Now in its second year, the Japanese Automotive Invitational seeks to introduce the idea of collectible Nihon steel to a crowd that considers a 1954 Ferrari 375 MM not classic enough. Located at the Infiniti booth that sits just outside the Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance, it’s a primer for those who arrive at the prestigious golf course to gawk at Voisins and Delahayes. In other words, if you’re wondering what kind of Japanese car a super-rich old guy might be into, here’s a peek.
The oldest cars present were a 1937 Datsun Type 16 Coupe and a 1938 Nissan Model 70, on loan from Nissan’s own collection in Japan. It’s incredibly rare for any pre-war Japanese cars to have survived, but that’s the kind of car that piques the typical Pebble Beacher’s interest.
More utilitarian post-war Nissans included a 1959 Datsun 221 truck from the Mike Malamut collection, as well as a 1963 P312 Bluebird and 1967 411 Bluebird Wagon owned by Greg Childs.
Some of the earliest sporting Nissans included a pair of rare 1960 SPL212 and 1964 SPL310 1500 Datsun Fairlady roadsters, as well as a 1966 CSP311 Silvia.
Also hailing from Nissan’s Japanese collectionl and making a rare appearance in the US, was a 1969 R382 V12 race car, fresh from a stint at Los Angeles’ Petersen Automobile Museum.
Friend of JNC Scott King contributed a pair of matching 1965 Honda S600s, a coupe and a fully restored roadster.
Rare oddballs included a rear-engined 1966 Hino Contessa 1300S, a rotary-engined front-wheel-drive 1970 Mazda Luce R130 Coupe, and a 1972 Isuzu Bellett GT-R, and 1971 Mitsubishi Galant GTO MR, all from the collection of Myron Vernis.
Mid-Sixties specimens of Toyota’s ascendancy included a 1966 RT40 Corona, 1967 Sports 800, and Malamut‘s 1967 Toyota 2000GT. His matching Cosmo Sport was purchased in Monterey in 2014.
Perhaps the most familiar of all the Japanese classics, Nissan’s renowned Z was represented by a 1970 Datsun 240Z and 10th Anniversary Edition Datsun 280ZX from Nissan North America’s collection.
Rounding out the performance icons were a pair of Hakosuka Skyline GT-Rs, both clad in silver paint and RS-Watanabes.
Adam Carolla brought three of his SCCA racing Datsuns, including a 510, 200SX, and Z31 2+2.
Honda hatchbacks included a Z600, as well as a pair of CRXes from the American Honda Collection.
A very nice but sadly automatic 1988 Acura Integra RS from Betty Marci and the California Automobile Museum got its own platform.
Representing 80s generations of special edition iconic nameplates were a 50th anniversary Nissan 300ZX Turbo and a 10th Anniversary Mazda RX-7 Turbo.
Subaru of America brought out its restored 1986 XT from their headquarters collection.
Glass-canopy cars of the 90s included Subaru of America’s own SVX from their New Jersey headquarters, and a Toyota Sera.
The 90s Mazda contingent included a 1991 MX-5 Miata from Tom and Cameron Tyer and the California Automobile Museum, as well as a JC Cosmo and Mazda 929 from Mazda North America’s collection.
Entering the age of Japanese luxury marques, Acura was represented by a first-gen Legend from the American Honda collection, a second-gen Legend from owner Tyson Hugie, and an NSX from the Malamut collection.
A stunning Lexus SC400 from Paul Williamsen and Lexus USA was the third car to receive its own platform.
A beautiful 1996 Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4 Spyder from Todd Darling and Scott Mikkelson represented the pinnacle of 90s sports car excess.
Last but not least were the off-roaders, including a LJ20 Suzuki Jimny and 1973 FJ55 Land Cruiser from the Malamut collection, a Lexus LX450 from the Toyota collection, and an Isuzu VehiCross from our friend Baldwin Chiu.
To be continued…
Is it my imagination that the Eunos Cosmo bears more than a passing resemblance to the Buick Reatta?
Adam Carolla’s latest 510 is a masterpiece, restored by none other than Jim Froula of Racecraft out of Washington state. I saw this car many years ago at Classic Datsun Motorsports, and let me tell you, a restoration effort was a tall order! The car’s historical provenance begged for a concours level restoration, and boy did it get one. It was originally built and raced by Greg Sorrentino of Troy, Michigan out of a shop called Different Drummer Racing (DDR). They sold an array of performance and racing parts, but were most widely known for selling Sterling Mag wheels (made out of Argentina, Sorrentino’s native country). DDR was founded by Gary Witzenberg, a well-known automobile journalist even to this day, who ran a 4-door 510 in the Under 2.5L (Two Five Challenge) series in 1972. This particular car’s build was finished by late 72/early 73, but by that time the Two Five Challenge was defunct. This car did race post-golden era Trans-Am however, and was extremely competitive in B-Sedan ans GT4 well into the 80’s.
Thank you Glenn for the insight on the Sorrentino 510. I hope you are able to showcase in more detail this and many other historical Japanese Race Cars that are coming out of the woodwork and are being restored and their proper histories being disseminated to a receptive audience. It would be a shame to forgo these cars as Japanese Cars and US motorsport have a very rich and significant history and their stories need to be told before all the key players involved have passed away.
Jim Froula does outstanding restorations and preparation and have done a few highly visible Datsun /Nissan Race Cars that are in the public eye today. I’m really keen on seeing a feature about the cool 1969 Toyota Sprinter Race car he completed.
Very cool that Sterling had a strong presence in the USA back then. Sterling wheels are found on almost every Argentinian designed and produced race car back in th day as well as many race series and street cars. Much like wheels by Kobe Seiko and subsequently RS Watanabe wheels would be synonymous with works and racing Hakosukas, Sterling Wheels would also be found on Argentina’s beloved Ika Torino race and street cars (Which is much like the hakosuka in layout and has a straight six and has a national following much like the GTR) As a small side note, The racing pedigree of the Torino would truly be cemented on a national level when a works IKA Torino on Sterlings finished 4th in the 1969 Marathon De La Route beating the works R100s on the very grueling Nürburgring. Ironically it was the achievement of the Cosmo (which also placed 4th) on this event the year before that cemented Mazda’s racing pedigree as well.
Hope a set can be sourced for the 510 if it is displayed at shows to properly showcase its sponosor and when another well known DDR car debuts from its restoration it too can be displayed with a set of Sterlings.
Infiniti and Motor Trend did an outstanding job in creating a high profile event featuring historic Japanese cars on the world’s most important stage of the car hobby. Their commitment is truly appreciated.
That Integra with the 666 plates…..
This is the only group of vehicles that I would have an interest in seeing during that crazy week. Thanks for the great coverage and photos!
Be nice to see a Starion there…