Japanese Classic Car Show (JCCS) 2012: An East Coast Perspective
The East Coast is a tough place to be for fans of vintage Japanese automobiles. While there are definitely pockets of enthusiasts throughout region (I’m thinking of Atlanta’s own Garage Zero), there just aren’t as many good original specimens to to be found. Most Northeastern cars have long since succumbed to rust, disappointing many junkyard pickers hoping to find that perfect chassis. And while there are still excellent examples to found down South, the prevalence of the pro-domestic, pro-muscle mentality following the post-war era meant that early examples of Japanese cars were largely treated as disposable economic appliances, and true contemporary enthusiasts were few and far between. So while I’ve certainly been exposed to my fair share of Nissan Z cars, the 80′s Toyota RWDs, and Mazda RX-7s, my experience with the more pedestrian models (not to mention modified examples) has largely been limited to a few random sightings.
The JCCS completely changed all of that. I was already going to be in Orange County for a friend’s wedding, and thanks to a Facebook post from blogger Alex Nunez at What Monsters Do, I discovered that the 8th annual Japanese Classic Car Show would be happening minutes down the road at Long Beach’s Queen Mary. While I’d be dishonest to call myself a diehard vintage Japanese enthusiast, having owned two “old-school” Civic sedans (’81 and ’91) and a ’84 CRX, I can say that I have a healthy appreciation and interest in the breed. The JCCS was the perfect place to discover new models and see cars that I had only read and dreamed about through magazines and blogs.
What amazed me most at the show was the sheer diversity of vehicles present. Being from the South, my experience is largely limited to the popular sports cars or models after 1985. So when I stumbled upon a first generation Crown, for example, I was in heaven. Knowing that it was probably the only time in my life I will ever see that car in person was rewarding – and at the same time – frustrating. The presence of these cars cannot be captured in a photograph. One truly has to walk around each model, taking in the unique Japanese details, while noticing the various influences drawn from their contemporary European and American influences.
Just as the designers of these rare and well-kept cars drew influence from a variety of regions around the world, the owners have taken equally diverse approaches in their modifications. From styles ranging from mild resto-mods with all period-correct aftermarket pieces, to full “pro-touring” style overhauls with modern wheels and engine transplants, the parts are easily as interesting as the recipient cars. The diversity of pieces available for many of these cars is a testament to this scene and the determination of the owners. And yet, there were various additions that even with my limited knowledge I know are impossible to find. The CRX Exclusive interior and the 10″ Volk splits on the Honda Z600 (heck, everything on that Z600) blew me away. The sheer effort put forth by those owners is inspiring, and worth the trip alone.
The JCCS needs to be on the short-list of every automotive enthusiast in America. I’m not aware of any other place in the states where one can witness the half-century of history that preceded, and ultimately laid the groundwork, for the import scene today. More than just a concours style collection of rare automobiles, this show represents an opportunity to interact with fellow gearheads that have chosen the path less traveled. Whereas there are a few companies that are catering to the vintage JDM enthusiast, finding wheels for a vintage Mazda just isn’t the same as finding five sets of LS Meshies on every city’s Craiglist forum in America. West Coasters, this event is a no-brainer. Get there, no excuses. For my fellow East Coast friends, find a way to make it to this show. You absolutely will not regret it. I know I’ve already started saving for next year.
Editor: Andy Carter