Event Coverage: Old And New Converge On The 12th Annual Japanese Classic Car Show

This year’s Japanese Classic Car Show delivered a show for the ages, as the staff pulled out all the stops to make it one of the most memorable events to date. Top automakers including Nissan, Toyota, Mazda, and Honda were on hand to display numerous vehicles – significant historic examples as well as soon to be released models – to dazzle the thousands in attendance. Enthusiasts from across the globe were on hand to relive years of Japanese automotive lineage and peruse the vehicles that have ultimately shaped and molded the import car culture into what it is today. Not even the triple digit temperatures or sold-out parking could deter these diehard fans from witnessing over 370 cars on display amidst the idyllic backdrop overlooking the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA.

While Skylines were out in full force at this year’s show, the true hero of the bunch was this authentic ’72 GTR KPGC10. The Hakosuka needs no introduction, but the history behind Diego Rodriquez’s GTR was a long journey that he was proud to share with me.

“I purchased the car from Japan a number of years ago after paying a hefty amount. The car was then shipped off directly to Costa Rica, where it received a complete teardown and restoration. The paint color was the most difficult to match but we managed to make it happen,” says Rodriguez.

Just as I wrapped up my conversation with him, a group of Japanese enthusiasts that made the trip across the Pacific to attend JCCS began squealing in delight as they realized this was a true GTR. In Japanese they mentioned to me that this car is worth at least $100,000 back home, if you can even find one. In that instant, I thought to myself, if the real JDM peeps can be this excited about a Hakosuka, it shows just how rare this car has truly become.

Another priceless piece of motorsports history was on display in the Nissan booth. The John Morton BRE Datsun 510 dubbed the “Giant Killer” took the championship in the ultra-competitive ’71-’72 Trans-Am class. The historical time piece made its trek from the Nissan headquarters museum in Tennessee just a few days before the event. The vehicle still remains in its original track condition and had the battle scars to prove it.

Sitting adjacent to the Morton 510 was another race car, but this one was 46 years younger in age and slightly more refined – the #33 Always Evolving Motorsport Nissan GT-R GT3-spec Pirelli World Challenge R35. Always Evolving and Aim Motorsports are currently campaigning two of the GT-R GT3s in the PWC for a second season.

Engine specs consist of the factory displaced 3.7-liter V6 twin-turbo engine with max power rated at 550 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque. The transmission is a Hewland 6-speed sequential box, and the car dances ‘round the track with a curb weight of 2,850 pounds.

Bryan Heitkotter, hot shoe of the AE Replay XC Nissan GT Academy Nissan GT-R-GT3, was on hand to sign autographs for the fans and was all smiles despite the blistering heat. Heitkotter rose to the racing ranks in a fairy-tale story. He entered the GT Academy competition at the age of 30 after losing his job.  After besting more than 53,000 online competitors and 16 other finalists, Bryan and the other 15 gamers that would make up GT Academy Season 1 went to Silverstone. Ultimately, Heitkotter won the final race, making him the first GT Academy winner from the USA; he has since worked his way up the ranks to eventually land a well-deserved full-time racing gig with Nissan in the Pirelli World Challenge series. To date in 2016, Heitkotter has two race wins and four podium finishes.

When I came across this ’71 Subaru 360, I had to do a double-take thinking the car had been rolled into the show incomplete. Instead, I find out that this rare piece of history is referred to as the Subaru 360 convertible or Yacht, and is equipped with a 356cc, 2 cylinder 2 stroke oil-injection engine with 25 horsepower on tap. This rare car was only 1 of 12 sold to the public after Malcolm Bricklin – the creator of Subaru of America – commissioned the modification of about two dozen of these vehicles to help increase sales. Only five remain in existence today, including Mark Pobanz’s green machine seen here.


On the subject of rare and unusual sighting at this year’s JCCS, this ’66 Hino Contessa 1300S owned by Myron Vernis made its debut to many curious onlookers. Designed by Giovanni Michelotti, only 3,868 Contessa coupes were built between ’64 and ’67.

