NOT JUST BIG IN JAPAN
12th Annual Japanese Classic Car Show

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Packing them in at the Japanese Classic Car Show (Glenn Oyoung)



Story by Glenn Oyoung
Pictures by Glenn Oyoung and Albert Wong

The first car that I bought for myself was a midnight black 1998 Honda Prelude Type SH. I loved that car, and spent countless hours caring for it, modifying it, and staring at it. I once dated a girl and on our third date she casually mentioned, “You know, you could get a better car than this, right?” I was shocked. “What do you mean,” I asked? “You know…like a Mercedes or a BMW or something,” came the oblivious response.

Suffice it to say that was the end of that. A girl who didn’t understand that my beloved Prelude – (VTEC! Type SH! Torque vectoring! Come on people!) was every bit as cool as a Bavarian Bullet was definitely not the stuff the Power of Dreams were made of. Thankfully, due to the efforts of the hard-working volunteers behind the Japanese Classic Car Show (JCCS) over the last decade plus, these types of ego-deflating assaults on Japanese cars should be on the decline. The cool factor for cars coming out of the land of the Rising Sun has gone up, especially for kyusha kai – classic Japanese cars from the 1970s and 1980s.

The Queen Mary looms in the background like Mt Fuji at the Japanese Classic Car Show (Albert Wong)


Acura showed off its new NSX at the Japanese Classic Car Show (Glenn Oyoung)

I look forward to the JCCS every year. The quality of the cars, the inclusive vibe, and the postcard-like backdrop of the Long Beach shoreline and the iconic Queen Mary make the JCCS a unique gem of a local car show. That’s saying something in SoCal, the land where neither cars nor coffee need to hibernate for the winter.

From the minute I walked in to the JCCS this year, I was literally assaulted with a buffet of drool-worthy Japanese cars. There were the older cars that I daydreamed about as a kid – the legendary BRE Datsun 510, endless shiny Zs, classic Skylines, Corollas, RX-7s and on and on. Then the cars that coincided with my Smiths & Morrissey years (read: bang-sporting teenage era) were on display – CR-X, Integra, Accord. Next came the priceless cars that I secretly at least sit in before I retire – the 2000GT, Reknown Mazda 787B, and just about every vintage racecar on display. Finally, a host of modern Japanese future classics ranging from the latest Mazda Miata to the NISMO GT-R to the new Acura NSX. The JCCS is literally a one-stop shop for automotive enthusiasts.

12th Annual Japanese Classic Car Show (Albert Wong)

Like most “overnight” success stories, the team behind the JCCS has been working hard behind the scenes for many years to reach this level. Springing out of the Toyotafest car show, the JCCS is a labor of love for husband and wife team Terry and Koji Yamaguchi. They envisioned one show that would bring together all the Japanese marque. Now in its 12th year JCCS has not only wildly succeeded in doing so, but also promoted Japanese classic car culture – amongst enthusiasts young and old.

As CEO of JCCS, Terry leads a team of about 50 volunteers who make the event possible. Joji Luz is one of the core team members who has pitched in from the start. According to Luz, the JCCS leadership team spends about six months planning the show. This year’s show drew over 300 cars and thousands of spectators. In the last few years there are young enthusiasts coming out to the JCCS who weren’t even born when these classics first hit the roads. That’s one of the driving reasons for JCCS, according to Luz. “We want to get the younger generations into these cars,” he said. “I’ve been taking my kids here since they were toddlers,” he continued. “You come here [to the JCCS], not to win a trophy but to share in the experience,” said Luz.

Datsun Fairlady roadsters at the JCCS (Glenn Oyoung)

OEMs have supported the JCCS and taken advantage of the opportunity to reinforce their connection with their most hardcore fans. This year almost every Japanese marque had a significant display at the JCCS.

Toyota highlighted the 50th anniversary of the Corolla and featured several employee cars including a vintage Corolla racecar and Janet Fujimoto’s freshly restored AE86 (so valuable that it was sancioned off while the 2000GT next to it was not). Honda celebrated its heritage by displaying its restored “Serial One” N600 – the first Honda auto to hit Stateside in 1969. Mazda brought out its Le Mans-winning 787B as well as some other interesting cars including my favorite, a pair of historic R100 racecars. Nissan came hard with its pair of World Challenge R35s, carved out some prime real estate for Rick Ishitani’s trophy magnet 1971 Skyline Hakosuka GTX, and debuted the 2017 NISMO GT-R to much fanfare.

Why do the OEMs roll out the red carpet for the JCCS? “There’s such a great crowd at JCCS,” said Steve Yaeger, Technology and Motorsports Communications Manager for Nissan. “It’s a good mix of young and old – and they realize the cool factor in the lightweight, older cars,” he said. “There’s a romantic relationship between the old cars and the car culture in Southern California… it’s a place to celebrate our history and show where we’ve gone with our newer cars.”

Toyota brought a 2000GT from its museum (Glenn Oyoung)

With all the brilliant examples of Japanese car culture on display this year, it’s hard to pick one favorite. But if pressed, I’d pick Christopher Hoffman’s mint-condition, all-original 1987 CR-X Si. Hoffman is the walking embodiment of the burgeoning Japanese classic car movement. He is the original owner of the CR-X who has obsessively committed to protecting it from weather, door dings, and Father Time. “Every time I drive it, it’s the Saturday in May 1987 when I took it home for the first time.”

That feeling is what the JCCS, and more broadly speaking, what car culture is all about: the intersection between our youth and the forward march of time. You can’t slow it down but if you’re in your kyusha, you can at least downshift and enjoy the ride.

An 86 among the older classics at the JCCS (Albert Wong)

Photo gallery of the Japanese Classic Car Show by Albert Wong:

BRE Datsun 510 at the JCCS (Glenn Oyoung)

Photo gallery of the Japanese Classic Car Show by Glenn Oyoung: