For The Love Of Old School Cars: The 15th Annual Japanese Classic Car Show

The recent rise in popularity among Japanese classic cars has come tenfold. A recent 240Z auction on Bring a Trailer (BaT) commanded a mind-blowing $124,240, while an Integra Type R with only 1,200 miles hammered down the gavel for $63,800 at this year’s Barrett-Jackson auction. The value of these classic cars continues to skyrocket as the dwindling supply of cars and parts become harder to find. This year’s Japanese Classic Car Show proves that the popularity of these once-commuter cars is currently in high demand. With over 500 vehicles on display, it was another record-setting event. I’ll admit that even though I took over 1,200 photos, and spent several hours roaming the grounds, there were many cars that I couldn’t get to because there just wasn’t time to see them all. It was that crazy!

I was caught off-guard by the presence of this ’84 CRX among the eclectic mix of classic cars at the Japanese Classic Car Show. Honda North America brought this little gem out to garner some sun and crowd reaction, which I should note were smiles and gasps of approval rather than disappointment.

What makes this Honda such a special vehicle is the history behind it. The CRX was an early model prototype vehicle built by Honda’s factory tuner Mugen to showcase the extensive array of performance parts developed for grassroots racing.

For the unaware, Mugen—translated from Japanese—means “unlimited” (hence the commonly placed word “Power” after, denoting “Unlimited Power”). The brand is a well-respected engine tuner and performance parts manufacturer that crafts OEM-quality parts such as body kits and sport exhausts for Honda Motor Company.

Right off the bat, the CF-48 wheels (sans the aero covers) in 13×5.5-inch and Mugen aero-line widebody kit delivers a timeless design of style and performance. Fun fact: these wheels and the body kit were extensively tested and tuned inside the wind tunnel for optimal high-speed stability.

Can you say ultra-rare? The twin-tip exhaust system has been a sought-after item since its debut back in the ‘80s—this was the go-to exhaust system, but with a sticker price of over $1,000, it was a bitter pill for buyers to swallow.

Sitting in plain view was the battery cut-off and fire extinguisher switch. Under the hood sits a Mugen prepped 1.5-liter engine. The 1,488cc powerplant is fitted with a Mugen 4-2-1 header, camshaft, polished valves, and springs. Mugen Showa suspension, lower lateral arms, roll bar, rear pan hard rod, and clutch-type LSD allow this CRX to hug the corners.

Timothy Garo’s sculpted ’73 Toyota Corolla Deluxe has had its appearance perfected by smoothing out the entire exterior skin. He shaved the side marker lights, rear quarter lights, reverse lights, and side moldings, prior to applying the custom in-house paint and free-handed graphic design.

At the tender age of 16, Andrew Sayre purchased his first Datsun 510 through a local newspaper advertisement back in 1997. He was bitten by this quirky sedan’s qualities, and over the next 22 years, owned over 60 vehicles ranging from 510s to Datsun Zs.

In 2017, he decided to accomplish his greatest feat yet, by converting his recently purchased rust bucket into a show-stopping machine. But that wasn’t the only goal; he wanted to infuse some JDM influence by modifying it into a right-hand-drive machine, along with fitting numerous parts from JDM-spec Bluebird SSS vehicles—parts that were only available overseas.

The ground-up restoration included the replacement of every seal, nut, and bolt with original NOS parts. A set of SSS taillights, full JDM interior, and ultra-rare Bluebird SSS Safari front grill was positioned into place, but not before the vehicle was sprayed in OEM Cactus Green pigment. Under the hood resides an L20B powerplant, topped with a ported and polished U87 cylinder head. A Rebello Racing camshaft and dual 44mm Mikuni carburetors start the power while spent gases expel through a Refresh 60 equal length header into a 2.25-inch exhaust.

The completion took only four months with the final addition of RS Watanabe 15×8-inch wheels wrapped in 195/50-15 Toyo tires. Sayre’s dedication and hard work paid off as he garnered Best of Show at this year’s JCCS.

I found myself reunited with this ’72 Honda N600 once again. The last time I spotted this little gem was back in 2016 at the Eibach Meet. Although the modifications remained similar from two years ago, I couldn’t help but admire the number of modifications that went into building this wild ride. A Honda Interceptor VFR 800 motorcycle engine is underhood, replacing the factory 36 horsepower, 600cc 2-cylinder engine driving the 1,410-pound car. The body, grafted onto a Mazda Miata subframe, was narrowed 9.5-inches and powers the rear wheels through a Ford 7.5-inch rear-end differential housing. Paddle shifters power though the VFR motorcycle transmission—redline is 12,000 rpm.

Super Street Magazine fans might recognize this ’99 Civic Si from back in the day. The iconic ride—designed and modified by Super Street—graced the magazine’s front cover.

Patrick De Leon’s ’80 Toyota Corolla Levin has a story of trials and tribulations. Finding parts for a 39-year-old vehicle can be quite the challenge. He mentioned that finding something as simple as window seals were close to impossible, and as luck would have it, he was able to source a set of seals and other parts from a donor vehicle. Although they were not new-old-stock, they were light-years better than the originals.

