As Japanese classic cars continue to gain interest in the collector car market, the Japanese Classic Car Show, now in its 12th year, has grown to be the largest classic Japanese car show in the United States with support from Japanese automakers.
This year, Mazda North American Operations plans to show seven historic vehicles in the show September 24 in Long Beach, California, to honor the life of Mazda factory driver Yoshimi Katayama, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Mazda’s overall win at Le Mans, and play homage to the luxury line up that never was.
Yoshimi Katayama spent four decades as a racer and development driver for Mazda and played a vital role in Mazda’s Le Mans efforts. “Celebrating his life and accomplishments is our way of honoring his time as a part of the Mazda family,” Kelvin Hiraishi, director of engineering, MNAO, said of the late-driver who passed away on March 26 this year.
“From his early days racing motorcycles and Mazda Carol sedans to his later career, honing rotary engines for racing,” Hiraishi said, adding “Katayama-san will forever be remembered as a legend of Japanese and international racing and a champion of Mazda’s challenger spirit.
To honor Katayama, Mazda’s display is set to include a 1979 RX-7 IMSA GTU racecar that bears Katayama’s name above its driver-side door. The car was used as a development vehicle and backup, though it never raced competitively.
Alongside the RX-7 will be the No. 202 Mazda 767B Group C Le Mans prototype, driven by Katayama in four races in Japan between 1989 and 1990. Katayama retired just shy of when the cars successor, an orange and green 787B, would become the first, and remains the only Japanese car to win the Le Mans outright.
Painted in its original Charge Renown livery, the No. 202 car placed ninth at the 1989 24 Hours of Le Mans and recently made its first trip to the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, where it was driven by MNAO design manager Ken Saward.
Alongside the race cars, Mazda plays homage to the luxury line up that never quite was… Amati.
Amati was to be a luxury sub-brand to Mazda (like Lexus to Toyota or Acura to Honda), inspired in part by the 1967 Cosmo Sport 110S, which was the first of Mazda’s vehicles to be produced using the rotary engine. Additionally, the 1992 Mazda 929 was to supply the Amati’s chassis.
Both the 1967 Cosmo Sport 110S and 1992 Mazda 929 will be in attendance as well as what the Amati could have been -– badged as an Eunos Cosmo, the Japanese name for Mazda’s sub-brand, is powered by a twin-turbocharged, three-rotor engine that makes 280 horsepower. The car was to compete against other Japanese luxury brands in the United States.
The final two cars present at the show in the Mazda display will be a 2016 CX-9 Signature midsize crossover SUV, part of Mazda’s current luxury line, and the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Spyder concept that was seen at the 2015 SEMA Show in Las Vegas.