Japanese Nostalgic Car events cover


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New Year Meeting
Odaiba, Tokyo

E ven though it's freezing in Japan at this time of year, we love nothing more than hopping on a 747 to stare at a reclinable seatback while inhaing the flu-filled breath of our fellow passengers to endure the cold. We gladly tolerate the jetlag and banging our knees against a flimsy tray table for almost a full waking day because we know that when we arrive, it'll be time for the biggest Japanese classic car show of the year, the Japanese Classic Car Association's New Year Meeting.

Four hundred classic cars present and accounted for, but then there's the clubs, the vendors, the parking lots, and the parts in the swap meet. Dan and I had to split up to get photos of everything, so neither of us got to see the show in its entirety. Eagle-eyed viewers will be able to tell right away which photos were profesionally snapped by Dan and which ones were taken with my point-and-shoot. My apologies in advance.

Each year, a featured marque takes the top billing, and for 2008 it was Toyota. As a result, Corollas, Crowns and Celicas filled out the first rows, leading off with milestone specimens, the Sports 800s and 2000GTs. There was no shortage of Toyotas, but not appreciably more than usual. The triple diamond mafia, on the other hand, knows how to par-tay. At last year's show, featured marque Mitsubishi brought out the a monster fleet of Minicas, FTOs and GTOs, and Mitsubishi Motors even had a small, roped-off special display area with cars from their own collection.

Let's take our minds off of our favorite rant topic, how Toyota needs to step up and recognize its heritage, by looking at some heart-stopping Toyotas from the show. First, this Celica, with a one-of-a-kind 16-valve 18RG-based race engine. Also, here's a closeup of one of Mooneyes' 1JZ-powered Crowns, a swap that looks like it came from the factory. Or, if you prefer slamming to speed, this gangsterrific MS80 Crown would probably suit you better. We also dug this Masterline wagon, simple but elegant S40 Crown, and even this black and gold Liteace van. An army of Corollas showed up, but it looks like one guy didn't get the memo that all TE27s had to be either orange or dark green.

One of the many festivities during the New Year Meeting is parade lap that groups of cars run around the surrounding Odaiba area. Throughout the day, the smell of exhaust and gasoline fills the air as the cars shuffle in and out of their corrals. It's all very organized though, and a different club serves as the parade marshalls ever year. This time around, the pace cars were all from the Datsun Fairlady Roadster Club (see banner photo). The poor roadsters didn't get a moment's rest from guiding the other participants on their laps, and it was cold, too, which probably explains why they had their tops up.

There is not a single car in this gallery that didn't make us salivate like Pavlov's dog. We're talkin' everything, from the monstrous Nissan Civilian to the tiny Honda N360. Let's face it, where else on the entire planet are you ever going to see some of these cars? I mean come on, a Prince Miler Pickup? Or how 'bout a three-wheeled Mazda T2000 carrying a three-wheeled Mazda K360? It's bedlam! You're more likely to see Amelia Earhart doing the Charleston to "My Humps" for cryin' out loud!

Commercial vehicles not your bag? Then feast your eyes on this C130 Laurel, decked out like it belongs to a Japanese Starsky & Hutch. We loved this bright blue Bellet, four door hakosuka GT-R, and this 310 is just about the as perfect as you can get with a Sunny. Even this Honda Civic Country, complete with wood paneling, exuded its own charm. Kei car enthusiasts will like the Suzuki Fronte and frog-eyed Mazda Porter Cabs, whose vented headlight bezels funnel fresh air into the cabin. And it's a good thing we weren't judging or this would have totally bought us off.

Over in the club corral, the Datsun Kai club had Nissan's completely restored Datsun SPL213 on display, and even hosted an interview with the actual designer about his work on the in the late 50s. The Subaru 360 club was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the iconic "ladybug" (more on this in the coming weeks) and the Victory 50 Skyline Club had a seven piece band playing old Japanese songs that totally rocked the casbah.

When the cars started pulling out of the parking lot, we were thinking, "What already!?" Sure, by the end of it all we were sick as dogs, but we're already looking foward to doing it all again next new year. end

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