The Japanese Classic Car Show Celebrates Vintage Japanese Automobiles

The annual Japanese Classic Car Show celebrates 14 years of show car heritage, and has become a destination for Kyu-sha (enthusiasts of vintage Japanese-cars) to debut their old-school rides.

The event, held at a new venue this year—Marina Green Park in Long Beach, CA—brought out a record 500-plus show and vendor cars. Although the event was scheduled to officially open at 10 am, a long line snaking around the venue well before that time indicated that this was going to be the biggest event to date, and we learned following the show that over 9,300 spectators filled the park by 10 am, with well over 10,000 passing through during the day.

This year’s event, dubbed “New Rides”, extended the model years for the show to introduce newly-eligible ‘80s and ‘90s neo-classic vehicles. The invitation welcomed many newcomers to debut their freshly built rides for the first time.

Clean is an understatement when it comes to describing Gerald Geluz’s ’91 Acura NSX. The exterior was kitted with a hybrid assortment of Advance, Wings West, Siebon, and Dali Racing aero components before it was resprayed in Midnight Metallic Blue. A custom Air Cup coilover system with Air Lift Performance V2 management allows a set of Rays GramLights 57CR wheels to sit flush to the fenders.

At first glance, this ’70 Honda N600 looks like it was plucked from a wrecking yard, but in reality, it is a historic vehicle that kicked off American Honda Motor Co.’s first race car effort. This vehicle was campaigned in the ’70 Baja 1000—a harsh and unforgiving race through the Baja California Peninsula.

Honda opted to keep the vehicle in its original unrestored condition as indicated by the cracked Lexan windows, rusted exterior and dilapidated interior paneling.

The 600 cc engine—which produces 45 hp at 6,600 rpm—never crossed the finish line, due to the CV joint drive hub coming apart every time the vehicle left Mother Earth over the brutal desert terrain. Both drivers were forced to jump out of the vehicle and coax the CV joint back into place to continue the race. After jumping in-and-out of the vehicle for a good portion of the morning, the driver was so exhausted he decided to call it quits.

Rocket Bunny Pandem wide-body aero kit? Check. Fresh paint job? Check. Fully restored interior and dash? Check. VQ35DE powerplant pulled from a 350Z? Double check!

Jamal Mansour’s road to owning a Skyline was filled with plenty of ups and downs. After a long and sometimes painful search, he found his dream car sitting in an Australian backyard, where it had been for over 16 years. Without second guessing, he swooped in, taking ownership and shipping the car to his homeland in Dubai.

The vehicle was fully restored, but not before it was modified to a left-hand-drive conversion and the engine bay stuffed with an L28 engine. The Skyline Kenmeri 240K GT was shipped to the US for completion, with Watanabe RS8 wheels, triple Weber carburetors, trunk spoiler, and Tec Toy coilovers finding their way onto the project.

This ’74 Honda Step Van was one of the many unique vehicles on display at this year’s event. Powered by a 360cc engine, this fully restored JDM right-hand-drive van brought curious onlookers throughout the day.

Joel Tan recently purchased this ’71 Buick/Opel to add to his vast collection of vehicles. With the ink still drying on the ownership paper, Tan already began modifying his ride. We can’t wait to see what he has in store!

With the new rule change to include cars from the 80s and 90s, a slew of quality old school Hondas and Acuras became eligible, with over 80 in attendance.

One look at Alex Alfaro’s ’97 DC2 Integra, and it is obvious he has an affinity for all things Mugen. The exterior was upgraded with a full Mugen body kit, Gen 1 rear spoiler, exhaust, and Honda Access headlight garnishes. A set of Mugen M7 wheels provided the finishing touch.

Under the hood were more Mugen goodies including a highly-coveted Formula valve cover, intake, Gen 1 cat back exhaust, strut bar, and other rare accessories.

Inside the cabin were more Mugen parts. A set of the company’s bucket seats and FG360 steering wheel were installed, along with a NEXT Miracle X Bar and an abundance of JDM accessories.

Only true SUV aficionados can appreciate the ’88 Nissan Safari 4X4. This particular model was only offered overseas and equipped with a TD42 in-line six-cylinder diesel engine backed by a manual transmission.

The same can be said about the turbocharged Jimny, which is another cool ride that was never exported to U.S. shores.

The untrained eye might have overlooked Ho Dao’s ’92 Integra on re-barrelled Mugen MR5 wheels, and sporting a set of ultra-rare Spoon side mirrors and JDM window visors—which demand well over $600 dollars if you’re lucky enough to find a set.

Ricky Ishitani’s ’71 Skyline Hakosuka KGC10 2000GT-X has been a work in progress for the past four years. During that time, Ishitani has created a one-off project vehicle. Masaya Nishino of JP USA, and Taka Sato from Taka’s Kyushu Garage, were commissioned to track down the many rare Skyline parts from numerous Hakosuka forums and shops across the world, so Ishitani’s vehicle could be restored to its current condition.

