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

NZ Performance Car - - Tech - WORDS: JADEN MARTIN PHO­TOS: NAVEED YOUSUFZAI

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

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