Myron told me that in preparation for entry into the US market, Hino contacted Peter Brock’s BRE team to race two Contessa coupes in the LA Times Grand Prix – where the car won the event. Toyota purchased Hino in ’66 and plans to import the car were dropped. He says that this car is the only known coupe in the United States; it’s powered by the high-performance twin-carb 1300S engine, which sits towards the rear of the car inside the trunk.

While the exterior of this ’86 Mazda RX-7 looks nothing out of the ordinary, a close-up inspection revealed some next-level Elon Musk madness that delivers 400 horsepower. While the rear hatch was filled with a plethora of electronics, it’s the view under the hood that had crowds gathering in droves. Patrick Huu devised a custom diesel turbine/electric hybrid conversion featuring an aircraft 60kW turboprop compressor. The setup is coupled to a 132Ah battery back and 170kW electric-drive motor with a 5-speed manual transmission. The small center section anodized in purple is the turbine transmission.

The NL320 Datsun 1200 is considered one of the rarest trucks ever made by Nissan. The basic production Datsun 320 pickup was produced in large numbers, but the NL version “Sports Pick-up” is a unibody edition, with only about 1,200 examples ever imported to the USA. Truck owner Jeff Silvey replaced the original engine with a LD20 II turbo diesel originally found in the JDM Vanette. This 2.0-liter engine mated to a 5-speed swap delivers 79 horsepower and 94 lb-ft of torque at 2,400 rpm, and greatly improved driving performance when compared to the original 1.2-liter 60-horse powerplant. Silvey fully restored the truck from the ground up, installing a set of disc brakes and 15-inch wheels at all four corners to give his ride a unique look.


Dubbed “Serial One”, this Honda N600 was recorded as the first Honda automobile imported to the US and was brought over from Japan in ’67 along with 49 others as a test to see if Soichiro Honda’s dream of becoming a competitive auto maker in America was viable.

As the vehicle weighed in at a mere 1,312 pounds, the N600’s air cooled, two-cylinder single OHC engine was able to deliver 40 miles per gallon; its simple construction permitted it to be sold at the rock bottom price of $1,395. Needless to say, the N600 was an instant success which was responsible in turning Honda into a household name here in the States. Serial One’s diamond-in-the-rough build has been well documented on their website. If you get a chance, check it out here.


Heavily influenced by the Chevrolet Corvette’s styling, this ’60 Datsun Sports model SPL212 was originally powered by a 988cc engine that produced an underwhelming 47 horsepower. Some digging around on the history of the vehicle reveals that only 288 of these SPL212 models were produced through 1961.

This specific roadster was transformed into a certified track monster with the help of a Nissan S15 Silvia turbocharged engine that now delivers over six times the factory-rated horsepower level. The new powerplant was pushed backwards to the firewall for improved weight distribution. The interior tinwork and dash was fully customized, and a set of 16-inch vintage Volk Racing GTU wheels were wrapped in BF Goodrich tires and mounted to this retro-mod race car.


Tom Marquardt fully restored his ’73 Honda Civic GT-5 race car in a month’s time prior to the show. While trailering the race car from Colorado, the team fought through Hurricane Paine remnants and was close to turning around, but braved Mother Nature and its punishment.

This Civic was identified as a survivor that was built and raced in the 70s and 80s. Typical to that time period, the Civic was built with a set of era-correct DCOE 40 Weber carburetors, along with a slew of rare special parts that were installed by Eyeball Engineering.


Make no mistake when I say the Mazda 767B seen here is wearing possibly the most recognized Charge livery within the motorsports world. The 767B was the sister car to the original 757 series car that began campaigning back in 1988. The 4-rotor 13J 767 engine put out 630 horsepower, and was able to best many of their competitors including Jaguar and Porsche.

