No, it’s not an oxymoron. There really are some “classic” Japanese cars out there. As if to prove it, I went to the third Japanese Classic Car Show, taking place in the Los Angeles area. I was not sure whether I would be subjected to a series of rice-d up Honda Civics and the like, and while there were some heavily “modified” cars on display, there were plenty of more interesting and unusual items to look at, too. The show took place in Long Beach, in Queen Mary Park, which is indeed right next to the Queen Mary, and a Russian submarine, as you can see.
You can also see that that the weather was splendid, with not a cloud in the sky, all day. So, the views over to Long Beach “city” were quite impressive, too.
Now, on to the cars. As you might expect, there were more Nissan/Datsuns and Toyotas in evidence than anything else, but all marques were represented, and there were a few particularly unusual items on display.Starting with Datsun and Nissan: The oldest Japanese vehicle on show was from 1936, and was this rather cute little tourer.Datsun started importing into the US in the mid 1960s, and one of their earlier sedans, and in beautiful condition was this 1300.Very popular at the same time was the Fairlady Roadster, also known as the 1500, 1600 and finally 2000. Definitely reminiscent of an MGB, you still see these on the roads of California from time to time, There were at least a dozen on show. Also popular in the late 60s, especially once it had made a name for itself as a rally car was the 510 model 1600 and 2000.In the early 70s, the first 1200 model appeared, which was soon branded the Sunny for Europe, and the 210 in the USBy the mid 70s, the styling of Datsuns had become much more American-esque, and some of the more gawky models did not find their way to Europe. One such was this 1976 Skyline GT:This one was sold in Europe … anyone remember the Datsun Violet?Although there have been Skylines for more than 40 years now, the badge does not originate with Datsun, but with a company called Prince, whom Nissan-Datsun acquired in the mid 60s. This was the saloon offering at the time – a sort of Japanese 3 series of the mid 60s! By the 1980s, the range, now branded Nissan, started to diverge from the cars offered in Europe, and although this may look like the Bluebird we saw in the early 1980s, it is actually an early Maxima:As you might expect, there were a lot of Z cars on show. Few of them were anything close to original, sadly.There were a series of Datsun pickups on show, too. Most of them had been less than tastefully modified, but this 1200, from 1965, was more or less original:Nissan even had a display of the classics of the future, ie their current range, including the brand new Rogue, and some more familiar vehicles: Toyota The Corolla was the model most in evidence, with examples of most of the 10 generations on show. The first and second generations came in a wide range of body styles, including 2 door coupes, such as these: The third generation, from 1975 to 1980:
This was the fourth generation, from 1980 to 1983And the fifth generation:Also popular, until recently, was the Celica, and a number of these were presented, ranging from immaculate originals, to heavily modified horrors: The original exports were of the Corona model, a family car which started off as a 1500, and quickly got to be larger than average with the 1900 and Mark II models When Toyota first started to export cars, a luxury car was part of the range. At the time, this was the role fulfilled by the Crown, and there was one example from the late 1960s and then a series of 4 cars from the mid 70s, 2 coupes and 2 of the practical 7-seater estate cars: After they gave up on the Crown in export markets, the Cressida became the largest model, and this is an example from the mid 80s:There was a special display taken from Toyota’s US museum, which is located nearby, but which is only open by appointment. One day I will round up a group of people to get them to open it (Long distance Forum outing?!!) That included a 50 year old Toyota Crown………… note the special visitor admiring the car (more on this later!)Also, an early Land CruiserAnd the rather elegant 2000GT:
Mazda Lots of Mazdas on display. The earliest was a particularly cute, and particularly basic 360 Carol, from the early 1960s. Complete with perspex rear window! Mazda made a real name for themselves with the Wankel engine in the mid 1960s, at a time when NSU were also experimenting with this engine, and struggling to get the reliability into it. No fewer than 3 of the ground-breaking 110S cars were on display. Later, a whole series of RX models were produced, several of which were represented at the show: The R110 Coupe came next:Following this was a larger model, the RX2, which came as sedan, coupe and estate:The RX3 was a slightly smaller car, based on the 818. This was the Wagon version: Mazda did have a range of piston engined cars at the time, too. This one was the 616, also known as the Capella;
The RX story was brought up to date with a number of the RX7 model on showMazda were also making much of their sporting pedigree, with a display of racing cars provided by Mazda US:A surprising amount of attention was being paid to this, the Eunos Cosmo, not a car imported to the US, or Europe, but produced from 95 to 99. Honda Surprisngly few Hondas were there. A line of the early N600 and the Z were hiding under the trees. It was hard to get photos, as the shadows were bad, but eventually, as the sun moved round, it got less difficult, and I also got pictures of the particularly rare N600 Wagon. There was a lone example of the first generation Civic.The handful of more recent models were not worthy of my camera.Subaru Most surprising of all, there was but one lone car on display. A particularly rare 360 microcar from the early 1970s, in special “kermit green” paint.Mitsubishi Also, very few Mitsubishis on show, There were 4 early, and much modded Lancers, a few Starions, and one first generation Colt hatch that was actually badged as a Plymouth Champ. And there was this: Note the luxury interior trim!
Isuzu A lone Isuzu, too. This was GMs first attempt at a “world” car, launched first as the Gemini. We got much more familiar with it as the Opel Kadett and the Vauxhall Chevette.Not just an ordinary visitor.…… Special highlight for me was meeting, and getting to talk to Jay Leno. I suddenly noticed that a particularly large crowd had formed around a recently arrived Mazda 110s, and when I went to see why, spotted Jay, being “interviewed” by a local tv program. When he had finished talking enthusiastically about the car he had come in, the origins of Japanese cars in the US and other things, all without a script, he then seemed quite at ease to let people take their pictures with him, and to talk to anyone round about. I came across him again later, just wandering around the show, and talking to anyone who came up to him………….. I knew the guy is a real fan, but I was really impressed by this.