is growing. There will be an upcoming JNC article about the museum, but for now, it was enough to see some extremely rare cars for the first time. A young woman kept watch over the cars, and explained that the cars would actually be out there for several days as part of the park’s festivities, even in the rain.
The show was filled with cars less known to Westerners, including trio of Glorias that showed the model’s pre-Nissan origins as a luxury model in the Prince Motors lineup.
The tateguro (vertical Gloria) A30 was the first Nissan-badged Gloria after the Nissan-Prince merger, but still predated the merging with the Cedric line.
A 31-Series Nissan Cedric 1900 was a common government vehicle in its time, a large full-size sedan analogous to a Ford Crown Victoria in 1990s America.
If you were really flashy back in that time, a Giugiaro-penned Isuzu 117 coupe would have made the appropriate statement.
All the previously mentioned cars still would’ve been out of reach for many 1960s Japanese citizens, though. A corral of kei jidosha showed what the average driver, if you could own a car, would have been driving.
Clockwise from the upper left corner is a Mazda Carol 360 (white, blue roof), pair of Subaru 360s (in red regular and tan Deluxe wagon body styles), Mitsubishi Minica (seafoam green), Daihatsu Max (yellow), Suzuki Fronte (gray), Mazda Chantez (white) and the sporty alternative, Subaru R-2 (red).
The Toyota Publica was a popular choice falling just outside the kei car restrictions. Today’s equivalent might be a Scion xD or Yaris.
Moving one class up would put you in a KE10 Toyota Corolla sedan, complete with period accessory to let you know where the corner opposite the driver was.
The first-gen Honda Civic RS (for “Road Sailing”) was the Civic Si of its time and was typically painted in bright, eye-catching colors.
The grown-up Honda was the 1300 sedan, powered by the same air-cooled 1.3L motor found in the Coupe 9.
The Mazda Familia Coupe, powered by a 1.0L SOHC engine, was the first sporty model from Hiroshima, and predated the Cosmo Sport by two years.
The only 80s car represented was a Mitsubishi Debonair AMG, which was an official collaboration with the German Mercedes-Benz specialist (You can read more about it in Kev’s great story by clicking on the link). It’s a bit of an anomaly at the show and sadly, it was lacking the white AMG wheels that should have come with the car.
The C30 Laurel was Nissan’s answer to the Toyota Corona Mark II, a mid-sized platform that split the difference between Bluebird and Skyline. Though not much loved today, the hardtop coupe that debuted in 1970 was a stylish cruiser for its time.
Speaking of Bluebirds, a corral with four generations of Nissan’s bread and butter compact showed the evolution from 210 to 310, 410 an, amazingly, a museum-worthy unmolested 510 SSS coupe complete with vinyl top.
If you find yourself in Tokyo definitely check out Showa Kinen Park. Spring or fall, it’s a feast of color for the eyes. And if your timing is right, you just might find a nice distraction.
Chris Nicholson is also founder of YouShouldVisitJapan.com.