While chrome-bumpered machines from the 60s and 70s are still the Japanese Classic Car Show’s core, urethane capped 80s cars are making their presence known in a big way. In this installment we look at iconic cars from the Reagan decade.
We start with a pair from the rarest marque, Isuzu. Jeff Shein’s Isuzu Impulse Turbo, which he purchased new in 1986, is likely one of the cleanest in the US, if not the world. Parked beside it is occasional JNC guest writer Bart Wilkus’ apocalypse-ready Isuzu Trooper 4-door, which he drove all the way from Reno, Nevada.
The poster child of the 1980s Japanese car is the venerable Toyota AE86. There was a good showing of the OG drifter, and while acres of carbon fiber are still en vogue, the truly outrageous drift mods are falling out of fashion. Still very much in fashion is JDM-izing such cars, but such conversions are leaning ever more towards stock.
Janet Fujimoto’s Corolla GT-S Coupe is still one of the most impressive hachiroku restorations around, and it’s great to see it in all its big-bumpered USDM glory.
Perhaps the urge to JDM-ify your car can be resisted easier when you have two. Janet’s red hatch was also present, a JDM transformation with sportier mods like a Cusco roll cage and Enkei Compe 8-spokes.
Carrying on in true angular 80s fashion are the AE86’s siblings, the AW11 MR2 and Celica. Mitch Braiman’s 1981 Celica Sunchaser was truly emblematic of the decade and a superbly kept example even if it’s not strictly factory (Sunchasers were converted by Griffin after arriving on US shores).
Miguel Olano’s Celica looks like it stepped straight out of a scene from Miami Vice, thanks to a striking theme of nothing but black and gold, right down to its Epsilon meshies.
On the Nissan side of the rivalry is the S12 Silvia, sold in the US as the 200SX. Nissan only sold V6-powered S12s in hatchback from, but Andrew Harvey’s white 1987 coupe took a page from that playbook with a 3.3-liter VG crammed beneath an otherwise stock-seeming exterior (except for a clever use of Crown Vic wheels). Rick Mena won Best 80s Datsun and is the original owner of his blue 1987 coupe riding on 16-inch Work Ewing RSBs.
The Mitsubishi Starion, another 80s icon, turned out in a rare showing of three. Despite a strong cult following, these cars never appear at JCCS in appreciable numbers, and we are at a loss to explain why. At least this year saw a handful of Colts and GTOs or there’d be no triple diamond representation at all.
The 80s were truly Toyota’s decade here in the US. Even its once practical family sedan flagship has found new life as a favorite of drifters, 2JZ-swappers and fans of the bosozoku thanks to its status as an outlaw favorite in Japan. From Aaron Bright’s purple crowd pleaser to Jameson Gankee’s sharknose, the styling cues are crossing over.
While not technically an 80s car, we include Nhan Hoang’s 1979 Cressida because its modification style, with zokusha-style rear underwing and shakotan stance.
Evan Ruiz’s rootbeer brown sled is a regular, but the show-quality Cressida build is still a rare beast, and we’ve yet to see better.
This year also marked the first-ever JC Costume Contest, in which owners were encouraged to dress in period-correct clothing matched to the age of their cars. Sarah Jones was dressed in 80s garb to match her Cressida wagon.
While the Cressidas were out in full force it’s Nissan counterpart, the Maxima, had only minimal presence of two. Even the hugely popular at the time Datsun 280ZX (which shares much of the Maxima’s mechanicals) is not particularly well represented. Kean Gallardo’s white 1981 S130 was one of the few. Where are the owners? We know you’re out there!
Even Toyota’s ubiquitous econobox, the E70 Corolla, has a smorgasbord of tuning possibilities. Joel Lago’s 3SGE-powered 2-door is a restomod of the highest order, while Daniel Hernandez’s 1981 sedan remains gorgeously stock. Santos Renovales’ drag racer runs the quarter mile in 8.65 seconds at 160 mph, garnering the Best Corolla award.
If the 80s were Toyota’s decade, the 90s belonged to Honda. JCCS isn’t quite up to that era yet, but this year we saw some of the iconic Hondas advance in large numbers. EF Civics were well represented, showing off their slammed stances and gallery of rare and bizarre 80s wheels. One of the standouts was a daily driven but very clean Tahitian Green hatchback (top left).
Ryan Basseri had his well-known wire-tucked RHD EA-T Civic on display, sans hood, to show an engine bay completely absent of any harnesses. Ryan is the founder of Rywire, which specializes in Honda looms that hide all that messy wiring.
There were plenty of CRXes and Civics as in years past, but this time around a large contingent of Accords also came out strong. Alex Dragovich’s 1989 CA6 Accord coupe (foreground) was restored as a Japanese-spec 2.0-Si model with a B20A motor. Robert Dempster brought what is likely one of the very few modified second-gen Accords in existence.
One of our favorites was Robert Gallagher’s 1979 Accord DX sedan, which appears bone-stock from the outside but is holstering a B18C5 Integra Type-R engine swap that is so clean it looks like it came from the factory that way.
Our 2014 JCCS coverage continues, but in case you missed it check out Part 01 — Debut Builds, Part 02 — JDM, Part 03 — The Sixties, and Part 04 — Modified Machines.
Miguel Olano’s car is a Celica, not a Supra. Great looking cars all around.
I noticed that quickly as well, I was surprised. I get people calling my Celica a Supra all the time, thanks for beating me to it!
I always wonder why there are no 80s Subarus at these events. No lobby or no invitation? And it´s about time the first generation Pajero starts to evolve from a rusty old heap to the Dakar-icon it is.
I agree there on both accounts. I see a lot of 80s Subi Legacy wagons on the road up here still. And definitely the occasional Dodge Raider or Montero wagon. There is a lady who drives an absolutely gorgeous, bone stock, white, gen1 Monty 4dr that looks like it could be cousins with my Trooper. These SUVs definitely deserve some green time at JCCS, but I just think the following is so incredibly small, even smaller than Trooper fandom…
Legacy was a 90s thing. I Plan to drive my GL-10 there in a couple of years once I finish it up.
Yeah, you are right, GL-10s…My Subi knowledge is not anywhere near my Zu knowledge…thanks.
Apocalypse ready….indeed. 🙂
That last Accord…amazing. My mom owned the hatchback version in the early 90’s as her first car, the whole reason why I’m into Honda’s today. She also owned a silver 4 door and a green 4 door.
Ugh, not to be a complainer but I’m kind of over EF Civics already. I wish some Preludes were showcased, If I was in Cali I would’ve brought mine, but seeing how clean all these cars are, I’m not sure mine would qualify! My 85 Prelude is pretty nice, but not nearly as pristine as these cars.
Lovin’ the Cressidas, I really wanted one. Wife said they’re too old man business looking, though. The whole dress up in your car’s era clothing is brilliant, I would’ve done that too! Next year I’ll be there! I have to!
The last one I saw was a totally well equipped one with trip computer air conditioning and all the goodies. My wife called a “Baby Buick” because it has almost everything our old 1970 Buick Electra Limited had except the “power gas tank” which in the Buick seemed to nose dive towards “empty” as soon as we turned on the ignition. But the Buick trunk [it was the 2 door version sedan] was big enough for a family of 4 to live in and had automatic Air Suspension self leveling rear end. Our kids always manages to completely fill the trunk with stuffed animals from the second story “Kid’s special” game floor of the original Circus Circus layout.
I’d love to see a lil’ more mr2 love around here. Were there any representin’ that were of note?
There was only one MR2 at the show this year, a white AW11.
But maybe next year…
Thanks for the coverage!
I think the company that converted Celica Sunchasers was called Griffith, not Griffin.
Thanks to the Cressida and Maxima owners for bringing the four door sports car greatness !
I don’t understand how there is only 1,2,3 examples of some really iconic models? 1 AW11?? 3 Starions? How many cars show up total, like 50?
British car shows often have at least a dozen examples of some rather unloved and/or uncommon models. And the more popular cars like Healeys and MGAs and Bs and each TR have 3-4 dozen each. Overall turnout is in the multiple hundreds.
So what is going on here that there is such poor showings?
I can’t really explain it either except to say that some owners come in groups so they can hang out with their buddies. One year there’ll be a fleet of MR2s, the next year there’ll be one. There are never very many Starions, even at Mitsubishi Owner’s Day. There were about 8 there this year, compared to 1,000 Evos.
Nigel, thanks. My daily driver and restored Maximas were the two that provided the minimal presence. Usually, they garner little attention, although last year I did see one couple having their picture taken next to the one with the characteristic two-tone silver paint job, I guess because there were fond memories of the car in their younger days.
This year, however, as they were rolling in, someone yelled “Yaaaah Maximas!”. I’ve already seen a fair number of photos of them posted online, and to my complete surprise, the red one got 2nd place for 80’s Datsuns.
I know there are other, more interesting examples out there (mine have bone stock original engines) — L28ET Maximas, various modifications, and I’ve even heard of some Maximas with RB swaps. There’s a guy in Arizona who is working on restoring an ’84 as a good platform for his rebuilt L28ET. I hope his and some of the others show up next year.