PALM TREE BOULEVARDS
CHEW ON A BIT OF OLD-SCHOOL JAPANESE CAR CULTURE ON US SOIL AT THE 2018 JAPANESE CLASSIC CAR SHOW IN LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA
Over in the land of the free, where eagles soar, beer is endless, and semi-automatic rifles are provided at birth, there are still groups of the car scene that consider it un-American to own tin cages that were not forged in the depths of Detroit in the US. Despite this hyper patriotism, Japanese cars have been entrenched in the country’s automotive culture for decades. Nissan has been there since 1960, selling flagship models such as the Datsun 240Z and 510; Toyota has been there even longer, opening in ’57 and launching models to compete directly with local examples. Honda arrived in ’58, Subaru followed suit in ’67, and even Mazda showed up with the RX-2 in 1970. These ‘foreign’ cars are not a new phenomenon — and, when you consider the sheer size of the population, there are obviously far more Japanese cars scattered across the badlands than we’d ever find in New Zealand, making the US a prime hunting ground for some of the rarest examples on the planet, if you know where to look.
So, it’s unsurprising that events such as the annual Japanese Classic Car Show (JCCS) in Long Beach, California, draw massive crowds and a collection of wild examples from almost every manufacturer you can think of. Now into its 14th year, the event has grown from humble beginnings to become the biggest Japanese car– specific meet outside of the motherland — 480 entrants this year.
The palm tree–lined highways leading to the venue, and what seems to be endless sunshine, draw in countrywide attendees, and the format’s unique location and style create a classic Kiwi-summermeet vibe — think your local supermarket meet on steroids and consisting of cars that you only dream of owning; that’s JCCS.
The Americans have proven that they know what’s up when it comes to modifying these cars, too, paying homage to their respective brands’ racing heritages, maintaining period styling and modifications, and not bastardizing genuine survivors. Hell, even the parking lot outside the show is a smorgasbord of Japanese-steeled goodness.
It’s rad to see even the manufacturers getting involved, freeing up a handful of examples from their own collections. Toyota, Subaru, Honda, and Mazda makes were all represented well this year but none was more so than Nissan (Datsun), which made up a good 50 per cent of the cars displayed — perhaps a lingering ripple from the recent Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, which the marque headlined; the first Japanese automaker to do so since the event’s inception in 1974.
It’s safe to say that if JCCS is anything to go by, those Yanks really know how to build cars. It might not be long before the world starts to look at the land of the free more heavily for styling influences, and maybe even a few harder-to-find examples that are still lurking in barns out the middle of nowhere. I mean, lefthand drive isn’t that hard to drive, right? Regardless, it’s pretty damn clear that the event won’t disappear anytime soon, and, like a good sake, the cars found there are only going to get better with age.
Left. Troy Ermish’s ex–SCCA B class sedan is the quintessential vintage race car, albeit looking as if it has never seen a track in its life, despite being fresh from a class win at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion only a month earlier
Left. With his RB20DET-powered Nissan HR31, Team Wild Card member Raul pays homage to the infamous Calsonicliveried Impul GTS-R that raced in Group A back in the ’80s
There are a few stateside and New Zealand attempts at bosozoku style, but the owner of this GX71 Mark II, Randy Beard, went the next step and bought a legitimate kaido racer from Japan — slammed fitment, deep-dished 14-inch Star Sharks, shark-nose front, and a Fukuoka-style livery. Perfect!
Right. Joji Luz’s 2JZ-powered MX63 Crown wagon is a familiar face at JCCS. It is rumoured that there are fewer than 10 of them in the US
Packing an IRSconverted rear end and a KA24DE (the SR20’s American brother) in the engine bay, Troy Fodor’s ’71 Datsun 510 blends Japanese and American styling flawlessly