De Leon fully built his 2TG with high-compression pistons and dual Weber 45 DCOE side-draft carburetors. Additional modifications included a W58 transmission with GT-S limited-slip differential, disc brake upgrade, custom rack and pinion steering, and a full audio system to complete this build.

This Lexus LS400 evokes quite the reaction at every show, and it has become quite the spectacle as a love it or hate it phenomenon. I’ve come across this vehicle at numerous shows and with every passing event, it looks more haggard and worn down. The owner has done a great job putting this once-luxury car through some serious off-road excursions.

Dubbed the Primadonna Nissan 300ZX, this Z32 is noted as the first of only two built in 2005 from the original ’80’s era Primadonna Z builder Jack Atkinson. Toting only 15,250 original miles with original paint, this pristine Z was #247 of the last 300 sold in the US.

Alongside was the second convertible ’93 300ZX, complete with Primadonna Z32 super widebody.

It’s hard to believe that the 1992 Integra GS-R is now considered a Japanese classic, but 27 years after its birth, it’s becoming just that. Originally built as a road-race vehicle, this particular GS-R is now powered by a JDM B18C Type R engine, backed by a YS1 transmission case filled with S80 Type R internals and a 4.7 final-drive. A Mugen baffled oil pan, PLM TA header, RS*R exhaust, and Hasport engine mounts complete the engine bay.

The interior consists of an Autopower 4-point roll bar, a Cobra Suzuka Pro seat, Mugen SW4 steering wheel, Spoon mirror, Stack gauges, and Carbing support braces.

Exterior mods include Volk Racing TE37SL wheels in 15×8-inch sizing, JDM one-piece headlights, Spoon side mirrors, JDM thin side moldings, PCI Aero side skirts, and a Hiro rear wing.

Check out this V8-powered Z! According to the owner, the build process was slow and painstaking, but it was worth it in the end. We must agree!

Brock Racing Enterprise (BRE) legend, Peter Brock was in attendance to sign autographs and talk about Datsuns with his fans. Most fans don’t know that Brock not only builds race cars but also designs custom vehicle trailers. He brought out this trick vehicle hauler called Aerovault, which he built and designed at his Nevada headquarters.

GReddy Performance brought two of its demo vehicles for display inside vendor row at the Japanese Classic Car Show. The GPP X Pandem RX-7 Turbo II made its first debut in 2018 at the SEMA Show. Powered by a TD06H-25G turbocharger, this 13B machine was built from the ground up within a few months prior to the big Vegas show. With the Greddy crew working around the clock, the car was stripped and had a new custom roll cage fabbed up, prior to installing a Type 24 intercooler, RS universal 76mm muffler, 19-row oil cooler, and Koyo Radiator. A set of KW hydraulic lift coilovers provide ground clearance for the 17×9.5-inch front and 17×10.5-inch rear TRA Kyoto 6666 Mesh wheels.

GReddy’s US President, Kenji Sumino, brought out his EF Civic to the delight of the crowd. The turbocharged B18C1-swapped Civic features a custom air-to-water intercooler setup that was cleverly disguised to resemble the factory air-box. The devil of this car is in the details, as the ultra-clean engine bay consists of ceramic-coated pipes and accessories, a custom breather box with a laser-etched GPP inscription, original Greddy turbo kit with T518Z turbocharger, and even retains the factory air conditioning unit.

The interior was meticulously crafted to showroom condition. The only modifications were the Greddy steering wheel, Hybrid Racing short-shifter, and Alpine pull-out head unit that Sumino searched high and low to find. A set of Speed Star Racing EX-C Neo are his preferred wheels for a weekend cruise with his two sons, but he also has an immaculate set of Mugen CF-48 wheels. Not a bad choice for backup wheels!

Team Wildcard has been leveraging its muscles in the old-school import scene with dozens of quality rides from Hawaii to Japan. This year’s vehicle display consisted of show-quality Skylines and 510s.

Jared Perry’s ’76 280Z combines a mix of old and new school flavor. This Z maximizes its widebody kit with a set of custom-barreled Advan wheels. The fully polished L28 engine with triple side-draft carburetors can be seen peeking under the hood.

From drifting to road racing, the import scene has seen an influx of V8-powered machines taking over; John Lazorack’s 1988 Mitsubishi Starion is no exception to the rule. Every piece developed for his ride was handcrafted, from the 10-point roll cage to the custom aero package that was digitally modeled and clay sculpted, to the modified chassis to handle the added horsepower, and it’s powered by a 6.2-liter LS3. This Starion competes in numerous race venues, including the Optima Ultimate Street Car Challenge.

You don’t have to be a Subaru fanatic to appreciate this fully-restored ’86 Subaru Brat. A JDM E81S dual-carbureted engine and oval port cylinder head that were only available in the Japanese market have replaced the factory engine.

This Suzuki Alto Works RSR oozed JDM nostalgia. Sporting a 660cc engine, this Alto was modified with custom fabricated Megan coilovers by Design Craft Fabrication, Swift Springs, then lowered on 13×5.5-inch Enkei Compe-8 wheels.

Word of advice if you plan to attend next year’s Japanese Classic Car Show: if you come in late, expect to leave late. We’re anticipating another capacity crowd to unfold at Marina Green Park in Long Beach, including plenty of show-worthy rides from across the globe. Be sure to mark your calendars!