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.