Under the hood sits the original L20 engine, but with a number of modifications, including Solex-Mikuni 40mm carburetors attached to polished 2-inch Mikuni velocity stacks, a ZX distributor, Wako CDI, Holley fuel pump, MSA chrome engine bolts and studs, and numerous Earl’s stainless steel braided lines. A polished valve cover and Cusco 3-point strut tower bar add to the under-hood visuals. For increased performance, Ishitani opted for a Fujitsubo exhaust and header combination.

The interior remains in immaculate, period-correct condition. A set of SpeedForme overfenders were the most recent add-ons prior to the show; the car sits on Victory 50 coilovers, which complement his re-barrelled RS Watanabe wheels. Ishitani’s Skyline took top honors in his Skyline class for this year.

I’ve always had a soft spot for classic SSR EX-C NEO wheels. The fact that they were on this super-clean first-generation Integra was icing on the cake!

This gull-wing Kei-car might be overlooked as a Honda Beat, when in fact it’s actually a ’92 Mazda Autozam AZ-1. Owner Ashley DeLuca mentioned that although the engine and transmission are stock, the vehicle was modified with a Mazdaspeed body kit and 13×5-inch Bridgestone Super Raps magnesium wheels.

Weighing in at a scant 1,587 pounds, it is powered by an F6A 657cc mid-engine, turbocharged 3-liter rear-wheel-drive configuration, which continues to draw attention—including a feature on Jay Leno’s Garage.

Speaking of Honda Beats, how about this modified ’91 owned by Louis Lim? Lim took an otherwise tame commuter car and modified it into a respectable sports car. He started off by bolting on a set of Clinched rear fender flares, 326 Power Wing, custom exhaust, GT1241 turbo kit, custom 4-point roll bar, Recaro LS seats, GReddy gauges, and custom retrofit headlights.

The stance was achieved using custom control arms, BC Racing coilovers and a set of 15×6-inch Work Meister wheels.

Richard Rabe’s ’90 Cressida was modified using a 2JZGTE VVTi engine paired with this HX35 turbo, an Apex’i wastegate, R154 transmission, and TRD limited-slip diff.

The exterior received a full BN Sports aero kit with Kei Flow rear bumper and Origin Lab canards. Added touches include a 326 Power wing, JZX82 Mark II taillights and JZX100 Chaser front end. The Frankenstein build was resprayed in Mitsubishi Plasma Purple paint with blue flakes.

A large showing of race-prepped cars was also on hand at the event, including Scott Harris’s ’87 CRX Si. Built for autocross competition, the CRX boasted some rare parts including a Mugen LSD, header, and valve springs. This Si was also home to a RC Engineering throttle body, DPR-prepped cylinder head, Lightspeed Racing Panhard bar, and rear sway bar.

Exactly what is this? According to owner Rich Popek, this vehicle is a ’99 Tommy Kaira RT-190, built by Leading Edge in the UK.

This RT-190 was modified with an SR20DE, which churns out 240 horsepower to this 1,200-pound vehicle. Popek likes to refer to his ride as a Lotus Elise on steroids!

If you own a classic car, you’re all too familiar with the term “rust repair”. Steve and Terri Pharr’s ’75 280Z was modified with a wide body kit, but not before they cleaned up some serious rust issues!

Randy Jaffe’s 1971 Series 1 240Z was one of my favorites at this year’s show, and it wasn’t because I had an affinity for Jägermeister during my college years. Plain and simple, this Z was sick!

It sports a Rocket Bunny Pandem wide-body aero kit, triple Solex carburetors, and custom Panasport wheels wrapped in 315/35-17 tires Nitto NT01 rubber on the rear.

Jaffe mentioned that he was looking forward to returning back to Atlanta with his newest project, so he could stretch its legs at Road Atlanta.

Among the vast number of vehicles on display were some old-school bikes presented by Yamaha.

This Valley Cycle Center ’78 Yamaha TZ250 race bike mounted on slicks was a true crowd pleaser.

This Hakosuka GTR is owned by Steve POV from Youtube. If you haven’t visited his channel, we highly recommend you check it out! Steve’s KPGC10 underwent a complete makeover starting with an L28-liter engine, RS Watanabe wheels and a pretty cool “Zokusha” styled Japanese Zero Fighter wrap job.

Allen Lugue’s ’86 AE86 Toyota Corolla GT-S is always looking clean.

According to Kyle Kuhnhausen, his ’72 240Z started out as a restoration project that got a little out of control.

The Z blossomed into this wild creation that’s powered by an LS1 engine and T56 transmission.

CCW LM20 wheels, Infinity Q45 rear differential, and bespoke aero package were just a few modifications he’s made. Kuhnhausen mentioned the vehicle has over 1,000 one-off handmade components built with love.

Actor Daniel Wu took top honors at this year’s event with his ’72 Datsun 510. Wu was exposed to 510s at an early age while living in Northern California. It was early last year he decided to pursue his passion and purchase this 2-door sedan. The vehicle was delivered to Troy Ermish of Ermish Racing to undergo a full restoration.

The end result was a custom ride with bronze accents that makes over 230 hp from a built 2.3-liter engine.

With a stellar turnout at this year’s JCCS, you don’t want to miss out next year; event coordinator Terry Yamaguchi promised that next year’s event is scheduled to be even bigger. As a piece of friendly advice, we suggest you come early.