In 1989, this machine finished ninth overall at Le Mans, and earned two GTP class victories that same year in the All Japan Sports Prototype Championship. In 1990 the 767 was replaced by the 787B. To this day Mazda is the first and only Japanese carmaker to have won the 24 hours of Le Mans.


The love of racing goes deep for owner Glenn Chiou and his ’70 Datsun 240Z. For the past 46 years, this Z has been on the campaign trail; it has been successfully raced by Loren St. Lawrence of the Northwest Pacific SCCA Region in C-Production and the Grand-Am Series. This Datsun won many regional championships including three ICSCC GT2 championships. The car was recently restored to its period-correct championship configuration to participate in vintage racing and is credited to have raced against the like of Paul Newman and Jim Fitzgerald of Bob Sharp Racing.


The Mitsubishi Starion/Dodge Conquest has always been a favorite of mine since it came out back in 1988, so when I caught glimpse of John Lazorack’s Mitsubishi sitting in the middle of the field, I naturally gravitated toward its direction. The Starion with its unmistakable OE fender flares and aggressive features has always been overshadowed by its underwhelming 2.6-liter G54B turbocharged engine.

The G54B is known to retain a poor cylinder head design and fuel injection system that was often the Achilles heel for owners when attempting to increase horsepower. Lazorack took care of this issue by doing what most import enthusiasts have come to embrace, which was dropping in a domestic engine in and calling it a night.

In this case, he shoehorned in a 6.2-liter LS3 equipped with a CMP custom camshaft, K&N carbon fiber intake, custom long tube headers, and dual 3-inch exhaust with a Black Widow muffler. This combination netted 515 horsepower. A custom flat-bottom diffuser, custom aero, and an LMS wide body kit adds 6-inches to both front and rear fenders. The interior has been upgraded with a 12-point roll cage, custom suede interior, Racepak data acquisition, and full Rockford Fosgate audio. Adding the finishing touches is a set of CCW Classics measuring 18X11-inches in the front and 18X13-inches in the rear, wrapped in Falken RT615 tires.


Janet Fujimoto has been on a show car tear as of recent with her 2JZ-powered ’70 Toyota Crown, taking home multiple trophies. Although the Crown has been receiving plenty of attention over the past year, Janet’s true calling has always been the Toyota 86 Corolla seen above and below.

“I wanted to do something very special because of my love for Hachiroku’s and because the Corolla is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. I wanted to create something authentic and somewhat original that no one has really seen before, because these cars are always so highly modified or chopped up. Duane and I knew this car would be difficult the way we wanted to do it, but we did it,” she says.

“What makes this car really special are all of the intricate details. The car has the original engine and transmission, which were rebuilt to OEM specs, and the entire car was disassembled and rebuilt with new OEM bolts and screws. It’s easy to buy aftermarket stuff and simply bolt it on. Many don’t realize that it’s really hard to build an old car with its originality.  Some might think it’s boring but to me, it’s the AE86 at its finest and so beautiful. Like a fine piece of artwork. Bottom line, we went back to the future in 1985 and have a showroom new GTS, even down to the original wheels. The car was completed in our own show-quality style.”

Both of these 1970 Mazda R100 Familia Rotary coupes were built as tribute cars by Dr. Hitoshi Kato to the “Little Giant” endurance racers he witnessed as a child. Mazda, with their rich racing heritage, fully embraced the project and prepped them to ship to the US to campaign in the Rolex Monterey Motorsports reunion that took place just a month ago.

Staying true to the classic race specs of the past, both cars still retained their 10A engine with just 890cc of engine displacement. Ikuo Maeda – the global head designer of Mazda Japan – is best known for designing the Kodo-Soul of Motion, RX-Vision and fourth gen MX-5, and he campaigned the blue R100 at this year’s Rolex event. How cool is that? A white-collar worker with skills behind the wheel.

If you missed out on this year’s event, be sure to mark your calendars for next time as JCCS promises to be bigger and better than ever before!