This year I checked off a bucket list event for me and attended Japanese Classic Car Show; an annual celebration of Japanese cars will a rolling age requirement of 25 years or older. Every year I poured over coverage of this event on blogs I take inspiration from for this very site and magazines I now miss. It was surreal to actually attend the event myself! Traditionally this event was held in Long Beach, CA at the site of the Queen Mary, but this year it was relocated to Anaheim at Angel's Stadium.
Before entering the show, we were already blessed with this rad Suzuki Cappuccino we followed in. It looked like the kind of car you'd find participating in a privateer time attack event at Tsukuba. I almost didn't want to break away from it to actually go to the show.
Greeting you at the gate was this ST165 Celica. I'm not even sure if I've seen one of these in person before, never mind when the last time I saw one was. Outside was kept relatively stock save for a set of Volk Touring Evolutions. The engine bay was occupied by a 3SGTE.
One grouping of cars I was most excited to see were the Corollas, and this AE86 was my favorite of all of them. Something about a Levin hatch is just so perfect, especially looking like this with stock aero, a zenki lip(?), and some killer wheels like these Techno Phantoms. Inside looked purposeful with matching Bride seats, a dash dodger cage, and a stripped-back interior.
Similar chassis, very different vibe. This KE70 felt very stock outside with just SSR Dori Dori mesh wheels and a chin spoiler to differentiate it from factory. Inside it hid a shaved bay and a Toyota LS swap; the BEAMS! Seeing those shiny ITBs poking from just under the fender line is such an exciting view.
It's hard not to love a crisp Trueno coupe.
Rounding out the classic FR Corolla Trifecta is a lovely "Mango" Corolla with flares and Watanabes. If I remember correctly, it had a 3TC powering it.
Toyota's legendary 4WD models were represented at this year's JCCS with Land Cruisers, rally homologation Celicas, and this slammed Tercel. This is a perfect example of the weird gems you'll find peppered throughout this incredible event. One of those cars that shouldn't exist, but I'm so glad does.
Not taking 100 pictures of this thing was difficult because there was a lot going on. Your eyes do not deceive you, this is not a weird JZX100 variant you've never seen but an X8 Cressida with a 100 Chaser front end. Any big aero, front end swapped, weapon like this can't have boring paint, and the owner understood the assignment with its vicious pink hue and intricate, lowrider inspired roof. The stock 5M was discarded (probably hurled into the woods or something) and replaced with a big single turbo JZ. The interior was true to purpose but a special mention must be said of the rare Charge Speed bucket seat.
There was a strong X7 Cressida showing as well. The consensus of style was era appropriate wheels and square lines brought close to the concrete.
I couldn't get enough of this Crown Majesta! A simple look and incredible execution. I hope to see more Crown variants being brought stateside.
Obviously, everyone loves JZX100s but the JZX90s seem to have been a bit overshadowed by them. I don't know if it's because I've conceded to 100s already showing they'll command insane money once they're legal, but the "cheaper," less popular 90s have been growing on me, especially when they look as crisp as this one.
Something not super common at other Japanese car events are trucks. Toyota especially has a storied history of impressive SUVs and trucks in their lineup and they were well represented. The Hilux Surf with it's cool windsurfer graphic and this 80 Series Land Cruiser were a couple favorites. The wheel choice on the LC was especially impressive with 6 lug Watanabes!
One build with an unmatched presence was Taylor Ujihara of Karuma Limited's UCF20 LS400. The wheel fitment on those Rays Payton Place Vintage alone is cause for conversation. With a chassis as popular as this, it's hard to stand out with aero but Taylor has crafted something completely out of the box. Using a BN Sports kit for a SXE10 IS300/Altezza as the base, he chopped it to suit the much larger LS and shortened it height-wise to not compromise clearance when aired out and allow for a low ride height.
Marc Leininger's autocross Yaris was holding down the Wedssport booth on a set of tiny TC105Xs. These are a much better chassis than people give them credit for. There's always one at every autocross I've attended and it's alway high on the leaderboard. It looks cool with minimal stylistic mods too.
Tough looking SW20 MR2
Despite being a classic car event, a few new models slipped in as booth cars. My week's Prius rental was way more enjoyable than I want to admit and seeing this bagged Prius Prime on SSRs made me want one even more.
The newest car in attendance was the 2022 Toyota GR86. It's been a few years since we've been in an era this exciting with new, affordable cars. From all the reviews I've been reading, and what I've been seeing from Japanese tuning shops, this will be an incredible chassis! It looked even better in person too.
A'pexi has been making the rounds with their ex-D1 FD3S. Built back when pro cars were relatable and stylish, the still rotary powered FD driven in competition by Youichi Imamura made a strong 440-500ps depending on tune citing reliability over all out power. Outside is a full Vertex Ridge kit with Sun Eye Works front fenders and 20mm widened factory rear fenders. Unlike today's competition cars, this felt like a car you could drive to and from the event without much trouble.
Loved this era perfect FB RX-7 laid over 13" SSR MK3s.
Using a Rocket Bunny kit as a base, this turbo NA Miata used every millimeter to contain enormous Hydron+ Superdisks.
A completely different take on a flared Miata, this NA embodied more of a classic roadster feel that inspired the inception of the Miata entirely. Definitely pour over the photos, there's lots of little details to miss!
Bo Gaut had his magnum opus NA Miata on display this year. As a parts importer, he's always on Japanese classifieds and is able to track down and keep the rarest of the rare for his chosen chassis. Outside sports Mazdaspeed's full Type 2 aero kit with matching Mazdaspeed MS01 wheels. Propelling the car is a super rare Mazdaspeed C Spec engine!
Of all the Miatas in attendance, this one took the classic British roadster inspiration the furthest by far! Most obvious is the DAMD front end conversion elongating the nose and adding two huge spot lamps to the front encased in custom lenses. The classic roadster feel is further enhanced with Super Star Air Stage wheels sporting that classic turbo fan look.
Inside was washed in extensive brown, diamond stitched leather and brushed aluminum on all the metal portions. Coolest of all is the gated manual! I wish I could have given it a feel.
I forgot the Mazda MX3 existed... But that's the magic of an event like this! With something this uncommon, a simple exterior is more than enough to stand out so a light drop over Watanabes is more than sufficient. The weirdest thing about this chassis in my eyes is the K8 1.8l DOHC V6 that powers it. This era of Japanese vehicles was littered with tiny displacement engines like this.
I have so much more coverage of this event, I've decided to split it up into a few posts, stay locked for part 2! We haven't even gotten to Nissan and Honda...