We say this every year, but it’s true: the quality and selection of cars at the Japanese Classic Car Show keeps getting better with age. This year, the representation from Japan was increased substantially, with nameplates both beloved and obscure. Here are the best JDM cars we saw at the show.
From the always evolving Wild Cards crew, we have Mel Canones’s atypical choice of a four-door 1984 DR30 shod with Techno Phantoms and Raul Toledo’s sleek 1987 R31 Skyline on classic gunmetal Wats.
We’ve seen Pat Soliman‘s famous bosozoku-style Kenmeri Skyline before, but he kept it fresh this time around with a set of beautiful Riverside Super Rivers. This old school aftermarket wheel was probably one of the rarest sets of rims at the entire show. Patrick took home second prize in the Best 70s Skyline class.
Fellow Wild Card Roy De Guzman was rocking new Work Equip 40 and some meaty Toyo R888s on his kaido racer Hakosuka. This is the car that caught Hot Wheels designer Jun Imai‘s eye and was made into a diecast model earlier this year. Roy was an extremely busy man at the show, signing an endless number of toy cars for fans.
See the odd little sedan with the taillight bar stretching across the entire rear lurking in the back of the previous photo? Here it is in its full glory, Frank Clow’s 1990 Toyota Corona. These things were everywhere in Japan in the 1990s, but we would love to know what inspired someone to import one of these mid-sizers.
At this point Hakos are practically growing on trees. That’s why in this shot the real star of the show is the Toyota Starlet GT Turbo, a 135 PS hot hatch weighing a hair under 2,000 pounds.
Ironically, Hakos are more common than R32s, at least in California. Having passed the 25 year threshold we are seeing more and more R32 GT-Rs, but unfortunately, they can’t pass California smog so most of the ones at the show wear out of state plates. Hakos, having been built before 1976, are not subject to smog tests.
Speaking of import rules, Ron Whitman spent nearly three years fighting the feds and jumping through hoops to get his 1992 Subaru Alcyone SVX L, a JDM model with four-wheel-steering, into the US. Against all odds, he actually got it added to the government’s Show or Display exemption list, alongside the Porsche 959 and McLaren F1. Thanks to Ron’s herculean efforts, all subsequent SVX L 4WS cars are now eligible for import, even if they are not 25 years old yet.
Luis Hernandez’s 1969 Nissan Bluebird is a Japanese-spec version of the Datsun 510 that we never got in the US. However, rather than the more powerful 1800 SSS or never-sold-here Coupe body style, he chose the most pedestrian trim level there was, a Bluebird 1300 with the 1.3-liter engine and four doors. The dedication to preserving a low-end trim level like this one is truly admirable.
Myron Vernis’s beautiful emerald Isuzu 117 Coupe was one of the farthest traveled. It was shipped all the way from Ohio, and the SoCal sun really brought out the depth of color in its paint and Giugiaro lines.
Lerry Liu of Skyline Syndicate fell in love with the R32 Skyline GT-R the way many of us here in the US did — via Gran Turismo. After the game’s debut, he saved up 20 years so that he could buy and bring the car into the country after it passed it the 25 year mark for legal federal importation.
Eric Routhe’s 1972 GC10 is a familiar sight but still one of our favorites. Back in the day the Skyline was first and foremost a family sedan, but over the years it’s the two-door hardtops that have been more frequently preserved. Now, in a reversal of fortunes the sedans are rarer. This was the only example at the show.
We first saw Dennis Aquino and JR Catibog’s 1977 and 1980 Mitsubishi Lancers at Mitsubishi Owner’s Day. Here at JCCS, with no official OEM presence they were two of only a handful of Mitsus represented. JR won first place in the Best Mitsubishi category for his ultra clean box-type turbo on Advan A3A wheels.
Look into the window of Jamal Mansour’s 1977 Kenmeri and you’ll notice something odd. The steering wheel is on the left. According to Jamal, it started out as an Australian market Datsun 24oK. From there, it went to Dubai where it was converted to LHD with local parts (Nissan sold these in the Middle East in LHD) and then shipped to the US. It’s now running an L28 and triple Weber 40s, the way Jamal dreamed when he was just a teenager and these cars were just old Datsuns.
Megumi Nagata’s 1965 T500 was one of the most endearing trucks of the entire show. Passersby both child and adult alike loved the rare, frog-faced example of Honda’s first four-wheeled vehicle. Megumi was also had the honor of entering the oldest car at JCCS.
Glenn Chiou’s Fairlady Z was a 240Z-L model that still wears its original paint. Its subtle exterior belies the fact that under the hood is a Rebello 3.0-liter stroker six with triple Mikuni 44s.
Paul Bischoff’s 1971 KGC10 Hako with its massive flares looks like something that would have prowled the streets in the 1980s looking for a good brawl. What wouldn’t have been present then, however, is the RB26DETT with 1000cc injectors under the hood.
Bryan Thompson’s collection of boxy 1980s Japanese cars is eclectic to be sure, consisting of museum-quality examples of a V10 Camry and B13 Sentra. However, the crown jewel of his collection is this 1981 Honda City R and matching Motocompo folding bike. No collection of JDM icons would be complete without the presence of Honda’s hugely popular Bubble Era hot hatch.
Joe Rotz’s 1972 Fairlady Z was meticulously restored over a span of nearly 10 years, taken completely apart down to the shell and reassembled with new OEM parts. For his efforts, Joe took home second place in the Best 240Z class.
In the US we think of Toyotas when we think one-box vans, but in Japan Mitsubishi’s take is just as revered by campers and outdoor enthusiasts. Second place in the Best Mitsubishi category went to Rodel Soto and his 1985 Delica L300 diesel. According to Rodel, the 4×4 van is equipped with such luxury options such as power curtains, dual climate control and power moonroof shade. The original snorkel, brush guard and auxiliary lights ensure he is fully ready to survive armageddon.
Someone actually went and imported an F30 Nissan Leopard Coupe. The previous owner was going to tub it and turn it into a drag car, but Ricky Mena rescued it and cleaned it up to a pretty presentable personal touring coupe. This particular example is a 1981 280X SF-L model, which runs the same L28E as a 280ZX. Its quirkiest feature is hands down the tiny wipers built into the fender mirrors.
Last but not least, any JDM car show must have examples of Nissan’s Pike cars, right? Funnily enough, we’ve seen more Nissan Figaros in the UK than in Japan. So many migrated to Britain via the gray market that when I saw the Mr Figgy license plate I thought of English Christmas pudding before I realized it was a play on the model name.
Incidentally, Mike Parente’s 1988 Nissan Pulsar NX SE won third in the NeoClassic category. It had only 43,000 miles on its CA18DE, and Mike went through great lengths to hunt down the Sportback.
Of course, where there is a Figaro there must be a Pao. Most are green or blue, but this one happens to be finished in the rare Terracotta color. Though it looks nice, the white interior does not appear to be original. Factory upholstery would have been a light gray. Still, you can’t help but be charmed.
All this rare Nihon steel and we have barely scratched the surface of JCCS. Stay tuned for more coverage.
To be continued…